This post contains links to outside websites but all views are my own and I’ve not received any form of payment for this post – however if Trek America wants to hit me up then I’m down!
In 2012, I travelled alone for the first time. I cannot explain how much of a big deal this was for me.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve spend most of my days crippled with anxiety and yet with a yearning to see the world, for a carefree life. I’d stumbled upon the Trek America site a couple of years before and when I told my Mum she was as flippant as always, “yes it sounds lovely, but you won’t even go to the shop round the corner alone”, or words to that affect. She wasn’t wrong. We’d played this game many times before, me telling her I was going to do something wild and outrageous, travelling solo somewhere, anywhere. She’d nod along for the most part and then bring me crashing back down to reality, reminding me of the panic attacks I was having day to day just going about my mundane life. This went on for a considerable amount of time, all throughout my teens and in to my early twenties, when I then started seeing a guy who was planning a one way trip to Australia. To my suprise and glee, he asked me to go with him,
I’d been saving money anyway for my own daydream life of a travelling Wonder Woman, so I didn’t need to scrimp much more together. As the trip approached though, I needed just a bit more time to save and so I asked this guy, could we delay for a month or two? I don’t remember exactly what was said but he wasn’t particularly impressed. Looking back now, I can see why his reaction wasn’t what I expected, however he esentially turned quite nasty, before ghosting me altogether and leaving for Australia without much of a trace. I’d had my share of heartbreak already but this was quite a sting and honestly that fiasco could be a whole other blog post.
Not long after though, as I dusted myself off and prepared to just get over it, it dawned on me that I never really wanted to go with him anyway. Australia wasn’t really high on my bucket list at this point – America was the place I wanted to explore the most, after a taster with a school trip to Washington DC in 2010 and then a family trip to San Francisco in 2011. Plus, we’d not been seeing each other that long and I knew deep dwn it would have all gone tits up quite quickly anyway. I pondered all this for some time while going about life as usual. I can’t remember exactly when I ended up back on the Trek America site, or my exact process of getting to the point of booking, but after trawling the site and memorising all the itineraries, I landed on a short 10 day trip over Christmas, as that was the easiest time to get off work. Plus it wasn’t too long that I might freak out and not go, but long enough that it still seemed enough of a break and adventure.
Looking online now, the exact trip doesn’t seem to exist anymore but it started and ended in LA, and included two nights in San Diego, a visit to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, a night in a cowboy camp, Route 66 and Christmas waking up in Death Valley. Incredible right?
I remember the moment that I clicked the final button and the trip was definitely booked, I felt like there should be some kind of ceremony and fireworks, but nothing happened. The world kept spinning, and yet something for me felt like it was going to change forever. At the same time, nothing really felt real yet, I carried on at work like normal for the next for the next few months, saving up every penny for the time of my life and telling everyone all about this adventure I was embarking on. Everyone was encouraging, although I think most people couldn’t grasp the fact that I was going away for Christmas but for me that wasn’t an issue at all. I was ecstatic and the time of year wasn’t even a factor. Most people I told were also amazed at how brave I was to go alone, although honestly it really niggled at me as, being hard on myself as ever, it felt like this was merely a tiny stepping stone to some real travelling.
The tour was due to depart in LA on an early morning and so I flew out the day before. Not before getting absolutely wasted on a night out with some friends though, dressed in American flat patterened clothes, as a mini send off!
That night out kept me sane, I’d have only sat up all night talking myself out of the trip if I’d been at home.
I remember distinctly arriving at Heathrow Airport, almost sick to the stomach with fear. My Mum and Aunty had come to see me off, my Mum still tells the story to this day – she knew how nervous I was because she bought me a Krispy Kreme doughnut and I couldn’t eat it. Funnily enough though, and what we didn’t know at the time, was that a coffee and a doughnut would become something of a ritual whenever my Mum and I were at the start of some kind of journey together. Sadly, my Aunty is no longer with us and this little send off is just something that makes us feel like she’s coming on the adventure too.
Time ticked on and I had to go through security… alone. It was impossible for my Mum to come any further with me and it was at this point that I nearly didn’t go.
My eyes welled up, my heart jumped in to my throat and nausea swept over me. My mum help me tightly and said I had to do this now, or I never will. She knew how devasted and broken I would be if I let my panic control me, yet again. The disappointment in myself would have been completely unbearable. She promised me that I would have an amazing time and she’d be meeting me back at the airport soon to hear all about it, it would be over before I knew it so I needed to go and enjoy it. Take one step at a time, something of a mantra for her and I.
I took some deep breaths and thought of all the times I’d had a panic attack and not gone through with something. All the upset and disappointment over the years, how I’d come so far by even just booking the trip and turning up at the airport. I thought of how I would have to tell all my friends and family that yet again, I didn’t do it.
Shaking and holding back the tears, I did it, I went through security. Another step closer and no one had yelled at me, no one had died. I wandered around the shops on the other side to keep myself busy. I bought a travel pillow in the shape of a dog that looked like mine that had not long been put down. Hot tears pricked behind my eyes that I waited.
Then, on Saturday 15th December, 2012, I boarded a plane alone, for the first time.
The plane took off and I couldn’t turn back. Mum told me later on that she’d waited in the car until she knew the plane had actually left, as she was sure I’d come running back out and not go. Secretly, I think part of the reason I didn’t do that is because… how do you even get back out of the airport once you’d passed security? I’d surely have to find someone to speak to, which would cause more stress, may as well just get on the plane by that point!
I settled in for the 11 hour flight as the panic of what I was doing slowly lifted. The first obstacle had been overcome and my adventure was about to begin.
To be continued…