We all need it. Family, Friends, Pets, Nature, Hobbies, Passions, Restaurants even our own favourite ‘spot’. That feeling you have in your gut with someone or something and there’s no need to explain – it just feels right. There are no words to describe just strong beating-out-of-my-chest / twirling-in-my-stomach type emotions, but you trust that. I mean, who doesn’t like butterflies with guys, laughing so hard you can’t breathe with friends, the adrenaline after playing your favourite sport (and winning!) and that first mouthful of your favourite dish?
But what happens when you go traveling alone? It’s like ripping out all the cords from a multi power board. You’re willing to seperate yourself from everyone and everything you know and love around you; travel to a far distance in hope that you can find other cords that will fit in with you. They will fill your holes, your missing pieces you left behind and enlighten that spark again in you.
I am true avid believer in the short 5 years of traveling, that walking through those departure gates is more than just embarking on a new adventure. It’s like walking into a portal that forces you to change, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and meeting people on the other side of the world. They will bring different parts of you out of yourself, you never knew you had. You walk through those doors knowing that when you walk through those exact same doors again, you’ll be a different person. Same personality, different perspective.
I met people along my travels who absolutely entered into my heart and turned me inside out. Whether it was for a few moments or a couple of days.
I remember meeting all different types of people at the hostel: people from all walks of life and many nationalities, old, young, introverts, extroverts, single, married, travel partners, traveling in groups, male, female and everything in between. Here I was, little miss princess. I fit right in. I didn’t realise backpackers were just normal people! I thought the sterotypical ‘long cornrows or dreadlock braids in hair, coloured ties bracelets around their wrists and ankles, leg pants that can fit up to two people inside, forever in bare feet and awkwardly smelly’ (although that smelly part is true to a certain degree, yes I admit it! Being on the road does that to you!)
19th June 2014: Rome
Fate due to exhaustion led me to a fair skinned, bright red haired girl with two small dimples when she smiled, greeted me as I walked into the room. A Canadian girl named Erika. I remember meeting her so briefly. She was siting on her bed with her map or lonely planet book in her hand and a couple of travel goods on her bed. It was her last night in Rome so we decided to go out, have some dinner and have a night out browsing around the town. On our way out we met a Saudi Arabian girl named Zee so we dragged her out the door with us too.
Our night included visiting the Trevi fountain (with no fountain), eating horrible Italian food at a restaurant that ran out of tomatoes (IN ITALY!!!?!), posed with some weird dudes in gladiator suits – who later ask for money and enjoyed a scoop of gelato as we stood in front of the Panthenon as the sun went down. Instead of admiring the view we were standing in the middle of the walkway with our gelato so caught up in our conversation.
We arrived back at the hotel and we bought some wine at the bottle shop. We went into Zees room and drank and talked until 1am. I still remember Erika opening the bottle of wine using the screw that holds the blinds, smart cookie, I really liked her.
It had been 4 weeks to the day that I had been traveling and it was the first time I really found people who ‘got me’ conversation flows when you can’t talk fast enough, everything is humorous and you’re bouncing off each other. It was nice to finally find people I just clicked with. It was so great just talking, laughing and just being ME.
Luckily for me, this wasn’t the last time I saw Erika.
23rd June 2014: Pompeii
With no time to waste we went straight to the City of Pompeii Ruins.
We stood in the middle of the ruins and ate gelato (we had a tendency to do that), stalked a tour guide because we didn’t want to pay for one, sat in the Roman baths and gossiped (used them what they were made for), took photos as we walked around the entire city trying to decipher what was what – from fast food restaurants, temples to worship the Gods, the theatre, amphitheatre to laying in the rock hard brothel beds. We completely emersed ourselves in the city transported back in time before 79AD.
We spent the rest of the afternoon/evening walking around Pompeii (the actual city not the ruins!) and it was just such a beautiful city!!! Everyone was friendly and the guys would no doubt give you a bit of a self-esteem booster. I remember taking this photo at a crossroad and 3 cars full of males stopped to say something along the lines of Bellissima! Never thought I’d see the day where I’d be stopping traffic in Italy!
We had a lovely dinner with wine, great conversation and a relaxing night.
24th June 2014: Mt Vesuvius, Herculaneum and Naples
To start our day we caught a bus and a 4 wheel drive up the mountain, as you could expect it was extremely bumpy, but man was that view worth it!
