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Day 1


Today I don’t want any. I feel tired. But mostly I feel sad, I feel sad, I feel sad, I feel sad. I keep telling myself why I’m doing this. I know exactly why. Why the amount of awful I feel exactly corresponds with the amount I need to go through with it. The knowing doesn’t make it easier. I’m about four hours into this adventure, this wholly self inflicted adventure, and what I want now more than anything is to just skip to the end. To be already laden with experience, with everything there is to gain from travelling alone. To go home now, stronger, wiser, more capable, knowing the things I have come here to learn about myself. The sort of me I can live with. I want a cheat experience. Maybe there’s an app for that? Or maybe I can just crop Nick out of all of the photos I’ve already taken and pretend they were taken on my own adventure, alone. Today I am weary of travelling, but apparently I’ve only just started.

Mood swings. Actually, can anyone tell me why I’m doing this? I can’t for the life of me remember.

It seemed like an adventure, something to be excited about. But I can’t muster even a tinge of anticipation. I’ve just driven in and out of the gates of a campsite three times. The poolside congregation are looking at me as if I’m a lunatic, they might be onto something. It wasn’t a quiet entrance either, or exit, or indeed second entrance. And it certainly didn’t lack noisy manoeuvres. My indecision is worse than ever. I feel like my face should come with some sort of tag-line or disclaimer: “Indecision, the only decisive thing about me!”. If I am certain about one thing, it’s my indecision. I can barely even choose which box of muesli to buy without having some sort of meltdown, or worrying I’m making the wrong choice and what are the consequences, what are the consequences, what are the consequences, Sarah? At what cost?

So Nick went back to England this morning. This is it. This is actually it. I thought I might have a sudden surge of excitement, I thought I might feel courageous, adventurous. Allegedly this is what I set out to do. I continue to have this feeling that this is somehow the right thing. But to tell you the truth, today it feels awful. It feels sad. It feels lonely. I feel like curling up in my bed and going to sleep and pretending it isn’t happening. I can’t bare the idea of doing anything. I just stare blankly into the abyss of Facebook, at my computer screen and feel numb. I know how to pick myself up, I just don’t want to. Because any of those activities might involve me thinking, actually thinking deeply. So I sit and type and type and type and type about how I feel on the surface. I sit and type, because what happens when I stop tapping these keys, what do I do then? What am I left with? It’s just me, alone.

I want to plan the trip, but is that a cheat? Wasn’t the point of the trip to teach myself to rely on intuition, to be OK in myself without needing a plan, without needing other people. And that is why I know I need to do this. I know that until I’m strong enough to rely on myself, I am cheating by relying on anyone else, anything else. It’s not that I don’t want someone by my side; and I have struggled with this idea over the past year, this idea of needing to be alone to figure myself out. I set off to Embercombe to learn the skills I needed to rely on myself, to find out who I am when I’m alone and not panicking, alone and not in an OCD cycle. So why do I keep worrying that I’m doing it wrong, that this journey needs a formula, that there’s a right way to do anything? Because I know there definitely isn’t.

And then, a surge of activity.  I start to plan my journey… my escape route, the quickest road home; whilst still achieving “my dreams”. A cloud starts to lift, I start to feel better. I have a mental end date, an end destination. But why let myself off the hook so quickly? I’m half a day in and I’m thinking only about going home. I’m trying to come to terms with living in the present, but this seems to be the opposite, it seems to be a plan for the future. And the only way I could come to terms with the present today was to find an easy way out.

Is this another ongoing theme? I don’t even need to ask the question, I know very well that it is. To escape Sheffield was the only way I could even start to deal with the events of the past few years. Sometimes I worry I did the wrong thing; I left too soon, before I was ready, I ran, I escaped. And where will that leave me, eventually? With the same problems years down the line? And now, here I am, trying to find an instant fix, trying to heal the same wounds, in the same way, by running again. Taking the easy way out. I can’t even manage to complete the challenges I set myself.

How can I ever heal, or learn to cope on my own without testing myself?

And I’m running on empty again. When you sink it’s so hard to remember the skills you have learnt to pick yourself up. It’s like you can remember the things that make you happy, but they don’t seem tangible, they seem out of reach, distant.

