Finding headspace in Malta

In the space of 15 days, I caught severe food poisoning, my passport was stolen abroad in Colombia 12 hours later, my 1.5 year relationship came to an abrupt halt and my remote working opportunity drastically cut my hours and income. So it’s fair to say that it was an incredibly stressful period. And while I like to think I’m quite resilient, there’s only so much a girl can take before something has to fall apart. So what did I do? I went to Malta.

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All of the facts above are true although that’s perhaps not a linear description of the course of events. I’d actually already booked my long weekend in Malta before any of that happened, but it just ended up falling exactly when I needed it to.

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Travelling solo has always been my way of getting a little headspace. Whenever I can feel myself going through a particularly anxious or low period, I book a trip. Even if it’s just a couple of days, I find that travelling on my own forces me to be introspective and to spend a period of time talking things through in my head. Travel grounds me like nothing else. So this trip to Malta was especially welcomed considering the stress of the last few weeks.

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The first day was undeniably tough. I was staying in St Julian’s and arrived at my hostel – Hostel Malti – to find it entirely empty. No one in my rooms, no staff members or volunteers wandering around – empty. It threw me off guard for a moment, so I decided to go and explore. But wandering down to the port in my summer clothes, under the blazing sunshine was the cruelest reminder of Colombia, where I’d been less than a month ago. Travelling there with my boyfriend – the first long trip I’d done with a partner – was one of the happiest periods of my life. And being in a new country all alone without that support network felt like someone was stamping on my chest.

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I spent a lot of the first day crying. Either down by the port, sunglasses on and hair covering my face to stop any well-meaning strangers from asking if I was okay. Eating ice cream and being reminded of a particularly huge ice cream sundae that I’d eaten in Medellin with my old travelling partner. Then I got the bus to Valetta and wandered around the incredible stone buildings, dipping in and out of dark and shaded alleyways and back into the blistering sunshine. Everything reminded me of my old relationship. I’d go through periods of having to stop and sob, before reminding myself that I was in a new, amazing country. It felt like it would never get better.

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But it did – just like, at the bottom of my heart, I knew it would. I wandered back to the hostel and sat on the rooftop in the sunshine for a while. Still filled with anxiety, I forced myself to socialise and swallow those feelings of needing to cry. And gradually I began to feel a little better.

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I got chatting to a few people in my hostel and went out for dinner with them before we all headed out for a pub crawl. Cheap drinks, friendly people and passable music meant I had a good night and – more importantly – forgot about all of the horrible feelings for most of the evening.

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The next morning I headed out on a boat trip to the nearby island of Comino, which is mostly known for its incredible views and the Blue Lagoon. I got chatting to a few people but mostly spent the time watching the water, dipping my toes into the freezing Mediterranean and gazing out on the cliff tops. I’ve never been anywhere like the Blue Lagoon before and the views were breathtaking. The bluest water contrasted against the golden sands of the clifftops and the equally blue sky. I began to feel calmer. There’s something about being in an entirely new place, surrounded by strangers and beautiful sights, that allows me to feel a new sense of perspective.

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Each day got a little better. I explored Marsaxlokk, a gorgeous fishing village, the next morning. Due to the rain, the floating, multicoloured vessels stuck out against the grey sky and bobbed against the water. Locals and stall keepers smiled while offering their wares at the market stalls. I sampled traditional date cake and admired the freshly caught seafood of every colour. With two people from my hostel, we walked 40 minutes through fields of wheat and dusty roads until we reached the incredible sight of St Peter’s Pool.

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I didn’t know what to expect, except for maybe a standard beach or body of water. But St Peter’s Pool was a breathtakingly huge cut-out of sea, where the water bashed against the caves and rocks with huge, white waves. We explored the eroding rocks and miniature rock pools before climbing up to the top and gazing out to the water below. It’s been called one of the country’s best natural swimming pools, but the anger of the water meant it was probably safer to admire from a distance. Sitting in silence, we watched the water drive in and out and I felt nothing but peace.

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Next was a lunch of the softest tuna steak before getting a taxi over to Mdina, Malta’s old capital. Known as the “city of silence”, the huge, walled city boasted views that stretched for miles and an air of quiet unlike anywhere else. I visited on a Sunday afternoon when most of the restaurants were closed, but it was great to wander around.

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As time passed I could feel myself returning to a state of calm once again. Sure, I still had jabs of pain and stress but Malta gave me the opportunity to do nothing but think and wander in such a beautiful setting.

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I spent my final day at Golden Bay, where I bumped into a group of people from my hostel. Another place with bright blue water and views for miles, it was another to add to the collection of peaceful places that gave me time to think. Many of my new friends single and travelling solo, I spent the afternoon drinking, relaxing and dipping my toes into the (still cold) water. When I finally got back to my hostel before catching my flight home, I felt a pang of happiness that I hadn’t experienced for a couple of weeks.

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