I have two weeks left till our program is over and this weekend my Italian Art class took a field study trip to Rome. A bunch of us elected to stay an extra night so we could explore Rome ourselves and take advantage of the open ended train ticket purchased by SU. After a long day of sightseeing and walking, I arrived (lugging my bag) all hot and sweaty to the hostel. After two metro trains, a bus and a 2 mile walk to this out of the way place, all I could think about was a cool shower and a 20 minute nap.
How I got Stuck
I rang the bell and an older Asian guy came down to apologize saying sorry but there was a problem with my room and that I’d have to please find another place to stay. Due to some unfortunate accident my room was unavailable so he said to go back to the train station where I’d just come from and find a place around there. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry or yell and stomp my feet in hopes that he’d quickly rush to accommodate my aching feet and bank account by offering me a refund of the down payment or a ride to the station. He pointed me in the direction of the bus stop and disappeared. CRAP.
How I reacted
I was alone in a city I didn’t know, with my bags in tow and no credit on my cell phone to call anyone. I was tired, cranky and on top of everything I was starving. Not just the kind of “forgot to eat lunch starving”. I was “walked a thousand miles and forgot to eat breakfast and lunch and about to pass out starving”. All I wanted to do was dial up my parents and sob to them about how tired I was, how I didn’t have a place to stay and how maybe I should just screw this travel thing and come home. But I knew they couldn’t help me and calling them would only worry them. For the first time in weeks and probably months, I was quite literally on my own—virtually no support network. I quickly reminded myself that things could be a lot worse. I literally shook myself out of the stress and anxiety.
Come on Patty, I said to myself, you’re supposed to be traveling alone for two weeks after this and you cant even handle a minor problem like this? Who are you kidding! Get some gumption woman! Toughen up and figure it out for yourself. So I did.
Looking For A Place
I trekked all the way back to the train station and walked down the main road stopping at every hotel and hostel asking for a room. I was seriously ready to accept ANY room.
I must have stopped at nine or ten different places. Finally I found a room for 26 euros at a cheap youth hostel–the receptionist warned me that it was an 8 bed mixed dorm room with mostly guys and was that okay? Does it look like I’m picky? I said. I’ll take whatever!
My First Night as a “Solo” Traveler
So I stayed the night in Rome alone and became quite good friends with the British guys who I bunked up with. They were very nice and it turns out one of them is studying renaissance art and is coming up to Florence so we exchanged names and numbers to meet up for a coffee. The rest promised to show me around London when I’m there next year.
What I learned
Perhaps this trip was the wake up call I needed to prove to myself that not only can I survive on my own and not melt down when something goes wrong, but also that I can make a good experience out of a bad situation and figure out a way out. I realized traveling is not all bubbles and glitter all the time. Attitude makes or breaks the trip and a good traveler needs a healthy balance between the actual desire to make it happen and the tenacity to roll with it.
This weekend I was in probably the toughest situation—sweaty, exhausted, hungry, cranky, and homeless. Somehow I figured it out and am now completely confident in my ability to travel alone for 2 weeks. I guess everything happens for a reason… Barcelona and Greece here I come!