Here I am sitting at the British Airways Galleries Lounge at Heathrow Airport waiting for my flight to my next destination. This was my second time in England and for sure will not be my last. However, when I was here last year, I was with my husband and my cousin. This time, I am doing it all on my own. When I was dining at this Italian place in London, I met these two British ladies, Kim and Pippa, who were cousins. They were quite fascinated by the idea that I was traveling by myself especially after having told them an overview of my travel plans. They asked, “Why isn’t your husband with you? Did he not want to come?”
Well, the truth is, he would have if he could. I explained to them how his employer’s vacation benefits are almost non-existent. Pippa was appalled to hear that he only gets 1 week of vacation per year until his second year and then he gets two weeks. She just couldn’t fathom the idea of not having six weeks of paid holidays. Of course, I am stewing with envy. I only get three weeks a year, and that’s considered good by American standards. I already know of Europe’s generous holidays, but I took the opportunity to talk with people and see their reactions when talking about this matter. Maternity leave also came up because her job right now is to cover someone who is on maternity leave … for a whole year! You get six months paid maternity leave and another six months with half pay. HOLY CRAP! So then I realized that she is a temp and she gets six weeks of vacation! When I told her how in America, maternity leave is unpaid, she just about choked on her tiramisu.
The part about my husband’s lack of vacation hours is just half of the story. The other half really is about me. All my life, I have always known that I really want to see and experience the world. Just be out there. As a child in the Philippines, it was nothing but a dream — a very distant and hazy dream. I did not come from a privileged family. My father was a tailor who had to work day and night to support his family with five children. When I moved to the States, the door opened up, and I knew then that it was all up to me to work on making my dreams come true. So damn cheesy, but it’s the truth.
I have been married to this wonderful man for six years now and we have traveled together since. I have gone on extended weekends with friends to other parts of the States, but nothing crazy far. The idea of traveling by myself kept coming up, and every time I see my vacation hours increase, that idea kept getting louder in my head. Being married for some time, I have grown to be dependent on my husband. He takes such great care of me. But before him, I have always been an independent person. I did things my way. I went off to a university away from home the moment I could. I made things happen to get to where I am now. Having Stuart in my life, I have gotten comfortable with having someone who is always there for me. So I decided to do a solo trip. No husband to carry my stuff, or boss around to ask for directions. It’s all on me now.
Of course, he has worries about me going off to foreign countries on my own, but he also knows that I am travel savvy. I may not be the best with geographical orientation, but he is confident that I will be careful and make the best out of this experience. I just had to make some compromises on which cities I can visit. He told me to stay out of Italy because he definitely wants to go there with me. He understands that I really feel strongly about being out here doing things on my own. He is such patient man, and I am SO lucky to have this guy in my life who accepts the fact that his wife is a wondering wanderer. 🙂
Now here I am, sitting by myself at Heathrow surrounded by people from all over the world speaking in different tongues. I just had a fantastic time with my cousin and her husband in Bedford plus the couple of days in London. I even made it to Windsor Castle. At this point, I am so ready for the next part of my solo adventure. I am quite elated and even really proud of myself for making this happen. My cousin and I agree that we only live once, so here I am living it. I am living my dream of exploring and learning from other people and cultures. It has only been a few days, and I already know that I will not regret doing this. Life is too short to spend it wishing and hoping. The opportunity is here, and I am taking it.