Traveling Solo

Uno Spritz in Florence

The weekend after Easter I visited Florence by myself. Alone. Solo. Party of one.

It wasn’t my first time traveling alone, so I knew I could overcome all the pre-trip jitters: worries about safety, anxiety about missing trains and getting lost, uncertainty about dining alone. Time has proven that all those unknowns and What Ifs do nothing but weigh me down.

I felt so wound up from the winter that I wasn’t able to relax until I dumped my backpack in my hotel room. The world of possibility finally opened its doors, and I stepped through them with my guide book in hand.

There I was, in a beautiful, historic city with no agenda and no whims to cater to other than my own. I could do whatever I wanted, no compromises. So I started walking.

I stopped for lunch when I was hungry without checking to make sure the restaurant served something my kids would eat. I had to share exactly none of my amazing gelato. I took a guided tour and heard every word. I marveled the magnificence of Michelangelo’s David for as along as I wanted. I got a little lost and didn’t feel guilty about it. I had a spritz in a piazza without having to tell my children to not feed the pigeons. I climbed towers, wandered cathedrals, overwhelmed myself with art, took the long way through the park, shopped, ate MORE gelato…at night! I did it all because I could, freely, and I was there.

But I was alone.

“Un bottiglie d’acqua naturale,” I’d say, and they would hand me two waters. “Uno per il palazzo,” I’d say, and they’d had me two tickets. “Only one?,” they’d respond when I’d ask for a table for one. Yes, yes, I am here alone. It’s spring break for everyone, it was a last minute trip, it’s my momcation, and anyway the friends I could count on for trips like these are now elsewhere in the world or universe.

Florence is saturated with American tourists. Families. Honeymooners. Sorority sisters. Basketball teams. Tour groups. My little fantasy of making a new friend a la Julia Roberts’s Liz Gilbert in Eat Pray Love was dashed immediately. (Let me state for the record that I despise the movie and love the book.) I expected to hear another solo traveler failing at Italian with an American accent. We would make eye contact and I would nod with a sympathetic smile, and we would pair up for dinner to compare notes on what we’ve seen. But there was none of that. Just English everywhere so that no one thought it was cool and interesting that I was also an American in Florence. They were too taken with the city itself.

Which was fine. I get it. It’s spectacular and I’ve had 9 months to get used to the awe of being in Italy.

I saw nearly all I wanted to see. I got a couple of days away from my responsibilities. I walked myself into the ground then read a book. I didn’t have to try to think of Italian words for anything, though I did come to realize that I know far more Italian than I suspected. Best of all, I gained the satisfaction of having done it. I wanted to go someplace and I went. I put aside my anxiety and I went. I chose to not let the opportunity disappear and I went. And now I’ve been to Florence.

I’d love to know if you’ve just up-and-gone some place on your own in the comments below!

8 thoughts on “Traveling Solo

  1. Yep I resigned from my job as a lawyer when I was 30 and went travelling around Thailand for three months. Best time ever. I still dream about it. I was definitely a lot braver back then. Now I’m not so sure I would have it in me… Or maybe I just know I’m very important to quite a few little people so I need to be close by. Boh!…

  2. Hi, I travel a fair amount and I love travelling solo, I’ve travelled with some of my best friends but still I think I prefer the freedom of being by myself, I’ve even written a post about it here

  3. I spent a weekend in Paris alone, followed by a few days in Etretat in upper Normandy alone. In Paris it was easier being alone in that there was so much to do, but it was also more challenging because a young woman alone can get so much unwanted male attention. In a tiny town like Etretat I got no unwanted attention, but was also lonelier. I think I like traveling alone for maybe an afternoon, but then have people to meet up with. To each her own!

  4. Before I had my first baby I went to Rome alone. People looked at me like I was crazy (maybe I was since I was like 30 weeks pregnant), but I needed that trip. I loved every minute of it, even if my feet were swollen and I was exhausted afterwards. I’m sad my husband couldn’t go with me (he was deployed), but gosh, I loved and had missed traveling on my own!

    I hope you loved Florence—it’s one of my absolute favorite places in Italy, but then again, I’m an art history junkie, and that city is full of so many amazing pieces right in front of your eyes!

  5. I’ve never traveled alone aside from a day trip to London or weekend in Chicago. Do those count? I think I’m too social. Plus I think I prefer traveling with you! Do you think when we’re back in ‘America’ we’ll up and go on girl trips again?!

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