Updated on December 5th, 2022
2021 was another strange year for all of us. I started the year alone, frustrated, angry & felt like I had lost myself. However, being forced to come to terms with life after loss and to stand still, gave me space to breathe, to be and to find my ultimate freedom. At the end of each year, I like to reflect on my journey over the previous 12 months. This year has involved fewer physical miles but overcome a lot of emotional hurdles. Here is my tale of finding freedom through lockdown. For now, at least!”
Home mainly, then the Peak District in England, South Wales, North Coast of Scotland, Iceland & Barbados.
This post may contain affiliate links. By using these, Sue Where Why What may receive a small commission. You will not pay any extra charges for this. My opinions, reviews & recommendations remain my own. For more information see my disclosure.
Each year I like to write a summary of my journey. Usually, it’s about where I have been, the interesting things I’ve ticked off my Life List & the adventures I’ve had along the way.
In 2016 it included learning Spanish & dancing in Cuba, going on my first yoga retreat & exploring the Bahamas.
2017 featured my first steps on South American soil with visits to Bolivia, Peru & Argentina, as well as volunteering on a wildlife sanctuary in Namibia & learning to sail.
For 2018 it was all about the Caribbean, exploring Costa Rica & visiting a fortune teller.
Then in 2019 I introduced my Life Lessons in the year I turned 50, including my fabulous time in the Galapagos Islands, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, falling in love with Ireland & discovering that Guardian Angels really do exist.
But in 2020 as we know, the world stopped turning & the focus was more on the year in lockdown.
Writing these has become an important process for me since my life turned on its head when I tragically lost my husband back in 2014. It’s a way to reflect on my progress & see how far (or not) I’ve come. 2021 I believe has been a turning point for many reasons, mainly because for the second year running, I was forced to stop.
Stopping is not in my nature. I have dealt with my loss so far by running. I liken myself to a toddler when they first start to walk. You watch them moving ever quicker, never sure if they will continue to be driven along by momentum or land flat on their faces, bawling their eyes out from the shock. See my point?
“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” – Søren Kierkegaard
Finding Freedom Through Lockdown – Lessons Learned in 2021
I think it’s important to recap on where I was at the end of last year. Like almost everywhere in the world we had faced two lockdowns in the UK. The first was hard. I live & work alone. Not having physical contact with another person for three months affected me in ways I hadn’t expected.
During the second, I felt like I was losing myself. Discovering somewhere new energises & excites me. As I am an advocate of solo travel, every day, every decision, every movement is a challenge. I thrive on unpredictability. But during the second lockdown, familiarity & routine became my friend & a very loved one at that. Anxiety set in every time I left the apartment.
When we were finally allowed to travel, I decided I needed to take control. Everyone started to make a big fuss about Christmas. About being with family. My family are in Australia. Their borders are closed with no date for reopening. My loved ones were out of reach. I have lost both parents, my husband & never had kids. So, I decided to change everything & booked a ticket to spend Christmas in the Caribbean.
But that never happened either. As I packed, the Prime Minister made an announcement. Where I live the rates were rising rapidly & as of midnight, we were back in lockdown. It was Christmas alone in my apartment.
Except it wasn’t. On Christmas Eve I had an offer I couldn’t refuse. I spent the day with my friend’s family. It was a slight rule break but a calculated risk for all our mental health. And it was wonderful.
“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realise this, & you will find strength” – Marcus Aurelius
Lockdown Number Three
And something amazing happened that I only recognised long after we were once again released.
I found peace.
Stopped searching. And stopped worrying. Being alone was no longer the all-consuming & self-pitying state it had felt before. I was enough. I am enough. For me.
“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can & no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” – Gautama Buddha
The Peak District, England
When we were finally released from solitary confinement, I was ready to take charge again. I couldn’t go overseas but there were plenty of places I hadn’t explored in the UK. I developed a brand-new enthusiasm for discovering parts of my beautiful homeland which had never appealed to me before. For some reason, I started with the Peak District.
I took my car, my enthusiasm, my hiking boots & a whole load of recommendations from friends. I stayed really centrally in Buxton & it was a busy but varied agenda including hiking, cycling, history, castles, stately homes & delicious pudding!
In the process, I discovered a new travel companion. My GoPro.
Since I started blogging, I have enjoyed making videos of the places I’ve been. However, up until now, I had spent very little time with the camera pointed towards me. Talking seemed very intimidating & a little embarrassing. But I found the courage & in the Peak District, I started to develop my voice in front of my little camera. And sad though it sounds, I felt like I was bringing a friend along with me! I showed them what I was seeing, told them about how I was feeling, laughing at the funny things I’d done or seen.
And as a result, I enjoyed the trip even more. I was sharing it.
“It ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none.” – Snoop Dogg 😉🤣
The Peak District whetted my appetite & then I was on a roll. Next stop, South Wales.
