I believe I am coming out of a kind of social withdrawal. I have been on my own now for three days and I have acclimated to the solitude. The start of any solo travel is always an adjustment: going from the social comforts of friends, family, and the familiar to having no one but yourself to rely on for company takes time. In my case, a day.
Up until a few days ago, I was in the lovely UK enjoying Northumberland (more the people and countryside than the rain… too much rain!), Edinburgh, and then finally the “unusual” heat of London and my friends’ good company. All the while I had been splitting my time with close and new friends, my dad and Jane, and even a gorgeous baby, before flying out to Amsterdam to meet a cousin I may or may not have met some 20 plus years ago.
The solo journey begins now that I am in the Netherlands and I find the quiet to be deafening. Though thankfully I have two cats, Charlie and Chaplin, to keep me company as I house sit for my Amsterdam-meeting cousin (Carina) for the next couple of weeks. I have also made a few plans for the near future—always a good idea to have something to look forward to, to help drown the pangs of loneliness one can feel when solo travelling.
Waking up on Monday, Day 1 of the Dutch portion of my trip, to a big empty house and two hungry cats proved more lonely than I anticipated. I didn’t know where to begin and I struggled to make a plan for the day, let alone the next three weeks. With so much ‘to do’ and so much ‘to see’ and with all the choices that accompany the myriad of yet-to-be-made decisions, I felt stuck and unable to begin to get about my day. And so what did I do?
I find that this is often my go-to therapy: my meditation. Mindless tasks that show results, in the end, allow the mind to wander leading to inspired thoughts and clarified next-steps. I set about doing all of my laundry (not much, though European washers and dryers are no match for what I am accustomed to using back home and it took the better part of the day!) and vacuumed the house from top to bottom all the while thinking about making plans and stopping long enough to text further relations and friends for support.
I answered the door for a neighbourhood kid, Tony, I believe, shyly asking for his friend (and one of Carina’s sons). He had cards with Minions on them to return.
I asked, “Spreekt u Engels?”
If I had a Euro for every, “Spreekt u Engels”… I’d buy my own house here in serene Houten!
Tired of vacuuming and itching to get on Carina’s bike and make like the majority of the population I set about cycling to this little community’s shops. I needed groceries among other things. Sadly, while the actual cycling part is quite nice and easy (no hills!), I needed to stop to check directions because I was, in fact, going the wrong way, and I had a bit of a tumble. A bike is not a bike is not a bike, and this one is a little too big for me (surprise! My tallness doesn’t measure up!).
After frequenting a pharmacy and organic food store, I learned that my non-European credit cards don’t work. I luckily had cash on me, but this is kind of an annoying hiccup. Sure enough, after resorting to my trusted Lonely Planet on everything the Netherlands, I learned that stores and some restaurants don’t accept our (non-European) cards.
This little setback (and the fear I won’t be able to take money out from an ATM) contributed to the self-loathing speak of my gremlins: I can’t do anything right, being the crux of it all. And so, Day 1 was a little sad in the quiet house, in idyllic Houten.
I may physically be alone here, but a little wifi goes a long way and I felt a little less lonely and out of sorts after reaching out to some trusted friends, including a little Florence and the Machine.
I shook him off.
Big heaps of gratitude and love to the dear ones who helped me get through the dark.