When my partner died in the autumn of 2015, I was devastated, and my world changed forever. We had imagined old age together. One festive season, we ate in a Parisian restaurant and on the next table sat two very elderly women – they were drinking a glass of champagne. We watched as they ordered flaming rum baba for dessert and laughed as they asked for extra rum! We thought that would be us…
But it wasn’t to be. At 49, to be diagnosed with terminal cancer is a shock. Well, it’s a shock at any time. But we hadn’t expected it as there were few signs, and what started as a bad back ended in 2 years of weekly chemotherapy and a final diagnosis that nothing more could be done.
This is sadly not an isolated story, and at WalkingWomen, we hear so many stories of bereavement and loss. We talk and walk with so many women who are dealing with this challenge and are bravely finding their way on. For me it was definitely getting outdoors, getting fitter and finding peace as I walked and swum my way through grief. Of course, friends and family are key, but sometimes it is that stepping out from that comfort to embrace the new and slowly slowly start to build new memories. You can do it.
Then, certain times approach that trigger past memories
We loved the festive season. Mostly for the lights that light up the darkness, and we adorned our home with twinkling lights. Neither of us was religious it wasn’t about this, but we were both lucky to have had family traditions of coming together, spending time together and enjoying the time away from work. We spent some years with family and some years we just spent at home, and occasionally we would take off to some far-flung spot – a favourite was visiting a friend in Brazil.
And what happens when you find yourself alone?
We can find ourselves overwhelmed as the festive season approaches – do you? We can be inundated with images of idealised family gatherings and romantic couples during the holidays. Being surrounded by these images, the latest Christmas rom-com can just emphasise what we have lost. When we were once a couple we are now alone!
On my first Christmas alone, I went to the usual family gathering with my parents. I can remember wanting to crash to the floor as soon as I walked through the door and smelt the cosy smell of Christmas at their house. They scooped me up, but it was still a tough time. I vowed that the next year I would get away – I did to Spain.
WalkingWomen launched its ‘getaway’ holiday to La Gomera …
Sara and I took on WalkingWomen so we could continue the great holiday company that was started by Diane Clarke (the original founder), then the company that would provide those wonderful walking holidays where women can be together, walk and talk, can be in silence and can definitely feel safe. They can also have adventurous experiences, stretch themselves or simply be somewhere to connect with like-minded women.
Having holidays all through the seasons was what we wanted. To make sure we had holidays at those times when it can be especially tough was essential. Last year, La Gomera was the destination we chose – recommended by our lovely travel concierge Helen. We trusted it would be great! It was stunning…
A Different Kind of Holiday Magic
To be in the warmth of the Canaries’ winter sun, to hike in the rainforests and stare at the ocean from our hotel – this is a special place to be. Last year, 12 women decided to give it a go, and we all connected over our own reasons for wanting to be away. Sometimes, we shared stories; other times, we just walked. All being guided by our wonderful local guide, Rene.
I think we would all say we found a new kind of holiday magic in the beauty of La Gomera’s landscapes and all it has to offer. The hotel is such a relaxing space with two swimming pools, spas, massage, tennis courts, and so many things on offer if you want more to do. There are walks to look at the night sky to visit the hotel gardens, and hear about how they run an environmental hotel. Overlooking the ocean, you start your day with breakfast on the terrace – we feel this is a perfect, tranquil spot to get away from it all.
The walks are so varied, and they really give you a chance to explore and discover this lesser-known Canary Island. Last year, some people walked only in the mornings, preferring to have their own time in the afternoons. At the same time, other women wanted to have more of a challenge and walk all day into the evenings. This holiday is about ‘getting away’ and making the holiday as you would like it. There is so much on offer to do lots or do nothing. This year, there will be a chance to go whale watching, which is quite a unique festive offer.
So if the trepidation of spending the festive season alone can be overwhelming and you feel you would like to try something new ( or come back again!) to spend time with like-minded women on a beautiful island, then this could be the holiday for you.
So take that leap and embark on your own adventure this Christmas!
If you would like to join the WalkingWomen Holiday in La Gomera click here to learn more.