Hello my lovelies. I hope you’re all keeping well.
It’s been quite a while since my last post. Pretty much six months to the day, in fact.
I suppose when I last wrote, I expected radio silence for a few months and that I’d be back to tell you about a mini-adventure of a day or two, mid-way through 2022.
But what I didn’t expect to be able to share with you was that I’ve been away, away.
Like on a proper holiday.
On an aeroplane.
To ACTUAL GREECE!
After a walking trip in the north east of England last year, I’d hoped to do something similar for a week or so in Scotland this summer. But having started to plan it, I really wasn’t feeling the love. On top of the fact that travelling solo in the UK invariably means parting with mega-bucks, I didn’t want to be dealing with the indoor space hyper-vigilance which still consumes me – and going to Scotland would inevitably mean quite a lot of that. And then there was the intricate itinerary – planes, trains, automobiles, hostels, hotels, walking routes. It made my mind boggle.
On the other hand, visiting somewhere the weather was pretty much guaranteed to be hot would mean that I’d spend the majority of my time outdoors, from sunbathing to having a drink to eating dinner. Being in a beach resort would reduce the amount of public transport I’d need to take. I could down sticks, chill out, relax and enjoy. Plus I was now sub-10 stones in weight. If I was ever going to have enough confidence to wear a swimsuit again, this summer was it.
I weighed up the pros and cons until I finally had a ‘oh, you know what, f*ck it’ moment and booked myself a flight.
I chose my holiday to Corfu as it’s an island I have visited four or five times before. I love it there. It’s easy to dismiss it as a party place but, in fact, large swathes of it remain authentic and unspoiled. It’s not all fish bowls and dentist chairs in Kavos; there are quiet corners with beautiful beaches, mountains, lush greenery and flowers. Corfiot hospitality is warm and welcoming. Its cuisine is unique and delicious. Having visited many of Greece’s islands, it absolutely remains my favourite.
Taking a flight felt risky Covid-wise, but I figured that three and a half hours in a plane was really no different to six hours on a train to Scotland. I’d still be in an enclosed space but I’d wear a face-mask and use plenty of hand sanitiser.
Now, being the worrier that I am, you’d expect me to have regretted my decision at some point in the weeks leading up to going, but I genuinely didn’t. Sure, I was fretting about airport queues and flight cancellations, and obviously concerned about getting ill while I was away, but overall I excited about going away to a far-off land and I was determined to make the most of it. The last time I’d had a ‘proper’ beach holiday was seven years previously.
Aside from the time away itself to look forward to, it was actually good for me to have a project for the few weeks prior to jetting off. I’d no shorts or t-shirts and the only bikini I owned was now far too skimpy for someone nearer 50 than 40 to wear. I’ve spent two and a bit years doing precisely nothing other than wondering what to eat for my next meal so ‘Operation Long Hols in Six Weeks’ Time’ in itself did me an immense amount of good – flitting here and there to buy beachwear, researching sun cream, booking hair and beauty appointments, buying second-hand dresses on Vinted, booking taxis, finding a new cat sitter, digging out my sandals, beach towel and mozzie-zapping plug.
And by the time I had everything sorted, it was time to go – woohoo!
The journeys there and back were surprisingly fine. Yes, there were queues at the airports. But they were well-managed by all involved. And everyone working there was genuinely friendly, cheerful and helpful. I couldn’t have felt more reassured.
The flight was similarly not as horrific as it might have been. Being stuck in a giant tin can with 200 germ-givers at 38,000 feet didn’t feel as frightening as I expected, and I even took off my face-mask for long enough to down a large vodka and orange.
When, at last, I landed in ACTUAL GREECE, I couldn’t believe it. Walking out of the plane and standing at the top of the aircraft steps, I turned around to feel a blast of proper, hot holiday sun on my face. It felt like something I’d dreamt an awfully long time ago.
And, for my first day or so, I knew I was there but somehow it seemed like I was watching myself on telly. It genuinely didn’t seem real.
Of course, I soon got into the swing of things.
