“I’m choosing happiness over suffering, I know I am. I’m making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises" Elizabeth Gilbert
In late December, after a bit of a rough end to the year, I decided to be a clichéd soul searching millennial and to finally read Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling travel memoir Eat, Pray Love. I went in feeling cynical and slightly embarrassed about my new literary endeavour, but within fifteen pages, I was in love. Many of us know the fluffy film adaptation where Julia Roberts (and a plethora of gorgeous men) travels to Italy, India and Bali in order to re-find herself, but the book delves so much deeper into the very nature of finding one's purpose after a period of feeling totally lost. It is a book about solitude as much as it is about connection. Halfway into the book, I realised that I really wanted to travel as soon as Christmas was over.
I didn't give myself time to think myself out of this desire, and instantly booked a cheap hostel in Rome. I would spend four days in Rome by myself. Okay, it wasn't quite on the epic scale of Gilbert's adventure but I also didn't have a book advance to prop me up. I would keep the trip cheap and cheerful and not over plan it. What I wanted was a few days to myself to be immersed in a different place, free from work and the people I know (much as I love them). I wanted to be anonymous for a few days. To be an observer of a world I didn't know.
Fittingly, I went a couple of days after Valentine's day as an act of self-love. I took one small bag with me, eschewing the extra sixty quid for a suitcase, and packed one novel, my diary and loaded up my phone with audible stories and a Roman Holiday inspired Spotify playlist. And off I went on a crisp Thursday morning to Stanstead Airport. I've travelled solo before, but normally on a yoga retreat or surf camp, where most things are organised and there's always a few other solo travellers to hang out with. Suddenly I wondered if I had made a huge mistake....
I didn't need to worry as it was everything I wanted and more. As much as I love travelling with friends, family and partners, there is a special joy to be found in a solo adventure. You are accountable to no one but yourself. You can go at your own pace, stop for food when you want, not worry about clashing budgets, and generally do exactly what you want, when you want, how you want. Travelling alone also allows you to build confidence as you have to take responsibility for yourself; you will have to eat alone, get yourself from place to place and probably negotiate with a few people. My confidence grew everyday as I started chatting to more people and getting braver with my restaurant trips. I found my shyness slowly melting away, allowing me to be more open to new connections. Spending time alone with yourself allows to really get to know yourself and we can sometimes forget how important that is.
I got to explore Rome at my own pace, to witness chapels lit up at night and meander through beautiful streets and ancient ruins for my own intrigue and pleasure. I tasted hearty pizzas and foamy cappuccinos whilst quietly people watching, I drank Campari spritzes and journaled in the little hostel bar, and felt full of gratitude. To be able to feel contentment whilst alone I think is a goal we should always be working towards. Don't get me wrong, it is so wonderful to have a life full of people we love and who love us, but ultimately, the closest relationship we will ever have is with ourselves, and this should be treasured.
Taking a few day away on my own allowed me to connect back to myself, find my most confident and adventurous self and find a sense of joy and contentment without relying on anyone else. So, if you are feeling a bit disconnected or even a bit lonely this month, maybe you can find time for a solo adventure, even if it's just taking an afternoon off to go to a museum. However small, take some time to be alone and find all the joy you can as you become your own best friend.
Until next month!
I'll be teaching my next online class MONDAY 13th MARCH at 9am via zoom
*I proof read all of my posts but I am also dyslexic so apologies for any errors I may have missed x