I step off the plane feeling as if I’ve already been away for hours. I’ve splashed out on business-class tickets to New York (nothing makes you feel you’re doing something special like free champagne), and at the airport I hop into a taxi and ride to Brooklyn, watching the Manhattan skyline in the background.
That night, as I wander around the city, a peace settles over me. Back at home, my two children will be arriving home from school – and I should feel guilty for leaving them but I don’t. Much as I love them, I also value this week that I take for myself every year – a week when I travel to New York alone, to eat at my favourite restaurants, curl up in a Fifth Avenue café to read a book, and wander to the Met for a mixture of culture and introspection.
It isn’t so much a holiday as a time to pause and take stock of my life, and it’s a tradition that began five years ago, when I took a divorce honeymoon. Back then, I was a 27-year-old mother of two, about to split from the man I’d been with since I was 18. My life as I knew it was falling apart, and all I wanted to do was lie in bed and cry.
We continued to live together in our home in Buckingham as we finalised our divorce – it was a practical arrangement, but it added to my stress. So when my ex offered to look after the children – then six months and 20 months old – so that I could take a break, I readily accepted.
The thought of going away alone was exhilarating but terrifying, so I was planning to stay local, until my ex said, ‘Why don’t you visit friends in Nottingham?’
The day I arrived home he moved out and we took off our wedding rings
At that moment, a flash of my former self returned, and I found myself instead buying a ticket to New York, where my best friend lived. On the plane, reality sank in. What was I doing leaving my children? But once I had landed, everything changed. My friend met me at the airport, and before I’d even unpacked she took me for margaritas. This set the tone for the week, which passed in a blur of cocktails, interesting people and amazing food.
Much as I missed my children, it was my first real break in years where I found myself not having to answer to anyone. Until then I hadn’t realised how stifled I’d been feeling. I also realised, during that first week, that I’d become too dependent on others and was scared of doing things alone. The trip was the first step in rectifying that.
The day I arrived home from New York, my ex officially moved out, and we took off our wedding rings. I think that my going away for a whole week had showed us both that we would survive alone. And five years on, we’re on very good terms. I’m in a new relationship, and he’s getting married to someone I really like.
Now that I have moved on, it may seem strange that I continue my divorce honeymoon tradition, but it’s important to me – and going to New York allows me to consider everything I’ve achieved that year and what I want to aim for next.
In part, it is because the city is so anonymous, so buzzing – for one week I become the Alice I’ve never dared to be at home, wearing adventurous high-fashion outfits and people-watching for hours. I’d never want to go for longer and I always love returning home. But each time I go, it makes me appreciate my family even more – and value my independence all over again.
Read more from Alice on her lifestyle blog, morethantoast.org