I went on holiday alone for the first time in my life this summer. By the time I found the energy to plan a much-needed holiday, my family and closest friends had all made plans. I recalled the adventures of my year abroad and determined that some time alone in new interesting places could be just what I needed. I booked my solo trip to Rome and Venice, with a tiny bit of anxiety, but the feeling that I needed to just trust it would work out.

I arrived at my hotel in Rome, sat on my bed and burst into tears. Why on earth had I put myself in this situation, to visit two amazing and romantic cities alone, while I am still so emotionally raw from trying to cope with bereavement? Am I mad? Why did I not just take the easy option and go to Manchester? As I lay there with a heart full of loneliness and one side of my face soaked in tears, hunger overcame despair, and I ventured out to find food.

As I walked out of the hotel I heard someone say ‘hey’ and as I looked up, a man approached me who had been on my plane. He explained that he was travelling alone and had done so many times, and asked if I wanted to go with him to get some food. He became my travel buddy for 3 days on my trip, and what a relief to have someone friendly to explore new places with. We had some great conversations (nothing romantic before you ask) and this complete stranger helped me make the most of my holiday.

During this season of my life, I have become an expert at listening to myself and my needs, as the way of survival. I used to fear imposing on others, or being seen as unable to look after myself, but the truth is that I need help with a lot, on various levels. Sure, I can plan my work schedule and pay my bills or for a holiday – but I need my friends to just listen when I have a heart full of sadness to talk through, or my siblings to lighten my mood and balance my intense thoughts, or even a complete stranger to walk around Rome with. (Caveat – my intuition serves me well, there are many people I would not walk around Rome with, but I sensed he was ok).

In becoming more aware of how vulnerable I am (and have always been) as a person, I have been tempted to try to manage circumstances to make sure I am as safe as possible. But it is impossible to control what people say or do, who you meet or don’t meet, what might happen or not happen. This works both for wonderful surprises as well as unexpected difficulties. I did not realise what a risk this holiday was going to be and what a rollercoaster of amazing highs and devastating lows. I spent Saturday morning in my Venetian hotel room on the phone to my best friend, crying missing my mom and feeling so disappointed with how life has gone. On the Sunday evening I found myself being absolutely spoilt on the most romantic date I have ever been on, on Venice’s Saint Mark’s square (see pic). Whatever my life is, it isn’t grey. Would I do it again? I am not sure yet…