Let the Adventures Begin Again

I thought our first blog of the trip was going to be super boring, a rant about how unhappy we are to have left home and how difficult it is to adjust to meaningless wandering with no schedule again. I should have known better. With nine dogs to keep things interesting, including four very naughty puppies, how could our first day be anything but an adventure?

Today’s adventure took place in Belgium, at a rest stop near Brussels. Using our trusty European Truck Stop app, Travis was able to find a place that had multiple reviews stating an open gate that would lead to a big free area where we could run the dogs off leash for a few hours. As usual, the information was reliable and the dogs spent a happy twenty minutes or so running around and doing their business while Trav caught up with his girlfriend Georgia and I moped around feeling irritable. Eventually, we figured it was time for feeding, since we’d been on the road all morning and had made everyone skip breakfast since it was too busy at the truck stop we spent the night at to safely have all the dogs out at once. Everyone seemed calm, the area seemed secure, so Trav went back to the caravan to get feeds and I stayed to watch the hooligans.

Within minutes, Zima, typically, decided to lead her brothers on a scouting expedition through the wooded areas surrounding our clearing. I followed at first, calling half heartedly to them and glancing back now and again to be sure the older dogs were with me. After getting caught in a couple of pricker bushes, I stopped and realised that Nibble had remained where she was at the gate, intently watching for Travis’s return. Nervous about leaving her where I couldn’t see her when the general public could wander in at any time, I backtracked, reasoning that the puppies wouldn’t get far by the time Travis returned with food, and hungry as they were bound to be, they’d return quickly at the sound of a shaken food bowl… this method worked at home when they wandered out of eyesight after all.

I confidently shook a food bowl and called for Zima and Dobbie a few times, then waited without concern to see the four of them flying towards me, eager for their late breakfast. After a minute or two, I took a few steps towards where I’d last seen their white tipped tails and shook the bowl a little more ferociously, adding in Slade and Balkan’s names and a slightly panicked “PUPPIES,” which we’d used to round them up their entire lives. The adults chowed down while I walked deeper into the woods, and the thorny branches now springing up everywhere. I tried to remind myself that there wasn’t really anywhere for them to get off too, and that they had probably just wandered slightly out of hearing. Travis went in the opposite direction while I started shaking the food bowl constantly and we both called, increasingly desperate and irritated, for our brats. Three or four minutes later, we regrouped where the older dogs had finished eating and agreed that he would take them back to the caravan, change into pants to protect himself from the thorns, while I headed out into the cornfields just behind the woods. Travis’s annoyance was plain, he hadn’t wanted to let them all off at once anyways, and I was trying to cover my concern with a airy comment about how they’d surely be back as soon as we went looking for them properly.

I followed the trail the puppies had created in the tall grass until I reached the cornfield. There was no sign of them anywhere, and only the rustling of the cornstalks breaking up a rather deafening silence. Even the sounds of the nearby highways were muffled in all that corn, and I wished I’d brought Wasi along to keep me company. I wandered back and forth for a few minutes, trying to make a game out of my panic by pretending I was a tracker of old. I scanned the ground for paw prints, confident that four still clumsy puppies would have left an easily followable trail in the deep, impressionable dirt. It took me a few minutes, but I did eventually stumble on a paw print that clearly belonged to a Slade or Balkan. Success, I thought, check me out, tracker extraordinaire! It bothered me a little that there was only one clear print, and none of the jumble of tracks you’d expect from four dogs running together. But I followed the prints I could see every few feet, shaking that food bowl, confident I would stumble onto them at any minute.

Twenty minutes later, with scratches covering every body part, and an itch spreading across my legs and arms from god knows what was on all those thorns and stickers, I broke free of the corn field to a clear walking path. A field of cows were to my right, with an open meadow to my left before it turned in to what appeared to be a Christmas tree farm. The paw prints I’d been following were long gone and after so long struggling along the edge of the cornfield, I was able to orient myself only because the highway was now directly in front of me. The puppies were no where to be seen. I struggled to hold back tears and to silence the berating voice in my head that was reminding me that if they were gone, it was my fault. I spotted our truck stop back to my right and after a few more shakes of the bowl and desperate calls of “PUPPIES,” I headed back. I was trying to reassure myself that they were all microchipped, all had dog tags with Travis’s phone number and our social media tag line, hell they even still had their haltis on so someone would pick them up and get in touch. We’d planned to spend the night there anyways so surely they’d either be found or wander back in at some point in the next few hours.

