It may be our biggest fear; getting a phone call with some devastating news, while you're away travelling. You know it's a risk, you know it could happen, but you just hope for the best and don't spend too much time worrying about it. For me, that phone call came last week.
The picture above is me, riding Bentoyah. I got her when I was 13. I'm 29 now - she's been with me for more than half of my life. I grew up with her. In fact, I can barely remember the time she was not in my life. I met my first boyfriend because of her. I met my best friend because of her. She was the final reason I don't have any contact with my mother anymore. I've been completely broke for her, sold my stuff when she had a serious injury a few years ago. I've been in the hospital because of her, and when I came out, she was the first I wanted to see. Whenever there was a fight at home, I went to her. Whenever my heart was broken, she was there. And when I lost all hope, we would ride for hours and life would always be a little bit better by the end of it. She was my safe haven.
Over the last few years, when I was travelling more and more, there was a woman helping me out with her. She's an absolute angel. We agreed that when I was travelling, she wouldn't call me for small things, just texting if necessary, so I wouldn't unnecessarily worry. Only if it was serious, she would call.
It was Tuesday March 7, around 12.30. My phone rang. Her name in the screen.
I could hear it in her voice. It was bad, really bad. A colic, something that can suddenly happen to horses. The vet was already on it's way. She was treated and if she would get better in the next two hours, she would be ok. But if not, well...
I started crying, panicking. This can't be happening, this can't be happening!
After an hour, she was doing a little bit better, standing up again. Please, please, let her get through this!
15.30, another phone call. It's not going well, the vet is on his way again.
16.30. She wasn't gonna make it. She was in lots of pain and there was nothing more anyone could do for her. Over the phone, crying my eyes out, my whole body shaking, I agreed to ending the pain for her.
The next hour was just unreal. I considered for a second flying home, but I realized quickly enough that wouldn't be good for anyone. It wouldn't help her, and I would just be sitting at home, staring at the rain, while at least here I would have some distractions. Thank god, my dad offered to get her cremated and even though right then I didn't think it was necessary, I am incredibly thankful for it now.
So here I was, trying to arrange everything over the phone from a random house in Spain. Calling my dad, who would be there when her body would get picked up. Calling the owner of the farm, to discuss when it needed to be done. Calling the crematorium to pick her up. Crying, shaking, and shouting.
I'm still crying.
It's almost to the minute exactly one week ago since I got that first phone call. I've got 1,5 more weeks left here. When I'm back, the first thing I'll do is pick up her ashes and later, when I'm ready, I will let her go in the wind at the beach, have my own good-bye with her.
Honestly, I cannot express how much that horse means to me. Maybe it shows best in what my ex-boyfriend wrote me. He was with me through some of the worst years in my life and if anyone knows how that horse saved me, it's him. When he found out, he wrote me:
'I've known you as someone who couldn't be more strong and confident. At the same time, Toyah was your kryptonite. When things with your mom got the best of you, when things at school didn't go well, or whatever struggle you had, only when you were with her, you would fully admit to your feelings. It was almost like she was the only one in the world you would acknowledge your superior in, where you could truly be yourself. Even after we broke up and I heard you weren't speaking to your mum anymore, I would somewhat be ok with keeping my distance, because I knew Toyah would get you through it.'
I wish I could write you a 'How to deal with grief while travelling' kind of article, but honestly, I've got no clue what I'm doing. I'm taking it day by day, moment by moment even. As you may have read in my previous blog, I'm currently staying at a coworking and coliving space, Sun and Co., and sometimes I feel like socialising, but most of the time, I just want to be alone. Sometimes I feel like doing stuff, distracting myself, and other times, I just want to binge watch Netflix and cry. Sometimes, yes, I do feel like I want to go home, but at other times I tell myself there's no point in that. I rented a little scooter and went riding into the countryside for hours, that helped, but each time I come back and take a shower, I'm back to crying. I guess that's what happens when that phone call comes...