When we visited the home for under 5 year olds my heartstrings were pulled at. Now that I have my own child, it breaks my heart to meet children who are not able to be with their families. I just wanted to pick them all up and give them big hugs.
I never questioned whether it was meant to be - I knew instantly I’d keep the baby, but I felt so alone and scared.
The biomes are impressive displays of scientific prowess and artistic beauty. But what impressed me most about this tourist attraction - often referred to as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ - was the spirit in which it was created.
I depleted all the Euros I had on me (ready to be converted into Serbian Dinar when I arrived) to catch the next connecting flight to Zurich. Strong winds above the Swiss Alps left the pilot unable to land which meant I had to backtrack to Ghent if I wanted to get to Serbia at all. Sixteen hours later I arrived with no money, no luggage and almost no life left in me.
Mom did not have a glamorous life for sure, anything but; she had a very challenging life. But she always rose to those challenges. And that drive and determination was instilled in me by her. It's funny how life is, generally we want all we can for our children, it's a given. But there was I, wanting more for my mother.
My mum asks me to send her a postcard from wherever I go, and every time she receives them, she gives me a call and tells me how excited she is that I have visited yet another country on my list. She keeps count of the number of countries I've seen and is my biggest supporter when it comes to getting out there and making the most of it, no matter how much she misses me while I'm away.
Although I am primarily a solo traveller, I often say it’s not about what you see when travelling, but who you see it with.
The best part of this story is I moved to my mum’s hometown - a small village in London called Barnes, where her mum still lives as well as her sister. My day involves walking the same paths she did, taking the same buses, visiting the same stores, smelling the same smells and exploring the same sites.
Then suddenly, our three-year-old son simply let go of my hand, ran off, got through the barriers and started patting the Liberty Bell with a big proud smile like it was his new treasure… A second later two security guys approached me with the look on their face like we just killed someone.
I can’t remember exactly what we talked about, but what I do remember is the bright, cheery sound of her voice. It was probably mid-afternoon in New Zealand, perhaps my little brother had just woken up from his nap, and she chatted to me about normal life and made me feel as though I wasn’t alone. It was such a warm contrast from the deadly quiet, pitch black streets.
I should mention my mom is five feet nothing and a tiny little blonde woman – and never once did she give the impression that she couldn’t do something.
I remember thinking at this exact moment how wonderful it is to be with your sister and mum. This was the first time we had gone away just us three and we kept on saying how lovely it was sitting with the sun on our backs and being happy together.
I learned not to judge and to be kind. I learned to take leaps of faith because often they deliver you right where you’re meant to be, and as a result, I met and fell in love with my now husband.
My mum cut her first trip to Paris short, vowing that one day she would take her future family there, and truly experience the beauties of the French capital. Nearly 30 years later, she did.
My dear mum had passed away the year before. She knew that I had always, always wanted to go to Greece. A painting of Santorini she did for me hangs on my wall – not her best work (as she aged her Parkinson’s got the better of her magical artistic talent), but filled with love, just for me.
There was never a dull moment growing up with a woman who lived life with passion and craved adventure. I inherited these qualities from her, and I am forever grateful.
Being the worrier I am, I was more on the half-glass-empty kind of side, but getting out of the cold and having a change of scenery won the bid, and there we were.
I returned home and sold my store and planned to move to Australia for a year. This was one of the biggest decisions of my life so far. But even though I felt nervous, I felt very alive.
When I was growing up, my grandfather told me that I was an Irish princess and that I descended from a line of brilliant Irish kings. I believed in this fairy tale until I was old enough to know better, much to my grandfather’s amusement and delight.