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ITALY: Gaining Self-Confidence

ITALY: Gaining Self-Confidence | After the Heartbreak
ITALY: Gaining Self-Confidence

In Part 1 of this 2 part journal I left you in Lake Como.  That was officially the end of the tour however I had booked for the ‘tour extension’ where a few people from two different tours joined together to travel on together.  This meant that..again..I was travelling with strangers and this time, half of them did not know my story.  So what happened next?

New challenges as the group changes

Crowded streets of Lenno

We had a bus pick us up from our hotel in Lenno.  No big deal you think, but the streets are incredibly narrow and curvy so to get this standard size bus down skinny streets with two-way traffic was something to behold.

Once back in Milan, those of us staying for the tour extension boarded a high speed train and within a couple of hours we slid into Padova, a city in Northern Italy’s Veneto region.

Even less English in this little town of 250,000 and a short orientation walk showed that my chances of a gluten-free meal (I’m Coeliac) were remote.  I needed an early night anyway so I popped into a supermarket and bought some supplies of cheese etc to have in my room. I think the rest of the group went out for dinner but nowadays I find chit-chatting to people I don’t know extremely tiring, and not having menu choices doesn’t help.

Exploring Padova…alone and happy

The day after we arrived in Padova, the group was going to Verona for a day trip, but I decided to practise the ‘going solo’ thing a bit more and spent the day by myself…doing what I felt like doing. This trip is teaching me that I actually enjoy my own company and find it easier and more relaxing than group travel.  What does that say for my future travel plans? 🙂

I set out early.  It was chilly but not too cold however it became increasingly colder as the day progressed so I was glad I had brought my jacket and scarf. First place I headed was the Botanic Gardens as I’m always attracted to quiet, green places. It seems to slow down my over-active brain and helps me to live in the present.

Next I tramped the streets looking for the Art Gallery but found it was closed so I went exploring instead. Got so lost that I walked a kilometre in one direction before thinking to check Google maps….only to find I was actually walking to Rome!!! 😂

I thought back to the very first morning I arrived in Italy. I was so careful when leaving the hotel, literally counting steps, taking note of corners I turned, looking for landmarks and then backtracking to get back. Fast forward a couple of weeks and I’m purposely getting lost!  So empowering.

“Half the fun of travel is the aesthetic of lostness.”

Ray Bradbury

I was feeling empowered in more ways than one as I also started to get braver at ordering a coffee in my meagre Italian.  Something about being by yourself in a place where nobody knows you and nobody can judge or correct you.  It makes you want to ‘give it a go’.  I’m sure my attempts were pathetic but the locals appreciated me at least trying and in most cases I managed to make myself understood.  Travelling in a non-English speaking country wasn’t as hard as I had thought.

Enjoying a coffee

On to Venice….but I’ve been here before

Norbert and me
2006…I look much younger! 😉

It was 2006 and my husband Norbert and I stayed in a cute little hotel in the old city and had lots of fun times navigating the narrow streets, trying out local restaurants and riding the Vaporetto (water bus). We had such fun. But now he’s gone and I was back in Venice however I refused to wallow in misery and memories, as this was MY adventure and I was in the process of making brand new memories.

Me on a bridge in Venice

I began my revisit by staying with my tour group for an hour or so, however I’m beginning to gain confidence with navigation using Google maps so I decided to head out by myself and just meander around all the little alleyways and follow my nose to wherever looked interesting. I had a meeting point but I ran into a little problem because the ‘streets’ were so narrow that there was no satellite coverage when one is buried within the depths of this labyrinth!  I had to keep finding a piazza (plaza…open area) so that Google maps could catch up with where I was!

At the end of the day my phone app told me I had walked 16km so I was pretty pleased with myself.

Taking on the Italian transport systems …deep breath!

When the extension tour finished all my ‘solo-travel practice sessions’ came to fruition big time, as despite the fact I was hoping I could travel back to Milan with others from the group, this didn’t happen so I had to get myself back.  It’s a 245km trip and the best way to do it is on the train, so I began by trundling my (reasonable sized) suitcase to the nearest railway station.

Me on the platform with my train ticket

I could have cheated and talked to someone in Customer Service but I was determined to at least try to work it all out myself so I fronted up to an automated machine and began pressing buttons.  Put in my credit card with a silent prayer….and out popped a ticket!

OK…so far so good, but I had to work out which platform to be on and which train to catch.  Long story short….I did it! [does a little twirl in a circle]. I’m a fully qualified global solo traveller!! 🤩 That’s probably a bit of an exaggeration as I need a lot more practice but I’ve done the hardest one…the first. Go me!!!

Crossing the border into Switzerland

Before leaving home I had booked a ticket on the Bernina Express, which is a little red train that goes high up into the Alps of Switzerland.  My husband Norbert and I loved train travel, which is why the trip that turned out to be our last was riding the Trans Siberian Railway right across Russia.  I wanted to ‘take him with me’ on this rather famous train as well.

The day was fabulous, and I was pretty chuffed at how I managed it too.  I spent the day talking to complete strangers…which is incredibly difficult for me….while still enjoying my own company.  I even bought Swiss chocolate, and ate it all with no guilt.  🤩

I absolutely LOVE the mountains and this little day trip convinced me that I need to come back and spend a much longer time in Switzerland.

When we got back to Milan it was after 8pm and I was too tired to walk so with my new-found faith in myself, I ran down the stairs of the nearest Metro and took a subway train back to the station nearest the hotel.  By then I was feeling so self-confident that I threw my stuff onto the bed and took myself out for a meal and a glass of wine…”Tavola per uno!” 😁

Time to go home

I had been ‘on the road’ for 3 weeks and I felt ready to head home. They say that travel (especially solo travel) teaches you a lot about yourself and I found that this is true. I’ve always loved to travel and my first husband wasn’t too keen…but then I met Norbert who was my travel companion for 20 years. Gee we covered some ground.

Norbert and I with travel brochures

When he died I thought that I would not be able to travel overseas anymore as I no longer had my travel companion, but now I have learned that I am more than capable…and this knowledge makes me feel good. I have also learned that I am definitely not the only one out in the world travelling solo!

Norbert and I had a bucket-list of places that we wanted to go, so now my plan is to complete this bucket-list for both of us.  Problem is….I’m already adding on even more places that I want to travel!  Oh…why not….you never know when your time is up. 😁

I’d love to hear the stories of others who have gone down this scary road of solo-travel and emerged empowered….or maybe otherwise?.  Drop a comment in the box below and say hello.

PS: (There’s always a PS)

There was one little aspect of the trip that…well…didn’t go quite as well as I would have hoped. I turned it into a positive though! 😉

Read: Learning to Enjoy the Scenery on a Detour

Marlene is an Australian widow who has written about all the good, bad and ugly stuff that happened after her husband Norbert died tragically. Marlene responds to all comments.

Stay in touch! I’ll let you know when I have a new post up. 🙂
  • Michele says:

    I don’t travel much at all, but I absolutely love to read your blog. You have such a way with words and so encouraging in your facing your new life head on!

  • Ingrid says:

    I took two lay days , for me time, and felt my introvert self say,thank you!
    So nice meeting you

    • Marlene says:

      Hi Ingrid, My next trip will be longer so I will also be taking some ‘rest’ days…it’s a very good idea, both for the body and the mind. Hope to catch up with you again when I’m next on the other side of the world.

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