Alexandra Sifferlin wrote in Time magazine an article called “The Healing Power of Nature” (July 25, 2016). Sifferlin cited research showing nature’s role in promoting cancer-fighting cells, lowering blood pressure, and helping to reduce depression and anxiety. This last part, I agree with and know to be true–for me. In fact, it had only been moments before reading this article that my friend Adam asked me, “your nerves been ok?”
Those who know me well know I suffer from anxiety. I get anxious about everything and absolutely nothing.
Part of being an introvert is the need to recharge one’s batteries. For me, a private, quiet space fulfills two purposes, it recharges my batteries and calms my nerves. And I can usually accomplish this in an hour during the day, excusing myself from any companions, and hiding away in my bedroom.
The day I wrote about in “All around Me…” came about the day after I had one of my anxiety attacks. On this day, recharging my batteries as per usual was not enough. I spent the entire day inside, overwhelmed by the traffic everywhere, overwhelmed by the thought of crossing the street and walking into a store, overwhelmed by choosing where to go, and overwhelmed at feeling I needed to write another entry in my blog. And my answer to this all was to stay inside my hotel room watching the entire series Stranger Things on Netflix and playing Solitaire on my computer.
So wasn’t I surprised at myself when I gathered my luggage and my nerves together and headed to the train station for Cardiff Bay, Wales in search of The Doctor. I was traveling solo to a country I had never been, taking an unusual form of transportation (for me), and staying at someone’s home—someone I had never met, someone I had chosen based on reviews on the airbnb website (and no, I had never done airbnb). And I was doing all of this for one thing—to get my geek on at The Doctor Who Experience. “Was it worth it?” I wondered.
Getting to the train station? Easy. Take an Uber and let the driver figure out where it is.
Buy my ticket? No problem.
Find my platform…I got this.
Get on the train. Check.
Then I arrived at the Cardiff station, and I was supposed to be taking a bus? I think? to Cardiff Bay. But there were subways and trains and busses, oh my. “Where the hell do I go now?” I asked myself. (I may have said this last bit out loud, which would explain why that kid walking by looked at me funny.)
I stopped at an information station, a kiosk with a screen at face level and one aimed at my crotch. I pressed the button, showed the voice my ticket via the crotch camera, and into the face camera I smiled and squeaked, “help.”
Help came out in a brogue I could not make out clearly, but I heard “platform six,” and that’s all I needed to find my way—well, not exactly.
Two elevators and an escalator later, I said, “Screw this,” went outside, hopped in a cab and, once again, let a driver take over. But five pounds wasn’t so bad, and I had arrived.
“This is as far as I can take you,” said the driver. “Cars aren’t allowed beyond here, but it’s the big building at the end.”
“Cars aren’t allowed here? Seriously?” I thought.
Lest you mistake my tone here, I was thrilled. I had enough of cars everywhere. I loved the idea of no cars being let in.
I happily dragged my luggage down the sidewalk. And, bam, this was my view…no wait a minute, that was my view from the taxi, but is this really a brain factory? I’ll take a dozen to go, please.
Now hold on, I have my view from the apartment building somewhere…
And how did I spend my first night? Out exploring? Nope… After locking myself in my room the day of arrival—skipping dinner, afraid of the unknown to come the next morning, I found getting around Cardiff Bay has actually been easy and lovely for the anxious, solo traveler such as me. I wandered out on the second day in search of coffee and breakfast. When my anxiety is up against my hunger, hunger tends to win.
I studied the map on my phone as if I were preparing for my graduate exams. I was ready to pass this test. Starbucks at some place called Mermaid Quay was my destination. Starbucks I knew. Starbucks was comfortable.
My map had shown a bridge, and I knew where that was. I crossed the bridge, putting my phone away–no aids allowed for this test–and I walked.
I walked passed pretty buildings with gorgeous mixtures of wood,
concrete, and steel .
I stopped to take pictures of the gorgeous bay. I looked up at the giant Ferris Wheel.
I found Mermaid Quay which turned out to be a shopping center and had more restaurants than I would be able to test out during my stay (For you foodies, I will be adding a food section to this blog). I was in the right place. And I had walked here without any roads—without the normal roads with cars driving on them that is (and driving on the wrong side, I might add).
I was in heaven.
I saw a sign for Welsh coffee.
I was heading to Starbucks, but I’d never had Welsh coffee, and it was right there, so a latte and a Victorian Sponge Cake,a table in the corner by the window to people watch, a travel magazine, and I wanted to be no other place.
Running happened as well—and without the use of a treadmill as I’d done in London. I knew there was a bike trail around the smaller Roath Basin, so I started there. But it was a mile around, and I wanted more. I started again, tried a different route, another mile, and I was back again. I sufficed with showering and heading out to a sushi dinner.
Sunday morning, I was going to try again, this time braving the six-mile trail. I had my phone with Google Maps in case I got lost. I didn’t want to use up my data, so no streamed music to listen to, but that was ok. I had plenty of gorgeous sites to see, miles of nature: bikers, runners, walkers, the bay, beautiful homes on the bay, boats, and even swans mooning me from the water, and I only had to deal with cars at intersections here and there, for cars were prohibited from most of the trail.
That night, I rewarded myself with dinner at a French Restaurant.
Happy with a wine buzz and a delicious Duck dinner (take that mooning swan—duck, swan—close enough),
I walked around aimlessly. There was my smile again.
I ran this morning as well and had planned on going into Cardiff to see a castle afterwards, but here on the balcony I sit, and I feel no guilt.
I can hear the seagulls up above, see a bicyclist on the path below and water and mountains in the distance.
All I have to say is anxiety be damned.
I’m relaxing in the heavenly Cardiff Bay.