Filtering by Tag: solo travel

Savoring Sorrento

I'm gonna hit fast-forward for a second here.

This post should *technically* be about my next couple days in Florence. I tend to be a chronological order kinda girl. But today, I woke up thinking about Sorrento.

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And so that's where we're gonna go.

I don't want to write about my entire stay in Sorrento--though it was amazing, and I'll get there eventually.  I want to focus on one moment in particular.

By the time I reached Sorrento, I'd been on my own for nearly two weeks. I'd traveled to two different countries. I'd made new friends, tried new food, experienced new things.

And I'd been scared the entire time.

Last year, I'd begun living my life by a new motto: Feel the fear and do it anyway. And that's exactly what I'd been doing this whole trip. I'd spent the last two weeks terrified, nervous, unsure. But I woke up each morning and attacked the day in spite of those things coursing through me. But in Sorrento...

I arrived mid-afternoon, with plenty of daylight to find my hotel. Mapquest did not like Sorrento. There were stairs and winding paths that confused it. And, so, I got a little lost looking for my hotel. Once I found it, I was sweaty, exhausted, and all nerved up. This was the worst part of travel for me--switching between locations. I'd spent five days in Florence before this, and I was anxious about the new place. In fact, if I didn't have my heart set on Pompeii, I might have skipped Sorrento altogether.

And that would've been a mistake.

Once I got to my hotel, the beautiful man at the front desk gave me my room key, a map, and a couple pamphlets. He'd circled a few restaurants, and told me that the marina was not far from there. I tucked that piece of information away and went up to my room. I collapsed on my bed, welcoming the cool air and comfort of my own space. I could've stayed there the rest of the night, but the word marina kept bouncing around in my brain. I'd caught a glimpse of the Mediterranian Sea through the train window, and I couldn't wait to see it up close. So I forced myself to get off the bed, put my shoes back on, and head out the door.

The walk lasted about ten minutes and took me down a twisty road and through a long tunnel. 

 

I emerged from between a cluster of tall, brightly-painted buildings to find it there, sprawled out before me. Majestic, overwhelming, beautiful.

I walked along the street to a dead-end that dropped off a few feet, right into the thrashing, wild water.

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I video-called my mom so I could share this absurd beauty with her, and then I hung up and walked down the dock. On one side, boats lay beneath tarps. A few fisherman were calling it a night, unloading onto the dock. A little boy ran on wobbly legs to his father. An older couple wandered to the edge of the dead-end street.

 

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I stood there, breathing in the salty air, listening to the waves crash. And my heart stilled

A few minutes later, my stomach interrupted my reverie. I hadn't eaten since Florence, and I was starving.

Just ahead, a couple restaurants lined the street. I chose the one with the best view and requested a table overlooking the Mediterranean. There, I ordered the freshest fish I'd ever eaten, washed down with delicious wine and a decadent lemon dessert.

While I waited for my food to arrive, I pulled out my journal, and I wrote. And that was when it hit me: Sitting there, my first meal alone at a restaurant (I'd eaten with friends or on-the-go the rest of my trip), the sea-kissed air whipping my hair into my face...this was it.

This was the moment I'd been searching for my entire trip.

It was in that single moment that I felt it: the bravery everyone had been telling me I possessed from the moment I'd booked my trip.

Now, back home and surrounded by real life, I cling to that moment. When I set the deadline to release my book. When I hit "publish." When my sweet old dog died. When I sat beside accomplished and talented authors and talked about my own writing. Every single time I tell someone I'm an author--and not a *writer*--I feel it: the waves roaring in my ears, the buzz of wine in my bloodstream, the taste of freedom, sweet on my tongue.

I hold that moment tight to my chest every time self-doubt, fear, uncertainty starts to creep in. I can do it. I've done it before.

And I'll do it again.

 

Fair Verona

With my heart still firmly in Amsterdam, it was a challenge moving on to Italy.

You read that right. A challenge. Being in Italy. What's wrong with me, huh?

Well, that's a loaded question, and one I'm not digging into right now.

Anyway.

I left Amsterdam Friday morning, dragging my feet the whole way. I made it to the airport with no problem, got on my flight, and off I went. It was smooth-going the entire journey. Touched down in Milan that afternoon, hopped on a bus to the train station, where I caught a tram to my hostel (here's a secret: I accidentally stole my tram ride. I was unsure of where to buy a ticket, so I got on, thinking maybe I could purchase one there. Nope. I spent the entire ride afraid the Italian police were going to cart me off to jail!). Found my hostel and checked in with absolutely no problem.

And then I burst into tears.

You won't find any pictures of Milan here, because I didn't leave my hostel. I sat on my bed and cried. Ate a granola bar, sure that it was hunger bringing on the emotions, called my best friend, who Googled the nearest restaurants for me so that I could get some real food in me, and when we hung up...I cried some more.

