I am currently in Rome and on the second to last leg of a five-ish week long trip through Europe. Over the past few weeks, I’ve met some fun people (both locals and other travelers), and one thing I’ve heard repeatedly is: “You’re traveling alone? Wow, you’re brave!”
While I am quite flattered at the comment, I have to be honest—it’s completely inaccurate. I’m not a brave person by nature. That’s not humility. It’s the truth. I like things a certain way, and when they get disrupted, I don’t like it.
But that’s kinda how life is all the time, and I’ve seen some big disruptions in the past couple years. Like, I lost my job in 2013, 20 days before Christmas. That dominoed into losing my apartment and sucking down my pride to move back in with my mom and dad. Shortly after that, several disruptions hit my folks, including my dad being diagnosed with melanoma.
So, there have been some sucky times that have happened recently. Really sucky. Like, I’m-not-seeing-the-light-at-the-end-of-this-tunnel-sucky. But just because I couldn’t see the light doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. It just meant that I was not looking up.
I got over the losing of the job thing and started my own business. My dad is healing. He and my mom are actually in Cancun right now taking a much needed break.
So far on this trip, I’ve had to change hotels a couple times because of mosquitoes getting into my room and tearing up my face. I’ve had an owner on HomeAway send me a harassing email about a three-star review I left about her property. I’ve been nearly run over multiple cyclists despite my best efforts to look all ways before crossing a street.
None of that really matters. I didn’t get run over. I ignored the emails. And when I was switching hotels in Rome and getting a little upset (Okay, very upset. I was crying. All my cool points were gone by then.) when I couldn’t find a taxi stand, a bunch of really nice guys at a café helped me find an off-duty taxi driver, and he offered to get me to my new hotel (on the other side of town—which in Rome, is freakishly far) for FREE. (Of course I still paid him. Because he was awesome.)
Before coming to Italy, I was warned that Italians could be very rude and not friendly to Americans. While there has been a rude bug or two at a ticket office or cafe here or there, most of the Italians I’ve come across have been very patient and very kind.
In Milan while at Sforza Castle, I met an architect who was extremely passionate about the Renaissance structure (I LOVE talking to people like that!). In Florence, I stayed at the Casa Secchiaroli, a charming guesthouse with an extremely helpful and kind staff, and ate way too many sweets at the Vecchio Forno Firenze (they don’t have a site, so you’ll just have to Google them), an amazing bakery with the friendliest ladies behind the counter you will ever meet. And then there were the sweet gentlemen at La Petite Fourchette Bistrot in Rome (just outside the Piramide metro station) who helped me find an even sweeter taxi driver.
Solo travel hasn’t made me brave. Not in the least. But it has made me thankful. Thankful that I could go on this trip and have these experiences. Thankful for the kindness of (most) Italians. Thankful that my parents made it through all that crap and are coming out of it with their heads up. Thankful that I even have parents still who were more than willing to take me back under their roof when my own was being taken away.
This trip is also forcing me to be okay with asking for help. Back home, I know where to go and what to do without having to really talk to other people. Here, I’ve had to ask for help (in broken French and even more broken Italian) and rely on the kindness of others far more than I am normally comfortable with. And while the past few weeks have not been perfect, they have been perfect for me.
I have a couple days left in Rome (visiting the Vatican tomorrow). Then I’m off to Venice. I’ve heard a lot of bad things about Venice. Here’s hoping they are all wrong, too.