I’m usually a beach bum. Back when I used to go on those kind of holidays regularly, I liked to get up very early and have a walk then a swim in the sea before heading back to my studio, dropping in on a ‘fournos’ to pick up freshly-baked bread. Next a shower, breakfast on the balcony and return to the beach to sleep off the carbs.
That was the plan this year but it turned out that sea swimming wasn’t a thing due to an unexpected influx of purple jellyfish. I didn’t fancy the thought of having to pee on my own body parts (please note: this is a joke – ammonia is not good for jellyfish stings – you should mix baking soda with sea water and apply it to the area) so most of the days I found myself around a hotel pool.
I wasn’t staying at the hotel so I had to pay €10 for the privilege. But this was given back as a credit to spend at its bar/restaurant. So as well as a lovely comfy sunbed in very nice gardens, with a gorgeous pool to swim in as and when I liked, I had leisurely lunch with a cold beer every day. It felt like the utmost in luxury.
The days that I wasn’t flat on my back, I walked. With temperatures in the late 20s and early 30s, and some seriously steep inclines, it was tough going at times. Fortunately, having lost more than three stones in weight during the past year, and now walking extensively as well as running some days, I’m the fittest I’ve ever been so I was able to cope with the heat and and the exertion. I’d taken my walking boots and invested in some ultra-light socks. I was glad I had – the terrain was hard-going at times and sandals definitely wouldn’t have cut it.
One day I picked up the Arillas trail and hiked from Agios Stefanos to Agios Giorgios and back. A total of 11 miles.
Another time I walked the long way around Agios Stefanos to Cape Drastis, via Loggas Beach. Far too many miles but the scenery was insanely beautiful.
Usually on beach holiday my evenings consist of a walk, a cocktail, dinner and then a nightcap in ether a bar or on the balcony back at my accommodation.
This time, however, things panned out differently. By chance, I made contact with another solo female so we said we’d meet up for a drink. I’m not a natural ‘meeter’ or ‘joiner’ so I had to dig quite deep to do this. But I’m keen to start getting my life back on track and decided it would be nice to make a new friend. Although our lives are quite different, we had a surprising amount in common in terms of how we viewed the world and I really enjoyed her company. We had drinks one night, dinner another and also saw some live music. She knew a lot of people in the resort so she introduced me to them. I felt as if I was quite dull company but I liked her a lot.
The whole of my week had all the elements of a great break – lovely accommodation, delicious food, a few drinks, scenery, exercise, relaxation, topping up my vitamin D levels and I barely thought about Covid or my ex-boyfriend.
Perhaps more importantly, after three awfully long years, I felt like myself again.
It was THE BEST holiday!
Since my last proper solo trip in the spring of 2019, due to personal circumstances and the pandemic, solo travel went by-the-by. It was no longer something I did and I had considered that defining part of my life to be over.
And, to a degree, it is: I won’t travel as I have before. Taking trips to the extent that I did – once a month at one point – is a serious commitment in terms of time and money, neither of which I have a surplus of anymore.
But this holiday (and I use that term literally, for it was very much a ‘holiday’, not a ‘trip’ or ‘travel’) has made me realise that my need to visit new places is still in my blood and I’m not afraid to strike out on my own to explore new horizons. I’m actually the same person I always was, only a little older, and hopefully a tad wiser.
My solo travel hiatus is well and truly over, thank goodness, and now I have more adventures to look forward to over the summer and in to the autumn.
Overall, in my head there were a few what ifs, but the fact that when I got out there and I was laid on my sunbed in my tankini listening to other peoples’ chatter and watching swallows dip in and out of the pool, feeling the breeze on my face and sipping a cold drink, none of the things I had worried about mattered at all.
I needed that holiday so much more that I had realised until I was there.
I had a wonderful time and I’m incredibly proud of myself for doing it after I thought I’d never travel solo again.
I’d like to sign off by saying that if you’re still not sure whether you should head off this summer then I think that you absolutely definitely should. Try not to over-think it – just do it.
Much so long love to you – and happy summery solo travels