A few years ago I was in my own travel predicament… I had the money, I had the time, I had the desire to travel abroad, but I had not one to go with. I am sure a lot of people find themselves in the same situation and what do they end up doing? Nothing! So many years I wasted staying in my home town, going out to bars and clubs in the summers with my friends. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun with my friends, but if I could go back in time, I would have traveled every summer I had off during high school and college instead of partying at the clubs and bars! I did my first solo travel trip at age 29 and I only wished I had done a trip like that sooner.
I had been thinking about doing a solo trip like that for years but again, none of my friends had the time or money to do it. I eventually “manned up” and booked my trip to Rome. I remember I was so nervous I must have gone to the airline website like 10 times before I actually clicked on that submit button, but I did it. I went to Rome for the very first time, by myself, without knowing the language, people, or really anything about traveling solo. Let me tell you, I wish I would have done it a very long time ago…
Although this solo trip only lasted a few days, I taught me a lot about traveling, myself, and the importance of stepping out of our comfort zones. For starters, I experienced what it was like to be in a country where no one speaks your language and you are vulnerable to ask for help at all times. I remember I was able to communicate by either pointing at things or by finding out things myself. Knowing Spanish helps but it is not the same as Italian. It’s like English and Jamaican Creole… you pick up some words here and there, but it’s not the same. So I found myself asking for help a lot and again, stepping out of my comfort zone to ask. I found out most people are nice and are willing to help you out even if they don’t know your language. They will try to explain to you with their broken English, and if they can’t they will find someone who can.
I also got scammed for the very first time and it sucked! Rome is a top destination for tourist and with it, so are the scams. Upon my arrival, I needed to find my hotel, which I remember booking it close to the train station so it would be easy to find. As soon as I stepped outside the train station, I asked one of the taxi drivers for help. He did not know English so I showed him the name and address of the little hotel I had booked and he said something to me in Italian, grabbed my luggage and made a hand gesture to follow him. I was very surprised and did not know how to react so I did what most people would have done, I followed him. He was a short Italian guy, no taller than 5’3″ but he walked fast. I was pretty much speed walking trying to catch up. I assumed we were walking to his taxi because we crossed the street. I was thinking to myself that I must have booked the wrong hotel but whatever, at least this guy knew where the hotel was. We walked for about 2 minutes and I kid you not, we stopped at this tiny looking building right next to the train station and with his broken English he said “Hotel here” and pointed at the door. I looked up and sure enough, there was a small sign with the name of the hotel and the correct address. I told him “grazie” which was one of the few words I knew in Italian, but he did not take my grazie. Instead he extended his hand and said “50 euros”….. FIFTY EUROS!!!! I looked at him and I did not know how to react.. we literally were standing in front of the train station! I looked at him, he looked at me with his hand extended and repeated “50 euros” … I had no other choice but to give him fifty euros…. I felt robbed. I paid him and he let go of my suitcase and walked away, crossed the street back to the train station. As I write this I realize that maybe he wasn’t a taxi driver, maybe that was his gig all along… to scam people whos hotel was near the train station. Anyways, that is just one example of the many things I encountered as my first solo travel experience and trust me, I learned my lesson. I have done plenty of traveling after that and I know when someone is trying to scam me or not… it’s just one of those things you have to experience first so you can learn.
Other than that, Rome was amazing! I walked Rome, tried the food, got lost, explored, took plenty of pictures, ate gelato for the first time in my life, and just had an mind opening experience. Why had I not done this before?!?!?!
After Rome, I took a train and headed to Florence…no I did not buy a train ticket in Rome, I had previously bought it back home. However, I am confident now about buying train tickets in Europe since I have done it so many times now… thanks to that first solo travel experience. Florence was amazing, the food, the buildings, the experience, everything. I did a day trip to Cinque Terre too and I fell in love! I want to go back so bad and show my wife how beautiful Cinque Terre is.
There is a lot of information you need to know when it comes to solo traveling that no one tells you about. There are certain things you need to know and do before embarking on your very first solo trip, and I will do a blog about those things later in 2021, along with a video blog for you to watch. I will also do a more detailed blog about my first very solo trip which I will talk about getting lost in Rome, bumping into a friend of mine in Florence ( talk about a small world) and how this trip changed my life forever.