Allow us to introduce you to Diana of The Adventures of D. Her motto is “Life’s not about living happily ever after, it’s about living.” Here, she shares her first time solo travel expereince. You can follow her on twitter at @dtravelsround or on Facebook: DTravelsRound.
“I don’t know what to do,” I wailed into the payphone at the Milan airport. “I don’t speak Italian …”
Then a whole bunch of muffled sobs.
I don’t know how my parents ever put up with my dramatics.
“D …” my mom said into the phone, thousands and thousands of miles away in Maryland. “Calm down.”
“No!” I sobbed. “I need to pee. And I don’t know how to ask for the bathroom.”
“I think its WC,” she suggested.
“And my bag is too heavy. I can’t put it on my back standing up.”
The fact that my backpack weighed more than it did when I left (I have no idea how that is even possible) was worse than the fact that I had to pee so badly I didn’t think I could walk another foot. I had tried to strap my massive backpack on after going through customs. I was horrified to find it could not be done standing up. Instead, I had to sit on a ledge, put the backpack behind me, and then sit down and weave my arm through the straps. This, of course, only exacerbated my need to relieve myself. Quickly.
“OK, I can’t do this with you,” Mom said. “Go find the bathroom. Stop crying. Get to the train station and get on your train to Venice.”
I straightened myself out. Eventually, I found the bathroom, then the train station. Soon enough, I was en route to Venice.
Eagerly, I looked out the window at the passing cities, full of colorful homes stacked on top of each other. The window of a car that was full of older Italians, all speaking excitedly.
Each stop, I would look to them for guidance.
“Venezia?” I would ask, attempting to smile away the raw fear of being solo in a foreign country.
“No, no.” They would say.
Apparently, Venice was the last stop. And there was no way in the world I could have missed it, as the land soon began to give way to more and more water.
Once I arrived at the train station in Venice, I quickly quieted my stomach grumblings with the tastiest (to this day) slice of pizza in the entire universe. The cheese was melty and perfect. The sauce, magnificent. The crust? Oh. My. God.
Food is the best way to calm my nerves, and that slice of pizza did the trick.
Until I got to my hostel.
I took the water taxi to a little island with barely anything on it but homes. I had planned to spend my first few nights at Inter- national Youth Hostels in Italy and Greece.
The first hostel did not sit well with me. There was a curfew. The rooms were sparse. It reminded me more of a high school – with the long tile floors, the fluorescent lights hanging from the ceiling and the cinderblock walls – than of a place where I would hang out.
So, for the second time in 10 hours, I lost it.
This time, my boyfriend got the full wrath of my solo travel tales.
“Baby,” I cried into the phone. “I want you to come here. I will pay for your passport to get expedited. I will pay for your ticket. Pleeeeease … I can’t do this by myself. I can’t be alone here. I don’t speak Italian! I miss you.”
And more waaaaah.
“You’ve been in Italy for a day. Not even,” he said patiently. “What on earth are you going to do for the next month? You can’t be like this. Stop crying. Hang up the phone. Go walk around outside. You. Are. In. Italy. Diana. Italy.”
During our tumultuous relationship, there were few things he was ever right about. This was one.
And, so, for the second time in 10 hours, I straightened myself up, wiped the tears from my eyes and headed out into the foggy Venice afternoon.
I didn’t even make it to the front door when my entire trip changed in the blink of an eye.
“Love,” came a voice from behind me.
I spun around to find a girl sitting on a bench.
“Hi,” I said. It was the first interaction I had had all day with someone who spoke English. Suddenly, all I wanted to do was talk.
“I’m a bit worried about you,” she said, standing up and walking towards me. “I heard your conversation just now … and I think you need a hug.”
Her name was Sarah. She was the first person I met on my month-long trip through Europe almost 10 years ago.
That afternoon, she became my first Best Travel Friend Ever. She made me feel OK to be traveling alone. She was, too. She made me feel OK to be going through such emotions, such fears of being solo in a foreign country.
When I had arrived in Italy, I was so ready to hop on the next plane back to America, throw in the towel, and never head out solo again.
Thanks to her, I got over that hump … that fear of not knowing anyone … of not meeting anyone. Sarah broke me into solo travel. And, when she wanted to stay in Greece (because she and I flew to Athens together), and I realized maybe she and I didn’t get on so well after all, I was totally okay with taking a train down to Patras by myself, getting on a cruise ship and heading back to Italy to go and explore some more. Alone.
And so my love affair with solo travel began.