Dear Diary – Grief And A Journey Of Healing
I can’t believe it is just over a year ago since I launched the Barehotelier!
I was flying over Goose Bay Newfoundland on my way to Belize in Central America at the time via Houston Texas and was nervous about the trip. Really nervous!! Recent events had left me fragile, had stripped me of my confidence and I was doubting my ability to do this. The week before, almost incapacitated by fear of the unkown and in floods of tears I’d seriously talked with friends about cancelling.
However, somehow I’d got myself on that plane and can still remember now how as I pressed “publish” on that very first blog post my stomach anxiously churned as I wondered what lay ahead. But as I looked out the airplane’s small window and watched the frozen Canadian landscape pass by thirty thousand feet below I also recognised the beginnings of butterflies fluttering amongst the anxiety as my fear slowly gave way to excited trepidation.
Twelve months on and as I sit at my computer I look out a window at a very different landscape. I still wonder what the future has in store, but the trepidation that has taken up permanent residence in my psyche is now an emotion I embrace (most of the time) rather than one to be feared as it has lead me through an incredible year of adventures on the road to healing.
As I gaze out at the cloudless blue sky with its welcome sun trying desperately to penetrate the frozen Scottish countryside and melt away the last of the snow, I take a moment to indulge in self-reflection:
Back in January 2017 I’d reluctantly given up the hotel business in the Lake District after a hard and futile battle against the recession and banking institutions. I had dedicated fourteen years of my life to the hotel. I was also still in the darkest stages of grieving from losing both my Mum and my four legged best friend and loyal companion Nelson only months before and my life was at its lowest.
Burned out, broken and adrift without an anchor I turned my back on my professional life and decided to take time out to heal and re-evaluate my future.
I had no real idea what I was going to do or for how long, but in February I jumped on a plane with nothing but my backpack and on a whim went to Belize in Central America.
After I got over the initial fear I immersed myself in the country’s culture and travelled around Belize for a month spending my time island hopping from Caye to Caye as I snorkelled on their barrier reef (the second largest after Australia’s) and swam with nurse sharks and sting rays. I visited and climbed a number of Mayan Ruins and explored the jungle, my ears deafened by the noise of the howler monkeys as I discovered an array of exotic jungle wildlife. I fell in love with the happy and friendly laid back people and their country as I travelled in “Belize time” on their rickety buses and slept in all manner of accommodations, including a wooden lean-to with no window panes! I swung on hammocks to while away hot evenings and received the warmest of hospitality as I chatted with locals and ate rice and beans, fry jacks and conch. It was a most profound experience and a wonderful beginning to my journey of healing and midlife self-discovery.
You can read of my Belize adventures in my stories at http://barehotelier.com/category/belize/
Returning to the UK and spurred on by the positive and encouraging feedback from those who had followed my blog I threw myself into an enormous learning curve that is the world of blogging and worked tirelessly to develop my site to a professional standard.
In the meantime I spent heart-warming times with family, sometimes visiting them in Scotland or having them visit me in Kendal – a trip to Windermere and The World of Beatrix Potter with my three year old great niece “Missy” one of the many highlights
Easter arrived and I spent it in Munich with my friends Denise and Jan, filling the weekend from beginning to end with fun, laughter and activities. My emotional pain was beginning to ease.
May arrived and I picked up my backpack once more, this time flying to Munich to join Denise and Jan again before we drove to Cunnersdorf where Denise’s parents live. They are my “German parents” who I love very dearly and we had a lovely time there for a few days before everyone saw me off on a train to Prague at the beginning of my solo backpacking trip around Eastern Europe.
I say we had a lovely time, and indeed we did, except for a moment of carelessness that saw me have a serious brush with death and left me and my lovely German family quite shaken. http://barehotelier.com/2017/06/04/a-step-too-far/ Even now I shudder at the memory and constantly remind myself how fragile life is and how lucky I am. I now hold on to this experience as my motivational key card to life.