I braced myself to walk back into the thorns edging the cornfield, wondering if this rest stop had a shower because I was going to need one to wash off all the sweat and whatever poison those prickers had got me with. I could feel blood dripping from the scratches on my legs and sighed at the thought of a pair of my favourite pants gone. It’s crazy what you think about in a crisis isn’t it? About 100 yards along the field, I ran across the start of fencing the truck stop was on the other side of. I glanced up at some trash cans and saw a flash of white… Zima and all three of her brothers were happily digging through what they could reach on the ground. She must have smelled me, because before I could say anything, she looked over and let out a happy bark. All four of them bounced over to the fence line, tails wagging, clearly pleased with themselves and not the least bit stressed from their adventures. They were lucky a fence was between us, because I was torn between overwhelming relief and a very strong desire to beat the lot of them. In the end I just stared for a minute while I took ten deep breaths before shaking the bowl again so they’d follow me and starting along the fence line towards the gate. I had to come off the fence for a while to fight my way back through to the clearing, and I ran into Travis, who promptly jumped over the barbed wire surrounding the corn and went off to round them up. It took me another three or four minutes to fight through the thorns and stickers, and, helpful bitch (literally and figuratively) that she is, Zima reappeared a minute or so in to lead me out… easy for her to do since she could duck under the majority of what was holding me back.

If you’re wondering, there’s no point in scolding them since they had, after all, returned. So we fed them, made a lot of comments to each other about how they’re never coming off their leashes ever again, took stock of our injuries and took them back to the caravan for water and their crate. Exhausted, mentally and physically form the ordeal, I sat down on the sidewalk and was promptly surrounded by happy, not the least bit apologetic puppies. Zima climbed in my lap for a snuggle and I started to laugh… while we definitely will not be repeating this experience (I hope), at least it had forced me to think about something other then missing home. You can always count on the Travelling Menagerie for an adventure!

Six Month Reflection

It’s almost impossible to believe that today marks six full months of travel. If you had told me this time last year that I would be in Bulgaria, having been on the road for 26 weeks, been through 15 countries, seen countless incredible sights, made so many wonderful friends, and managed to add seven more dogs to my Menagerie (oops), I would have rolled my eyes and told you you were crazier then I am, and that’s saying something. Yet here I sit, tucked in the little caravan that has been my home for the last six months, and I have done all of those things and more. It’s weird to contemplate how different my life is then I thought it would be a year ago, and more, to really grasp how I feel about the changes.

I “knew” travelling with all my animals around Europe with no plan and little money was going to be challenging. Everyone knew that. But I had no idea just how plain hard it would be. I could never have anticipated the stress involved with not being able to afford campsites, food, gas, and vet care. I couldn’t have known how often we would be coasting in to a truck stop on the last fumes of gas, or what it would be like to not be able to find any rest stops as the last rays of sun were setting behind yet another mountain. When we lost phone service and reliable WiFi we faced a generational challenge that I know our parents would have laughed at… but you can’t find truck stops on a map!!

The reality of six large dogs and five cats cooped up in a tiny caravan and car is actually brutal… there is nothing fun or exciting about it. It’s dirty, hairy, smelly, and crowded. No amount of vacuuming or wiping down can keep the sheer volume of animal at bay. On the days when there’s no place for off leash walking, the dogs pick fights with each other and the cats to work off energy. Or they bark incessantly until your head wants to explode and you can’t think straight.

I’ve struggled with nightmares and insomnia for years due to PTSD, but on this trip sleep has become a distant memory. The few hours I do catch are often interrupted by high beams at truck stops, drunks throwing up in front of the caravan, or dogs and cats simply stepping all over me in an effort to find a place to lay down. And the fact that I haven’t had any sleep doesn’t stop the fact that they all want breakfast, potty breaks, and walks at the crack of dawn. There’s no option to just throw the door open and let them run around the yard for a bit like back home… it requires fully getting up, getting dressed, putting on leashes, yelling for everyone to shut up and sit down so you can do all those things, and then being dragged out the door and across a parking lot to the nearest grass so the business can get underway. This is rain or shine, snow or blazing heat, day and night. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve closed my eyes and wished myself back to England in my great big house with my huge fenced garden and a husband to lean on when it gets to be too much for me. That’s not an option out here on the road so we just get on with it, albeit with plenty of griping and swearing at the animals and at each other when Trav and I have reached the end of our ropes.

