This Monday, I just got back from my 10-day trip in Paris and Italy. Places I visited are Paris, Venice, Verona, Florence and Rome. I did most of the trip solo, but was also lucky enough to meet up with some of my favorite people along the way. Traveling solo can be monotonous, high-cost, and surprise-ridden, but it is such a pure and primitive way of seeing the world: without the aid of a travel companion, you have to put down the ambition of multi-tasking or experiencing different things in batch; instead, do one thing at a time, and learn to savor the joy of it.
I really like this T magazine article that my friend Echo sent me before I went on this trip, which really borrowed me a different lens to view my solo experience that, in many occasions, would otherwise seemed annoying. Having to bother strangers to take a photo for me every now and then, mislead by cavalier bus driver in Mestre and having to switch 4 buses to make my way home, eating alone without the joy of sharing and sampling different dishes, feeling insecure in a hostel dorm and having to learn to confront when other people challenge my comfort zone, and let alone multiple getting lost experience and lost in translation situation. Upsetting as these experience could be, I think solo travel has actually put me closer to the unpredictable nature of life, which is why I believe solo travel is the purest way of experiencing life.
My time with my friends during this trip is short but memorable. Their presence reassured me the rule of thumb of traveling is to go with someone you love. My favorite moment with people in this trip is the evening when Echo and I finished our not-so-impressive Rome food tour. We were leaning on the windowsill of the hotel room, overlooking the city in the gentle dusk and talking about how we would, unlike the perfunctory food tour lady we had that day, put our greatest passion and care if we ever open our own leisure business. At that moment we felt that countless possibilities are unfolding in front of us, our dream can actually be really close , and felt so blessed to have each other since our personalities complement each other so well.
Friends brought me my favorite moments of people along the trip, while solo travel brought me countless favorite moments of places throughout this trip. Perhaps it is because there is no distraction between me and the place while I am traveling alone, almost everyday I would be able to have a moment that I was deeply wowed and moved by a place–First day in Venice was the far east shore of the calm and leafy Giardini right next to the Biennale garden; in Verona was the towering Castelvecchio in which hides the elegantly crafted corner by Carlo Scarpa; in Florence was the empty plaza in front of Duomo at night when flocks of tourists left; in Rome–way too many this kind of great moments–my favorite was the Palatine and Roman Forum at sunset. I was terribly sick when I visited the Palatine and the Forum, but the setting sun and the sprawling wild poppies made the ancient ruins couldn’t look more breath-taking. The beautiful contrast of life and decay had an almost dazzling effect to my eyes, which made it hard to tell if my eyes were wet because of my allergy, the sun, or the beauty.
Imagine these ancient monuments never fell apart; they are just standing in whole as any other grand, palatial building of today–would they still be able to be as touching as the scene I saw that afternoon? hmm probably not. Welcome to the world of the defective beauty.