I recently just completed my first night of solo travel, one night spent in Rome before an early flight the next morning. While this wasn’t a full-blown trip by myself, it did teach me a lot about the act of traveling alone. The idea came about after I booked a trip to Santorini with one of my friends from school. After booking the flight I quickly realized there would be no way to get from Siena to Rome that morning with enough time before my flight. While the first few moments after that realization hit me with a bit of panic, I soon found an easy solution to this: book a cheap airport hotel, and make a day out of it. After all, I didn’t think I’d get another opportunity to see the sights of Rome, might as well take advantage of it. So, I did just that, I skipped my classes that Thursday and got on an early bus to Rome. I didn’t have much of a plan, but I did know that the one thing I wanted to do that night was take myself out to dinner. My entire time abroad I’ve been emphasizing appreciating the little every day or minute details of my life. I’m trying to soak in every possible memory of my time here and a nice dinner by myself where I could people watch and read my book seemed like a perfect opportunity.
My first stop of the day was the Colosseum. Because I was trying to fit all the famous Roman landmarks into one day, I didn’t have time to go inside. Instead, I found a spot nearby with a great view and listened to a short podcast about the history of the Colosseum. This is something I’d recommend doing. As students with so little time abroad and on our weekend trips, we often don’t get to truly experience the history that each landmark has to offer. This was a nice way to stop, take in the sights, and learn a bit more about each of them. I continued my day, doing exactly this at the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and Spanish Steps. In between each destination, I would wander about the city, allowing myself to stop at stores that looked interesting or anything else that caught my eye. This was the main pro I found with solo travel or sightseeing; I wasn’t on anyone else’s timeline. The only thing that mattered was my opinion which took a lot of stress away from trying to fit so much into a day. I spent most of the day wandering with my headphones listening to my favorite music and taking in the sights which was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be.
That evening, it was time to do the thing that made me the most nervous but was my number one goal, dinner by myself. I did some googling and picked a restaurant nearby that looked good. I had heard about their fried artichokes from a friend and was excited to try them. I asked for a table outside and got set up. I had a new book to read and was prepared to do some serious people-watching. One of my goals during this dinner was to stay off my phone as much as possible, again, trying to work on living in the moment. The entire experience was nice, but I was surprised by the feeling of loneliness I got. I had kind of expected to have this amazing moment of self-confidence but that wasn’t quite what I got. The entire time, I kept wishing I had a friend or family member to share it with.
Overall, I’m glad I pushed myself to do it but I’m not sure that solo travel or dining is for me. Maybe as I keep doing it, I’ll get more used to that feeling but I’m not so sure. I think this experience taught me a lot about my balance in terms of alone time and time spent with others. While I do love to sit and have a coffee, or wander and see the city by myself, by the end of the day I do cherish time spent with other people because I like to share my experiences and hear about theirs. I’d recommend everyone studying abroad to do at least one night or trip alone because it does teach you a lot about yourself, but I think there is something to be said for the fact that it isn’t for everyone and that’s ok! The most important thing about it is pushing yourself and learning more about yourself. Happy solo travels!
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My name is Willa Thomas and I am originally from San Diego, CA. I am a biology major on the pre-nursing track but chose to study business and economics while abroad to learn something new and broaden my horizons!