In the past week I’ve travelled around the UK, giving True Face workshops and talks.
I met hundreds of people and visited some really cool places.
I also learned (or re-learned) some lessons about life I’d love to share with you here…
Lesson One: Chance encounters add to life’s magic … talk to your fellow travellers
I had to get up at GULP O’CLOCK to set off for my first event. Seriously, it was still night time when I got to the station and chit-chat with a fellow passenger was way down my to do list – beneath ‘sleep, sleep and oh yes, more sleep‘. But when a guy started talking to me about seating on the station platform it turned into a two hour conversation about life, politics, the universe and everything. I got to my destination feeling way more invigorated than if I’d had a nap and it was a great reminder of the randomness of life and chance meetings. (Please note: I am aware of the perils of this one, having once been talked at by a lager-swigging Scotsman all the way from Edinburgh to York. Who started yelling that I was ‘a frigid ginger dyke’ when I dared to spurn his beery advances. When it comes to talking to fellow travellers, discernment is key!)
Lesson Two: Other people are fascinating … ask them about themselves
I’m naturally quite a shy person. One way I’ve overcome this is by asking people about themselves and thereby niftily side-stepping the spotlight. A massive bonus this brings is finding out loads of really interesting things about the people I meet. From cab-drivers to teachers to hotel staff to one of the patrons of the Cheltenham Festival, I heard so many fascinating and entertaining anecdotes over the past few days. Including: One man’s journey from Indian goat-herder to Bradford cab-driver. One woman’s passion for using music to heal. One girl’s story of overcoming anorexia. One guy’s inspiring tale of business success.
Lesson Three: Eating out on your own doesn’t have to be three courses of embarrassment with a side of awkward
The first time I ever had to dine alone in a hotel restaurant I felt hot with embarrassment. ‘Look at poor Norma No-Mates sighing into her soup‘ I imagined the other diners saying as I longed for the power of invisibility. Now I love dining out with just my Kindle / magazine / thoughts for company. A whole table to myself. Being waited on hand and foot. What’s not to love?
Lesson Four: See your hotel room as a you-time bubble
And by that I mean, even if you’re travelling for work, staying in a hotel gives you a chance to pause and take time for yourself and take stock of your life. Tune the TV to a music channel. Have a shower or bath and slather yourself in the complimentary moisturiser. (Side note: why is complimentary moisturiser now nailed to the wall?! Was somebody stealing it or something? Ahem.) Build yourself a cosy bed-nest of cushions and pillows. Order some room service and take advantage of the free coffee bar. Then take out a notebook and free write about your life and your dreams from this fresh new, sweetly-scented perspective.
Lesson Five: If someone is rude to you … punch them in the head
Just kidding! When you meet a lot of people not all of them are going to be new best friend potential and some of them are going to be down-right arsehole-ish. Don’t get sucked into a conflict – not even in your head. Especially not in your head because then there’s no end to the effing and blinding! This person could have just been given some really bad news. They could be going through hell. They could be deeply afraid beneath all the swagger and bluster. Whatever. Don’t make it your problem. Smile sweetly, don’t judge and rapidly disengage.
Lesson Six: When you think like an explorer you discover hidden gems … and disgusting toilets
One of the venues I was running some workshops in was an old courthouse. During a break I spotted a reference to the prison cells in the building. ‘Ooh, that sounds interesting,‘ I thought. Swiftly followed by: ‘You can’t go nosing around. You’re here to do a job, not sight-see.’ But I ignored my inner Captain Sensible and asked one of the organisers if I could take a peek. Getting to go inside a really old cell was an experience I won’t forget in a hurry. It was spooky and atmospheric and the toilet was a particular highlight!
Lesson Seven: We are all afraid … so don’t think you’re alone
In one of the exercises I do in my True Face workshops I get people to talk about their fears. Every time I introduce the exercise, by talking about my own fears, a little voice inside my head says, ‘But what if none of them ever get afraid? What if you’re the only weirdo who thinks like this?‘ But every time without fail I get nods of recognition and hands shooting up as people offer to share their own insecurities. So next time you feel afraid, or your inner voice tells you that you haven’t got what it takes to achieve your dreams, reassure yourself that you aren’t alone. And know that successful people are just as afraid as you are, they’ve just learned how to control or ignore their fear.
Lesson Eight: We all have so many reasons to be proud … so be proud
In another exercise I do I ask people to write a list of things they’re proud of. The things I’ve seen on people’s proud lists over the past few days have taken my breath away: ‘I’m proud of conquering my eating disorder.’ ‘I’m proud of getting through life without my dad.’ ‘I’m proud that I no longer self harm.’ ‘I’m proud that I’ve made a conscious effort to be a nicer person.’ ‘I’m proud that I don’t let the haters get to me any more.’ ‘I’m proud that I won a poetry competition.’ What are you proud of? What qualities did you need in order to achieve those things? Next time you’re feeling down or afraid, remind yourself of all the great things you’ve done.
Lesson Nine: Teenagers need our support
I lost count of how many times I had teachers, event organisers or parents telling me how badly books like True Face are needed right now. Teenagers today are under more pressure than ever before. Us oldies have to be there for them. To support and mentor them and reassure them that all will be well. We need to pass on the benefit of our hindsight and experience. We need to motivate and inspire and show them that they’re not alone.
Lesson Ten: When travelling, don’t waste valuable daydreaming time on Peter Andre’s marriage
On the train back from my travels I started reading a magazine. By the time the train pulled into Doncaster I knew all about Peter Andre’s Strictly Come Dancing ambitions and how wearing pink and brown really suited him and how no, his wife isn’t worried about The Strictly Come Dancing Curse because she isn’t the jealous type (I don’t watch it but apparently everyone who has ever taken part in the show has had a steamy affair with their dancing partner. Or something…) Anyway, by the time I got to Doncaster my brain was losing the will to live. So I binned the mag and put on my i-pod and did some serious window-gazing-day-dreaming instead. By the time I got to London, I’d come up with a new book idea and enjoyed a little daydream of a more *cough* romantic nature (and no, it did not involve Peter Andre crooning Mysterious Girl clad in various shades of pink and brown). Day to day life can be so crazy-hectic there’s very little time left to dream. Travelling is one of the best dreaming opportunities going. Don’t waste it.
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