Posted in Life

28 Life Lessons I Have Learnt in 28 Years

Happy birthday to me!

I’ll be honest, I’ve not exactly been looking forward to this birthday and have been struggling to come to terms with getting closer to 30. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t acctually think I’m “old” by any means, it’s just that time has gone so quick and it’s incredibly unsettling – I haven’t acheived everything that I thought I would have by now.

Life just really isn’t as simple as I though it would be, but I’ve sure learnt a lot on the way, so before I start rambling too much, let’s jump straight in to the 28 life lessons that I’ve learnt in 28 years!

  1. Too much stress is actually physically unhealthy. I’ve always been a stressed out and anxious person, so I’m well aware of the physical side effects this causes, but I never really considered the long term health effects until a few years ago – it’s quite scary what too much stress can do your body over time, so it’s important to keep it in check.
  2. That being said, your health is your number one priority. My mum always used to say to me that as long as I had my health, everything else was secondary and I didn’t really get it until we were hit by the recent pandemic. Since then, I’ve really started to appreciate my health and am more active in trying to look after myself.
  3. That means you need to look after yourself. Drink the water, brush your teeth, eat vegetables and wash your face. Once you get past 25, you’ll only regret all those times you didn’t.
  4. Life really is short. Unfortunately, I think this is something that only really rings true after losing a loved one. It’s one of those things we all sort of know, but until I have to say that until I experienced a family member passing away, it never seemed real.
  5. Time waits for no one. Similarly, time won’t ever stop, no matter what you’re going through. If you want to acheive something, don’t wait!
  6. You can’t plan life. You just can’t! You can plan for the short term of course, and I guess have an idea as to what you wish to get out of life, but you definitely can’t plan it all out perfectly.
  7. It’s ok not to be ok. Just know when to reach out and ask for help when you need it.
  8. It’s also ok if you don’t actually know what to do with life. Just like you can’t plan it all out, it’s ok if you don’t even have a clue where to start.
  9. When you do know what you want to do, do everything you can to work towards it – don’t procrastinate! I spent years putting things off and I often wonder where I could have got to, if I just just got on and done the things I wanted to.
  10. People can be amazing, they’re not always scary. I spent so much of my life being afraid of other people, when there really is no need. Sure, people can be as crap as they are awesome, but those people don’t matter anyway.
  11. Travel, travel, and travel again – and do it solo! Most of these life lessons I learnt while travelling solo to be honest, there’s so much to be said for giving it a go on your own, although I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t find it terrifying.
  12. Money isn’t the be all and end all, but it certainly helps. I used to feel like you had to be super rich to make it but that really isn’t the case. Not everything costs money and you can get a lot done on a shoestring! That being said…
  13. Budget wisely. It took me a long time to figure out how to budget properly to make my monthly pay last, and that’s when money becomes stressful! There’s a difference between not needing to spend much, and not actually having enough to buy food. Now I always make sure I budget properly for the month and can still save some too.
  14. Material things don’t matter in the end.
  15. BUT if it makes you happy at the time, and you can afford it, go for it and buy the things!
  16. It CAN be fun to drink and not everyone is an awful drunk. I had some unfortunate experiences with alcohol growing up and for a long time was convinced that drinking turned everyone in to the absolute Devil. Then I found a cocktail I liked and realised you can just get a little tipsy and have a good time, you don’t need to take it too far.
  17. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. Before I discovered a drink that I liked, I didn’t drink at all and got a lot of stick for it. I stuck to my guns though until I was ready and honestly I’m glad I didn’t give in to peer pressure – if there’s one lesson I could pass on it would probably be this one.
  18. In the grand scheme of things, no one else cares about what you do. Of course, people do CARE, and I don’t want this to sound harsh in any way but when you look at the bigger picture, we’re all looking out for number one.
  19. On that note, dress for YOU. Who cares if it’s not “on trend”, or if other people don’t like it. Wear what makes you feel good.
  20. A few, really good friends is way better than lots and lots of acquaintances. I spent many years through school being upset over not having many friends, and my mum also telling me that as long as I had a few good friends then that’s all that matters. Why are mum’s always right?!
  21. Similarly, you can’t make everyone like you. Stop trying!
  22. You can’t regret the choices that you made in the past, as they were right for you at the time. I vividly remember having to go to the Army Careers office a few years ago to collect my rejection letter. I tried SO hard not to cry but was so upset. The reason I was rejected was due to a medical issue that had only developed that year. I SO regretted not applying when I had originally wanted to a few years before that, as then I might have got in – the officer told me that I couldn’t regret it because I made the choice that was right for me at the time. It took me a long time to actually agree with him, but it’s definitely true.
  23. Education is a priviledge. I’m sure I’m not the only one who spent most of my school life despising school and not really appreciating my time there. Unfortunately, you could have never convinced me at the time but years later I realised I should have made the most of it.
  24. You can’t run from your problems. No matter how far away you go, the problems will be right there waiting when you get back.
  25. You can’t control everything, only how you deal with it all. It’s so easy to worry about things we cannot control, but what’s the point in worrying baout it if you can’t actually change it? All we can do is focus on is how to deal with it. That was something else I really realised during the pandemic: I was SO worried about everything going on in the world, but finally I ended up realising that I can’t do anything about it in the grand scheme of things, only how I cope and respond personally.
  26. A postive mental attitude is everything. Although that doesn’t mean you have to happy all the time, no one is happy all of the time!
  27. Everything happens for a reason. I’m not saying it’s all fate or anything, but honestly I do believe everything does happen for a reason, even though it doesn’t always feel like it at the time.
  28. Finally, it really WILL all be ok. I promise.

