Solo travel - Why it's ok to be selfish.

With my two year old daughter spending a few days with her grandparents, and a couple of days holiday booked in my diary, I suddenly found myself with a brief window to get away all by myself.

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I haven’t travelled solo since I was pregnant (and crammed in a series of short trips before my baby arrived and sleep disappeared). And travelling alone is, of course, my ‘thing’.

Since having a baby, I have become increasingly aware of my own mortality, seeing as I’m actually responsible for this tiny little grubby, wild-haired person who I love with all my might. Gone are the hedonistic days of happily hopping on a 4 seater aeroplane made from fibreglass and duct tape, to swoop up into the air and do a loop-de-loop over Fraser Island, or gawp slack jawed at the Nazca Lines, without a care in the world.

After a couple of weeks of indecision, and for feeling so bloody guilty for even contemplating it, I went ahead and booked the flights to Barcelona. No way back now! And just as soon as I booked the flights, I googled ‘chances of dying in a plane crash’ (1 in 11 million FYI). I had a serious case of selfish-motherly guilt. I mean, what if my plane blew up and I leave my daughter motherless ALL BECAUSE I SELFISHLY WANTED SOME ME TIME?

Seeing as I booked the flights, I went on to book a beautiful Airbnb apartment, just off the Passeig de Gracia. As the departure date drew closer, I began to get nervous. Excited too but also nervous. I’m so used to being shadowed by a toddler, and I haven’t travelled solo for over two years and felt a bit out of practice. And why did I book myself into an apartment? Why not a hotel, which would have been easier and where I would feel safer?

In the past I’ve slept in a flimsy canvas tent in a bush camp in the Serengeti, a windowless concrete cell in Bolivia (maybe it was just one of their informal prisons?), and a dodgy hostel in Buenos Aires where my middle-aged man roommate sat on the edge of his bed and watched me while I pretended to be asleep (I changed rooms). I was always alone so why was I so nervous about an apartment which came with glowing 5 star reviews?

Cut to the present moment and my fears have been pleasantly rinsed away by my second glass of Cava. I’m in a buzzing tapas bar, two blocks from my apartment, on my last night in Barca. Two glasses is enough to send me to sleep these days so I’ll head home soon with a tummy full of boquerones, croquettas and the tastiest invention ever, the Bomba de Barceloneta (spicy meatballs wrapped in creamy stuff and then fried).

I rather smugly got a seat straight away, despite the queue being out the door (the benefits of solo travel means I get to snap up the spare seat at the bar). I even made a friend, Ryan, from Florida, who works in the arts. He let me share his mussels then apologised, on the behalf of the whole of America, for Donald Trump.

I’ve overindulged in Gaudí, taking my sweet time with the audio tour at Casa Batlló and had my heart stirred by the luminous beauty of La Sagrada Familia. I’ve eaten an obscene amount of tapas, then burned (some of) it off by hiring a bike and peddling around the Gothic Quarter and the beachside cycle paths. I got to drink my morning tea in peace and quiet on the balcony of my apartment as the city woke up. I have been allowed the time and space to slow down and appreciate how lucky I am. I missed my daughter and partner terribly, but I feel this trip has been good for all of us. I’m not exhausted anymore and I’m more patient and less anxious. I feel like my reset button has been pressed.

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