By Katy Vernon
Editor’s Note: This is the second dispatch from Katy during her 2017 tour of the United Kingdom. This one is from Brighton, England, where, in addition to performing, she was busy writing songs like Look to the Sea. Make sure to also read her first post - The H.A.LT. Tour.
BRIGHTON, ENGLAND -- I'm now two weeks into my seven-week UK tour. It's my first time traveling back to play music in the country where I was born and raised, the first time I have toured alone anywhere, and perhaps most importantly, my first extended time alone, period.
I am also undertaking all of this excitement, anxiety and adventure without the crutch of alcohol.
Almost a year ago, I sat and listened to a woman discuss how she took a business trip to France. She was alone in a hotel room thousands of miles away from her family. Wine was served with every meal, and there was a fully stocked mini bar in her room. She didn't drink. She was proud of herself, and as I watched others congratulate her on her recovery, I couldn't imagine “that” ever being me.
Of course, at the time, I didn't fully believe I had an addiction. But—in what should have been a sign—I also couldn't imagine having the freedom to drink without witnesses or judgment, and not doing it.
Here I am, though. Two weeks into a tour of Great Britain, where there are pubs on every corner and it’s legal to drink on the streets, and where single-serve wine is sold in convenience stores. Every day I walk by literally dozens of places where I could sit and have one quiet, secret glass.
I am keeping promises to myself on this trip – promises that have come to mean a lot to me.
I used to feel naked out in public, meeting new people. Only alcohol put me at ease. But I’m finding a more natural ease now. Every time I walk into a new venue, I have the choice to either take someone up on the offer of a drink or to introduce “sober me.” As soon as I let the words “I don't drink” come out of my mouth, I feel like I am holding myself accountable. Promise kept. I also feel thankful for how understanding people always seem to be. And how much easier it is to be me, when that’s all I have to be.
Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise, but instead of feeling left out at these venues and on this tour, I feel much more fully engaged than ever. I pay more attention than I ever used to. I soak in so much more.
It’s been 20 years since I lived in the UK. And, back then, I never traveled much. So, it has been mildly terrifying to navigate my way around. But all of the steps I have taken this past year have strangely prepared me for it. I have learned how to be more open to life. I have grown more comfortable with planning what I can and accepting whatever outcomes result. With train tickets to book, and shows to play, I can't completely live in the moment. But during my “in between” times, I can comfortably wander the streets, sit and write, and take time to watch people and listen. All by myself.
It's a luxury that I know I might not have again. While I’m able to cover expenses with shows—and could make another tour work in that way—I doubt I’ll ever have this amount of time again to travel. My family in Minnesota has been amazingly understanding and generous, and in fact encouraged me to take the opportunity to do this tour in the first place. Perhaps they knew I was ready. Or what I needed. Either way, I am grateful.
Instead of being lonely, I am learning how to be alone.
Katy Vernon is a Minneapolis/St. Paul-based singer-songwriter. She grew up in London, England, and has been writing and singing as long as she can remember.