Continuing the journey: life after loss

Bella Stevenson

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“Maybe next year” or “when I have saved a little bit more money” – those are things that I used to say on a regular basis before March of this year.

Sadly, my Dad, a retired professor with an immense zest for life, was knocked down and killed by a car in March and life as I know it changed forever. As messages of condolences from all over the world started to pour in, I started to realise how much travelling, friendship and experiencing different cultures had meant to my Dad.

It was about four months later when clearing out his house that I came across a travel journal that he had written of his trip to Ecuador (below) which began to stoke my imagination. Later that week, I met a friend for dinner who had recently experienced her first solo holiday. She’d loved it so much and was now planning her next holiday alone.

That weekend, inspired by the travel journal and my friend’s newfound passion for adventure, I started to explore different locations and itineraries online and was drawn towards Flash Pack’s Sri Lanka trip; a country I had wanted to visit for a long time.

It seemed like the perfect blend of activity and relaxation with like-minded people, and before I could think of any more of those self-restricting excuses, I was booking the trip .

Read more: Escaping, coping, healing: travelling the world after loss

I remember being at Heathrow, waiting for my overnight flight to Colombo, wondering if I had been too hasty in booking a trip by myself, for myself. After all, I had family responsibilities that I didn’t have six months ago, a heavy work schedule and an overall diminished confidence level.

The past few years had not exactly been full of confidence-boosting moments. The end of a five-year relationship, a London dating scene that had been reduced to the romantic equivalent of ordering a pizza (and as I stated to lovely my roommate on the trip, I would rather have a pizza), and then losing my Dad in such a tragic way, all accumulated in a real loss of self.

I was worried that I would not fit in with the tour group and my newly acquired ‘life hesitation’ would seep through and make me reserved and introverted. In fact, what I discovered by travelling on such an adventure, is that you can just be yourself at whatever confidence level you find yourself on at time of travel.

All of us Flashpackers had different personalities, expectations and life experiences, but we all bought our own individuality to the adventure and hopefully, in turn, created a group memory underpinned by laughs, debates, singing and friendship.

Read more: Solo travel fuels this major happiness habit

Sri Lanka as a country was amazing with its lush scenery, friendly people and diverse history, but it was the confidence growth and ability to finally press the ‘reset’ button that was the most astonishing element. It really helped me to start to re-balance my life once more.

For months after my Dad’s death, I had a big fear of going out at night-time (the accident happened at night and I think on some sub-conscious level, I must have associated night-time with bad things happening). I am pleased that travelling 7,000 miles on my own has allowed me to conquer that fear (and enjoy cocktails on the beach after dark)!

Travelling solo has also given me the confidence to say ‘yes’ to a lot more things – signing up to that course I have wanted to do for ages, booking last-minute flights to a city that I have never visited before, and trying a new exercise class.

There will always be stresses, strains and responsibilities in daily life, but life is short and being able to take time out for yourself to see another aspect of it is an amazing feeling, and helps to put things into perspective.

Scrolling through some old text messages from my Dad, I came across some of us discussing a recent trip he had taken to India. I tell him that I would l would really like to go to India too, but caveat it heavily with concerns, hesitations and doubts. My Dad simply responds, “Go for India!”

I think I may well have my next solo adventure decided upon…

Images: Bella Stevenson 

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