Not to Travel is to risk losing yourself

In Marrakesh in 2009
Marrakesh 2009

The Girl you see above is 17 year old me. On her first ‘proper’ holiday without my parents, meaning it wasn’t a school trip and it wasn’t with someone else’s parents. We were going solo … And what better place to go than Marrakech in Morocco.

Why Marrakech? Because Ryanair were doing flights for free and with hand luggage added the flights cost £60 for two of us.

Marrakech was amazing and was also my first experience of ever leaving Europe. We went up into the mountains, saw the Yves Saint Laurent Garden and ate with locals off the beaten track. Then less than an hour after this photo was taken. We got mugged. A woman and her mother asked if we would like henna as we were walking through ‘Jemaa el-Finna’. Then as I went to pay they stole all of the money out of my purse and ran off into the huge crowd of the market.

Scared, shook up and heartbroken we got a taxi back to our hotel (luckily we split our money between us). I cried, and I mean I fucking sobbed my heart out. I didn’t feel safe and my anxiety was taking over, I just wanted to go home. We were one day into our holiday, and I could’ve so easily let my intrusive thoughts take over. ‘It’s not safe to go away with out parents’, ‘you aren’t safe’ , ‘this was a stupid idea’. But I challeneged those ridiculous thoughts and with the help of my travel companion realised I was strong enough to carry on. Yes what happened was horrible, but I couldn’t let that stop me from seeing this beautiful city. I am still so proud of myself for continuing that trip as it was the first time I had to be responsible for my own mental health.

The top of Mount Teidi, in Tenerife 2010
Mount Teide 2010

I’m 18 and island hopping around 6 of ‘Canary Islands’. My love for travel is growing and so before heading of too University I am spending 16 days doing my first ‘proper’ travel. As in apart from the first three places we have NO plan. I’m feeling a mix of excitement and shitting myself. Again the intrusive thoughts start to come in, ‘can I do this?’, ‘Is it safe?’ ‘what happens if we can’t find anywhere to stay?’, ‘what if we miss our ferries?’ and so on … my mind was constantly running it’s own marathon. I’ve never done a holiday like this before.

We’ve been travelling all night on a ferry from ‘Tenerife’ to ‘Lanzarote’ with a change over in ‘Gran Canaria’. Sleeping in the on board cinema as being skint teengers, we couldn’t afford a room. Sleep deprived we arrive in Lanzarote ready to get a bus to the other side of the Island and go to ‘Fuerteventura’. We get to the bus stop to find out we’ve missed the bus and have to wait 2 hours for the next. I am inconsolable. I’m really struggling to cope, as my mind is having a field day, again a feel scared, unsafe and like something bad is going to happen. Dealing with anxiety and undiagnosed dyspraxia. After 2 very distressing hours of having to be talked out of quitting and going home because I feel so scared, and putting all the blame of this unfortunate situation onto my travel companion. We get on the bus. Then I realise we don’t have accommodation booked. ‘O FOR FUCK SAKE’ Having only just calmed down, the fear takes over again. I’m hysterically crying and feeling like something awful is going to happen.

So I ring my dad (back then we didn’t have internet on our phones abroad and couldn’t jump onto booking.coms app). A very tired, slightly delirious and anxiety riddled Charlotte somehow exlains that they have no accommodation booked and that she’s not coping well in her curent situation. Dad flies to the rescue and within minutes books a 4* hotel that is half board (talk about luxury) and so we arrive, smelly, exhausted, proud of ourselves for getting there and realising sometimes you just need to ask for help. It doesn’t mean your weak, it just means you need help.

The Mojave Desert, America, 2015
Mojave Desert 2015

Fast forward five years. I’m in America, the above picture was taken after being here less than 24 hours, mid drive from ‘LA’ to ‘Las Vegas’, getting lots of weird looks because it’s November and I’m in shorts, and pre first break down. So we set off on what I was told was a quick and easy walk … I was lied too. We get mid way and I stop, I’m told he’ll go to the top and be there and back into 20 minutes. So I wait, half an hour passes, and he’s not back, we only have one phone with worldwide calls on it, so I can’t ring him. I’m starting to stress. Checking the time every 30 seconds. 3 minutes pass he’s still not back. I begin screaming his name, hysterically crying and freaking the fuck out. Scared he’s fallen and plummted to his death, scared he’s been kidnapped, terrified I’m stuck in Amercia after less than 24 hours of arriving having lost my partner.

15 minutes later, he returns to find a purple faced, very scared, shaking uncontrollably, crying Charlotte. Having no understanding as to why I was wailing his name, and me very frantically explaining my recent thought processes, exlains that he meant 20 minutes there and 20 minutes back, with a cig break at the top….. my face drops. Is he fucking kidding me?! I’m the furthest I’ve ever been from home, suffering from Jet Lag, my anxiety already pretty high, and having just had my first breakdown of the trip (note first) blames me for misunderstanding him?!

Fuming

But at least now, I can be calmed and we can carry on with the trip. Having not lost my partner in some ridiculous notion, my wonderfully quirky, if not sometimes irrational, brain had made up.

There have been many mishaps during my travel, experiences. Some real, and some that my mind has made up. So many of them could have easily putme off travelling for life. And I’ve had to really work hard against my head trying to force me to stay in my own litle bubble, where everything is safe, nothing bad ever happens and I can (pretend) to be in complete control of everything. But when you stay in your comfort zone, you don’t grow, you don’t progress, you stay stuck. I have seen some amazing places, met amazing people and tried some amazing food, alongside incredible homemade wines. And non of that would have been possible, if I’d have let my head win. I’m not saying it’s easy, but these experiences have made me the strong, fierce woman I am today. These experiences allowed me to go do my first ever solo trip to ‘Bali’ mid nervous breakdown, with no plan other than my first two days. And that is something I will always be proud of.

Sometimes you just have to burst your bubble…

Me about to take my first solo trip to Bali in 2018
August 2018, just about to take my first solo adventure to Bali

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