Other challenges are more unexpected. Laundry has been our biggest shock. Laundromats such as we have back in the States are not a thing through much of Europe, especially not in small town, rural Europe where we spend the vast majority of our time. We can go a month between finding laundry options and while I have enough clothes to get through it, poor Travis suffers. More, the bedding suffers. Usually I would change sheets once a week at minimum… I’m used to hair but this is a whole different ball game and it drives me crazy. Showering is another issue. In countries with good truck stops we did okay, but when we entered the Balkans, things weren’t so easy. Here in Bulgaria we have access to a house and shower, except it’s winter time, and the pipes freeze regularly. We’ve gotten real good at washing by baby wipes or showering in 60 seconds when there’s enough hot water to do so. They claim that not washing your hair too often is actually good for it… well mine is being put to the ultimate test; I’m not sure I’m impressed.

The reality of life on the road is that there isn’t a lot of what you see in the photos or on those travel shows. We sight see once in a blue moon and in some counties have missed the best sights altogether because they aren’t practical with dogs in tow. It’s not one big adventure day to the next; most of the time it’s just trying to stretch the last few dollars to feed us all until next month’s pay check and be able to afford the gas to get us to the next country or safe place. It’s wondering how to cook food with no stove and no place to start a fire, and how to stay warm with no electricity when the temperatures drop below zero (the animals are real helpful there)! It’s never knowing where we are or where we’re going next, and often not being able to read the signs that are directing us there. It’s a lot of communication by hand and Google translate and often knowing that neither party has a clue what’s been said. It’s hard and it’s depressing and it’s frustrating and it’s often lonely even with each other and the animals for company.

But all that being said, I wouldn’t take back a single moment of the last six months. We maybe be living rough, we may be taking the longer, tougher road, but damn are we living life to the fullest. No one can say that we haven’t taken the bit in our teeth and ran with it.

I’ve bathed in a lake in Denmark and stood on the spot where two seas meet. I’ve traversed most of Poland in an attempt to enter the Ukraine (which admittedly failed). But I’ve walked the castle in Krakow and gazed through the gates of Auschwitz. I’ve ridden native horses in the Czech Republic and watched traditional song and dance at one of their local village fairs. We made friends there, from both the Czech and from all the way from China. In Austria we may have seen some of the worst of life, but we also saw some of the best. I drove Standardbred racehorses and summitted my first mountains. I rode in ski lifts with my service dogs and danced on the streets of Hallstatt with Wasi. I saw Vienna through my family’s eyes, rediscovered Austria’s beauty through them when it had all gone a bit sour. The friends we made it Austria will be ones we keep for life: we’ve revisited some already and have others coming to see us next month! I finally made it to Italy, and the magic of Venice. There’s more to discover there but at least I got a taste. A dear friend joined us there and made it all the more special.

Entering the Balkans, we had no expectations, no ideas of what life would be like here. In Croatia we were introduced to Rakia (ewww by the way), perfect beaches and the friendliest people around. Bosnia and Herzegovina stole my heart with its unexpected charm and harsh mountain beauty. There I rode horses free across lands littered with the ruins of ancient people’s. The recent tragedy only made the people’s determination to move forward all the more inspiring. We lived in a town that had been at the center of the war, where houses still bore the bullet holes and bombed out craters of the violence. Our hosts there has experienced the war first hand, one on the front lines, another having to give up his eight month old daughter to keep her safe. The shadows of what they lived through was often still visible in their eyes and their hard exterior, though when you got to know them, they were people just like us who wanted peace and prosperity just like people everywhere. They shared their stories and it was impossible not to feel their pain. It was humbling and frightening and inspiring all at once.

Our time in Serbia was too short but we reunited with one of the friends we made in Austria and he shared life there with us. We met his family, had dinner made by his grandmother (amazing by the way). We helped move a (very large) pig and played with some piglets. Our friend shared his family’a story with us, how life had improved for them but there was still more they hoped to do with the house. We talked about the protests in Belgrade and how politics are the same no matter where you are in the world. And again it was brought home to us how very alike people are, no matter where they may be… we’re really all the same at heart.

Now we’re in Bulgaria. In the last six months we’ve rescued two dogs and successfully rehomed one. The second dog has a home waiting for her when she weans her puppies. Somehow I’m once again raising a litter of six puppies born on my bed, nearly seven years exactly since my Nefsi was born. I was just divorced then too; how’s that for life coming full circle? My own dogs and cats are happy and healthy. Wasi will celebrate his one year birthday tomorrow; he will have spent exactly half his life living on the road. That’s one well travelled pup! We lost our precious Sami but we’ve never forgotten her, not even for a moment… she’s still apart of our Menagerie in spirit.

