I’m back. My first time traveling alone unraveled lots of insecurities and falsities that stresses in life have given me. I fell in love with Italy when it opened up to me, or was it when I opened up to it.
Unorganized, unplanned and it was just what I wanted. I encountered the traveler with just a ticket, the organized boutique traveler, the backpacker, the traveler to whom just wanted that passport littered with stamps, the lusty traveler, the party traveler, the farmer traveler, the other persona traveler…
Traveling is part relaxation, part adventure, and part learning about the people the places and the culture. Of course that always includes the food.
What traveler was I? I was the naïve traveler, the unorganized traveler, the lonely traveler, the one to be ignored, the voyeur. The one who really wanted to sit down in someones home and eat a home cooked meal.
Traveling unraveled itself in my 20’s when I worked as a waitress at a local Irish bar, I met countless people who backpacked, or traveled through Europe, Asia, South America. I vicariously lived through their stories and as my glazed eyes stared into space, I placed myself in a time when I could finally do this myself.
I flew into Heathrow and found out that my room in Rome was already rented, and that my money was refunded. There was no time to assess my surroundings, I had landed and planted myself at Roma Termini, and I quickly had a love hate affair with Rome. The train station slapped me in the face. My body felt weightless, like being suspended on a bed of clouds, still trying to take in the fact that I had no bed secured for the night…
I highly romanticized Rome, and thus far the act of the lonesome traveler…I had no idea what I would be expecting.
Freshly jet lagged and tired from carrying a heavy backpack through terminal after terminal, I was ready to tear up. Frustration peaked through and made me weak.
In my first Roman taxi, the driver questioned why I did not know the language and it was only then that I opened myself up tospeaking the language. My voice trembled and my adrenaline rushed when I told him “Io non capisco l’Italiano”, I felt like jumping out of the taxi and not paying him after that comment, but I understand. After coming across so many tourist that just speak English and don’t even make an effort, flocks of disrespectful tourist is a recipe for the angry taxi driver. To him I was just a number, until I made that effort.
In Italy… I met a stranger and together we ventured off to Cinque Terre and Venice, stayed at an all women’s hostel formerly ran by nuns sleeping in a room with 13 other women, then there were magical times like waking up to the sounds of church bells, hearing Italian children whining for their mothers in the early morning, beautiful seaside towns, Venetian alleys, seeing an a little old woman canning tomato sauce, but of course I also had encounters with aggressive men, sleeping at an airport, holding the frail hand of an Italian nonna, went to the hospital and got treated for dehydration in Milan, drinking prosecco and valpolicella while eating lunch with an Italian family, drinking lots of wine, trying horse meat, and donkey meat in one sitting, walking…walking…walking…pizza pizza …pasta… pasta…
It was in Milan and Verona that I felt the safest and the most at home. I can’t give thanks to Mateo and Valentina enough, I can’t tell you how much I fell in love with Dido, Antoinetta, Domenico, Anna, Nico, and their whole community of friends and family.
When asked what I would do differently, my response would be absolutely nothing…but it would have been nice to just have more money on the trip. Especially when I saw that hefty green wool Dries Van Noten coat that was heavily discounted at a little boutique in Verona. Most importantly after feeling so weak, I was able to gain back the strength that laid dormant after my father passed away.
While laying in bed I found myself planning my day…should I walk to the Duomo and head to the Pinacoteca today? Should I go walk to the park? What else can I do? Still in a bit of a dream state…still waking up. I miss most, the sounds of Italian conversations, and the hand gestures, and the cheeky kisses
I’ve gotten the bug.