If 2020 and 2021 were anything to go by, 2022 was set to be another year of next-to-nothingness when it came to solo travel.
Last year I had managed to dig deep and have a few days out, then two or three nights away, but I was still gripped with nervousness and felt desperately stuck in a rut when I should have been getting back in to my groove.
At the beginning of this year, a friend asked me if I had thought about dating again, my last relationship having broken up at the end of 2019. I explained that no, what I really wanted most this year was to start getting out and about again, to have my life back.
But I knew that, despite help from my friends, ultimately it was down to me, and it was going to take time and effort.
And so it began: my journey back to being who I am.
1. Beach Huts, Fleetwood
After hunkering down through the winter, my first forays began where last year’s left off – with walking. I was still feeling anxious about being around lots of people and hyper-vilgilant about germs so I chose my travel times and routes carefully, planning tripettes based on being outdoors as much as possible. My first walks of the year took me to Hebden Bridge, Lancaster, Morecambe and Blackpool.
You might be surprised to learn that Blackpool is actually one of my favourite places to walk. For this particular route I took the the tram up to Fleetwood before trundling back down the coast.
It was a brilliant blue day which heralded the start of spring.
2. Selfie with a friend
For me this year has certainly been all about putting one foot in front of the other – and I don’t mean just walking.
I’ve rejoined the world and reconnected with my friends: hugs, gatherings, meals out, films, day trips, in-depth conversations, laughter.
On top of starting to rebuilding and strengthen these relationships, I’ve taken time to make some new friends as well. As an introvert, I’ve had to dig quite deep – normally it would be something I’d avoid at any cost. But I’ve been keen to expand my horizons and be less ultra-protective of myself. Put bluntly, if I always do when I’ve always done, I will always get what I’ve always got.
So as well as taking some proper trips, I’ve spent time getting back in to the swing of smaller activities. Days out have very much become the new travel for me – solo and otherwise. In addition to walking, I’ve spent time re-immersing myself in the cultural things I used to enjoy – exhibitions, theatre, talks, the ballet.
Here I am at the Van Gogh immersive experience in Salford with my lovely friend.
3. Corfiot sunset
Around the beginning of May, I had a ‘f*ck it’ moment and booked myself a flight. It was a terrifying prospect but my desire for a proper rest and change of scenery outweighed my anxiety about being stuck in a tin can full of strangers.
I chose carefully, heading to Corfu, an island I have visited several times before and always enjoyed.
I took this photo the first evening I was there. I had thought that I might never get on a plane ever again so to have finally made it to Greece and watch the sun setting over the sea was a very special moment indeed.
4. Corfiot cliffs
Things have moved on a lot this year but in June I was still incredibly cautious so I pretty proud of myself for making it to ACTUAL GREECE.
Once there, it was easy to put the C and P words out of my mind. I sunbathed and swam and ate and drank and even met up with a new friend. I also spent a lot of time walking to various different places dotted along the north west coast of the island.
I couldn’t have had a lovelier week.
5. Beer, at a bar near you
As you might have read in my previous post, one of my new things this year has been supping a post-walk pint. Cheers!
6. Sky over Kirkcaldy
At the beginning of July I had a quick hop to Kirkcaldy, especially for an exhibition, and also took the opportunity to do some walking, despite not having gone prepared. This picture was one of many impressive ones I captured. There are few things more photogenic than the sky in Scotland.
7. Shepherd’s Hut, Haltwhistle
October rolled around and so did my Big Birthday. For several reasons, I wasn’t in the mood for celebrating so instead I chose to disappear off for a few days, deciding to give solo glamping a go. Glamping is something I’ve wanted to try for a while but it generally isn’t geared up for people who travel on their own.
So imagine my joy when I happed upon this tiny self-contained Shepherd’s Hut. Complete with a shower, kitchenette, log burning stove and a double bed with a big snuggly duvet, it was my home for four wonderful days and nights. The perfect place to hide away from the horror of turning half a century old!
8. Hadrian’s Wall
The idea behind glamping was to spend my days doing plenty of walking and I had done quite a lot of research beforehand, downloading maps and planning routes. Unfortunately, the weather was very much against me and I only managed three walks in total. It rained pretty much solidly for the whole four days I was away, and despite finally learning to dress for the weather, my waterproof coat, trusty boots, bobble hat, over-sized scarf and warm mittens were no match for the relentless rain and wild winds.
This photo was taken one afternoon when it actually stopped for about an hour. Shortly afterwards it began again so I welched out and went to the pub (of course).
9. The bright lights of London
As well as getting out and about for fun, this year I’ve also travelled for work. Although I’m a virtual worker, I meet with my manager and team on a fairly regular basis, sometimes at our Leeds office, sometimes in London. London is a world away from my life in a small northern market town so it always feels exciting to be in the city. I’m an unashamed tourist whenever I’m there, much to my colleagues’ amusement.
I was heading back to Kings Cross station when these three buildings caught my eye. It was too good a shot to miss.
10. Not all those who wander are lost
Spotted in the middle of nowhere: a tiny trinket hidden away on the back of a fingerpost, it brought to mind a piece I wrote a few years ago. It also made me smile because it reminded me about how much I love exploring new places and the surprises that solo travel brings.
So there they are: my favourite photos of 2022 and the stories behind them.
It’s been a horrible 12 months for so many people in numerous ways and I am more than aware that the world is not a very nice place right now. That said, on a personal level, this year has marked my re-emergence into real life and brought me renewed optimism. It’s been reassuring to learn that I’m the same person I always was and that I enjoy the same things I always did, perhaps a tad more tentatively at times, though with a much greater sense of joy and appreciation.
I know I won’t ever be able to travel as extensively as I once did but I’m grateful for the many memories I have created over the years and hopeful of more solo trips in the future, perhaps not as far, not as long and not as often, but fresh horizons nevertheless.
Happy New Year and Happy New Adventures my lovelies, whatever form they may take