I have spent the summer designing and writing content for a new online course.
The course can boost your self-confidence and raise your self-esteem and consists of a series of activities and challenges using the medium of travel – with the majority of them being carried out solo.
Keen to practice what I preach I launched myself way outside of my personal comfort zone during the summer in Catalunya where I had the perfect partner in Debs who was even more up and ready for things than me!
The first biggie was to go to a naturist beach.
Massage on a naturist beach
There is a large campsite on the cliffs outside the town of ‘Hospitalet de L’Infant on the Costa Dorada. The resort, complete with pools, restaurants, and campsite states that clothing is free in the resort, obligatory on the beach but not allowed in the service areas of the site. Platja del Torn is a public beach with a lively xiringuito (beach bar) on the sand. During the summer there is a also little gazebo where you can get a fabulous massage from Albert, and the whole place has a lovely friendly family atmosphere.
We parked the car and wandered along the cliff path which runs alongside the campsite. We had not taken more than 10 steps when a woman came out of a gap in the low hedge and walked along in front of us wearing absolutely no clothes and carrying a loaf of bread under her arm. Walking past the caravans and tents everybody was carrying on their daily business – playing cards, standing and chatting around the barbeque, reading or cooking BUT the majority of them were stark staring naked. Down on the beach a volleyball game was in progress as Debs and I stripped off and I promptly lay down flat and stayed flat for as long as I could.
As the day progressed I progressed to swimming in the warm sea – what a fantastically liberating feeling that is with no bikini – and I had a massage from the wonderful Albert. Lying in the shade of his gazebo while he kneaded and stroked me, he told me that he worked in Barcelona but decamped to the beach for the summer. He is also a talented photographer. When I told Albert that it was my first visit to a naturist beach he replied how brave I was to actually have a massage (naked) in the public eye. The massage was a piece of cake after buying my ticket. Tickets had to be bought at the bar in the xiringuito – and my personal challenge was to do this without wrapping a sarong around me. All well and good, until as I wove through the tables to the bar (it was lunchtime and busy) it dawned on me that my bare bottom was head height to the diners – and then there was a queue, and I had to wait there, with my bum just inches from a poor man’s dinner!!!!
But personal challenge achieved and I felt great as we returned to the car – in fact we returned to the beach a couple of weeks later and Debs and I progressed to drinking in the bar and then joined in with a group who were standing and sitting around chatting as the sun went down.
Snorkelling in the dark
My second personal challenge was to attempt a night time snorkel.
I am not at all confident out of my depth in water and I am terrified of waves in the sea. We had already snorkelled around the rocks in the little bay of Sant Jordi d’Amalfa and the sea was lovely and calm as we made our way up to the beach hut where Plancton have their base at dusk.
We were given our equipment – a wet suit, snorkel and mask, an arm band with a flashing light and a waterproof torch while the instructors told us how we should conduct ourselves and pointed out some of the things that we could expect to see. And we set off BUT we turned left instead of right and walked down to the next bay where the sea was anything but calm.
Eli knew that I was nervous and she stayed by my side as I got into the water. I was waist deep as the waves were crashing over my head, but terrified I pushed through beyond the breakers and out of my depth. The rest of the group struck out for the sea while I attempted to sort out my mask which kept on leaking. Eli took my hand and we swam gently out – and then I panicked. I had a vision/premonition/past experience – I don’t know – but I KNEW that if I continued I would surely drown. I can swim but all of a sudden I lost the ability and just had the recurring feeling of going down. Eli pushed the dive float to me and waited patiently while I got my act together, but I knew that what I had felt wasn’t going to go away. I had to get back onto dry land immediately.
Back through the crashing breakers and clutching the float as my life depended on it, I was so relieved to be back on the damp sand. Eli went back to join the others while I sat and watched shooting stars above me in the dark sky. Had I failed at my personal challenge? No. I had pushed myself to get into the rough water in the dark, I had tried. I had failed to snorkel in the dark for any length of time but I had given it a go. Would I do it again? Yes – if the sea is calm and I had a buoyancy jacket.
Driving around on the wrong side of the road
I was initially nervous about travelling around on my own and driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, but it didn’t take long before I was tootling around everywhere. I got lost plenty of times (no surprise there then) but I enjoy driving and it’s a dream in Catalunya because apart from in the town centres and in the cities there is very little traffic and the scenery is magnificent. It took me longer to adapt to driving on the left when I returned to the UK than it did to driving on the right; I wonder if it is something to do with the way that our brains are wired?
Immersion in a foreign language
Catalan is the first language of the majority of the people in this part of Spain which is great because for many of those who also speak Spanish (Castilian) they speak slower and often use simpler vocabulary than those who live outside Catalunya, which was perfect for me.
I loved speaking with Andres who farmed close to the place that I lived in for the summer. He was extremely patient with me, rephrasing words or acting out verbs so that the conversation flowed as best as it could.
I also joined the group for a coffee after Tai Chi one evening and somehow I kept my end up (I think) whilst we all nattered away in a mixture of Catalan, Castilian and the odd phrase in English.
But it’s always a bit daunting when you are with somebody that you know speaks hardly any of your language and you need to communicate. It can be so easy to only mix with those who speak the same as you and to avoid any difficulties but we also communicate via body language, facial expressions and sign language and the results when you make the effort can be so rewarding.
I was told about a group who regularly meet on the river bank at Benifallet and practice Tai Chi. This is something that I have never done before, but I wanted to join a group and experience something new, so I went along. It was especially daunting as the majority of the members didn’t speak English or even Spanish (Catalan was their first language) but the instructor was Irish so at least I could understand her.
After some stretching exercises we were off with a whole series of complex, flowing movements. I wasn’t exactly in time with the others BUT by week 3 I wasn’t doing too badly and I found the practice incredibly relaxing and grounding, helped by the location with its amazing view out over the river Ebro.
Not terrifying like the night snorkel, not daring like taking my clothes off in public, but another new experience to add to my lifetime accomplishments, and is something that I would definitely like to learn more about and try again.
If you would like to know more about my course when it is launched, sign up and be added to my email list (link here). You can also claim your free copy of ‘The Top 10 things that you should know before travelling’