Before I was married or in a couple, I lived in a truly autonomous space, where my world was very much dictated by me – my needs and my desires. What I wanted to do or who I wanted to be, solely lay at my feet. Whilst I, like everyone, had obligations, and blessed friendships, my life was very much in the making of my own image.
Then I met my partner.
Now, I specifically use the term ‘partner’ to describe my husband – because we are a team – fifty/fifty. We are a collective of shared responsibilities and whilst we both maintain our independence, control and identity – there isn’t just one person in the captain’s seat – we are co-pilots.
Being co-leaders in our dynamic is what makes our marriage so special but like all things in life, there are two sides to a coin. With the joy of meaningful companionship, also comes the negotiation and the compromise.
So when it came to taking a holiday this year, we had a compatibility issue – mainly around scheduling. As summer began to draw to a close, I wasn’t quite ready to give up natural doses of Vitamin D (especially as the UK’s version of summer has been grey skies and 17 degrees), but my husbands work commitments meant we would need to surrender into Autumn. This was not a good time for him to travel. We had a practical problem that had a practical solution, which I never expected to discover within my marriage. It looked like the beach, sea and sun were going to be on my horizon – but I was going to be experiencing them solo.
So I did something, I never expected to do in partnership – I decided to travel alone.
I had the hundred percent backing of my husband – not that one needs permission – but when stepping out on one’s own, it feels nicer with the support.
Was there a touch of trepidation? Yes – but mainly because I, like everyone, hadn’t travelled much since the pandemic, so even travelling felt new again.
So I booked my flight and my first 2 nights of accommodation and set forth of my adventure.
All I wanted was the sea. For months, my soul had been crying for an oceanic baptism, a chance to immerse myself in a natural body of water. bigger and greater than my comprehension and to surrender myself to its waves. On my first day, the moment sunlight peeked through the curtains, my swimsuit was on and I headed to the beach.
I remember the slight coolness of the water as my feet sunk into the sand, as the water began to dance around my feet teasing me with aqua reflections. I recall that first dive below the surface, as the sea parted way to my submerged body and the bubbles floated towards the skin of the surface. I can still feel that first breath as I reemerged, my lungs filling with air – it was the first time in a long time, that I felt like I could truly breathe again. I was in my natural home. As I lay back in the embryonic water, the sun providing a glowing hug to my face, causing droplets to transform into diamonds on my skin, my tongue awakened to saltiness – I felt alive and I felt grateful.
I was away for 6 days in total. Most of my trip was unplanned. Throughout my trip, I kept checking in with myself asking “what do I want?” “what do I feel like?” “what would make me happy in this moment?”. When I felt like a change of scenery, I booked myself a hotel in another part of Malta to inject more novelty into my experience. When at 11pm I had a craving for tropical fruit, I indulged in a late night mango and watermelon fest and when I needed to chill, I tucked myself under the covers of my hotel duvet and tuned into Netflix. Every decision, every experience, belonged to me and I loved it.
People asked me before and after my trip about loneliness, was I not scared of being by myself for the week? To be honest, it never worried me. I felt no shame enjoying my own company at a nice restaurant or lying by myself on a deckchair. Plus, I rediscovered, that when you travel, you’re never quite alone. In fact, I had to hold back social invitations whilst flying solo. When you’re travelling as an individual, you’re more receptive to talking to people, you’re more adventurous to break a social bubble and interact with others PLUS everyone’s in a good mood – they’re on vacation, relaxed and out of their comfort zones, if you don’t want to be alone on holiday – you don’t have to be (but you may have to find a bit of courage to speak up). In this space of openness, I met an array of people. From a Covid researcher, to my friend’s brother (who coincidentally was staying at the same hotel – as discovered on Instagram), a veteran and his wife who served in Saudi and a student from Nigeria, looking for new opportunities. But my favourite serendipitous encounter was with a group of 20 something international students who I met whilst standing in the line for a Catamaran Cruise to the Blue Lagoon. This friendly bunch of party-going girlfriends adopted me and it was not too long before we were sharing drinks, stories and laughter. This wonderful group of women provided me with a posse to dance with, a crew to adventure with and a post-boat chaperone service, to make sure I got home safe when we docked at 10 pm. For the few hours we were together, I escaped being thirty and reclaimed my twenty-something self and it was fun and it was free and it was liberating.
When I reflect back on my trip, I can’t help but think what I would have missed out on if I had not gone. If I had been too scared to travel solo if my fear had stopped me from trusting my ability to take care of myself. Not only did I survive, but I thrived. Every time I immersed myself in the ever-changing colours of greens, golds and blues of the sea, I found my happy place. Each time I woke up in the morning, I awoke to endless possibilities of stories that would unravel and people I would meet. I was so attuned to my own needs, I became my own best friend and found pleasure in the silence and the ability to be completely present with myself and my thoughts. It was glorious and I soaked up every sacred minute.
Now, what about my lovely husband stuck at home in that grey British weather? What happened to “us” on the sojourn? Something beautiful blossomed. We arranged times to speak everyday and I met our calls with great excitement. I was energised and blissful and I met my partner with this energy. As I was feeling renewed, I could meet our love story through the a new lens. When we spoke, our conversations had honeymoon vibes. We were playful and spirited and curious about each other and our days and experiences. He was sincerely delighted by my happiness and I was extremely grateful that his trust in me provided a space that allowed me to reclaim an independent part of my identity that can sometimes get lost in marriage. I sincerely believe that our relationship is stronger, healthier and more special because of the time we spent apart. Plus, the piece de resistance and proof our relationship can hold time apart and that it can be celebrated – my husband arrived at Heathrow airport with this overwhelming welcome home sign.
I loved my holiday so much, that I’m doing it again next year (pending all things out of my control). To me, it was a spiritual pilgrimage, a renewal, a step into the wild that I want to always claim as part of my life.
Relationships need to be able to hold space for all of our parts and by relationships, I don’t just mean romantic partners, I also mean the relationships we hold with ourselves. If the Covid Pandemic has taught us anything is that life is unpredictable, life is sacred and we need to seize moments when we can. We all need time to reconnect. We all need time to recharge. We all need time to be true to ourselves.
So if there is a part of your heart that is calling for an adventure but feel you feel tied or anchored, I invite you to explore if there is a space that can exist for you to reclaim what is rightfully yours. I’m not saying it’s always easy and I know that it can come at a cost, but I assure you, when you feel yourself in flow, when that part of you that gets lost in the day to day is reborn and surfaces again, you’ll know the courage you took to carve the experience for yourself was completely worth it.