Monday 10 February 2020

Leaving the comfort zone

Since the beginning of 2017 I have travelled solo at various intermittent periods. In fact I have done many things solo. At first it wasn't necessarily because I wanted to do these things alone it was because I had come out of a 7 year relationship, all my friends had kids or they were in relationships so I had to make the choice of "Do it alone, or not at all".

Being the person I am I thought "Sod it, I can do this, people do things alone all the time". So it started off small at first as I was still gaining my confidence after a horrific breakup. I dipped my toe in the water and started to begin new activities that I had always wanted to do but never quite got around to it. Leaving my comfort zone at times is scary.

I am known by the people closest to me as very impulsive or spontaneous as I prefer to look at it and once my head is set on something I generally keep going whether it turns out to be a good decision or not. I guess I could call it passion. Once I Invest in something I  try to give it my all. I am a very all or nothing type girl.

I started booking tables for one in restaurants, going to the cinema and I joined a gym. People would always ask when eating alone or waiting for a table in a restaurant "Are you waiting for someone?" or "Table for two?" like it wasn't restaurant etiquette to eat alone. 

At first I used to feel a little uncomfortable but after a while it became the norm for me, i started to creep away from my comfort zone and I actually got a bit of a buzz out of people watching, particularly watching people watch me! 

I used to wonder what they were thinking. Facial expressions and body language are powerful and sometimes I would get a little nod of the head, shrug of the shoulders followed by a sympathetic semi smile, as if they felt sorry for me that I was dining alone like I had been stood up. In fact in my head I used to fantasise about little stories and scenarios that I could potentially say to people in case they asked. Of course people rarely asked and I kept those imaginative stories to myself!

Dining alone started to become a fun and easy activity to do so thought I would challenge myself a little more. After all if I wanted to go out and do things in the real world I would need to do them by myself.

I booked my first solo holiday. Ok, so it wasn't travelling with a backpack and a one way plane ticket in my hand. It was a separate flight, hotel and transfers which I booked online. I wanted to go somewhere hot and pretty safe as it was my first time doing this. So I booked to go to Tenerife for 10 days. 

The airport was the first experience, although I had flown alone before, I was always meeting a boyfriend the other end of the flight but this time was totally different. I again went into fantasy mode and wondered what people thought of me. Was I a rep? Did I live there? Was I meeting someone? Was I running away? Had I been stood up at the alter and on my honeymoon alone? I loved compiling these little stories in my mind. My imagination can be a tad out there sometimes! But yet again I had been totally "impulsive"....typical Miss Snikpoh style and found myself going on my first adventure!

So whilst on my totally self destructive/finding myself again post 7 year relationship path, I had been on dating sites, if you've read my blog on "Dating in the 21st century" you might understand how ridiculous this idea was. But needless to say I had been chatting to a guy who lived in Tenerife, we agreed that whilst I was over there that we would meet up. We did, turns out he was a totally dickhead! (Another story) So actually was pleased once we decided to part our separate ways after a couple of days. 

So the remaining time was mine, I spent the first part of the week, mainly walking in totally the opposite direction to the "Brits on the piss" area as that isn't exactly my idea of a holiday. If I wanted that I would go to Wetherspoons and sit under a heat lamp. The second week I was getting braver and visiting the more cultural parts of the island and exploring, eating in quaint little restaurants and watching sunsets and sun rises. Listening to my audio books and doodling in note pads.

I actually made quite a few acquaintances, which one evening did in fact lead me into the rowdy area of town, but after numerous alcoholic beverages, Spanish style, numbed my usual thoughts of "these people are dickheads" which proved to be quite an eye opener. I myself probably turned into a bit of a dick head myself  but hey at least I admit it and definitely don't make a habit of it and lets face it we are all human. I think it was a mixture of pent up emotion of longing to just let my hair down after the crazy 7 year relationship.

Me having a soft spot for live music, I say music meaning bands, where real people play real instruments. I decided in my wisdom that it might be a good idea to ask why the guy playing the guitar and miming was playing a long to a backing track, I eventually got thrown out of said "live music" bar....not very "live" by all accounts. I remember sitting and crying, total embarrassment but I think pent up emotion from 7 years came out at that very moment! After spending the next morning in bed, I dusted myself off and felt better, actually feeling very remorseful to the bad musician and wanting to apologise but lets face it I am sure he has heard it all before. The remainder of the holiday was far less inebriated and went back to the cultural holiday I prefer.

The entire experience of finding my way in a foreign airport, getting to the hotel, socialising, exploring and getting thrown out of terrible bars not to mention the numerous random Tinder messages I was getting from random Spanish men asking me to meet up was a real experience. (Another evidential reason why I will never go back to internet dating)!

