Let me set you a scene. It is October and I have not yet met (or should I say re-met) Luke romantically, although we are still friends. I am single, having not long ago suffered one of those break ups that makes you lose a stone in weight and gain a couple of stomach ulcers. I am at a peculiar turning point in my life and am not really quite sure what action I should take next and so I do what any girl in my situation would do – turn to good books and Motherly advice.
The book I turn to is ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, in which the newly heartbroken heroine goes first to Rome to eat, then to India to pray and finally to Bali, where she finds love. I don’t have the luxury of being able to up sticks and leave on a soul searching adventure, but I begin to dream. It is my Mother who makes me do it. She tells me to get myself off to the local travel agent and book a trip that weekend to Rome. And so I do. Within an hour everything is booked, planned and paid for.
I don’t feel in any way excited about this trip. I am apathetic to everything around me. I feel the full force of love and support from my friends and family, however, and place total confidence in their decisions for me! My Mum tells me that I always used to love travelling by myself and that it would be good for me, so I believe her.
It is the night before my trip to Rome and I am still not much excited. I go out for a drink with my cousin Ellie, which turns into a bit of a pity party, in which many sorrows are drowned. When I return home from this evening, I realize with a jolt it is 3am and I have to leave at 6am. I have not yet packed and a slow kindled panic sets in. Somehow, this panic awakens me from my slumber and on the outskirts of this feeling I begin to feel something else. Excitement perhaps? I try very hard to ignore this feeling, lest it turn into sadness. At this point, emotions of any kind are bad and I feel I need to subdue them.
I send Luke a quick e mail and he laughs at my dilemma! He tells me I will no doubt spend myfirst day in Rome alternately lying in a dark room and making mad dashes to the bathroom with a horrific hangover.
Off I jet, slightly concerned about what I might have packed and about what people sitting next to me might make of my bleary eyes and alcohol breath. The flight is harmless and as I fly through snow capped mountain ranges I feel the way I always feel when I am flying. Small. Insignificant. This feeling serves to relax me. I feel better knowing that in the great Universe, I matter only very little. I begin to make light of my former pain and problems.
I look down and there are mountains far below me. I look across at the clouds and see the tips of yet more mountains rising above the clouds, even above me. I suddenly realize that we are flying through the mountains. I see other planes flying through the mountains. I find the sight breathtaking and once more feel excitement. Only this time I do nothing to quell it. I let it grow inside me. It starts off as little butterfly wings lightly brushing the edges of my raw stomach and grows and grows until I feel like I am inflated by helium and everything is amusing, exciting, amazing! This feeling is so new, that I revel in it and can’t believe it is me feeling it. A bit like when you inhale helium and can’t believe the voice you are hearing is your own!
We land. I get to the hotel. Far from feeling tired on my hour of sleep, I feel exhilarated for the first time in a long time. I hurriedly unpack and realize in dismay that the contents of my bag are minimal. I am talking two pairs of pants, two spare t shirts and not much else minimal. No toothbrush. No hairbrush. No shampoo. No make up. But I know that it doesn’t matter how terrible I look because I am completely alone and I don’t know a single person in this whole city!
First stop: toothpaste and toothbrush. I can not bear vodka fumes any longer, so I nip to the chemist, where I somehow spend around twenty great british pounds on these two items. At that price, I decide I can wash my hair in hotel soap for the weekend. I don’t care. I am in Rome!!