The Adventures of a Single Woman
Kay Green, from Huddersfield, who started a new life as a single woman aged 50, tells of a magical time touring New Zealand with her mum and dad, and the sadness as they left her to go home, as she continues her round-the-world year in Australia in her series Shoulders Back, Deep Breaths.
E.T., Forest Gump, The Railway Children, Marley and Me, The Colour Purple… all these films make me cry, every time I see them.
I watch them knowing I’m going to be in tears at some point. I’ve even been known to start crying in anticipation of the part that’s going to make me cry. None of those tears can add up to the ones I shed in the final week with my mum and dad and for a few days after they left. Sometimes there was just a vague prickling sensation behind my eyes, other times I had a lump in my throat that I
managed to swallow down and then I had the big ones, the really sad ‘I haven’t cried this much since ET went home’ tears.
From the very beginning of our trip we had been voracious collectors of maps, tour guides and leaflets. We would sit for a while most evenings working out where we wanted to go and what we
wanted to see in the coming weeks.
We planned our destinations, dad worked out the route, I drove and mum became our official photographer. To her credit she got the hang of it in the end but it’s safe to say I have a fine collection
of images of the dashboard of the cars we hired from her early efforts.
When she discovered that she could record video on my camera she was unstoppable, she became ‘Betty Spielberg’. The loveliest thing about watching the recordings back is the background sound of the conversations we were having while we were travelling in the car together. We drove thousands of miles over the weeks and as we did we talked about all kinds of things; we talked and we laughed. It was a joy.
At other times during our trips in the car we sat in companionable silence that was often broken by our declarations of wonder at the beauty of New Zealand and all she had to show us. Breathtaking scenery, rows of mountains one after another, many reflected on the still water of the huge lakes they sat by.
As we ventured into the Alps, the roads that were built to help us travel from place to place gave us tight hairpin bends that required absolute concentration. The reward for our efforts came once they were navigated by revealing lush rainforest, waterfalls and rivers or miles upon miles of sandy beaches and ocean. It was almost as if each road was built for maximum beauty revelations.
I lost count of the amount of times I pulled the car to the side of the road so I could get out and stand and gaze at the views and smell the pureness of the air. I fell in love with the South Island over the few weeks I was there.
I had expected to enjoy my experience, but I hadn’t realised how deeply it would affect me emotionally. I found the size and majesty of the place humbling and I understood that while I go about my day to day, fretting about things, feeling afraid of my decisions, wondering on occasion what my future will hold, this place will stand as it is, in all its glory, Mother Nature at her finest. It made me question why I should waste so much energy with negative, spiritdraining thoughts. It was one of the most positive and thought provoking experiences I have ever had. It taught me a lot and I’m so grateful it did.
The biggest thing with having a great time is that the time flies. The weeks rolled into one another and before we knew it the end of our holiday was rushing towards us. We all tried to ignore it, to pretend it wasn’t happening but subtle signs made that hard. The pile of literature we’d been collecting to plan our destinations got smaller as we left them behind for others to use, until in the end there were just a handful left and eventually even they had to go.
The day we were due to fly to Australia I took the last of them to the recycling bin and then it hit me, it was almost over. The next three nights in Cairns were our last ones together. That was the start of the tears that were hard to hold back, but I didn’t want to face up to the facts and I certainly didn’t want to let those two see how much it upset me.
I was excited about going to Australia and looking forward to my time alone but at the same time I didn’t want to have to say goodbye to them. I didn’t want to burst the bubble we had been living in, the gentle groove we had established, the in jokes we had created, the laughter we’d shared and the confirmation of the depth of the love and friendship we had for each other. In a similar way to my experience with New Zealand, the trip with them had given me so much more than I could ever have imagined.
When they left I was bereft. I had anticipated sadness, what I hadn’t bargained for was the depth of the loneliness that consumed me; it was a physical pain and I carried it with me for days.
I like to think of myself as a woman who is growing into herself, that every lesson I learn will make me stronger. I try to face my fears head-on and tackle them with a positive attitude. I struggled
to see the positive in the situation I was in. Eventually, though, after many conversations with myself I began to appreciate that the feelings were just part of my emotional ‘trip’, that I’d been naive to think I wouldn’t experience this at some time or another. So I did what I do best; I put my shoulders back took some deep breaths and threw myself into discovering what life in Australia has to offer.
I found a website that gives travellers like me the chance to live cheaply by working a few hours a day in return for board and food. It’s a great way to make my money last longer and meet new people at the same time. My plan is that for the 12 weeks I’m here I’ll travel down the coast until I eventually get to Sydney, staying in one place and working for two weeks and then back on the road making my way to my next ‘job’ for the other two. I’m really happy with my plans.
At the moment I’m working for a lovely, funny, very inclusive woman. I’m sharing the house with her and a German couple who are looking for paid employment here. We walk her three dogs, tidy the garden, clean the pool, any kind of chore that needs to be done to support our host. We’ve become quite a team. The work gets done quickly, we walk the dogs together every morning (we each secretly have our favourite) and the rest of the time is spent chilling or sightseeing.
In the evenings we meet on the veranda and sit swopping stories, playing cards and having a laugh while we’re surrounded by the noise of insects and the geckos chatting to each other. We were sitting together last night and it suddenly stuck me where I was and what I was doing, that I was living my dream. Despite the sadness of my parents leaving, I’m glad I’m giving myself this experience and right now I wouldn’t swop it for anything.
Have a flick through Kay’s photos…