After that adventure I got the travel bug and booked various other holidays in Europe and also right here in England and Wales. I have had amazing times and met some awesome people with some times of intense loneliness, which i actually think was good for me to cut myself off from the entire world.

In Lanzarote, I actually ended up in hospital because I had a severe kidney infection, it was a scary experience and at that point being a solo traveller wasn't as nice as I'd liked. Trying to deal with paperwork and medical cards and passports and not speaking the language whilst in a lot of pain wasn't overly pleasant. But I got through it and actually had an amazing holiday and met some great people. In fact I am still in touch with a couple of them.

I have ticked things off my bucket list, including nudest beaches, riding scooters, jumping off boats into the most amazing rock formations in deep coves, hiking in what felt like some kind of horror story, but that is another post!

I'd like to say that one of my best holidays was a holiday that I had was to Romania, but all my holidays have been the best, just in different ways. The hostel where I stayed in Bucharest was lets say very warn and tired and that is being kind. Ok, it was a filthy run down shit hole, with electrics hanging off the wall and god only knows what was in the bed I was sleeping in. But despite this it was a great holiday! I spent very limited time in the hostel itself. Romania is so cheap I literally travelled about the country using a taxi app. I would decide where I wanted to go and just go. I saw so much of the country and its understated elegance. In fact I would love to go back and explore the areas I never managed to get to. I could write an entire post on Romania, perhaps I will at some point.

So the travels gave me the long over due confidence that I needed. Since that very first trip. I have sky dived, learnt to indoor rock climb and boulder, I have had a weekend away rock climbing outdoors... yes so much harder than indoor and far scarier! I have made some life long friends at my local gym. I have learnt to salsa dance and am learning the West African drum (Djembe). I am learning the French language which since my previous post that I wrote about learning languages, I have actually improved quite a lot. Not necessarily verbally but I understand the grammar a whole lot more which makes writing and speaking it accurately far easier. Watching Netflix in French is beginning to pay off and the 1:1 lessons I am actually having of course!

Solo life hasn't been a bad adventure at all and I still want to do so much more. Even if I were to meet the man of my dreams, who like I have already mentioned I would like to enable me to reduce my independence slightly, I would still keep the independent part of having time out and having breaks alone and my hobbies. Which I actually think is really important in relationships; time out for yourself.

So where and what is next? I have lots of weekend breaks and longer trips in my mind and  activities I would like to try. I tend not to overly plan it and don't generally tell people where I am going then suddenly I announce I am off to where ever I have decided. 

That is my impulsive side, which I have actually grown to like about myself. Planning for a long period and over planning just freaks me out a bit, I would prefer to make a decision and just do it. This is probably why I have landed myself in "situations" from time to time! Perhaps if I over planned I would eventually talk myself out of it, I don't know. But I am unsure that I will ever change that component of my personality. In fact I think it is getting worse with age, it is kind of "fuck it, I am just going to do it anyway" attitude. I suppose life is short and I am realising that more and more now that I am not where I assumed I would be, so I would rather follow my heart than my head. I know not always the most rational decision but surely having experiences and memories is far better when you are lying on your death bed than having a lot of "things" and money around you?

Samual Langhorne Clemens or as most people know him by his pseudo name  "Mark Twain" was an American writer and one of his famous quotes says what I am trying to say, quite badly, extraordinarily well.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover. (Mark Twain)

I am not saying this is not a scary thought or action to take and I am indeed lost and only beginning to grasp this very concept myself and start to put this theory into place then back off but I am hoping with encouragement and great connections with others that I will be able to enable this process further to develop.

I guess, what I am trying to say, is I have been and still am in certain areas of my life an unconfident lost girl but I am trying my hardest to make changes and adapt to my new way of thinking. It scares the life out of me, but I suppose you never get anywhere if you play it safe in comfort zones. Although I am in no way saying that it isn't a bad thing to stay in a comfort zone, some people are very satisfied staying there. But if there is one shadow of doubt of not feeling content and satisfied in your safe place, start to make little changes because little changes lead to bigger changes. 

My journey has only just really begun and I know certain people in my life, who I admire and love dearly feel the same. The questions of "should I follow my heart or head?" Well I think for me follow your head to enable you to perhaps do the things you want to do well, so that might entail sticking in the job you don't like for a little longer, living in the area you don't like for a few more months so when your heart is ready you have the means to follow your dreams.

If I am going to try, maybe you can too. It might start off with going to the cinema or dining alone or it might be bigger than that and it mean leaving your native country, pursuing that change in career, allowing yourself to fall in love but we all have to start somewhere right?

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