I am writing this blog on the train on the way back from Newcastle, after my first overnight stay for work in 21 months. Here is what I have learnt about the experience.

Travelling after such a long time was exhausting and uplifting.

The journey from home to Newcastle takes about 3.5 hours and pre-pandemic I would have done this there and back in a day without thinking about it. But this time, I decided to travel the night before so that I could arrive rested for the full day. I struggled with making the decision – as it meant more time away from home and my girls are used to seeing me every day now, but it was definitely the right decision for me to make.

I had a good train journey, getting lots of work done on the way and managing some thinking time as well as task focussed time. I slept well, had a nice breakfast (and after lots of time not having one a hotel breakfast now felt like a treat) and arrived rested and well-prepared for the day ahead.

Any anxiety about travelling was removed which left me in the right head space to focus on getting as much out of the day as I could. I’m now on the way home, not feeling totally exhausted, and ready to lean into my weekend when it arrives.

 

I'm still adapting to the "new normal"

My day in Newcastle has been booked in for a couple of months now but I had hung back from booking my travel arrangements to the very last minute. Partly, as I wanted to check I was well to travel and hadn’t picked up Covid beforehand (as unfortunately one of our colleagues did – who was greatly missed) but also because I half expected that as we got closer to the day itself people might start dropping out.

Hybrid working is more and more common now but I have been at a few events recently when the expected numbers before the event suddenly dwindles when people decide to interact remotely instead. I didn’t want to commit the time and money to travel until I was sure.

But as the date approached, I realised I was perpetuating that problem – the event was important to me, I wanted to be there face to face and needed to make that commitment (both to the colleagues I was meeting but also to myself) that I was going to attend. As soon as I booked my ticket, my excitement for the event increased exponentially and I started to prepare properly for engaging fully.

 

But... these connections are important!

I’ve been in Newcastle to meet with the most inspiring group of social leaders who I completed a Clore Social Leadership course with back in 2017. We’ve built fantastic, open, honest and trusting relationships over the last 4 years and it was actually this group I had my last overnight trip with too back in January 2020.

Being with them again today has reminded me of the sheer joy of being in a room with other social leaders, who believe and champion each other and genuinely like and care for each other. I couldn’t be more grateful for the circle of peer support that I have around me. It was the most uplifting experience, which challenged me, reinvigorated me and reminded me, again, of the importance of relationships.

I’m writing this on train one of a three train journey, slightly nervous as this one was delayed by 6 minutes which leaves me only 3 minutes to make my next connection.

But I’m smiling, grateful that I took the plunge and travelled to Newcastle. I now cannot wait for our next reunion!

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