YES TO POSTCARDS
I am sharing exclusive photographs and reflections from my solo journey around the world in 2007/08. So far, I have travelled through Belize and the southern tip of Mexico (and sent out 4 postcards)... Don't worry, you still have time to sign up. Just hit 'SIGN ME UP' above to join the postcard mailing list...
Here's a little context: The very beginning of my journey...
Almost exactly ten years ago, I set off on a solo journey around the world. I had dreamt of this journey and fantasised about it since childhood. I left my career, apartment, car, a partner and shrank my collection of worldly possessions to fit under friend’s beds and in my parents' loft. I was ready. I had taken a lone trip to Venice, a surfing course in Bude, had done the three peak challenge in less than 20 hours and had been to America twice on my own before. I was ready, wasn't I?
Desperately excited, antsy and a wired kind of exhausted, I boarded a plane headed west. I read a bit and stared out of the window, watched a film, drummed fingers on surfaces, flicked through in-flight literature and sighed dramatic sighs because the Ocean is so wide. I got as close to pacing the cage, though still in my seat, as I could. I was ready. I was ready. I was ready.
My first week was spent in a deep comfort: eating, talking and deeply inhaling a delicate and benign smoke of sisterly love in the company of my dear friend Heather. This was my first meeting of her twin babies who were about ten months old. Our blissful cinnamon and balsam scented week together was a shared mothering of those two animated pumpkins. They were always by our sides, on our backs or in our arms. It felt like coming home. I relaxed for the first time in months, I slept and ate and felt the deep nourishing acceptance and connection I always feel in Heather’s company. We held each other and reflected our lives to each other, shared our secrets and hopes and truly saw each other. Being with Heather always raises me up. Friends like Heather are like an amazing vitamin shot for your confidence, so rare and true. The week passed quickly and then it was time.
I had not expected to be a ball of howling frightened grief at leaving her and had not expected for the grief to quickly transform into a dark sense of terror about what I was doing. I was emphatically NOT ready. How could I have dreamt that this was a good idea? What had possessed me to give up a perfectly good job to pursue this childish dream? Who was I kidding? This wasn't me. The real me was a quiet girl who wanted nothing more than to have a secure wage and move through life in comfort without bothering anyone. I mean, I could see Mexico and Malaysia and Australia on film and in books and read about travel. How had I ended up here on this ridiculous quest? Flowing tears were wiped away. Sighs were sighed. Heather, who was having her world shaken beyond all recognition at this time, took me by the shoulders and told me how proud she was of me. She told me that she knew I could do this, I would be alright and I would not regret a single choice.
Safely delivered to the airport by Heather’s sister, I buttoned myself up ready to go out into the world. I met some kind American women at the airport who seemed confused and concerned at the notion of me going to Belize City on my own. I shared their worry, yet, that was what my ticket said and that was what I was bound to do. Internally I reprimanded my self for being so impressionable, so susceptible to their emotional response to my choices. I could not rationalise my way out of feeling dread churning in my gut. In the end I felt I had no choice but to sit in my fear, squelch through it from lounge to plane to lounge and out into hot unfamiliar air and a cracked-windscreen-taxi which drove me to the real beginning of my solo travel around the world. I don't think I have ever felt so afraid, so alone, so vulnerable and so green.
The fear was physical, emotional and I could not escape from a possible truth somewhere in its foundations: I mean - wasn't this just a terrible and dangerous idea? A woman alone turning up at a hostel in a very deprived area, in a country with conflict happening at its borders where the people all around her had comparatively nothing. Add into this frightening reality that I was a luminously pale white girl. I was the only luminously pale white girl I could see. I was a luminous and pale white girl with a ridiculous posh soft voice and a shameful grasp of Spanish. I had learnt ‘Quiero Llama me embajada’ and thought I was all set. I was not all set.
The woman at the hostel had all gold teeth and did not speak English. She was an unfriendly, tough hunk of hard knocks in a peach crochet T-shirt and a short denim skirt. She sucked her mesmerising teeth at me and called me ‘Puta’ out loud. The two identical keys she gave me for the padlock to my cell did not seem to work which forced more interaction with her. She openly despised me and I felt desperate to get her on my side. Smiling and gushing was not a valid currency. A silent old man in a worn out fishing gilet on the porch of the hostel sat in a rocking chair with a rifle cradled in his lap.
When I finally closed the door to my room behind me the panic oozed out of me. I crouched and held my head. I beat questions about changing my mind, reversing my decision and going home around the room a while. I quizzed myself about my strength and ability to do this alone. At this fragile moment the experience ahead of me felt like an eternity and an ordeal. The sensible risk averse girl inside me was in total freak out and helicopter-me-home panic. The part of me that was interested in growth and had put me up to buying the round trip ticket in the first place acutely believed that I could not go back, changing my mind was not an option...
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YES TO POSTCARDS