Travelling solo: the hardest decision of my life… then

With sights firmly set on travelling around Europe, tickets purchased and hostels being booked, I am certainly in full-swing travel mode. Though, every day, I can’t help think about what I’m leaving behind.

A huge part of travelling is about moving on, leaving places and people as you go. So, in some ways, I’m hoping that reflecting on a recent relationship will help me prepare for life on the road.

One of the most common decisions when choosing to go travelling is whether to go with a friend, a partner or alone. It is also one of the hardest. Especially when you are seeing someone.

I’m hoping that by putting my experience into words, it will help me further reflect, move on and also help other people in a similar situation.

For years I have dreamt of travelling. Reading up atlases, drawing and colouring flags as well as learning all the capital cities of countries from around the world.

I borrowed a Flags of the World book so many times from my local library, I was eventually given it because it became so worn.

My desire to travel was ignited further whilst at university. Seeing friends at other universities, from Bangor to Liverpool, Birmingham to London, I’d certainly already got a taste of the travel bug.

After finishing university in September and graduating in January, my life had passed a number of great milestones. My next: travelling Europe.

Bringing in the New Year, I felt in a great position to go. With the funds saved whilst at university, a freelance job and recent singledom, it made sense to travel now.

Travel made sense, until I met someone. A beautiful girl from Birkenhead. We met on a night out in Liverpool in January, before starting a whirlwind relationship.

I wasn’t actively searching, but I knew I’d found someone really special. She’s gorgeous, compassionate and really smart. Sounds perfect, right? And for two months, it was.

From the outset, I would enjoy talking about my plans to travel Europe. She would talk about her similar desire to one day see the world and live a free life – she had a real fascination with hippies and their way of life.

As a vegan, she took me to a wonderful little independent café called The Egg, nestled away on an offshoot from Liverpool’s trendy Bold Street. We’d eat there regularly.

At first, I thought her lifestyle choice might be too different for anything to work between us. If anything, it made her more interesting. I learnt a lot from her.

Time flew. As days became weeks, and weeks soon became months, I knew I was still passionate about travelling… and her.

Whilst still very early days, I’d played in my mind a fantasy scenario that would take her with me. I’d even put back my plans to leave for Europe in Easter to summer in the hope I could buy more time.

At the same time, she was going through a few changes in her life. Having moved out from home to start studying at the University of Liverpool last year, she would be moving back soon to help care for her mum.

As we both started to realise where we were heading, it started to feel like we were naturally drifting apart.

After leaving her place in Liverpool, for what would be the last time, I knew that we both faced a difficult decision regarding our future. Me: keen to travel. Her: moving home and having exams over summer.

I could imagine being with her and being happy. Despite her just starting university, she was a very mature 19-year-old.

In a text message, she said how she understood travelling is something I had to do, as it is something she really wants to do too. From past long distance relationships, I knew to continue as we were would be challenging. She did too.

Having to leave someone behind is not easy; especially over something circumstantial. Not because we argued or we weren’t compatible. Only circumstance.

By losing someone who you care for to find yourself sounds selfish. And in some ways, I feel it is. But, I feel that you have to be one with yourself and know who you are, before you can truly be with someone else.

I’d hoped that in spite of the situation, we could still be friends. I’d hoped that we could see each other again before I left. Though, it became harder and harder to communicate, so we stopped.

I’d convinced myself that it wasn’t going to work (and she had too). I know that cutting someone off is the only way for me to deal with it. To leave something that felt so right to explore Europe alone defies logic.

So much so, every day, I wake up and wonder ‘what if’.

Travelling is something I have to do before I jump on a career ladder. I’ll never again have a spare summer to just explore the world and find myself whilst I’m young.

I hope it will open my eyes to a smorgasbord of new people, experiences and cultures. Despite the cost of hurting someone I deeply care about, I hope she understands travelling is my dream.

I dream of her too, but sadly, both dreams can’t come true. At least, not all at once…

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