When Rachel bagged a free last-minute place on a writer’s course in Barcelona, she jumped on a plane to Barcelona to put pen to paper among a deeply supportive group of women.
Rachel was born in Yorkshire, moved to the Midlands at the age of 4, to Oxfordshire to work in a hotel at 16, and at 17 followed the hotel owners to Somerset, sticking around Devon, Somerset and Cornwall for several years. But her travel bug really began in the ‘70s when her parents took her to Spain several times, igniting a life-long love for the country.
“Rachel’s tale of life-long dreams and happy coincidences will have you reaching for your passport and journal.”
Before I moved from Devon to Andalucia in 1996, I sold a gold bracelet to pay for a home-based Travel Writer's Course. I really enjoyed it and dreamt of travelling to places and staying at hotels I knew I'd never be able to afford.
Once in Andalucia, my husband and I renovated a house as a holiday rental home and I started writing a blog, Andalucia Explorer, to promote our whole area as well as our vacation home. That was about 8 years ago. Before that, I had dabbled with some children's stories when my boys were young; I was short-listed in one competition, but didn't take it any further. I’ve also got Luxury Spain Travel, which is growing slowly, and my baby, Only Spain ~ Boutique Hotels – and yes, I get to stay in some lovely place because of my writing and blogs/websites!
Last year I was following a Facebook page called Pink Pangea and saw an online hour-long Travel Writer session. I signed up, arrived late due to bad internet connection – and loved it. I felt free to write and share if I wanted to; because I didn't know anyone, they couldn't see me and so I didn't feel very embarrassed. Feedback from the course tutor and other participants was good and it felt so freeing to actually share something I'd written. Even though I'd been blogging I was embarrassed, felt it wasn't very good. I think most people know what I mean. When you first start something new you are unsure of yourself, people's view of you, and what you're doing.
“Confidence, I now think, is not only a process but finding that desire and knowledge that if you want to do something YOU have to do it. Nobody else can or will do it for you.”
I joined the Pink Pangea closed writer group on Facebook and one day saw a notice saying something along the lines of ‘Last-minute free place on a Travel Writer Course in Barcelona’. My heart started pounding. I wanted it. I wanted to go. Then I saw the date or hour had passed by. What a downer. From soaring, to the floor. I wasn't about to roll over so easily so I posted a comment saying that I had only just seen the announcement, I only lived 1,000km away in the south of Spain, I would have applied if I'd seen it sooner, and that I'd done an online course with them before.
Well, I was amazed to receive a private reply saying to put in my application and it would be considered. I trolled over my application email, made sure I'd complied with all the requisites, why I should be considered etc. My finger hovered many times over the send button, but I didn't dare do it. Why? I really had to ask my husband. The travel writer course and hotel was covered but flights and meals would be at my cost and my 3 sons still lived at home so I needed hubby's blessing. What do you think were my first words when he arrived home? Oh yes, straight in there! I told him about it, made out I probably wouldn't even get the place and was it OK to apply? He said yes, my finger hit that send button as quickly as possible, and I did get the place – for 5 days later!
Barcelona had been a dream destination for a long time and taking part in a Writer's Course too. I'd looked many times at courses available in Spain but it was a dream.
“How could I go away on my own leaving my 3 sons and husband and pay for a course?”
Now here it was, in my lap. I was so excited, and nervous too. I checked out all the travel possibilities to get there; in the end I drove hours south to Malaga airport, flew to Barcelona and took a taxi to the hotel on the famous 'La Rambla'
I arrived at the hotel reception as the course members were getting together for their first meeting. It was an all-ladies course and there were five of us plus Jaclyn, the course instructor/facilitator.
On each of the 5 days, we had a session of writing exercises, some which were shared, others not, and homework for the following day. I admit there wasn't as much writing as I'd imagined but then there was more free time to explore Barcelona than I'd thought too. So looking back I like that balance.
As a group, we gelled quickly. It was small and intimate and everyone felt happy sharing. Our writing soon got more personal because we felt safe and comfortable sharing some laughs and very touching intimate moments.
Our ages in the group ranged from 30 to 65 and our lives and experiences let alone geographical zones couldn't have been more different, but that was good. One lady was from Canada, 2 from the States and 1 from Norway but living in Paris. We formed a Facebook group afterwards but, nearly a year later, that has fizzled out although I am still in touch with the only other group member older than me – she’s coming to visit me and Spain soon – and with the youngest member, via social media where we comment, tweet, share each other’s work and reminisce.
The course, the experience, the writing and sharing, the exploring a city that I so wanted to discover, and the sense of help and support that we all felt – I wouldn't have missed these for the world. And now I yearn to rediscover.
“If you want to step out of your comfort zone and haven't done so yet I say - DO IT. What is there to lose compared to what you will take away from it?”