Backpacking Eastern Europe was quite a different experience from laid back Belize, but equally as exhilarating. Now I was city and country hopping by bus and train and relentlessly pounding pavements to visit all the sites while I slept in different hostels and dealt with language barriers on a daily basis. In June alone I walked over 270kms pounding the pavements and my bulging calf muscles were testimony to my efforts! I met many lovely people along the way who extended generous hospitality and friendship, many of whom I remain in contact with. A trip off the beaten track in Hungary saw my adventures trap me in a caravan when my awning collapsed under the weight of torrential rain during a violent thunderstorm. Another slight brush with death but this time I was able to chuckle about it! http://barehotelier.com/2017/09/04/lake-balaton-and-the-attack-of-the-awning/
My travels took me on a two and half months trip through Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia before returning via Austria to Denise and Jan in Munich. After spending a couple of days recharging my batteries (travelling is exhausting!) I took a train to Paris where I met my “sisters” from Australia, Monica and Linley who had been cruising along the Danube before travelling overland to Paris.
Read More About My Trip:
Now it was our time together and after spending a few more days in Paris we travelled by Eurostar through the Channel tunnel to London where we visited London’s tourist sites and took a day trip to Bath and Stonehenge.
Our visit to Stonehenge was an amazing “after hours” private visit which meant being allowed to go inside the circle and wander among the incredible atmospheric stones as the sun began to set. Generally the public are kept outside the circle and can only view it from a short distance so this was indeed a special and memorable experience.
After London we took a train to Kendal for a short stop at my home to catch up on washing and rest. After repacking we drove to Scotland where we spent a few days visiting family and cramming in as much of Scotland’s best sites as we could, including Culloden Battlefield, Loch Ness and the majestic Kelpies, before returning to Kendal.
All too soon Monica and Linley had to return to Australia and I was back in Kendal wondering what to do next. Still working frantically on developing my blog and writing about my travel experiences I also found a few short courses that appealed to me, some of which I also thought might help with my blog. So I signed up for: Photography for Beginners, Creative Writing, Watercolour Painting for Beginners and German for Beginners. They were all very reasonably priced short courses offered by the various institutions in Kendal and I was incredibly impressed with them.
They were also subjects I’d longed to learn and soon found my life taking on the shape of a frantic adult student, rushing from class to class and cramming in homework at the last minute. I was juggling this with the continuing development of my blog and all the other commitments that life demands while my friends looked on in amusement.
In the meantime my long-time friend Wendy came from Hampshire for a weekend visit and we had a lovely time exploring parts of the Lake District I hadn’t been to before including Holehird Gardens and Blackwell Arts and Craft House, while I practiced my new found photography skills.
During “Half Term” I took the opportunity to return to Scotland to meet my new great niece who had had been born a week overdue a week after I’d returned from Scotland in August!
Soon Christmas was looming and it dawned on me that it would be my first Christmas Day not working since the Christmas of 1999! So it was an obvious choice to spend it with my family in Scotland and in particular with my great nieces so I could enjoy the magic of Christmas through their eyes.
However before that I took another trip over to Munich to visit my friends and practice my basic German while we visited the Christmas Markets. All the while I basked in the knowledge that for the first time in decades my December wasn’t consumed by the relentless mayhem that managing a hotel during the festive season brings.
On the build up to Christmas and living on a shoestring budget I decided to “upcycle” presents for the little kids rather than spend money that I couldn’t afford on things they probably didn’t need. So as I’d been dabbling in “Annie Sloane” upcycling techniques throughout the year I put them to good use and set about rummaging the second hand shops finding some amazing little bits that I thought would make great little kiddie presents. https://www.facebook.com/AnniesUpcycling/
Working on a labour of love late into the nights in the lead up to Christmas to finish off my work I finally caught a glimpse of what it must be like for parents trying to bring it all together at Christmas time! Finally driving north on the day before Xmas Eve, my car laden with presents I was shattered but excited!
And as a reward, Christmas was just as wonderful and every bit as magical for me as it was for the children! I loved every moment of that Christmas week and wondered wistfully why I had sacrificed so many past Christmas’s for the sake of work!
