, 2022-10-17 01:00:00,
When I was at school, there was a clear demarcation of who sat where on the coach. The cool kids sat at the back, the ones who were likely to be sick sat at the front, and the rest of us sat in the middle – a morass of ordinariness.
I was reminded of this on a coach trip around Italy a few years ago when, within minutes of taking my seat, I heard a voice coming from the back that cut through the cacophony of 30 or so people trying to arrange their luggage and limbs comfortably on board.
Her pitch carried like an arrow, finding its target – me – and raising my shackles. Though I couldn’t work out what connected the various English, Canadians and Americans who made up that ebullient group, this was clearly some kind of reunion, and she – Lucie – was the one person everyone else most wanted to speak to.
In contrast to the bonhomie emanating from the back, I sat silently in my seat, hankering down, wondering what I’d done. Old anxieties came to the fore. What if I was the only solo traveller? What if this trip only extenuated my loneliness?
I had chosen my break carefully: it was the biggest step I had yet taken towards re-orbiting life after a prolonged depression. I had considered – and dismissed – Cornwall, with a stash of wine and books (too isolating, inebriating and introspective); walking in the Highlands (too inclement and introspective) and a retreat in Wales (too introspective, full stop). Finally, I had settled on an Italian road trip with Insight…
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