Half a World Away | Kay Green – on her travels
by Kay Green
The Adventures of a Single Woman
Kay Green, who started a new life as a single woman aged 50, says her goodbyes in her home town Huddersfield and visits New Zealand with her mum and dad as she continues her round the-world year and records her thoughts in her series Shoulders Back, Deep Breaths
I’m writing this while I’m sitting underneath a gigantic beech tree in the centre of Christchurch Botanical Gardens, New Zealand.
It’s early evening and the last day of summer here. The heat is just starting to leave the day; it’s been glorious weather, wonderful blue cloudless skies. After a 14-hour, jetlag-busting sleep last night I feel like my body and brain are finally starting to catch up with each other. My dad still hasn’t got his rhythms back yet and said to me this morning he’s sure his beard is confused because he’s had to shave twice in the last 24 hours.
I had a lot of sadness in me the week before I was due to leave. I was a bit confused by how I felt, almost regretful about my decision to do this trip. I suppose it’s only natural really, it’s such a big decision to have made.
I thought about it while I was packing and clearing out my things from David and Del’s; dismantling my attic room, the lovely space they gave me so early on in the breakup of my marriage when I
needed to work out who I was and what I wanted do next.
It’s looked after me well, that room. It’s seen me stay home for days and weeks on end, then start to establish myself in the town I’d relocated to, begin to change my life and my outlook. As I became happier and more settled, it’s witnessed me get ready for nights out with friends, get home late, not get home at all, all the things that have made up my launch into being a single woman.
The goodbyes were as I expected, excited and sad in equal measure. By the evening before we were due to fly, when the ones I was dreading the most came along, I’d rationalised my emotions; the more goodbyes I said the closer I got to the journey and my next step.
Funny, isn’t it, that the things you worry about are never really as bad as your imagination makes them. I’d pictured myself in floods of tears as I said goodbye to my guardian angels, but in the end David gave me a hug, told me not to cry and reminded me that before I lived with them we would often go as long as a year without seeing each other – good point brother.
Del already has family in different time zones so is much more used to separation and has found clever ways to make it seem like she’s with her sisters whenever they get the chance – the sight of her and Winifred, who lives in New York, watching a prerecorded episode of Downton Abbey together is wonderful.
Del sitting on the settee with her iPad next to her and Win watching via FaceTime is the most creative way to watch TV together I’ve ever seen. They even talk through the adverts. Del simply said to me: “See you Friday or Saturday then.” We hugged, kissed and when they left I was actually smiling.
I’m not ashamed to admit that when it was finally time to take off from Manchester Airport I cried – big, fat, happy tears. This is the realisation of a dream for me, a vague idea that grew in me until it was impossible to ignore. It’s influenced most of my decisions in the last year. It’s changed the way I live my life so much and I’m happy with each turn I’ve taken so far. I’ve seized every opportunity I’ve had to improve myself and the liberty that comes from this change is deeply exciting – and a bit scary at times – but I promised myself I would take this chance to shape my future and I’ve kept my word.
My parents have travelled to New Zealand several times before. Every time they came home their enthusiasm and passion for the country shone out of them. It came as a bit of a surprise when they returned from their last visit seven years ago and declared it their last trip; that they didn’t want to be so far away from home any more. It doesn’t stop them from going to Spain in the winter though. It would seem that’s not too far away!
I understand why they made that decision now. It does feel a long way from home (with good reason, it is the other side of the world after all!). The journey was long and exhausting, even with a couple of days’ break in Singapore so we could catch our breath a bit. It’s the 13-hour time difference that highlights the distance. I still can’t get my head round it, I’m sure I will eventually.
The admiration I already have for my mum and dad has grown even deeper in the last few days. My mum’s MS means her mobility is severely limited and some days is nonexistent. She can’t go
anywhere without her wheelchair and she’s in pain all the time, but that doesn’t stop either of them doing what they want to do. They are two of the most determined people I know.
My dad makes sure she gets the best experience she can where ever they go and will move mountains to make things right for her, while she will not be beaten. She’ll have a go at anything given half a chance and I’m sure she’s trying to work out a way to get herself a bungee jump while I’m doing mine.
This time last year when the idea of travelling came into my mind and I was talking with them both about it – where I wanted to go, what I wanted to see – I asked them if they would like to join me
in New Zealand so they could show me all the things they had talked to me about, to help me discover the places they had shown me on their maps and in their photographs. It didn’t take long for them to decide and when they told me yes they would come, I said that I didn’t want them to feel obliged to accompany me if they didn’t want to. My dad’s reply was: “You’re not making us
love, you’re motivating us.”
How many other 51-year-old women get to backpack with their parents? Yesterday as we were strolling through the stunning gardens I’m sitting in now, marvelling at the size of the trees and the late blooming flowers, I was pushing the wheelchair and I saw Mum reach out for Dad’s hand. They walked like that for a long time, side by side, holding hands. It made me wonder when the
last time they got to do that was. To forget the chair and it just be the two of them? It made me smile and reminded me once again what the first leg of this trip is about; the three of us having some fun, being together, all of us experiencing some freedom while we explore this amazing country. I’m blessed with this opportunity.
In the meantime the little bit of luxury I’ve allowed myself this last few days to get over my jetlag is about to come to an end. No more king-size bed all to myself to starfish my body across; it’s nearly time for shared dormitories, sleeping in rooms of six or more strangers. I feel so sorry for them; I could win gold medals for my snoring!
I hope to catch up with you in the June edition of Northern Life. I’ll be part way through my time in Australia and goodness only knows the tales I’ll have to tell by then.
Read Kay Green’s blog at shouldersbackdeepbreaths.com