It’s safe to say, just this year alone I have learnt so much about life in general, and I’m sure I’ve got a lot more to learn in the next 28 years – whatever they may bring! It’s been a bumpy ride, but I’m definitely proud for how far I’ve come.

Let me know in the comments what you’ve learnt about life recently and come back soon for the next post in my Trek America series.

Posted in Anxiety, Life

10 Things I Do To Help My Anxiety

I’m going to come out and say it: I’ve suffered with anxiety for most of my life. When I was a teenager, I had frequent panic attacks, often cancelled plans with friends and made myself physically ill with stress and worry. As I grew up and saw more of the world, my panic attacks eased and, in many ways, I got “better”. Except, I wasn’t better at all, I’ve just learnt how to cope a bit more and function as an adult.

At the start of this year, I realised I finally needed help. The problem is that of course, I let my anxiety get in the way and now, we’re in the middle of a lockdown and the whole world is now in state of panic. The new “C” word understandably puts a knot in my stomach and I’m sure I’m not alone. Due to my work, I knew this was coming a couple of months ago and have therefore been an anxious wreck for some time. I now regret not getting any help before now and although I’m sure there’s still avenue available, it just doesn’t really seem feasible all the time we shouldn’t be leaving our homes – and whilst I’m too scared to do anything or go anywhere. I’ve come to appreciate my health and the need to look after ourselves, so as soon as it is safe to do so I will finally get the help I need.

This post isn’t about the “C” word though, and it’s not a complete story of my anxiety as to be honest, we’d be here quite some time. I thought that just for now, I could share with you some of the small things that make a difference to how I feel day to day:

Fresh air, or a walk if you can. If you feel up for it, go for a walk, it doesn’t have to be far. I find that I instantly feel calmer after a few deep breaths in the fresh air and a quiet walk somewhere to clear my head. Some days, it’s a struggle to get out the door and all I want to do is curl up, but once I’m dressed and outside, it really does help. If you’re really not up for a walk, even just opening all the windows and letting the air in helps.

Play with my puppy. I have dreamed of having my own Corgi for several years and a few weeks ago was incredibly lucky to finally get one. Nothing is more calming than playing with my lovely boy! Of course, playing with a puppy wasn’t always an option but even before we got Reggie, I’d spend a chunk of time scrolling through photos of other corgis… maybe that sounds weird, but it’s always helped.

A hot bath or shower. Nothing is more relaxing than a lovely hot bubble bath, or if you’re in more of a rush then a shower will still help, at least I find that it does anyway. I like to sweat out all my problems without having to go to the gym!

Deep breaths. This sounds like a given really but taking a few deep breaths and just giving myself a moment to focus is a key part of my day, sometimes several times a day! Try to relax your shoulders, really breath in through your nose and gently breath back in again out of your mouth. Doing this for a couple of minutes is so beneficial for relieving anxiety and stress.

A distraction – like colouring or reading. A simple hobby to focus on, like a good book or colouring something in, is a nice distraction from my anxieties. Watching a film, drawing or painting, anything that you enjoy that will also distract you. Set yourself some time to focus on something else.

