There are some aspects of solo travelling that are especially nerve-wracking to people who perhaps don’t yet have as much experience as I do, and one of those things – something that comes up quite often in emails and messages – is feeling comfortable while eating alone, especially when travelling solo. And yes – walking into a restaurant you’ve never been to before in a place you’ve never been to before surrounded by a language you don’t speak can indeed be a scary experience.
Travelling through Europe by train – it’s how it all started for me. The feeling of freedom, the joy of independence, the ability to see the world out the window, just there, right there. I was 22 when I took my first solo adventure, a summer backpacking trip that would forever alter the course of my life. That summer made me grow into the person I am today, ten years later. And when I think of that trip, I think of trains.
From May until August of 2006, I took trains across Europe. I remember the face of the man who validated my train pass that would last me for the entire summer, a flimsy ticket that, if I lost, could not be replaced. I still have it; it’s stamped May 14th, starting in Amsterdam.
I almost never do these kinds of review posts – I’m always so impressed with bloggers who manage to do monthly round-ups. I often think how great it would be to do the same, and that it would keep me motivated and probably make me post more, but then I remember how lazy I am and laugh. It seems like every blogger has already done a review of their 2016, and I don’t even know who reads these kinds of things, but hey, I just had a fantastic breakfast at Falafel House (fellow Winnipeggers, you know what I’m talking about… I always get the corned beef hash and a glass of chocolate milk), two cups of coffee, and nobody else is home, so I thought I’d use these couple of hours to do something semi-productive. Usually I’d just be binge-watching Forensic Files, so I’m going to count this as a win.
I originally thought about organising this post by the trips I’ve taken this year, but my life is more than just my travels, and this blog is slowly encompassing more than travelling, so I’ve decided to organise it month by month.
Without further ado, here’s my year in review. No, I did not mean to rhyme that.
If you’ve been following my Facebook or my Instagram accounts, you’d know that I’m not hiding the fact that I fell absolutely, head over heels in love with Cinque Terre, Italy. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know – I can be quite promiscuous with my travel love. But how can you NOT fall in love with a place that looks like this, especially when the sun is shining and you have a glass of wine in your hand?
I’m still going through all of the hundreds of photos I took from my four days there last month, so I’ll be posting a photo essay soon, but I wanted to write a post about some of the logistics of getting around Cinque Terre, especially for those who are on a bit of a budget (like I was…er… always am). I had quite a few people write to me to say that they plan on visiting the region this summer, and so hopefully this guide can help, or perhaps it can help inspire you to plan your own trip there. It is one of the most beautiful places in Italy, if not the world, and I truly believe that Cinque Terre can be visited on a budget. Here’s how.
As I sat in the main square myself – I ordered my first glass of wine at 11 a.m., because when in Italy, you do as the Italians do – I was reminded of my first trip to Italy. It was 2006, nearly ten years ago. I was newly twenty-two years old. I had short, dark hair I had cut myself with my mother’s sewing scissors the night before I left my hometown in Canada. Italy was my sixth country on a huge, whirlwind backpacking trip through Europe: I had already been to the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Germany. I was completely on my own, bouncing from one major city to the next, staying in hostels for a few days before strapping my backpack on and clutching my Eurorail pass to my chest to find another train to another city. When I think of that trip, I think of the click-clack of the destination board in the train station as it updates; I think of arriving in dark cities late at night, searching for a taxi; I think of staring out the window as the world whizzed past, watching green hills unfold in the distance, fairy-tale castles perched atop a few of them. I think of movement. And then, I think of Italy.
If you’ve read this blog for a little while, you may know that I used to travel a lot – I visited every continent except Antarctica at least once in the last four years, including long stints of backpacking around Asia and Central/South America. When I moved to London about two years ago, I didn’t really plan to slow down… and for the first year, I didn’t, not at all. Last year, despite having a job and a full-time master’s degree, I visited fourteen countries on three continents.
This year, however, was probably the slowest year of travel for me in the past decade. I don’t even really know how it happened, but with work and the final stages of the degree taking over, plus an undying love of London, I realised I had to – and wanted to – focus on a few more things in life. That doesn’t mean I didn’t go away; this year I’ve visited Spain, Denmark, Ireland, Canada, and the USA, as well as lots of fun trips around the UK.
But I was a fool to think this wanderlust wouldn’t get the better of me eventually.