At some point, my roommate wandered in. A middle-age Austrailian woman. She seemed sympathetic at first, asking if I was okay. I assured her I was. Just hungry and tired. I got my tears under control long enough to go downstairs to the hostel's bar and eat a hot dog and fries (that's right...my first meal in Italy was a hot dog and fries). 

When I came back to my room, I sat down and...yep. Started crying again. My roommate's patience ran out. She sort of rolled her eyes and said, "Oh, no. Are you going off again?" And then rattled on about how I must be a water sign, because I'm really sensitive.

We had a nice conversation once I stopped crying, and then I got a full night's sleep. The next day, I was off to Verona. I woke up, packed my things, and headed to the train station. I was okay until I got to my B&B.

And then I cried again.

I don't know what my deal was, guys. Maybe it finally hit me that I was thousands of miles away from home? Maybe I was sad about leaving Amsterdam? Whatever it was, my onslaught of tears took two days right out of my itinerary.

But you know what? The next day, I got up, got dressed, and hit the streets. Once I got into Verona, I was so caught up in the sights and sounds that those tears were long gone.

The first day, I did the requisite Casa do Giulietta, where it is believed Shakespeare's Juliet lived. I groped the bronze statue in the courtyard below the balcony (it's supposed to bring you luck in love...which is weird, if you think about it. That story did NOT have a happy ending), stood on the balcony, and left a letter for Juliet. Touristy as heck, but still fun!

I followed up with some gelato:

(WHITE chocolate...stupid autocorrect)

And a visit to the Arena di Verona:

This place was really cool. It's smaller than the Coliseum, and way more preserved. To this day, it's still used for concerts (you can see the floor seating in the picture). In the summer, you can attend operas here...makes me almost wish I'd gone then...

I was back in my room and ready for bed by 630pm. My feet were tired, my brain was overloaded with beauty and history, and I needed a rest!

I started bright and early the next day with a hike up the 200-something stairs to Piazzale Castel San Pietro. I'd heard the view was not to be missed, and, well, it was free, so...of course I was in.

The stairs, though.

I couldn't feel my legs, definitely couldn't breathe (I started to get a cold this day), but that view...

I sat on that ledge for what seemed like minutes, but was actually well over an hour. The church bells rang, the breeze blew by, and I sat there, soaking it all in. I didn't want to leave, but I had started shivering, so I knew I had to get moving.

The rest of the day consisted of tours of a couple of churches, a delicious plate of Lasagna Bolognese, more gelato, and a trek across the Castelvecchio.

All in all, a very successful two days in Verona! The next morning, I packed up and hit the road. Next stop: Venice!

Side note: If you want to follow my antics live, my Snapchat is meika622. You're missing out!

In Which I Freak Out About My Trip


I leave in nine days. Just over a week from this moment and I'll be boarding a plane aimed for Amsterdam. I'll be in Europe. An entirely different continent.

I've been planning this trip for a year. Dreaming about it for a lifetime.

(This is from a couple days ago, but it still stands.)


I can't see myself there. I try to imagine getting off the plane, leaving the airport, taking a bus (or something...still need to research this) from the airport to my hostel. Checking in. Wandering the canal-lined streets.

I can't see it.

But I can feel it.

Every time I try to envision it, my heart races, my feet cool, my face heats. I can almost feel my stomach drop as the plane ascends. I try to think about doing all the things I've dreamt about--and I'm utterly overcome with disbelief that it will happen.

It's happening, though. It's real. The tickets are bought, the hostel is booked. I'm going to Europe. Alone.

HOW did this happen? How did I sum up the courage and/or stupidity to buy that first ticket?

I don't feel brave. I know I've said this, but it's still true. I'm so scared. What if I can't do it? What if I get there and I freeze? Break down? What if I have to book a ticket back home before I even leave the airport?

I think that's my biggest fear. Not pickpockets, or running out of money, or not being able to communicate, or getting lost. It's the fear that I won't even give myself the chance to try.

It's one thing to book the flight. An entirely different thing to actually get on the plane.

I have to do it. Not because I don't want to disappoint anyone or waste the money I've already spent. But because I owe it to myself. I need to make this dream a reality. I need to go out in the world--alone--and find out who I am. I need to give myself the chance to try, to claim that independence, that confidence, those experiences for myself.

This trip is for me and only me. It's not to reclaim these places from my past or to make anyone jealous. I know that on the other side, when I come back, I'll be a different person.

And while that is a thrilling thought, it's also a scary one.

Change is scary. New things are scary. The whole damn world is scary.

I just want to be brave enough to face it.

I hope I will be.

I KNOW I will be.

In the meantime, I should probably put all this nervous energy into finishing the revision on my damn book...