You might be fed up of my touchy feely posts about travelling. About how I burnout out last year, or how travel inspires positivity in me. Or even how I’m terrified of how my life might change and how that might impact my ability to jet off into the sunset on a whim.
But indulge me, please. I’ve got more stories to tell.
Almost a year ago, I embarked on a new experience for me. I went off and booked a weekend away with strangers I had met off the internet to Amsterdam. You might think well it’s just a trip to Amsterdam, but you’d be wrong. It changed…everything.
In that hazy weird time between Christmas and New Year in 2016 I made a bold and very spontaneous decision. I’m a planner. Spontaneity isn’t me. Whilst most people that think they know me know me as a chatty, loud, pain-in-the-arse sort, in real life I don’t make new friends easily. I hate networking, I hate making small talk with strangers and I often rely on the comfort of people who know me really well. The older I’ve got, the more introverted I’ve become. Sure I’m still a gobby opinionated pain-in-the-arse, but it drains me, easily.
So in that weird hazy time between Christmas and New Year I booked a city break WITH TWO STRANGERS FROM THE INTERNET.
I endured all the jokes about being “holiday catfished” by people that don’t understand the power of female friendships online. But I confronted my mild state of panic and anxiety about being with people I don’t know in a new city. I was scared and excited. And the thing about that is whilst this is NO BIG DEAL to some, it was a challenge to me. And I overcame it. Through friendship.
And I went to Amsterdam and had the best time.Are you racing through weekends with wild abandon? It's time to learn about city break self careClick To Tweet
The lessons from this weekend spent wandering the canals of Amsterdam were plentiful. In fact they just kept coming, wave after wave of realisation hitting me, even after I returned home. I started to realise that I’d spent my life imposing an awkward set of rules on my life, not just with travel but with everything. Be in control, never be a passenger, do not show vulnerability, keep to things that are familiar to you.
These rules were only hurting me.
I learnt about the power of female friendships and the true power of the internet too. That it wasn’t about pushing yourself forward, or climbing a ladder, or worse still promoting yourself aggressively. I mean it is about all of those things, but most of all it is about connections. The internet has brought so many people into my life. Wonderful people who I can spend a whole weekend with, chatting away like we’d known each other all our lives. It felt good.
I learnt that my comfort zone is very much a small line that strays not far from myself. As I’ve got older I’ve tightly wound a protective rope around my life, dismissing any experience that might be a little different, a little confronting, a little hard. Getting on a plane alone to meet two strangers on a trip I haven’t had full control of was terrifying. But it’s fair to say my comfort zone is getting a little broader these days as a result of my trip, and I’m stepping outside it more often.
I learnt that having full control over something doesn’t mean that it is better. I’ve spent all my life controlling the situation. Planning and over planning and this seeps into my travel habits too. I follow the itinerary to the letter, plan where to eat, when to sleep. But this weekend in Amsterdam had no plan. It had no agenda. It was just a series of walks and chats and beers and sheltering from the rain with new friends, making perfect memories. It was, uncontrollably perfect.
Most of all, this trip away with two strangers who are now my firm friends made me reassess habits that have been having a detrimental impact on my mental health. I’m more open now, to new experiences and to doing things someone else’s way. To meeting new people and making friends. And to travelling slowly, with no plans apart from just to be there.
My weekend in Amsterdam changed everything for me. It taught me about city break self care – and that city breaks aren’t just for discovering new places. It’s about discovering yourself, too.