I had realised that having a network of friends & ex-colleagues across the UK was a huge advantage when looking for recommendations. It was a big lesson learned about travel… reach out to ask your network! I was rewarded with fabulous hikes, beautiful beaches, excellent restaurants & interesting sights to fill my time. And once again I loved it.
I started in the Gower Peninsula & then on to Pembrokeshire. My plan was to finish in the Brecon Beacons. I covered miles hiking along the Wales Coast Path, exploring castles & meeting plenty of sheep. Then as I arrived in Brecon, disaster struck & I took a tumble. It literally stopped me in my tracks.
I had sprained my ankle, was a long way from home, with a car that I couldn’t drive. My friends swooped in as my knights in shining armour & I learned some hard lessons about the pitfalls of travelling alone. But also, the comfort & strength of having a network of friends.
And that meant I spent six weeks in the summer, at home in the UK with my leg up. Resting. Not necessarily one of my strengths. Thankfully it healed in time for my next planned adventure…
“Most of the things we need to be most fully alive never come in busyness. They grow in rest.” – Mark Buchanan
In 2020, when leaving the country was complicated, my friend Manda & I decided to spend two weeks in the summer exploring the highlands & islands of Scotland. We were blown away by the beauty of the landscapes & made a pact to return.
So, roll on one more year & we were still not happy to leave the country. We decided to head back, this time even further north to pick up the North Coast 500 route. It was an epic adventure of scary single-track roads, gorgeous beaches, more sheep, seals, more castles, wild heather & stunning landscapes. While there, we also headed to the Isle of Lewis & Harris & fell in love with that too. If you would like to follow in our tyre tracks, then I have plenty still to share – stay tuned here for lots more on this & my Welsh adventures.
The whole experience highlighted once again the beauty that my home has to offer…but then it was time to leave. And it was with a good degree of anxiety that I headed off to international soil again.
“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” – Pascal Mercier
Iceland was an emotional journey in many ways. Getting on a plane for the first time in 18 months felt familiar but also terrifying. But it came with the realisation that I had found my freedom again. I have well documented my Icelandic adventures, from the transformational yoga retreat to the wonders of the north coast & my solo road trip along the south. When I was lucky enough to also see the Northern Lights, it felt like a miracle. I was full of awe, wonder & excitement. It felt like the world was trying to tell me something, I just didn’t understand what it was yet.
Iceland served brilliantly as my reintroduction to international travel. It also made me realise how much personal progress just stopping had created for me. Much as I hate to admit it (& trust me, I do), I am in a better place now than I have been in several years. Iceland, I believe has marked a turning point, of living in the present, being excited about the future & not dwelling on the past.
“What day is it?” asked Pooh.
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favourite day,” said Pooh. – A.A. Milne
If you fancy joining the same yoga retreat next year, there’s a trip going on 28th May 2022. Click on this link for all the details & a $100 discount (if you book before 15th January).
After a couple of months at home with renewed energy, I had another offer I couldn’t refuse. My amazing yogi friend, Kathy who had led the retreat in Iceland was heading to the Caribbean to scope out some future retreat locations. Would I fancy joining her in Barbados? It took me less than a minute to come to the decision of “Yes!”. I had never been to Barbados, it marked my 75th country & a return to my beloved Caribbean.
This was a very different trip. The Peak District, Wales, Scotland & Iceland had all been busy. I was writing, blogging, posting & videoing my whole experience. In Barbados, I relaxed. After all, I was there to help Kathy find a retreat location (follow her at The Santosha Life for all the details when she announces it).
I don’t plan to blog much, if at all & I haven’t got many videos to share. However, it has given me time to take stock again. And I am excited at what the future holds for the first time in a long time.
“Life is a preparation for the future; and the best preparation for the future is to live as if there were none.” – Albert Einstein
Christmas is just around the corner. My family remain out of reach but this year I am not in traumatised panic as I was last year. I am calm & peaceful. I am lucky to have had a few offers from friends to join them for the big day & beyond. However, what have we learned from the last two years if it’s not to take anything for granted? But if I am home alone, it’ll be OK. This year it doesn’t scare me to be on my own.
It empowers me.
I feel stronger, freer & now I can take on anything the world chooses to throw at me…just as long as I don’t injure myself again!
So, after two years in & out of lockdowns, I have found my ultimate freedom. That being on my own is enough for me. That I need to live in the present rather than dwelling on the past & don’t put too much pressure on future plans. After all, you never know when they will be taken from you. Thank you for joining me on the journey, wherever it may take us…
“The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it. The present is here, live it.” – Thomas S. Monson
Interested to read more?
You can also Subscribe Here to get regular updates & special offers from Sue Where? Why? What? along with a copy of my 201 Inspirational Travel Bucket List Ideas for FREE! I hope you chose to join me on the journey.