Updated on March 15th, 2023
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.
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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
Good Riddance 2020, Hello 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
So, we were back into lockdown. But it turned out to be third time lucky & this one was different for me. I was resigned. Accepting. Just kept my head down & concentrated on getting through it.
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
North Coast 500, Scotland
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
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It’s sobering to reflect on what we’ve really found out about ourselves during the past two years – and it’s good to come through it, either relatively unscathed, or even better in a positive frame of mind.
I’ve also done some new things – they include making video diaries, not travel, but finding out more about the birds here in Pembrokeshire, and perhaps strangely, using other people’s photos and words – my voice is the narration, and it hasn’t been as bad as I thought it might be.
Travel hasn’t been high on the list of 2021 activities – only four times outside of Pembrokeshire. I really hope we can go further (even if only within Britain) next year. But I’d really like to get back to mainland Europe . . . soon.
Wishing you the best for 2022
Thank you Annie for your thoughts & I hope you get to travel a little further afield next year, although it sounds like you have made the most of your time close to home. And Pembrokeshire is a beautiful part of the world to be in too!
We too did a lot of thinking in 2021. Our travel was reduced as the pandemic continued to slow things down. And it caused us to look at what our “next life” would look like. Sadly we are still a bit in limbo. Great to read that you feel stronger and more prepared for 2022.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts Linda & I hope you get to find that “next life” soon. I look forward to reading about it when you do.
Great article, Sue. I resonate with so much of your experience. I’m a bit horrified to be back in the only country I’ve been in the past 2 years that makes zero effort to contact trace after feeling so much safer other places. It’s been such a strange year! Good on you for putting mental health first and for getting out there even though it is a bit scary.
Thank you Heather & it’s definitely been a strange year! Glad it resonated & good luck with your ongoing travels. Hearing about your experiences on the other side of the globe is fascinating to see how all the different countries are approaching what is the same challenge. Safe travels x
Glad you found your freedom as well as inner strength. These last two years have thrown many challenges our way and unfortunately it is not over yet. But we certainly need to take one day at a time and one step at a time. In the meantime, it is great if we can travel, even if it is only locally but safely.
Thank you Alma & I agree it is not over yet & travelling safely is the most important thing, for others as well as ourselves. One day at a time is definitely the way to deal with it.
A wonderful read of a Soul Awakening Sue. Calm and living in the moment is rewarding in many ways. Your short travels closer to home clearly supported you. I look forward to the opportunity to visit Scotland, your post brought extra inspiration.
Thank you Marilyn for your lovely words & glad to have provided some Scottish inspiration. I know you will love it too!
I enjoyed reading about your experiences Sue & have come to a similar place after spending a lot of time alone in lockdown over the past couple of years. There’s peacefulness & freedom in being alone and it’s not lonely. I hope you’ll be able to rejoin your family before long! Happy Christmas!
Thank you Linda & I hope you had a lovely Christmas too. I agree, alone doesn’t necessarily mean lonely.
It’s always good to reflect, especially now with everything that’s going on in the world. I enjoyed reading about your lockdown experiences!
Thank you Krista & I’m glad you enjoyed reading my reflections 😉
I absolutely love this article! Yes! My experience has been similar to yours in that we found freedom in the limitations placed upon us. We were able to find other meaningful ways to do what we love – which is exploring the world around us.
Thank you Bea & I agree, exploring the world doesn’t have to include far-flung places. Glad you enjoyed my musings & they resonated with you too.
Love this post. It’s important to reflect. These have been two strange years indeed. We’ve also been traveling close to home . Glad you got to do it too.
Thank you Sara, glad you enjoyed my post & glad it resonated.
I’m sure I’ll really enjoy reading your blog, Sue, even if I’m a city woman who’s idea of a hike is going to Selfridges. Lovely to have talked to you today, and keep travelling!
Thank you Helen! Lovely to have spent time together the other night & really appreciate you taking the time to check out my blog. Glad you enjoyed it…even if I haven’t reported back on the hike around Selfridges quite yet! 😉