I don’t know what happens next. I don’t know where we will go when our time in Bulgaria is up, or how we will get there. Outside factors have made life all the more difficult right now; especially financially, but I imagine we will get through it. I long to return to England, to my horses, my friends, my life there, but I know it’s not possible right now. There’s so much more to see, so much more to do, and we’ve finally gotten the hang of this life on the road so I suppose we should take advantage; lord knows I’ll never do a trip quite this way again! But it’s certainly been one hell of an adventure so far, and I’m glad it’s not over yet!

Pet Food

I feel like I’ve found a home here in Bulgaria, after only 24 hours. Our hostess, Dee, is basically me in 20 more years… she also has six dogs, countless cats, and she moved to Bulgaria so she could have horses again. Her lifestyle is simple and uncomplicated and revolves around her son and her animals. This is the life I want to have, one where it doesn’t really matter how dirty my floors are because I’m not inside enough to notice.

We spent the day watching the dogs enjoy their freedom here for a few hours before we embarked on an adventure to find pet food. Feeding the animals has easily been one of the most challenging parts of our trip. In England, my dogs were fed a custom dog food made specifically for each of them individually. Six different bags were delivered every month, along with their cups already measured to serving size. The dogs had beautiful coats, normal bowel movements, and were happy and healthy. My cats were on Royal Cabin Ragdoll, also a custom made food for the breed.

For the first month of travel we had stocked up enough of their custom food that we had no issues with feeding. We knew we’d have to switch eventually, but figured we wouldn’t have too many issues finding a new, quality food. How wrong we were. Pet food is different in every country, and the prices vary from super cheap to insanely pricey. We’re on a budget obviously, so were looking for decent quality without breaking the bank.

We learned quickly that switching dog foods was the fastest way to dogs with constantly upset stomachs. No matter how hard we tried, we often couldn’t find the same brand to keep the food consistent. In fact, there are only two brands that we can find with absolute surety no matter where we are: Royal Canin and Pedigree. Now I love Royal Canin, but the pricing is often crippling, especially because usually it’s found at a vet’s office. Moreover, finding consistency within the brand has been challenging, and finding the Ragdoll feed specifically has been impossible. We went a few rounds with it early on, but we ended up with more upset stomachs and a screaming bank account.

After nearly three months, I had to admit defeat. Pedigree is everywhere, they sell the exact same type in all countries, they have a puppy food for Wasi, and the price doesn’t break the bank. I wince every time I feed, because I’m a pet food snob and would never have imagined feeding my precious animals such a low quality food. But with consistency has come calm tummies and much happier dogs. The cats have to settle for Whiskas, another brand that sells everywhere in the world apparently. They’re less impressed with their lot then the dogs, but they eat it so that’s something.

Even though these two brands are sold everywhere, normal people don’t have six large dogs to feed, and finding the big bags is always hard. We spent over three hours this afternoon, driving from pet store to pet store trying to track down the big bags so we wouldn’t have to buy a million smaller ones (one 15 kg bag lasts us about 5 days, imagine how many small bags we’d need). Eventually, we stumbled on a store that had two bags of adult, one bag of puppy, and lots of Whiskas for the cats. The store has agreed to stock those bags for us every two weeks while we are here, so score for having a regular supply! I wonder if we can talk Pedigree and Whiskas in to sponsoring us, we could be the spokesperson for them literally around the world at this point!

Road Life

The last three days things have been pretty much back to “normal;” at least our version of normal on the road. They’ve consisted of a lot of driving, and a lot of time sitting around at truck stops sleeping and reading and watching the dogs get more and more restless since there’s no safe place for a proper walk. Oddly, it’s been comforting to be back to doing what we’re used to after having stopped in one place for so long. However, the lack of showers at Croatian truck stops is a real downer, and I’m starting to not be able to tell the difference between my own stench and that of the dogs (that’s when you know it’s been too long).