Tidy up. It’s so true what they say – tidy space, tidy mind. Unfortunately I often struggle to get motivated to get house work done, even though I hate the mess. It really depends on my mood. I think it’s important not to be too hard on yourself and force yourself to do too much when you haven’t got the motivation or energy, but if you can, tidying up just one room or small space does actually help. Once I get started, I often can’t stop and go full nesting mode! If it feels like too much, I declutter something else, like the photos on my phone or a small task like clearing out my purse. A small victory in the day to be celebrated!

Speak to a friend. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about your problems, I know that for a factbut it does help. Even if you don’t talk about what’s bothering you at first, just reach out for some communication and a good laugh. Talking about your concerns can follow later.

Make plans. I’m terrible for making plans and then sticking to them but having something to look forward to always gets me through anxious times. It helps to focus on something that will be happening after you’ve faced your demons, or whatever is worrying you.

Drink water. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – you’ll feel so much better! Being dehydrated makes me feel so unwell, which I’m turns makes me panic more. Just drink your water!

Write it all down. This is something I’m still working on. I struggle to communicate my anxieties, because a lot of the time I don’t actually understand it myself. I don’t know why I’m in a blinding panic, I just am. Processing it by writing it all down instead is super helpful, I just seem to forget this and bottle things up instead!

I hope you’ve found these helpful, let me know in the comments what you do to ease your anxiety and get you through the day!

Posted in America, Anxiety, Life, Travel

My First Solo Trip With Trek America: Arriving in LA

This post contains links to outside websites but these are not affiliate. All views are my own, I’ve not received any type of payment for this post – but if Trek America wants to hit me up then I’m down!

For someone who has always wanted to travel the world, I’m not particularly comfortable on any mode of transport. To be honest, that’s putting it mildy. I hate to drive anywhere new, especially if the roads are busy, I also hate being a passenger when someone else is driving. Flying is completely mind-boggling and utterly terrifying, and I generally won’t even consider getting on most types of boat. I have done it, but I don’t like it. Trains are about the only thing I don’t mind for some reason.

All that being said, I’ve always understood that to get anywhere I’ve always wanted to go… I usually need some kind of transport to get me there, probably a plane. The fear never goes away but I try not to let it stop me.

You can imagine though, with flying already on my long list of fears, going it alone makes it even more terrifying.

A young couple were sat next to me on the 11 hours or so flight from London to LA. They made polite small talk when we first boarded and then cuddled up together, while I kept to myself and tried to relax. I’d been having nightmares for weeks about the journey, but a short while in to the flight, I managed to doze off – still clutching my drink. Luckily, this was before my coffee drinking days and it was only a glass of water, as I ended up throwing the whole thing all over the poor guy next to me. I must have been having another one of my said nightmates, as I jolted myself awake, of course holding on to my cup of water… I was mortified and it certainly didn’t help with all the anxiety bubbling up inside me, but the couple were very sweet and made sure I was ok. Plus, I suppose it’s quite funny looking back on it!

Other than that, the flight was thankfully uneventful and there was no need to put the safety instructions I’d memorised to any use – not that I’d be any good if there was an emergency, as I’m sure I’d full on panic and do nothing. I imagine I watched a few films, although I don’t remember that detail now. I just remember landing in LAX some time in the evening, relieved to get off the plane, but still filled with the terror of what I was embarking on. Things were about to go downhill too.

The Trek America trips start at various “gateway” hotels in the departing cities and when you book the trip, there’s an option to stay there the night before the trip starts, as they tend to start early in the morning. Trek America can even pair you up with another solo traveller, either on the same trip, or another trip, to keep the cost of the room down – damn single supplements!

The gateway hotel in LA at the time of my trip was called The Hacienda. From what I gather this doesn’t seem to be the case anymore, although I could be wrong. The hotel was only a couple of minutes drive from LAX, with a free shuttle service to and from the hotel. You’d think this would have been super easy to use and yet, I managed to make a total hash of it…

I went to the information desk, who call the hotel and request the shuttle to make a collection from the terminal. Then I waited outside as instructed, assuming the shuttle would simply stop… it didn’t. I went back in and told them at the information desk, who tried again for me. It didn’t stop again. I went back inside… you need to wave it down, they told me. Ok, sure, I’ve waved down a bus at home before. I went back outside, waved the shuttle down, and guess what? It drove past me again. Short of standing in the middle of the road, I didn’t understand what more I was supposed to do and by this point I’d been waiting for easily over an hour, beginning to despair. The trip was off to a total disaster and it hadn’t really started yet. This clearly was an awful idea, I should just pay for a flight home now, I thought to myself, close to tears.

