All By Myself? What it Means to Travel Alone

I have never traveled by myself before this trip. Well, fine, I’ve flown by myself, driven a car by myself, the list goes on. But I’m talking about traveling in a foreign country, exploring unknown streets, not having someone to read the map with me, or watch my stuff while I go to the bathroom, or especially to triple check the lock so strangers won’t burst into the room at night.

What’s it like? I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but in today’s post, I’ll tell you what this experience has been like for me.

#1: Freedom. So much freedom. I set my own schedule, decide when to visit and leave museums, shops, restaurants…most of the time. Read on.

Today, for example, I stared at Michelangelo’s Statue of David for at least 20 minutes. I could have stayed a whole hour. I couldn’t get over it – the painstakingly carved veins in his arms, the changes in his expression from one angle to the next, the deceptively relaxed stance as he sizes up an invisible Goliath. Though the Gallerie dell Accademia doesn’t allow photographs inside, I did get one picture for y’all.

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Pretty good, huh?

Visiting the Statue of David was an amazing addition to what was already a wonderful morning. Earlier today, I set off for the Basilica de Santa Maria del Fiore, more commonly known as the Duomo. The Dome offers absolutely breathtaking views of Florence…after, of course, a steep 450 step climb.

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Kat and I learned in Paris that couples put padlocks on a famous bridge…apparently they do here as well?

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After touring the Cathedral and exerting a serious amount of energy climbing the stairs, I decided it was time for lunch!

#2: Eating alone in restaurants…is not as bad as I thought it would be. The one and only time I’ve eaten by myself before this trip was by accident. No, seriously. This time, though, I anticipated the eating situation, and I’ve actually rather enjoyed it. After reading an article about eating alone at restaurants (no, again…seriously), I’ve been prepared with a book or magazine to peruse, or even a journal to write in.

With the food here, though, I don’t think I could have a bad time even if I tried. On recommendation from my awesome friend Jenny, I visited O’Vesuvio for a pizza lunch and Festival del Gelato for, well, gelato!

Pizza Capricciosa – Hot out of the oven and absolutely delicious. The mozzarella was perfectly melted, the sauce rich and tangy, the artichokes hearts fresh and sweet.

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Cioccolato Fondente – I don’t know what kind of drugs they put in this, but, I want more. This was outrageously dark and rich, smooth and creamy, the perfect chocolate gelato.

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See, everyone else seems to think so, too!

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#3: Looking out for #1. My brother-in-law’s favorite piece of advice to me is, “Be alert!” And, although my sister and I make fun of him for it, he’s absolutely right. Being alone in a foreign country where I don’t speak the native language creates a very real sense of danger (Also, let’s get something straight: I’m definitely not retracting my blog post yesterday about the amazing people in the world. I’m just taking a few precautions as a girl alone in a foreign country). In fact, an employee at the Duomo today specifically warned me about women getting their purses stolen. I guess I look like an easy target?…which was, of course, so reassuring. But this is where my slight caveat about freedom comes into play. Even though I did some impromptu shopping and took an impromptu nap this afternoon, I made sure I was awake in time to eat dinner and still walk back to the hotel with some light outside (thank goodness for the late sunset here).

On the subject of dinner, let’s get back to the food for a while…
Tonight, I tried another place recommended by Jenny: Ill Gatto e La Volpe.

I had:
1) A massive Greek salad – Super fresh, and quite necessary after all the pizza and gelato
2) Ribollita – Traditional Tuscan soup made with bread and lots of veggies…really hot and just what I wanted!
3) Focaccia with marinara – Somehow something this delicious came with the meal

Check out the bounty:

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I was pretty stuffed after all that food(I know, surprising, right?)…BUT, just for you guys, and because I have clearly been underachieving on the pastry end, I ordered a tiramisu to go! Good thing, too, because as I’m writing this, my stomach is starting to rumble. Embarrassing.

Here’s the tiramisu:

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And, the verdict on it is…

Sorry, was too busy stuffing my face chewing. SO GOOD.

#4: So, I’ve talked about the freedoms and restrictions of traveling alone, as well as the art of eating alone in restaurants. But, I’ve yet to address something that I view as a really important component. Is it lonely? Do I like it, hate it, feel nothing?

Maybe it’s because I’m still pretty connected to people back home (case in point), or because I’ve had a couple of packed days, but I am honestly loving it. It gives me a chance to figure out what I really want to do with my time. I think it may also help me confirm what I want to do with my life. I won’t lie, though: Tonight at dinner, when I saw my tablemates clinking their glasses, I definitely felt a longing for companionship. But, then I thought back to a moment this afternoon that I will always remember, walking through the sunny streets of Florence, when I threw my head back, gelato in one hand, purse swinging in the other, and thought: This is perfection.

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