We haven’t had any huge excitements on the road, other than being pulled over, twice, for the first time on the entire trip. We’ve got a headlight out, which was supposed to get replaced when the Suby got its oil change and new battery, but apparently got lost in translation. In both cases, the cops spoke no English whatsoever, and eventually just gave up on trying to lecture us since we clearly had no idea what they were saying. They pointed repeatedly at the headlight, Travis nodded a lot and said he knew, and then they shrugged in disgust at these stupid American tourists and waved us on our way. Travis and I both had to laugh, because this is the first time on the entire trip that we’ve actually got all the paperwork we need for the car, and that Travis has a license in hand, and it’s just pure good luck we haven’t been pulled over before now. I was actually super disappointed when we crossed back in to Croatia and they didn’t ask to see the paperwork we worked so hard to get here!

Speaking of Croatia, we got absolutely nailed by one of their toll roads today! We spent two nights at the truck stop where we met to exchange Kova, as we generally try to avoid driving at night and she was picked up after dark. No biggie, we’ve spent plenty of multi-nights at truck stops, nobody minds. Apparently the toll roads mind though, because even though we were only on the A1 for a total of about 50 miles altogether, we had to pay a whopping €98 when we got off the road. That’s right, 98 EUROS for a road toll! The poor guy at the booth looked as shocked as we did, and I honestly thought it must be a mistake. The whole point of truck stops is so truckers (and other long distance travellers) don’t drive when they are tired; we’ve stayed overnight many times at stops on toll roads and never been hit by a fee like this before. All we can think is that two nights must be some sort of violation on a toll road, weird as that seems to us. Certainly an expensive way to find that out. In any case, we hope that’s it, because we don’t have much choice but to stay at another truck stop on another toll road tonight, and we really can’t afford to pay another €98 for the toll tomorrow when we roll out of here. So fingers crossed for us that one night is okay and that we can afford to leave here tomorrow!

Jajce

I promised myself that I would do mini adventures every other day until Travis’ return, and so far, I’m sticking with it.  Today I had one of those “eyes bigger then your stomach” moments, and planned three towns when one was clearly more than enough.  Not to worry, the town I choose turned out to be nothing short of spectacular and now I have two more mini adventures to the other towns to look forward to!

First, I got the ideas for which places to visit in BiH by asking on my favourite travel FB group, Girls Love Travel.  I received loads of advice on places not to miss and I compiled them into a list that I am working my way through.  Jajce was suggested multiple times, and being only about 75 mins from Kupres, seemed like a good choice for today’s mini adventure.

Jajce is a “large” (for BiH) town situated between two major rivers, the Pliva River and the Vrbas River.  The rivers meet right at the foot of the town, where the Pliva tumbles in to the Vrbas creating one of the most stunning waterfalls I’ve ever seen, with the town as its backdrop.  It’s not often that you get to see a waterfall IN a town, and this town is literally brimming with them!  There are waterfalls welcoming you in, waterfalls bidding you farewell, and even more accompanying you on your stroll through the streets.  I was a rubbernecking pro as I drove around stopping at every turnout trying to get photos of as many as I could!

While I probably could have spent all day just waterfall watching, Jajce has more to offer.  A 14th century fortress still graces the top of the mountain, and makes for an incredible photo op.  You can walk up to the top for views of the whole town, but I had Wasi with me, and had to make the call that it might be a bit too many stairs for his ten month old hips (one of the realities of traveling with and working a still growing Assistance Dog in training).  Instead, Wasi and I went to visit Bear Tower (I couldn’t read the signs to figure out why its called that) and the catacombs.

I wasn’t actually expecting to be allowed in the catacombs with Wasi, since the sign clearly said no dogs and as I’ve mentioned before, Assistance dogs aren’t really a thing in BiH.  But the lady at the ticket stand was so nice, and there weren’t any other visitors, so she let me go on down.  This was Wasi’s very first trip underground, which can be very challenging for dogs; many underground tourist attractions throughout Europe are completely off limits to Assistance Dogs, even Guide Dogs, because many dogs find being underground so uncomfortable they can’t perform.  Wasi walked down the first flight of stairs and into the upper chambers without seeming to notice, but hesitated when I started down to the lower chamber.  Despite being fairly well lit, even I was pretty creeped out, and would have turned back if Wasi wasn’t willing to go any further.  Before I could turn around though, Wasi walked down the stairs and strolled past me.  Sometimes I think we are getting no where with his training, and then he does something like this and reminds me that just because he’s slower then Nefsi, doesn’t mean its not all getting through.

Wasi and I didn’t linger in the catacombs, but took a few photos and then hurried up only to be blinded the moment we stepped back outside.  The weather today was absolute autumn gold, with shining sun and cloudless sky and the last of the warm temperatures so I’ve been warned.  I took advantage by strolling along the town’s cobblestone streets and taking photos of everything from the ruins to the new mosque to (of course) more waterfalls.  Since I had Wasi, I decided to skip another solo meal (with some relief admittedly).  The entire adventure in town probably only lasted around two hours, but once I was back in the car, I knew I had expended all the energy I had for solo adventuring that day and opted to head back to Kupres instead of continuing to the next town on my list.  All in all though, I consider it another successful day of being on my own and not hiding out in the cabin, so definitely a win!

Obstacles to Exploring

I’m on day two of being alone, and I woke up this morning knowing that if I didn’t create a routine that would get me out of bed every day, I was liable to just sit around and sink in to a depression over the next two weeks.  This is one of the main reasons I didn’t opt to travel alone in the first place: I know I am susceptible to regular and often severe bouts of depression, and I find that having someone around to feel responsible to helps me fight them off.  Luckily, I still have the animals to care for, and am responsible for the daily upkeep and exercise of the horses here at the farm, so it should be fairly easy to keep myself on track.

One of the things I’ve promised myself that I will do at least every other day is leave the farm and go out exploring.  This is challenging for me, and not just for the usual reasons of having anxiety and such.  I also don’t have access to WiFi or phone service once I leave the farm, which means getting lost is a very real concern.  Additionally, Assistance Dogs aren’t really a thing here, definitely not outside the major cities, so that means if I want to go inside anywhere, I have to go without Wasi.  I’ve been getting really good at going in to stores and shops without a dog, but always with Travis, so this is going to be a really big push outside my safe zone.

Despite these concerns racing around my head, after I finished my morning chores on the farm, I set off determinedly to check out some of the things in the local area.  I visited the churches in Kupres and Tomislavgrad since I am surprisingly fascinated by churches for a non-religious person.  Part of the reason is the architecture and history of these places for sure, but I think another big factor is the fact that for whatever reason, churches always feel safe to enter without a dog.  Both churches were beautiful, and sadly, both are new.  The church in Kupres was destroyed not once, but twice during the war.  The fact that this history is so recent, literally within my own lifetime, was heart wrenching to think about.

After the churches, I attempted to visit the ancient tombs that are scattered all over this area of BiH.  In one of the tombs, a perfectly intact mummy and his shroud were recovered from 3000 B.C.!  I plan to visit the museum that houses these artefacts at a later date, but for today, I just wanted to wander over the hills that had once housed them.  Except I didn’t do my research very well, and I forgot that out here in the countryside, many of the would-be tourist sites are not very well marked.  I found the road sign indicating the turn off for the tombs, but despite nearly 40 mins of driving down an unpaved road, I’m not actually sure that I ever managed to see the tombs themselves.  There were some rocky hills that looked different from the rest of the landscape, so I snapped some photos of those in case they were it.  I’ll have to ask Mate or Marko where I went wrong…  this is me as a solo traveler in a nutshell.

I may not (or may, to be determined) have found the tombs, but I did visit quite a few cemeteries along my route.  Like the churches, these sites serve as really poignant reminders of how recent the tragedy of war is here.  Kurpes was a major battle site of the war because of its important mid-way location for communications through the mountains.  The remnants of war are still visible everywhere, from houses bearing bullet holes, buildings blown to pieces, signs warning of mines, and into the eyes of Marko, boss two, who served on the front lines and still clearly carries the weight of what he saw.  There are memorials everywhere and I stopped and took a moment at each and every one that I saw because I think we owe it to peace not to forget.

I ended my first day of solo exploring by forcing myself to stop at a local restaurant and have a meal all by myself… not even Wasi for company.  I went for comfort food, pizza and French fries, and tried not to notice how crowded the completely empty restaurant started to get as I sat there.  I’m not sure I can remember the last time I ate a meal in public alone, and I definitely don’t know the last time I did so without a dog at my feet.  I managed to keep the anxiety attack at bay by focusing on editing some of the photos I’d taken of the day and scrolling through Facebook.  By the time I made it home, I was feeling both relived and proud of myself.  I made it through the day intact, without succumbing to the fears or anxiety that were pressing in on all sides.  I even enjoyed myself, enough that I’m already looking forward to my next mini solo adventure.  This time I think I’ll try planning a little more thoroughly, so that I know for sure if I make it to the site I’m trying to reach!