I approached a couple of taxi drivers, desperate to get to the hotel and willing to pay anything they requested… no one wanted to take me, which I still find surprising because I was practically begging them to take my money. I got the impression they didn’t want to rip me off as they kept saying I was better to take the free shuttle, so I guess it was kind but I was desperate to get out of the damn airport.

The hotel was close, but it wasn’t walkable. The roads were busy and several lanes wide, and this is before we all had google maps readily available on our phones. In fact, I barely had wifi for the entire trip – hasn’t technology come far in just 8 years?!

So, I stood outside in utter panic. I’m never going to get there, I kept thinking to myself. Then, by pure stroke of luck, I overheard a family discussing the hotel they were staying at… it was the same as mine! They were waiting for some more family members to arrive and then jumping on the shuttle, hallelujah! It’s so unlike me to approach a group of total strangers, but I was honestly desperate by this point. Plus, they seemed friendly. I explained my tale of woe, and asked if I could wait with them. Of course, they said, but they were going to be waiting for another couple of hours. I honestly didn’t care, knowing that the shuttle wouldn’t drive past a much larger group. The hotel can’t have been popular as there were no other shuttles in the time I waited with the family, who were a chatty Eastern European bunch. When the rest of their party arrived at the terminal, someone requested a shuttle, which arrived and actually stopped. I was finally on my way, completely exhausted after the journey and slightly passed caring enough to be nervous anymore.

The drive to the hotel was so quick, I couldn’t beleive it, I’d waited so unbearably long for a 2 minute or less drive. I was SO grateful to that family and for fate to bring me a group going to the same place, or perhaps I’d still be trapped at LAX to this day.

Upon arriving, I checked in straight away and was informed that my room mate was already there. My stomach twisted. I wondered who it would be, what would they be like, what if they’re really annoyed about me arriving so late… Mainly I hoped it was someone due to be on the same trip as me, and friendly enough that I could stick with for at least the start of the trip.

For the sake of anonymity, I won’t use full names. The girl in the hotel room was “S”, a young German girl and very sweet, thankfully. She’d put the lock on door so when I first rocked up, I couldn’t get in, but she’d stayed awake waiting for me and jumped up to let me in. She greeted me with a huge grin and was chatty straight away, automatically putting me at ease. I was so relieved, this is all going to be fine now, I thought. I never actually told her how much she really did calm me down that first night and how much I appreciated it, I wasn’t particularly open about my anxiety then.

“S” had been an au pair and was doing a bit of travelling in America, I can’t remember why she wasn’t going home for Christmas but there must have been a reason – I really should have kept a journal so I could remember these smaller details. (If you’re thinking on booking a solo adventure like this, I implore you to keep a journal.) I do remember saying up chatting for a short while, before FINALLY calling it a night, now full of excitement for the trip to begin.

My memory of how the next morning exactly played out is obviously quite hazy but we were up early, as we had to join the trip for 7.30am. I was sorting my suitcase and found a card from my mum. She’d snuck it in there without me realising and had written to me about how proud she was, I was close to tears reading it but I took a deep breath and gave myself a minute to appreciate how far I’d come. I still have the card to this day.

S and I went downstairs and met the rest of the group together. Besides the tour leader, there was just one guy out of the whole group, we’ll call him Dutch, because he was. There were another 2 German girls, a Canadian, an older Japanese woman, I was the only Brit and the rest of the group were Koreans. I was suprised to be the only Brit, having been told it’s common to have mainly Brits in the groups, but I wasn’t bothered. Everyone was baffled that I’d chosen to be away from home for Christmas, as they were all studying in the States, or already doing some kind of travelling and wouldn’t have been home anyway.

The tour leader, “C”, was a guy in his later 20s and exactly what I’d imagined. He had perfect teeth and a wide smile, enthusiastic and wearing a baseball cap. I distinctly remember being relieved that I didn’t find him attractive, because I was NOT ready for anymore guy drama. I’d left behind my worries of the guy who ghosted me for Australia, as well as an on/off ex that had crept back in to my life somewhere along the way. Say it with me: no more guy drama!

The group was briefly acquainted and there were formalties such as recording travel insurance info, then “C” handed us our itineraries. It was in that moment that I knew this was about to be the time of my life.

Screenshot of my FB post, having just received the itinerary – the last bit of WiFi for a few days!
Posted in America, Anxiety, Life, Travel

Booking My First Solo Trip With Trek America

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.

Wild West.

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.

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…