I’m writing this as I make my way to Britmums Live – a blogging conference with over 500 bloggers of whom I have met precisely one before. In the run up to the event I’ve read lots of blog posts and tweets from people saying how nervous they are; people worried about their journeys, negotiating public transport, meeting people they’ve only ever spoken to online before (or never spoken to at all). And it got me thinking… I’m not nervous at all. I’ve done all sorts of things on my own before (and I’ll tell you about a few of them in a minute) so a couple of days in London on my own doesn’t really phase me. But I am just lucky that I was born with self-confidence? Is it just an inherent part of my personality or did perhaps my upbringing have anything to do with it?
To be honest I really have no idea!
The first time I went away without my parents was to Brownie pack holiday when I was about seven or eight. I wasn’t homesick in the slightest, just very proud of myself for getting a gold star for eating rice pudding when my mum had told them I wouldn’t!
Age eleven I spent a week at Butlins with my primary school. Again didn’t miss home at all, just enjoyed rocking my shiny Puma tracksuit.
When I was fourteen I went to Canada for three weeks with Guides. I remember the other girls all in floods of tears as they said goodbye to their parents. Not me though – a quick hug and a wave and off I strolled through the departure gate without so much as a backwards glance! Two of the three weeks were spent staying with Canadian families, on my own with people I’d never met before, and then a week at an international camp. It was an amazing experience and I think I remembered to ring home at least twice while I was there…
There were plenty more Guide camps during my teenage years and I don’t once ever remember being homesick.
When I was eighteen I left home to go to university and moved into halls with seven girls I didn’t know. Admittedly I was only an hour away from home but I only really went back in the holidays or if I was ill (mainly because I couldn’t be bothered registering with a new doctor in Manchester).
In between my second and third years at uni I spent my first of six summers working on a campsite in France. This one was quite a big adventure, even for me! That first season I spent ten weeks living and working with people I’d never met before but I made lots of new friends (some of whom I still see now) and I absolutely loved it. Which is why I kept going back for more. Every year from 1998 until 2003 I set off for a new season, in a new area, with more new people. I never felt nervous about going away. I’ll admit there were times I missed home a bit but only really when I was feeling a bit ill, or the partying and lack of sleep was catching up with me. There was only one time though that I genuinely wanted to go home – in the winter of 1999-2000 I worked in the French Alps as a ski rep. On Christmas Eve I slipped in the pub toilet (although later I always told customers it was a skiing accident!) and did something to my ankle. And so I spent my first Christmas away from home having my ankle x-rayed in a French doctor’s surgery and being told I had badly pulled the ligaments and would need to spend the next month in an ankle brace! Yeah, that was one time I did feel like going home.
In 2003 I decided (on a bit of a whim) to go to New York, just because I’d always wanted to go there. I spent a week on my own in the city and it was brilliant. I’d love to go back there with my family one day. I actually ended up meeting up with my step-great-uncle while I was there but I didn’t even know he existed until after I’d booked the trip.
2003 was also the year I moved to Scotland and I did lots of travelling, in the UK and Europe, for my job. I loved travelling on my own and started to feel really at home in airports and on trains.
My next big adventure though wasn’t until 2010. I’d just finished my teacher training and was free for the summer until I had to start my first teaching job. So I went to America again. On my own. This time it was a three week road trip starting with three nights in San Francisco and then driving down the Atlantic Highway to LA (where I met up with a friend and fellow Tim Minchin fan who I had met once before). From there I drove across Arizona to the Grand Canyon (see one of the many selfies I took on the trip below!) and finally spent three days in Las Vegas, where I met up with another American pal. Inspired by family holidays where we would book the ferry to France with the caravan and then just stay wherever we fancied, moving when we felt like it, I only booked my flights to the US, car hire, and the hotels at either end of the trip. I had a vague plan but for the two weeks in between I just drove and stopped at motels I found along the way. It was an amazing holiday and lots of people told me I was brave for going on my own but it didn’t feel brave to me. This was when I was still single (in fact I met my husband a couple of days before I left for America but that’s another story) and if I didn’t go on this trip on my own I wasn’t going to get to go at all. And I really wanted to go, so I did.
We repeated a similar trip for our honeymoon two years later but on the east coast of America that time.
Anyway, my point is that I did all this stuff and I was never scared or nervous about any of it. I think that’s just the way I am though, I don’t think it’s something I’ve learned or had to work at, it’s just something I was lucky enough to be born with. And so as I head into central London to meet over 500 other bloggers all I am is excited! In fact the only thing I was nervous about this weekend was leaving Barry in charge of Toby (or maybe it’s the other way around!) but I know they’ll be fine so I’m just going to stop worrying about them and make the most of my three baby-free days!