Alone on the Italian Rails

Traveling alone.

It’s not all fun and roses and sunshine and beautiful, helpful, nice people. Sometimes it is but sometimes it’s not. Because when you are on your own, all the planning and decision making, all the levelheadedness and innovative thinking needed to get yourself out of an unfortunate situation, all the successes and all the triumph when things work out as planned are all yours.


My program has a weeklong break incorporated into the schedule, right after our three weeks of intensive German and before our regular semester-classes start. This was this past week. Given this long stretch of time, I decided to make use of it and head down to Italy, spending time in Rome, Florence and the Cinque Terra towns along the western coast. Not wanting to bother with finding a traveling buddy who just so happened to want to visit the same places I did or end up compromising on activities and destinations, I decided to travel solo. For transportation I used a combination of regional and long distance, overnight trains. Planning the trip took about four hours one afternoon, when I hammered out all the details as to when and where exactly I would be staying, along with my big transportation connections. And then of course, booking everything. After that I appreciated our childhood, parentally planned, family vacations much more.


I couldn’t figure out a nice, continuous way to recount some of my strongest impressions and experiences about traveling alone, so I’m just going to list them in bullet point fashion.


1) There was one time when I took a train in the wrong direction. I was trying to get from Florence to Riomaggiore (small town on the coast) and it required one transfer. Just one. And my destination was supposed to be the first stop on the second train. As we pulled into the first station and I saw the wrong name on the station signs I swung around to the Italian man next to me and tried to ask him whether this train went to Riomaggiore. After many hand gestures and repeating words and phrases, from both of us, I understood that this train was headed in the opposite direction. I then rushed off as soon as the train stopped completely and found myself at a small station in the middle of Italian countryside with the sun going down and closed windows on all information or help stands. As I looked around and took in my situation I found my heart pounding unnaturally fast inside my chest and panic rising, tempting me to overthrow all good judgment and run around screaming or curl up in a ball hoping it would all be just a bad dream.

Second half of the story and the rest of my reflections coming soon ..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *