It’s not often that I am lost for words (as I’m sure my husband would attest), but for the first time in my blogging ‘career’, I have proper writer’s block. I’ve sat down at my laptop countless times over the past couple of weeks, tapped out a title, and maybe a sentence or two, and then sat for ages doing very little as all of the words that usually tumble out of my head and into my fingertips evaporated off into the ether.
A lot of soul searching has been required in order to get my mojo back, and remember why it is that I do what I do. I had to take it back to the beginning (and I mean right back!) and remind myself that blogging about my life and my travels was something I was always going to end up doing, one way or another.
Here’s what I’ve been thinking about; here’s my story.
I was born on September 13th 1985 to very happy parents (who, for a few hours thought they might be about to lose me – something my daughter and I have in common!) in a sleepy village in rural south Wales. My mum always comments on my rosy cheeks and wide eyes that were interested in everything going on around me, as if I was very ready to face the world which I had been born into.
Our family unit (dad, mum, older brother Tim, cat Rosie and I) soon moved to another rural village on the Northamptonshire / Leicestershire border, where a puppy called Jess was added to the brood, and where I formed some of my happiest childhood memories.
Living in the countryside represented freedom to me: long, rambling walks; exploring woodlands and dells; horse riding and dog walking and blackberry picking…it was my parents’ love of the great outdoors that awakened within me the insatiable desire to explore the world around me and learn more about its geography, history, culture and people.
We went on a few overseas jaunts, to the Canary Islands, Crete and France, and it was actually on one of these vacations that I can recall my first ever living memory: being bitten on the bum by a mosquito, and my charming big brother finding it absolutely hilarious! Not much has changed – to this day, my brother continues to find much amusement in ridiculing me on a regular basis (love you bro), and my travels continue to make up the majority of my most cherished and long-lasting memories.
When I was three, the concurrent events of my younger brother’s birth followed by my parents’ divorce served to flip my world on its axis. With Joe’s arrival, I felt a new, fierce and protective love that I had yet to experience in my short time on earth. With my dad’s departure, I felt suddenly exposed and vulnerable. While I was too young at this point to do much more than get on with life (Montessori school, primary school down the road and eventually onto a friendly secondary with a Christian ethos in a nearby town), I know now that this period shaped who I’ve turned into today: the values that I place on family ties and the importance of love, fellowship and unity.
It’s also the time that I started to experiment with the solace that I could bring about through the written word. Reading and writing poetry and stories brought me much comfort, and allowed me to express myself in a way that speaking sometimes didn’t permit.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t an insular, quiet or miserable child – quite the opposite. I grew up in a happy and very loving family, which soon expanded to become two happy and very loving, LARGE families, as my mum soon met my stepdad Chris and had my third brother, Hugh, and my dad married Judith and had my sisters Bethany and Helena, and my youngest brother Benjamin.
Two families didn’t only mean twice the love of course, but also twice the holidays (win!!) and I would count down the days until school broke up for summer and my siblings and I would head off to explore somewhere new with one or other parent.
Many of the holidays with mum were spent in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, and it’s here that I learned how being away from home and out of your comfort zone can bring people together and forge lifelong friendships. I would meet up with the same group of girls every year, and for two whole weeks of the summer we would rarely leave each others’ sides except to sleep and use the toilet. I vividly remember our car pulling away at the end of our holiday each time, and not being able to prevent the tears from rolling down my cheeks, while begging my mum for us to stay for just one more day.
By the time my family moved house for the third time when I was fourteen, this time from rural Northamptonshire to rural Essex, I’d lost any concept of what it was to have a fixed ‘home’, or ‘place that you come from’. Moving around the country and starting again in a new school, making new friendships with some amazing young ladies (some of whom are still some of my best friends to this day) and putting down roots in a new location gave me the confidence I needed to know that I could build a life anywhere I wanted in the world.
It was inevitable that by the time I started University in Nottingham (reading Geography, of course!), I was itching to do some solo exploration of my own, and I took advantage of the long summer break at the end of the first year to take a Teaching English as a Foreign Language Course and head to Sri Lanka to teach English to children in an orphanage, and explore the country on my downtime for a few weeks.
Sri Lanka was the best and worst decision I ever made. On the one hand it was humbling, soul-defining and life-affirming all at once. On the other, it made me hungry for more, and my everyday life once I returned was utterly bleak, shallow and depressing in comparison.
I managed to pick myself up, and armed with a good degree, and an even better Masters result, I headed to the bright lights of London to start work as a graduate Consultant for a top three professional services firm.
Now I’ve heard many people call London a city where dreams come true and lives are made, but London first broke me before it made me. My career was sapping the life, energy and positivity out of me. My six year-long relationship ended. I left my job and moved out of the flat I owned, into a flatshare with two girls who would go on to become my very best friends. Together, they helped to build me back up.
For the first time, I started to see London through fresh, excited eyes. There were amazing restaurants on my doorstep, with ground-breaking menus devised by some of the world’s greatest chefs. There was sites and shows, and entertainment and history around every corner. I vowed that every week I would do or see something new. I was living in my home city as a tourist, and life was good. I kept thinking, shouldn’t life always be like this? Why doesn’t everyone do this all the time? OK, some things cost money, but you can still explore and have fun and learn new things without spending a penny.
It was like a new awakening in me.
Armed with this new outlook on life, I made some liberating solo travel decisions, firstly heading to Rio to visit my good friend Elliot…
Then taking on a client project in Rome…
Finally, I traveled to Sydney to visit my family out there…
It was around this time that I attended a wedding of a mutual friend of mine and Mr Sunshine’s. I’d known Mr S at University, but our paths had rarely crossed, bar the odd party and BBQ here and there. You can read more about our story here, but let’s just say things went pretty quickly from there…
It wasn’t long into our relationship when he received a call telling him that the TV studio he works for would be relocating to Doha, and asking him whether he would like to make the move with them. It was an excellent offer and there was only one answer. He packed his bags, and off he went.
If I hadn’t been armed with all of the life lessons that preceded this moment, I’m not sure that I would have followed. But I’m glad I did.
We’re here now in Doha, happily married, with a beautiful little girl, still living life as tourists in our home city.
We are extremely lucky that our lives out here give us the freedom and flexibility to travel the world the way that I could have only dreamed of doing as a little girl.
And hopefully, if I can manage to dislodge the cobwebs of the writer’s block I’ve been experiencing for the past few weeks, I will continue to share with you the most interesting, useful and exciting bits.