In early January 2018 I had a visit from my dear friend Sue’s daughter and her friend who came to stay for a few days on their first solo overseas trip from Oz. Two lovely and brave young 17yr olds tackling international travel on their own!
The Festive Season over and the girls gone back to Oz, I knew that life would take a slump and although I have good friends in Kendal, everyone leads their own lives and I found myself becoming increasingly isolated.
I had however anticipated this and knew that I needed to make some drastic changes which included leaving Kendal, a place that in truth I no longer felt a part of. I also needed to take some pressure off my financial situation but more importantly I knew more than ever that all I wanted to do now was pursue a life of travel.
So I put my house up for rent with a good friend’s Letting Agency and although I knew there was a demand for houses the size of mine, even the team at the Letting Agency were surprised when my house was viewed within an hour of being posted on the internet and snapped up within 24 hours. And coincidently (or not) my new tenants are involved in hospitality and have a golden retriever, as Nelson was!
Now this threw me into a packing up frenzy as my belongings were to go into storage.
In reality I had been planning this since the latter end of last year, but I couldn’t believe how quickly and smoothly everything began to fall into place once I put the wheels in motion.
In the meantime I finally sold “Rex”, my rare 1983 Mazda RX7, which I’d had since my twenties and had brought from Australia when I returned to the UK to live. Obviously extremely emotionally attached to Rex, it was a heart wrenching decision to sell him, but in truth I hadn’t driven him for years and he was slowly deteriorating on my driveway, despite being under a car cover. So he deserved to go to a good home and I needed the cash injection to fund my plans. However I am delighted that his new owner is an avid RX7 enthusiast who is restoring Rex to his much deserved finest and who keeps in touch, occasionally sending me photos of Rex’s progress!
Finally I sold my everyday car; a lovely little “high Spec” thing that I’d been enjoying driving for the past couple of years. However I’d already rationalised that I needed to liquidate as much as possible and readily gave this up in exchange for the promise of my new life.
So the last couple of months have been an incredible emotional journey of simplifying my life and letting go in order to follow my dreams, which is in effect to become a nomad!!
However sometimes long term dreams need to be taken in small steps and for the moment I have settled into temporary studio accommodation just outside Perth in Scotland. I have brought a few essential things with me and have made a cosy little home for myself with a good work space. More importantly it is incredibly cheap for what it offers and can be booked on a month by month basis which couldn’t be matched even by staying in a hostel! And allows me the freedom to move on without ties when I’m ready.
Its location is brilliantly central to my family and since arriving here I have bought a cheap run around car so I can visit whenever I want to.
My time has already been filled with so many visits with family and has been just lovely. However I am here for a purpose and that is to complete a TEFL course with the TEFL Academy to teach English as a second language. Already I have completed an intensive two day course in Dundee, with an interesting overnight stay in Dundee Backpackers hostel in the city centre! Now the rest of the course will be done online and ultimately I hope it will open doors for me in tutoring and teaching in different countries. I will stay here for a couple of months while I complete most of the course and enjoy some quality time with my family, but ultimately my plan is to travel fulltime and find work as I go while continuing to develop my blog and hopefully earn an income from it.
I am putting a lot of faith in both my blog and my TEFL qualification and my future as a midlife nomad is scary at times! Exciting at times!! But this is what I’ve always dreamed of doing and I am determined to follow my heart and make it work for me, despite my age!
Finally and more importantly, after twelve months of travel, sun, friends and family, not necessarily in that order, I am no longer in the depths of grief! I still miss my mother and my faithful companion Nelson desperately. I always will. But my heart is no longer heavy with pain and I can bare to think or talk about them without bursting into floods of tears, most of the time! And the horrors of the cripplingly stressful final period of my time in the business have passed. The “Black Creature” that I’d referred to in early posts, as a way of describing the darkness of my grief has slithered down his festering pit leaving me behind and rarely shows his ugly head these days.
The saying that time is a great healer is so true, but so is the unconditional love and support of family and friends and now I look forward to the future with excited trepidation.
Barehotelier contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you, which will gratefully go towards the upkeep of this site.