Not only did the famous eruption occur in 79AD, there was also a minor eruption in 1944 which took out two towns. The crater hole is completely covered and there are scientists that monitor the movements of the mountain 24/7. When the pressure will build up beneath it will eventually explode again. But until then eh?
When we arrived in Herculaneum. We were quick to judge as our first thought was ‘is that it?’ But as we started to wonder around the streets, we soon realised that this city would take us by surprise with it’s conserved beauty.
The artwork, mosaic and statues were so colourful, detailed and preservation was much more in tact compared to Pompeii. Our underwhelmed feeling magically turned into awe. We stared and admired at the detail of this subtle yet rich city. Herculaneum was known to be much more conservative in comparison to Pompeii.
As we left we marvelled at a large underground field of corpses; either taking refuge or working down there as Mount Vesuvius errupted. We left the city and appreciated this place for what it truly was. A city that has not been completely discovered because of the modern day city built on top of it. About 75% of the city is not yet excavated. The majority of the city is still hidden and will remain a mystery for many years to come.
We were suppose to visit the museum at Herculaneum but it was almost closing time and there was also a fee. So we decided to venture out to Naples for dinner. There were 3 recommended places to go to for the ‘Best Pizza in the World’ (and cheap) so we decided on Sorbillo. We devoured a pizza each, as you do in Italy and it was somewhat delicious. But unfortunately in my opinion NOT THE BEST IN THE WORLD. Sorry!
25th June 2014: Positano and Sorrento
We decided that this day would be a chill day… or so we thought! It turned out to be a massive adventure! It was a trek and a half to get here from Pompeii. Did I mention the bus drive is also an adventure of its own? Narrow windy streets with truck loads of tourists on busses. It felt like I was on a ride at a theme park (without a seat). We arrived in this cliff side village Positano in the South of Italy sometime in the afternoon.
After eating lunch by the water, we grabbed a map and explored this quaint little picturesque town and of course, we had a had a mini photo shoot with absolutely every flower arrangement, uneven street or multicoloured home possible. From dipping our toes in the pebbly muddy shore to eating more gelato (we were still on the hunt for that perfect gelato we were yet to find!) we had a relaxing couple of hours. We decided we would head back as we didn’t want to miss the last train home.
Roaming the streets of Sorrento definitely caught us of guard. This town was just so damn PRETTY! We amused ourselves by walking along the streets shopping, browsing at their world famous leather shops and yes, you guessed it. Eating more gelato!
Erika and I were walking along the street when a lady approaches us ‘gelato… free sample?’ I whispered to Erika convincingly ‘let’s try but we wont buy okay?’ We both take one lick of the sample and the next thing you know we are walking out of the shop with our cups of gelato saying to each other… ‘THIS IS THE BEST GELATO IN THE WORLD!’ Yes, you can thank me later.
The night included eating dinner at a restaurant with a guy who secretly stalked us and saw us at the train station in the afternoon, drinking sangria at a bar, smoked cigarettes, cried (me) and spent a good couple hours of dnm.
It was what seemed like a long trek home. We missed the last train back because we misread the times. An Italian guy was trying to talk to me and I had NO idea what he was talking about. Then he says ‘boos at 2300’. So we caught the bus at 11pm and were on our way back to Pompeii.
The bus ride leaving the coastline at night was truly something special. Although I was fighting a war with my eyelids to keep them open, it was worth the struggle. They also had statues of Mama Mary on the corners of the road and it was absolutely beautiful.
26th June 2014: Final Goodbye
She snuck me into her hostel where I secretly stayed for 3 nights and there was a queen size bed, which worked perfectly (my plan was to sleep on the floor – all part of the experience right?) She smuggled me breakfast every morning wrapped in napkins. She taught me how to ring out my clothes in towels so they’ll dry faster when you hang them (travel tip!), she taught me some Canadian lingo McDicks (McDonalds), that maple syrup is important and that I must try Poutine. She got excited every time she saw a lizard (she loved lizards!), a cat, dog or any animal for that matter.
It was a bittersweet farewell. I knew I had to continue along with my travels but it was so hard to say bye to someone you connected so well with. You didn’t know when you will see them again or what was yet to come. We exchange the usual ‘I’ll see you on the other side of the world’, but only until then!
Sometimes it’s not the destination that takes your breath away. It’s the people you meet along the way because of the uncontrollable laughter.