I have updated this article that I wrote in January 2013 to introduce myself to you if you are new to me and my story.

My journey took me from a nice job in the UK at a university in Plymouth to Europe, South America and South East Asia.  Whilst my journey had actually begun several years previously one fateful morning when somebody asked me whether I was happy, back then in the first week of 2013 it felt as if this was the start of everything – the true beginning.  Read on to discover what was going on in my head as I prepared to set out on a solo adventure.

New beginnings are often described as painful endings.

If you care about something you have to protect it.  If you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it – A Prayer for Owen Meany: John Irving

On the cusp of a new year.

2012 had certainly been an eventful year! I was finally granted my divorce after three and a half tumultuous years and I threw a big party to thank my friends and family for all of their support.

During those previous twelve months I had travelled to Paris, Spain, Turkey and Cyprus.  It was in Paris when reaching the top of the steps of the Sacre Coeur I turned to look at the rooftops of Paris which lay sprawled below me and it began to snow. With perfect timing, large, fat flakes of snow drifted down across the landscape.  It was like an old Hollywood film with the sounds of Paris muted by the snow which fell lazily with impeccable timing, and it was whilst in Turkey that I had conquered some of my fears when I took a hot air balloon flight over Cappadocia.

I studied Spanish, I completed my Open University degree (a BSc in Social Sciences: Sociology and Geography), I qualified to teach English as a foreign language and I had another tattoo.

Standing on the cusp of that New Year I had more hope that I had had in a long time and I knew that it was finally time to put the past behind me and I had already taken the first steps to move onwards and upwards.  I had researched the logistics of working and travelling abroad and I had identified an NGO (non-governmental organisation; a charity) that was based in Peru and which had ethics that I aligned with.

New Year traditions – Spanish style

I spent this New Year’s Eve celebrations with some of my very best friends, in a small Spanish village.  Close to midnight we gathered in the village square surrounded by the majority of the residents from the village.  As the cava corks popped we chinked our glasses together and we waited to follow the local custom to eat grapes at midnight.  As the bells rang out the hour a great roar went up from the crowd and there was the crack of a rocket exploding up in the sky.  All around us, people were rushing to eat their grapes – twelve in total – one for each dong of the bell.   Somebody let off strings of firecrackers which twisted around the feet of the crowd and the fireworks that were pinned to the side of the church fizzed their way around the numbers in the shape of ‘2013’.  Then everybody began to move; mingling and kissing one another on both cheeks and wishing each other a Happy New Year, Feliz Aňo Nuevo or Bon Any…depending on one’s preference. The teenagers had also appeared, leaving their own parties for the moment and were standing in flocks with the boys looking mean and moody and the girls in their new party dresses.  They all joined in the melee greeting everyone with Spanish gusto, young and old all together.  It was a truly magical moment, and after a brief hesitation I took a deep breath and I embraced my friends, strangers and my future.

Finally, the square began to clear and we all piled returned to the hall which was laid out for a party. Pepe fired up his version of a disco and there was a rush for the dance floor.  The music was Latino style with a twist, but it totally suited the region and the people.  The men held their partners close, as they salsa’ad, meringued or cha cha cha’d their way around the dance floor, whirling around like the Waltzers ride at a fairground.  Groups of friends and families were sat at long trestle tables eating and drinking whilst everybody was noisily chatting to everybody else.

We partied until three thirty in the morning before my friends and I left to slowly wind our way back up the mountain and to our beds.  In the past I used to feel melancholic and unsettled at the New Year, but I decided that it was time to put an end to my grieving for what was missing and to allow myself to be excited by what was to come.

Looking forwards to 2013

I would learn over the next seven years how beneficial mindfulness would be, together with meditation and yoga and I would finally come to a place of acceptance of my situation – but this would all be baby steps and it would take time.

Many people would appear on the path besides me and would teach me what I needed to know, but I was also proactive in finding out how I could move myself forwards.  I avidly read a wide range of topics and themes and I questioned so much.

One thing that really surprised me in the beginning was how much people seemed to like me and who wanted to spend time in my company!  This might seem a strange thing to say, but I was only just beginning to truly understand how insidious and destructive coercive control could be.