It feels like I’m doing nothing useful in the world either. I’m trying to turn things around; after feeling like my twenties were a huge void in which I wasted what feels like every second watching repeats of Come Dine with Me and Scrubs. Not living, just breathing, staring, smoking, wishing it away, not caring. I’m trying to start to live a life I won’t completely regret. But that doesn’t mean I need to live at 100mph to achieve anything, to achieve everything in one go. Constantly worrying that I haven’t fulfilled each and every ambition is a ridiculous past time; but losing Emma taught me not to waste life, to try to at least appreciate your surroundings in the time you are given. But it’s true, I haven’t worked out yet how to live my life in a fulfilling and useful way, to help people. What to do, where to live; I’m just galavanting around Europe trying to fix myself in an array of sometimes plentiful, sometimes plastic, sometimes desolate, sometimes miserable, sometimes all-I-need campsites. Alas, the parameters of this campsite probably don’t hold life’s answers, I might just have to look a little harder than that.

I wonder why I have to continually berate myself for not doing enough; I don’t think I’ve ever had as productive a year as this one. I’ve gone through therapy, built a van, given away most of my possessions, learnt to live closer to nature. I consider where I was before I started to move, to change, to take positive action. But it feels like once you’ve got some momentum, once you’ve started to achieve you should carry on, because if you let yourself be complacent, won’t those old habits creep back in? And yet, if i do it all now, what’s left to achieve? Won’t I have to find some new dreams?

Middle class problems 101. I think twice about posting this. It seems completely self indulgent to even have the audacity to be sad and whiny when I have such privilege. For finding myself in the midst of this amazing opportunity, this beautiful predicament and complaining. But it seems important to document that this experience is not all highs, that travelling can be hard. That it makes you question everything you are doing continually. Maybe that’s the point.

Today hasn’t all been lows either. After dropping Nick off at the station, after sitting in the van for half an hour, crying, deliberating, haphazardly organising, riding on whatever slight of adventure I had about my person; I set off to Les Baux-de-Provence. I watched “Carrieres de Lumieres” a light show in a disused quarry, which was one of the most visually spectacular, beautiful, show-stopping things I have ever seen. Aside from the light show Nick and I watched in the Palace du Pape in Avignon the previous night. And, seeing as we’re talking about Avignon, I might as well reluctantly share my excellent (awful) Avignon themed joke: Five euros to see two thirds of a bridge in Avignon, what’s “le pont”? Admittedly, it heavily relies on you having heard the song “Sur le pont, d’Avignon”, and having an incredibly loose definition of the term “joke”.

I went for a swim. Trying to stay under water for the duration, in order to not have to look anyone in the eye. When I did look, however, I witnessed a man in the tiniest speedos the world is ever likely to see unashamedly, violently washing his chest wig in the shower. A true delight.

It’s not all bad.

Day 2

Not much to report, other than I feel a bit better. I haven’t left the campsite, but feeling a little more capable today, although I have done basically nothing useful. Having said that, which I seem to have, a more accurate summary might be that I’ve achieved the exact opposite of anything either capable or indeed useful. As the sadness and loneliness subsides to make way for… I don’t know… whatever the hell this is. What I appear to be left with is a dawning realisation that I am not yet good at being a human being. As you might also have noted, had you witnessed me just set fire to myself and a pan I was attempting to fry sweet potato chips in. I hadn’t even managed to get to the stage where I actually inserted the potato.

Flames as high as you can see. Luckily I remembered not to add water to this actual recipe for disaster, but, having just loaded all of my towels into the campsite’s washing machine, I had nothing to dowse the quickly-escalating-into-something-I-can’t-handle fire with. In desperation, I threw a laughably small flannel over it, which obviously immediately ignited. As I knew it would, before I threw it on. Spectacularly wasting precious time in an emergency. Ineptitude at its finest. Left with no other option I threw my other definitely-not-even-close-to-being-big-enough flannel at it. My childhood flannel, with the little elephant on it. My little red and blue flannel, that I have had since I was eight. Luckily this put an end to the whole ridiculous escapade; it must have been the memories of all the childhood tears dried with it.

Adding to my sense of utter shame, there literally isn’t one visitor to this campsite that isn’t at least double my age, so that nicely reinforced the “incapable child” feelings I’ve been trying to stifle after the great fire of ’16. I felt the eyes of 1000 parents and grandparents bore disappointedly into the back and front of my head. “Oh, Saraaahhh”…

And now, unfortunately, I’ve just been caught playing guitar by two overly enthusiastic Dutch men. They’ve invited me over to jam with them later. They definitely saw the fire. It will definitely come up. Oh, for shame. So I expect I’ll spend the rest of tonight thinking up elaborate excuses as to why I can’t walk the four feet across the campsite to join them for the evening. Still, I haven’t made tea yet, so there’s plenty of opportunity to ignite my way out of it.

On my way back to my old ridiculous car-crash-of-a-human-being self and I’m going nowhere.