It’s February, my gap year is nearly over
by Kay Green
The Adventures of a Single Woman
Kay Green, from Huddersfield, started a new life as a single woman at the age of 50 and embarked on an adventurous year touring the world. Here she tells about her latest exploits in Australia in her continuing series Shoulders Back, Deep Breaths.
Ayear seems like such a long time, well it does when you look forward to the 52 weeks in the future. Looking at a year in retrospect, 2015 in particular, makes me wonder where it all went. A friend asked me the other day how could I possibly remember what I’d done during a time that was so full of new experiences? I considered the question and realised that I can’t possibly recollect it all, at least not immediately. I have the benefit of re reading my text messages, scrolling through my Facebook page and roaming through my thousands of photographs, that all helps. Some of the images I have are so thought provoking and so close to my heart that I can almost capture the feelings I had at the time they were taken. Some experiences were so captivating that all I need to do is think about them again to bring back the emotions involved at the time.
Even though it was last June, I can still recollect the excitement I felt when I left Tin Can Bay to start my journey back to Cairns. I was looking forward to spending more time in a place I felt very much at home and equally looking forward to spending more time with Phil, to get to know him better, to work out if I liked him as much as I thought I did. When I got into the departure lounge at Brisbane airport I recognised it from months beforehand when I’d been there with my mum and dad, making the same journey up the east coast of Australia, the last one we took before we separated and they flew home. It was the first time since I’d left the UK that I’d been somewhere even vaguely familiar, stupid I know, but when I got into the departure lounge I sat in the same coffee bar at the same table we’d shared, just so I could feel some connection to them. It’s hard to describe the mix of emotions that have interweaved themselves into my life since I came away. A
solo adventure has its own, special brand of isolation and once I learned to accept that I appreciated that it also brings a unique sense of freedom.
There are times even now when it feels strange to be amongst people who have become part of my everyday life but to still, on occasion, feel so away from people who know and understand me. Simple things that we all take for granted, such as a facial expression or a smile that we are so accustomed to we immediately know what it means. I wouldn’t describe the absence of these things as loneliness, that’s not what I’ve felt very often, but sometimes it feels like there’s something missing in me and I think it’s the familiarity of the life I had before I came here. I understand why people who travel or emigrate have the need to return home, because I can imagine that if I felt like this constantly I’d have to do the same thing.
I’ve never been the kind of woman who looks for the easy option, and I was true to form once again with my decision to return to Cairns to investigate my feelings for a man I’d spent less that a fortnight with. Since I’d become single I’d only dated casually, and even then I’d tried hard to keep those people at arm’s length, not wanting to get too involved with anyone, protecting myself from potential pain, because at the time I’d had about as much pain as I could take. The strength of my desire to see Phil again made me realise that maybe it was time to trust someone else enough to let my barriers down, to take a risk. I think this was, without doubt, the bravest thing I’ve done all year.
I’ve come to realise that I needed to learn to trust myself and my own judgement before I could even begin to invest my energy into someone else and changing my plans for a few weeks while I was in Oz was my next lesson. I was right to believe in me, and him, and what we had together, no matter how much it scared me to ‘give in’ to what I foolishly considered to be a weakness. At this point I need to say that the bravery wasn’t just mine and despite his protestations that long distance relationships don’t have a future, he too allowed himself to explore the possibility of us being together, however long that lasted. We agreed not to make any promises to each other about the long term, to see how it all went and to just enjoy the few weeks we had, to live in the now. And that’s exactly what we did. Part of our time together included me living with him on a pontoon in the middle of the ocean with a tiny part of the Great Barrier Reef for my back garden, to experience something only a handful of people have the opportunity to. A place we had chance to snorkel and scuba dive, to watch spectacular sunsets. He showed me his world, shared his passions and in turn I ignored my fears and joined in, eager to learn new things, willing to allow myself to appreciate a different life. I loved every minute of it.
My next planned destination was Sydney, a place I’ve longed to see for as long as I can remember, from there I was moving on to the Philippines. Despite the fact that we weren’t making any promises to each other I was keen to stretch out our days together for a long as possible, so, as I had when we were due to part the first time and we went to Mission Beach together, I invited him to travel with me.
I’m not ashamed to admit that when I saw the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge it reduced me to tears, to be within touching distance of iconic symbols of a country I had come to love was overwhelming, in all honesty those last few days we were together were the same. We happily spent our time being tourists and ‘playing out’, at one point after a day exploring Manly and Bondi beaches we were sat in a bar enjoying a (very expensive) beer and the words ‘I love you’ nearly left my lips. I didn’t say them though, I kept them to myself. Two days later as we sat in the back of a cab making our way to the airport, him to take an internal flight and me to take an international one, we thanked each other for a wonderful time. We didn’t make further arrangements to meet, but we did promise we would see how we both felt while we were apart and to take things from there. I can still remember how incredibly sad I was that our time together was over as I dropped him off at the domestic terminal at Sydney airport. We said our goodbyes and as the taxi took me towards my next plane I looked back, we waved and then I settled into my seat, ready for my next destination.