Most of my travel experiences have been solitary, or in a duo. This all began in 2003-04 when I studied abroad in Swansea. Like most exchange students, my parents said goodbye to me at my home airport and I traveled alone. I flew from San Francisco to London, then two trains and a taxi later, I was in Swansea. The people that I immediately met upon my arrival in the student village thought this was an amazing feat, but it was in fact quite simple and easy to accomplish. I realized that I could get pretty much anywhere I wanted to without waiting for someone else to come along with me. Not only that, but I loved the feeling of adventure and accomplishment that wandering around the world on my own brings.
I had been to Rome once before. I spent time with my self and with my bestie who was studying in Florence. That particular trip was full of lots of solitary time. My February trip was the exact opposite- it was my first experience in massive group travel. I was traveling with fifty other adults. Fifty!!!
I learned a lot of great lessons about traveling with other people. I learned how to not be judgmental and embarrassed when everyone is being super loud and fulfilling all the stereotypes of American tourists. I also learned that a small spot of alone time while traveling is an absolute must for me. I crave that alone time to wander around at my own pace, indulge in my own personal travel obsessions, and do my best to blend in and observe everything that is going on around me.
Luckily, we had free time on our last afternoon in Rome. This is what I did:
I started off at Castle Sant’Angelo. I love castles. This particular castle was in excellent shape and offered a beautiful view of the city. Surprisingly, it was also chock full of British tourists.
After the castle, I decided to walk along the Tiber River and have a closer look at some of the street art. I walked down the steps and trudged along the muddy walkway down on river level. These were some of my favorite pieces:
I kept going until I ran into some people camped out on the river with a (somewhat scary looking and unleashed) dog. I turned around because they were speaking Italian (obviously!) so I couldn’t get a good estimate of whether they were actually scary people or just people hanging out down by the river. So, I went back up and wandered around some beautiful little alleys in the Piazza Navona area.
Smile? No problem.
One lovely glass of red wine, several free snacks (you don’t have to pay extra for happy hour food in Rome!), and the purchase of a small black handbag later, it was time to find my group in Piazza Navona.
After this little afternoon of freedom, I was ready to travel with my group again.
Do you prefer to travel alone? With a small group? With a big group? Let me know in the comments!