Andrea McClean: “I don’t care if people think a woman taking time out to re-charge and re-discover herself is selfish”

Andrea travelled to the Scilly Isles this summer for her first solo holiday. Image: Andrea McLean

Andrea travelled to the Scilly Isles this summer for her first solo holiday. Image: Andrea McLean - Credit: Archant

The Loose Women presenter says she recently travelled from Surrey to the Scilly Isles on her first holiday alone

A while back, some friends and I were having the discussion about what we think our life would be like if we had made different decisions when we’d been at a crossroads. You know, if we’d taken the left fork in the road rather than the right, that kind of thing. It was a really interesting conversation; some were vehement that they would have stayed on the same path, others felt that they’d have done some things a little differently.

Those who know me well know that I’m not a hugely sociable person. I enjoy other people’s company, but I also like being able to leave gatherings when it all gets a bit, well, much. I like being on my own, I enjoy my own company, pootling along at my own pace and getting things done in my own way. I’ve never been a herd animal, if that makes sense. So, when I thought about how my life would be, in a ‘‘what if? …” scenario, it would be a much more solitary one. I fantasised about living alone in a foreign country, somewhere warm, preferably in a small home on a beach, where I would sit on my porch (yes, even my fantasy house would have a porch!) and write books which would sell by the millions, while I quietly got on with my life far away from the hubbub and hysteria of success.

Just a dream, right?

Well, as Cinderella says, a dream is a wish your heart makes. But, if you make that wish into a goal, then there is a chance that you can actually make it come true… Perhaps not in its absolute form (I am very happy being a mum, wife and daughter with my Surrey-based family) but it doesn’t mean I can’t have a little taste of it. So it was a heart-warming surprise when I discovered in my journal from the start of the year, a list of things that I would potentially do, when answering the question: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid of what others think of you, or even what you think of yourself?” It’s a very interesting question, and one I urge you to have a think about. I had written: “I would go away for one week a year on my own, to clear my head, and just have some space for a while.” What was so wonderful about this discovery was that I made it on my return from a week away on my own. Somehow, that idea had seeped into my subconscious.

READ MORE: Find out what it was like for Andrea and her family adopting their dog Teddy

I took myself off to Bryher in the Scilly Isles, stayed in a sweet little cottage and every day, rain or shine, took myself out for walks. There was no dog to use as an excuse like I usually do here at home. It was just me, my rucksack, anorak and snacks, heading out to see what there was to see. I walked wherever my nose led me, stopping where I wanted to, plonking down to stare at the sea - calm and deceptively warm-looking on one side of the island, wild and boisterously smashing against the rocks on the other. No two days were the same weather-wise, and I walked in the sunshine, wind and rain, returning to my cottage with the same feeling of achievement and contentment.

These walks weren’t about closing the exercise rings on my Apple watch, they were about finding joy in the simple beauty of my surroundings. I spent hours writing, sitting cross-legged on an over-sized sofa, listening to music, eating what I wanted to eat, sleeping when I wanted to sleep. I didn’t feel lonely, I felt calm, like I had breathed out, like my shoulders came down from round their ears. I even dealt with the spiders that appeared in my little cottage on my own - something unheard of in my normal life.

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I came back to normality feeling braver than I’ve ever felt. Not just because I’d done something that I’d never done before but because I did it not caring what anyone else outside of my loving, supportive and completely understanding family thought of it. I didn’t, and don’t care if people think a woman taking time out to re-charge and re-discover herself is selfish. I filled my jug; and now I can pour myself into everything dear to me and not be left exhausted with nothing left for me. I’ve realised that I can have that other life, as well as the one I am living and loving right now. It might not be my forever life, but that one week a year will be the one that makes me thrive.

Live: Going away for a week on your own is all well and good, but doing something that is good for you needs to happen every day, (or at least every week) and definitely more than once a year. See how you can incorporate doing something that makes you feel good into your life. Nick takes himself off to the local driving range for an hour, and that in itself is enough to clear the mind doing something he loves - win win.

Learn: The one simple key to happiness is knowing what makes you happy and doing it. Finding out what that thing is isn’t always easy though. So I’d urge you to start thinking about it; start writing down things that you’ve always wanted to do, but either through circumstance or fear haven’t happened for you. Write down your crazy dreams, then have fun figuring out how to make them come true.

Thrive: You don’t need to go far if you want to take a little break on your own: and have week-long stays in Surrey from around £500.

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