Before I left for my trip, family members and friends cautioned me relentlessly about the dangers of traveling alone as a young female. “Be careful,” “be smart,” “don’t go elope with some strange guy who kidnaps you and brings you in his boat to a hidden cave in Sicily….” you know, the usual speech. I’ve traveled alone many times before, but always met up with friends at some point. This was my longest solo undertaking in which I was completely 100% on my own.
As I was waiting for my plane to board wand waving goodbye to my parents, I had a moment where I thought, “what the hell did I just get myself into…” I had planned the details of transportation and how to carry all my art supplies, but had absolutely no plans once my plane landed. I kinda forgot about that part. It turns out, though, having zero expectations always results in the best outcome.
My first night completely alone was in Vico Equense, a small town on the Western coast of Italy in the region of Campania. I intended to book just a single room in an AirBnB, but accidentally booked an entire 6-bedroom house, for myself. I sat there, alone, in this massive, beautiful house overlooking the cliffs that hovered about the Tyrrhenian Sea, and I called my parents crying. In that moment, all I wanted was to share the experience with someone, and didn’t know who to do that with. As parents do, they advised me to just get out. I had been looking forward to this destination of the trip for so long, it would be ridiculous to sit in and mope around. I was in one of the most beautiful regions of Italy, what did I really have to complain about? So, I got dressed, went outside, and bought myself 2 slices of pizza that were bigger than my head. (I was just 40 minutes south of Napoli, the city that claims to have invented pizza. It was the obvious choice). The second I got out of the house, I already felt better.
During that week in Campania, I learned a great deal about myself. I visited Pompeii, practiced Italian with shopkeepers, treated myself to a fancy dinner, took a boat trip to Capri, went hiking, sketched, and took far too many pictures. I met other wonderful, lovely solo travelers who had experienced the same feelings that I had, and friendships instantly were formed. We ultimately all agreed that solo traveling is the most incredibly liberating experience. It forces you to truly get to know yourself and get out of your comfort zone. You are pushed to meet new people and try new things, because you literally have nobody stopping you. You don’t have to take anybody else’s feelings or desires into consideration. If you are hungry, you eat. If you are tired, you sit. If you want spend all day wandering and getting lost and taking photos, you can do so. You can do whatever you want to do.
When people talk about traveling alone, they often focus on the negatives: stranger danger, what if you are sick, what if you are lonely, what if you are lost…. At some point, I experienced all of those things, however, I am still here, and stronger for it. Traveling solo forces you to solve your own problems, carve your own path, and become truly independent. I learned that it is okay to ask for help, and discovered that people are so much kinder than I could have ever expected. But most of all, I left that week feeling like if I can travel alone, successfully and happily, I can do anything.
Photo above is from the boat trip to Capri, where I spent the day with other solo travelers.