Imagine you are at a party with your partner, someone who knows you inside and out.  Imagine that during the evening that person sends quick glares your way and whispers that you are talking too much.  Imagine that when you get home you are subjected to a monologue about how boring you are, how bored people were in your company and how you are ‘too much’!  If you are fortunate and if you have never been on the receiving end of this sort of manipulation then you will no doubt be baffled as to how this could change someone, but believe me that it will do so if it continues.  Subtle put-downs and snide comments over time can begin to instil doubt in even the most confident of people – and then there will be a social event when you might even begin to tone things down a bit.  You make a concerted effort to adjust your personality and character so that you can fit in, but the glares and the comments will continue although this time you will be accused of being too quiet, too miserable and still too boring and unlikeable.

This is just one element of manipulation and coercive control and by the time that 2013 came around I truly didn’t know who I was supposed to be anymore.  A common refrain of someone who has been subject to emotional abuse is ‘I have lost my identity’.

I did come to work things out but at this point I only knew that I need to make some changes if sadness, resentment and anger weren’t to win.

A few of my favourite things.

A few days later sat in the Spanish sun and breathing in the heady citrus scent of the oranges which are a trademark of this little village I started to list my dreams and aspirations.  I found however that I was getting myself bogged down in the logistics of how to begin my new life, so I thought that it would boost my confidence to list some of my most exciting achievements and experiences that I had had to date.  I was lucky to have experienced some amazing things, some of which I have listed here.  I may not have jumped out of an aeroplane (yet), but when I thought about some of the worst things that had happened over the previous three years this list began to put things into perspective.

  • I cried when I saw the beauty of the Taj Mahal
  • I threw up on a bus in India
  • I raced around the streets of Jaipur in tuk-tuks.
  • I swam in an outdoor pool in the snow
  • I prevented a mugger in Barcelona from attacking my friend
  • I snorkelled in the Red Sea and I snorkelled with turtles in the Caribbean
  • I slept under the stars in the desert at Wadi Rum, Jordan
  • I skied in Italy, France and Andorra
  • I witnessed the sunset from the top of Mount Sinai after a 3 hour hike to the top
  • I saw a priest on roller blades at the Vatican City
  • I learnt to salsa dance
  • I visited the Pyramids and the Sphinx in Egypt
  • I learnt to pole dance
  • I played roulette in a casino
  • I shed a few tears at the sheer majesty of Petra
  • I successfully performed the Heimlich manoeuvre in a real life situation
  • I partied on a plane and on a train
  • I participated on stage at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
  • I paddled in the Arabian Sea on Boxing Day
  • I have two children
  • I own and ride a 650cc motorbike
  • I was married at 20, I got divorced at 49
  • I took a hot air balloon flight over Cappadocia
  • I had a hammam (Turkish bath) in Turkey
  • I bought a bangle in the Gold Souk in Manama,BahrainI galloped on a horse through a sugar cane plantation in the Dominican Republic
  • I waded through floods in Delhi
  • I attempted to smoke a shisha pipe
  • I found my sister
  • I floated in the Dead Sea
  • I rode an elephant at the Amber Fort, Jaipur (not so proud of this now that I know the consequences)
  • I regularly donated blood
  • I cruised the Mediterranean Sea for 3 weeks on the world’s third largest cruise liner
  • I visited Chichen Itza
  • I picked cherries in Spain
  • I rode camels in India and Jordan
  • I learnt to belly dance
  • I went on a behind the scenes tour of Versailles Palace

Even now, I can hardly believe how many things I had managed to pack in and that was even before I quit my job and went travelling full time.  Life no longer looked so bleak and now, several years on as I revisit the story of my journey I can confirm that I always have been a positive person.  I got a little bit lost for a while but with the help and support of family and friends I came through that period and here I was standing on the threshold of what was to become a wonderful journey of empowerment.

(If you would like to read about my journey along the iconic Camino de Santiago you can purchase my ebook at this link:

My Camino – buy now

Follow along with me as I prepare to set off on the trip of a lifetime – and if you have enjoyed reading this article please buy me a coffee at this link:

Buy Me A Coffee

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