When I first decided to take a two week trip to Rome, I didn't think twice about going by myself. I was able to create time in between leaving one job and starting another even with a move halfway across the country so "What the hell" I thought "Why not".
I was ecstatic about the idea of spending 14 days in one of my favorite cities in the world and while I had never traveled alone before, I jumped at the idea of experiencing Rome in a way I never had experienced any other city.
"But don't you think you'll get lonely? or worse- won't you be scared to eat by yourself?" a friend asked over lunch before I left I left the States. "I don't know" I replied, "I guess I'll just have to see what happens when I get there".
On my first night in Roma, admittedly I did feel uncomfortable and extremely insecure eating dinner alone and I definitely did not even try to use any of the Italian I learned in college. "I wonder what they think of me?" I asked myself over a plate of carbonara. Nine days have passed since I arrived in Italy and as much as easy conversational Italian has become second nature to me here, I now fully enjoy each and every bite of solo dinners, basking in the option to eat as slow or as fast as I please. I have come a very long way in one week and two days.
Traveling alone has allowed me to breathe easy and take my time. I am able to stare at something for as long as I please, to sit in a basilica for hours on end if I want and to plan each and every day according to what interests me. It has been quite the lesson in learning what I truly enjoy doing and how I prefer to travel. And while this trip makes more and more sense to me everyday, the Italians still sure do not understand me at all.
"You studying here?'
"No, i'm here for two weeks by myself exploring Rome"
"Yes, two weeks just in Roma"
It's like clockwork every single time. There's always an air of sadness when they ask me why I am traveling alone, as if I am harboring some super dark and sad past that prompted me to take a trip across the world by myself to leave it all behind me. At first these interactions used to irk me a bit, but after having this conversation upwards of 30 times now, I get it. It's rare for a woman my age to take a trip like this, but if they only knew or could understand the gift I have given myself, they would hardly feel sorry for me.
To be honest though, it did take me a while to get to this point myself, and over the past 9 days I have really come to realize the gift it truly is. Full disclosure here, I woke up one day early last week and felt a twinge of sorry for myself. I knowww I knowww, how right? It came the morning after a night out where I was determined to make some friends and came up empty handed at midnight. As I left my apartment the morning after, it seemed as if everyone was so deeply in love or having so much fun with their friends, and I, I had no one and felt more alone than I have pretty much ever have.
"Snap out of it!" I told myself over a cappuccino and a chocolate croissant.
"Look at where you are, there is no time to wallow"
And after that one come-to-Jesus moment with myself, I did snap out of it for the most part. Sure there have been times where I have wished that someone was standing besides me to witness a street performers brilliant act or the glowing chandeliers of a massive church, and I would be lying if I said I didn't wish for a partner in crime at night to drink wine with.
But there was a moment yesterday at the top of Monumento Vittorio Emanuele where it all came together for me, full circle. I had paid 7 euros to ride an elevator to the top of the monument which is one of the highest buildings in Rome. Initially I debated over whether or not to pay because I had already seen some pretty spectacular views, but in the end I went with my instinct and of course, the saying "when in Rome" won me over.
The elevator up was an experience in itself as it was a bit rickety, completely glass and absolutely reeked on account of 3 large smelly frenchmen crammed in right next to me. I was thinking that the world was about to end after 30 seconds of holding my breath in the elevator, but when the doors opened and revealed a grand rooftop with one of the most breathtaking views I had ever seen, it was all worth it.
I stood on that rooftop for the better part of an hour, breathing in the fresh Italian air and soaking up every building, every basilica dome, stretching my eyes to see for miles and miles. Somewhere below, an accordion played and I could feel my brain filing that moment away in the depths of my mind.
You know when you can feel yourself making a memory with someone? You're at a concert or on a trip or laughing so hard that you just know you'll both remember it forever? That is how I felt yesterday standing on that monument, overlooking one of my favorite cities. Except it was different, because no one else in the world will have that moment. No one will ever feel what I felt right then and only I will be able to conjure those images, those sounds, that feeling. Which to say, is a pretty powerful thing, to have in your possession something that no one else has.
And so, I am alone, yes, but I am not lonely. I am seeing, I am exploring and more so than both, I am making memories, by myself and for myself and absolutely no one should feel sorry for me for that.
All my love,