Last night, I decided to read through the travel journal I kept when I went to England last October. I made the conscious decision to travel by myself on this journey for a few reasons. One, I had a lot of turmoil going on in my personal life and I needed to get away and think. Two, I wanted to have no agenda but my own, and three, I wanted to see if I could do it.
You see, since my marriage in 1999, I had felt that my sense of adventure and my independent spirit had not disappeared, but had definitely retreated. Raising a daughter and two stepsons, and dealing with the "bad" things in my marriage had been difficult. I found my self-esteem starting to drop and I developed a rather craven attitude (to me) of wanting to stay in the house all the time, not meet new people, not do new things. In short, I wanted to be "safe." I could control the world in my house - to an extent. (Or so I thought. I realize now that I wasn't controlling it at all - it was controlling me). I couldn't control the outside world. So I stayed in the safe zone.
After almost ten years of that, my soul craved adventure. It begged me to go somewhere, anywhere, and to see if I could recapture that spirit I held when I was in college, when I piled into a van of college students (that I barely knew) and drove all the way from Chadron, Nebraska, to New Orleans; when I went to England in 1995 with another group of college students and had the absolute time of my life - no panic attacks, no wondering if I could be a worldwide traveler, but just knowing that I could do it.
My journal entries reveal something rather fascinating. At first, I can see my hesitation, my insecurity, my wondering, "Can I do this? Do I still have it in me?" Slowly, the renewal begins to shine through the words. As I navigated the public transportation system in England (which I had no experience with last time I was there as we had a chartered bus take us everywhere) and figured how to get myself around, as I went and saw the things I wanted to see and got myself back home again, as I chatted with the locals, as I tried new foods, my spirit of adventure came to life again.
And so did my independence.
That trip changed me, in more ways than one. It made me realize that I am a woman quite capable of taking care of herself in a foreign country (even when I got food poisoning!), quite capable of figuring things out on my own, and quite capable of taking charge of my own life. It made me more confident, stronger, and gave me more courage.
In fact, here's a line from my blog while I was blogging from England: If you've got the wherewithal to do it, I highly suggest traveling on your own. It will make you dig deep inside yourself for strength and courage that you didn't know you had. You'll go through a myriad of emotions: fear that you're doing this by yourself, panic that you might not figure things out, giddiness when you do figure things out, and pride that you did it.
This trip also gave me the courage and strength to make some tough decisions in my personal life. I'd decided upon a divorce before I left, but this trip gave me the time to really think things through and I realized that I had lost myself in my marriage. Because of my husband's alcoholism and so, so many other things (and believe me, I know I wasn't perfect, either. I became the ultimate co-dependent), I had lost that woman I had been in college and right after college.
But she's back.
England was the turning point I needed to find myself again, to do what was right for me and my daughter, to discover who I am in this crazy world. It's changed who I am today, as a mother, as a daughter, a sister, a coworker and friend - and as a writer. My independent nature is an integral part of me. It was buried for awhile, but now that it's reemerged, it has made me a stronger, more mature, and much more confident woman.
Let freedom ring!