What a difference 24 hours can make...
This time yesterday, despite it being my birthday, I felt just... Meh. I couldn’t put a finger on the source of my low mood, but I felt totally crappy. I think it’s been a build up of a lot of recent stress, which came to a head when my birthday meant that I was out of my usual ‘routine.’ As I often explain, my anorexia thrives on self-control and meticulous routine. In a way, anorexia is my coping mechanism against stress, but it is also a creator of further discontentment. It’s a vicious circle. As long as I can fulfil its strict routines and rituals, my anorexia is mostly manageable on a day-to-day basis. Obviously, this is highly unrealistic, because life is nothing if not unpredictable. I can limit the stress I put myself under, but I can’t avoid it all together.
So yeah, combine a testing few weeks with birthday cakes being consumed outside of my designated ‘treat days’ and celebratory outings with friends and family restricting my usual exercise schedule, and the whole thing just sent me on a bit of a wobble yesterday.
Off out to explore Brussels! Feeling smiley again 🥰
But, in contrast to yesterday’s sorrow, I feel totally different today. After a shitty few weeks, I feel like ME again! Welcome back, Cazza B!
As I write, I’m sat in the most luxurious hotel room in Brussels, relishing in yet another solo adventure.
I’ve had a flawless first day bursting with all of my favourite things, and top it off, when I turned my phone on after the flight, Josh text me to say that he’d managed to get Arctic Monkeys tickets for their 2023 tour!
(Alex Turner is my all-time, number one BAE. Don’t tell Richard Madden.)
Oh, and my hotel has DOGS in it! I was greeted at reception by two Boston Terriers, and how could a day with dogs in it be anything other than perfect?!
Writing in Grand Place - my paradise this afternoon ❤️
My hotel host handed me a map as I headed out to explore (the human host, not the Boston Terriers. They presented me with a tennis ball instead). I discarded the map, as I always prefer to find my own way around. I have made it my tradition to ignore maps and just simply walk instead. I love to immerse myself in the vibe of the place I’m in, and how better to do that than to get lost?
I’m always surprised by the revelation that I actually feel the most at home when getting lost aboard. The fact is, when I find myself misplaced upon the cobbles of whichever European city has most recently stolen my heart, I am aware that the tensions I was hoarding have also been lost.
In getting lost, I have been set free.
When you solo travel, you find parts of yourself you never imagined existed, and you rejoice in the blossoming knowledge that you’re a hell of a lot tougher and braver than life would sometimes have you believe. It’s good to remind yourself of this sometimes; it’s good to remind yourself who YOU are. You are not the downtrodden version of yourself that you have recently been rendered to by the negative inputs of life and of others.
Travelling solo is hugely character building (...much like the fact that I didn’t do my research before this trip and nearly got fleeced £200 in taxi fares to the city centre – don’t ask!!). 🤣
In theory, if you have the balls to navigate your way across a foreign city on your own, with a dead phone and all of the bilingual talents of a mute moth, then surely you can tackle life’s more trivial bullshit head-on. It just puts things into perspective, and sometimes, when the world feels as though it’s being swept from under our feet, we could all benefit from a bit of perspective.
I’ve got this.
Found this in a bookshop today, and yeah, I couldn't agree more, tbh.
My solo travels are the equivalent of shutting the door on reality, if only for a few days. My time spent alone in various corners of Europe is my remedy to recharge.
Happily, I’m reminded that all I really need in life is running, a laptop, notepad, pens, a few books, and my headphones. And pasta.
The most beautiful umbrella ❤️
I adore Brussels. This isn’t my first fling with the city; my love affair goes way back. The year have span between us, but I still feel the same. You know a place is special when it still makes your heart skip a beat after a significant amount of time apart.
Brussels is a stunning, compact, shy little city packing a punch in charm. With startling slashes of modern input bounding out between its well-renowned, sensational history, Brussels really is an endlessly surprising and joyfully mesmerising city to spend time with.
I could honestly stand in the middle of the Grand Place for days on end and still fail to comprehend every heart-stopping detail of the magnificent architecture.
And the bold cascades of street art are equally as thrilling to encounter!
The other thing I have noticed, with much amusement, is that the whole city actually smells like chocolate! It's such a novel revelation, but totally accurate, and somehow, it just enhances the whole experience. Old Town Brussels just has this aura of a fairytale setting.
Look at that street art!!! 😍
Today has revived me, just as I suspected it would.
I’ve been so bloody burned out recently, but I knew all I needed was some space and time alone to refresh my mind and have a strong word with myself.
It’s all about bringing it back to basics and indulging in my own personal little staples of happiness. So that’s been the theme of today: happiness. Self-medication. Cara Day.
I appreciated every single second of the flight, and the rare opportunity to just simply sit and allow my imagination to take me to another world.
I was seduced by Alex Turner’s voice through my headphones.
I trekked every inch of the city until my feet blistered.
I took myself out for a date and had a delectable ‘poke bowl’ for lunch.
I sat below a rejuvenating canopy of weeping willow trees and simply breathed in the corn-flower sky.
I sought out a traditional Belgian chocolatier and indulged in some truffles.
I bought a beautiful new vase for my kitchen.
I sat on a step in the Grand Place and wrote, as the afternoon breeze whispered in my ear, gently lifting my hair.
I played tennis ball with a pair of Boston Terriers.
F you anorexia, these bad boys are mine!! 🤤
Day one of my Belgian adventure has been blissful, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. That’s the funny thing about life; just when you feel like giving up, something always comes along and saves you, reminding you of your purpose, and all of the tiny little elements that make your existence whole.
I pledge to continue filling my life with lovely little things: running, beautiful books, breathtaking quotes, spine-tingling views, great food, music that makes me want to jump up and down on the bed in my pants, writing, and succumbing to the pull of my imagination every now and again.
It really is, a wonderful world.
Cara Jasmine Bradley