Italy on a whim is always a good idea post exams, so I packed my bags and took a flight out to Rome.
As my first solo trip, I didn’t know really what to expect or who I was going to meet but it was comforting to know that there was a ridiculous number of online articles offering all sorts of wisdom for the lone ranger, of course none of which I decided to read in advance.
Truth be told some amazing and odd defying things did happen which made me contemplate the five commandments of solo travel, so without further ado here they are;
1. Ciao with confidence because the locals will love you
Simply purchase ‘How to learn Italian in 30 days’ from your nearest Dymocks retailer, I’m joking forget about it. I don’t like Lonely Planet guides either. Maybe that’s how I ended up in a Cathedral listening to a free concert.
The best strategy is to learn the basics but remember quality over quantity for your newfound vocabulary. Perfect your pronunciation and be confident in your delivery. In some parts of Rome where tourists reign supreme, I noticed the locals very much appreciated my effort to speak their language. So I tried and the number of occasions Italians actually thought I could speak Italian was impressive, even though I’d quickly run out of words and resort to English. Here’s a short excerpt;
ME: BONJOURNO, CIAO (confidently)
WAITER: rattles off something in Italian
ME: ughhhh Sorry, that’s all the Italian I know do you know any new words I can add to my vocab? English?
Both laugh nervously*
Other benefits of attempting the local language include getting better tourist treatment and free wine which is always a plus.
2. Don’t loose your shit
So I didn’t think it was possible but somehow two separate air carriers managed to loose my bags on two separate occasions. Being in a foreign country without any luggage isn’t fun and airlines are often sorry not sorry however the most important thing is that when plans turn haywire staying calm and composed is paramount. Don’t waste time arguing with the taxi driver, worrying about airlines loosing your baggage or fighting with the waiter over paying that exorbitant tip. Just go with the flow. If worse comes to worse, buy a new pair of shoes.
3. Look where locals dine and party
Food and culture go hand in hand, but in order to find the hidden gems you need to be observant and look for where the locals dine and party. No need to stalk them, try asking the receptionist but make sure you specify that you’re into an off the beaten track experience. I always indulge in the novel opportunity to hunt for local produce in the local grocery store or open air market when I make a trip somewhere. You’ll often find the best produce there and it’s super cheap and cheerful.
4. Forget about the perfect shot
Unless maintaining your Instagram following is critical to your paying your rent or mortgage, it’s not a bad idea to disconnect from social media when you’re travelling. Yes we all like to gloat when we’re on holidays (even me) but sometimes I felt that there was a time and place where I needed all my five senses to capture the moment. It’s amazing what lengths people will go through to get the ‘perfect shot’, I mean do you really want to take twenty something shots of your best friend jumping off a boat into the Mediterranean Sea? I would be charging 2 Euros or 1 standard drink per frame however personally I prefer to substitute my camera for my travel journal and a pen when things look interesting or beautiful. Rare and precious moments should be scribed.
5. It’s just emotions taking me over
The biggest learning I discovered on my recent travels is that although Italy is a country so opulent with culture, food, language, art, history and hand gestures we actually have more in common than we believe. It’s easy to think that when you land in a new country this equals new and shiny things. But the reality is that we all live and breathe the same joys and sorrows and thus it would seem the human condition is a remarkable thing after all (tears*).
During one of my many endeavors to attain gelato post dinner, the cutest little Italian girl was screaming her guts off because she wanted two scoops of gelato instead of one. Classic. Of course the entire sequence of dialogue occurred in Italian but is testament that something’s never really change about us.
So there you have it, the five commandments of solo travel according to the chronicles of me. I hope at least some of them resonate with you.