Comedian Cally Beaton reveals how what was meant to be a romantic break in Iceland turned into an unexpectedly life-affirming solo adventure.
Coming up to my 50th birthday in 2019, my boyfriend and I were travelling to Iceland for a romantic break to celebrate – until he dumped me in the arrivals hall at Reykjavik Airport. He’d been grumpy on the plane and it was like a red mist descended. It turned out he wasn’t an undercover agent living a secret life, nor was he having an affair with Bjork, he was just a middle-aged man having a midlife crisis.
I can laugh about it now, but it was absolutely horrible when he told me he didn’t want to be with me. We’d been together for 18 months and he knew how important this birthday was to me.
I walked away, numb with shock, got the hire car and checked into the hotel, thinking, 'This is going to be awful.' I called my daughter to say how upset and embarrassed I was and that I’d be home in two nights. She said, "You raised me to be a feminist. You do not need a man to have a good time in Iceland. You're going to stay longer and have an adventure."
Honeymoon package for one
A trip to the Blue Lagoon sealed it for me. We’d booked the honeymoon package and the staff felt sorry for me when I turned up alone, giving me an armful of wristbands for free drinks, including all the ones he would have had. Powered by Prosecco, I told a coach full of women in their 50s my story and it was like something from Calendar Girls – they said, "Do it, you don’t get to this age and become invisible."
I veered from thinking, 'I’m undateable and unlovable' to 'I’m invincible, I can conquer Iceland.'
The hotel receptionist helped me plan an amazing itinerary and, fuelled by adrenalin and heartbreak, I set off to explore. I couldn’t get the radio to tune into anything other than the local version of Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs and spent the first few hours oscillating between crying and laughing while listening to Bonnie Tyler ballads. I veered from, 'I’m undateable and unlovable' to 'I’m invincible, I can conquer Iceland.' Anybody who has experienced an unexpected break-up will know that feeling.
That night, I found a tiny restaurant where I ate weird local delicacies and had a thoroughly lovely night. The locals do like a drink and I found myself knocking back shots and flirting with a rugged fisherman, thinking, 'This is going to be like Mamma Mia, but in Iceland.'
Rollercoaster of emotions
Back in Reykjavik, I stumbled across a church in a quiet part of town where I found a retired concert pianist playing Bach’s piano concertos. I sat for two hours going through every feeling from euphoria to devastation. Magical, beautiful things like this sometimes happen when you're on your knees. And I would never have had that experience with my boyfriend.
Iceland is the most gripping country I've ever travelled in and there were so many random acts of kindness. It will stay with me as the most memorable place I've ever been.
I started this trip, thinking, 'I’ve been dumped and I’d better go home with my tail between my legs' but nobody was going to dictate what isn't possible for a 50-year-old woman standing in the snow.
Embracing turning 50
The whole experience made me realise how much I'd been scared of turning 50 – that I was scared of becoming invisible, socially and romantically. I started this trip, thinking, 'I’ve been dumped and I’d better go home with my tail between my legs' but nobody was going to dictate what isn't possible for a 50-year-old woman standing in the snow.
And the boyfriend who dumped me? He went home and had a change of heart, sending a text telling me he would be at Heathrow waiting on the day I was supposed to fly home. I sent him a picture of myself in the Icelandic countryside, said goodbye and blocked him.
The new season of Namaste Motherf**kers, comedian and business mentor Cally Beaton's podcast combining comedy, self-help and business insights, starts in January.
Read more: All of Yahoo UK's How I was dumped stories.