The Adventures of a First Time Solo Traveller
Despite being a semi-avid traveller, my solo travel experience did not extend much beyond getting on planes and being in transit at airports. The idea of going to a new country where I didn’t know a soul was positively daunting. However, the idea of wasting a weekend in Dubai before meeting a friend in Venice seemed even worse, so I booked a flight to Italy 2 days before my friend was scheduled to arrive. It wasn’t until after I had paid for my ticket that I realised I was choosing to spend my extra time in a country renowned for pickpockets when Germany and Switzerland were so close by.
After booking a hostel in Milan I decided that it would be in my interest as a solo female traveller to look up unsafe areas of the city to avoid. Sure enough the only unsafe area was right by my hostel. Making a mental note to look these things up before making a booking, I decided I may as well look up tips to avoid being scammed in the area I had chosen. Internet forums warned me that using the ticket vending machines at the nearby metro station would certainly result in unwanted company.
Normally when I read cautionary tales from the internet, they remain tales. Of course with my luck being the way it was, the predictions from the internet came true on the solo part of my trip. A homeless man approached me the moment I stepped up to the vending machine. Now I’m sure the homeless man knew I didn’t speak Italian when he came up to me in a metro station with many other people who I’m certain did speak Italian. So I stood there and recited random English words until he finally realised I wasn’t willing to take out my wallet until he moved. So he walked over to bother another tourist at another machine and I continued buying my ticket. By now, I was skilled enough to have a yelling match with a man from the neighbouring machine. I was arguing about the fact that he had chosen me to argue with since I clearly didn’t speak Italian. And since he was yelling in Italian I have no idea what he was arguing about.
After wandering around the city solo for a couple of hours I decided it was time for company. I returned to my hostel to connect with other travellers. I made a few friends I headed out with them to get a taste of Milan’s nightlife. That was when I became painfully aware of just how old I was. I’m not sure if it was because they were in their early 20s or because it was just the sort of people they were, but snippets from the night included a girl asking the waiter how much we were supposed to tip him, another girl asking why migrants were willing to work in jobs that weren’t fun and a guy who said he wasn’t willing to talk to old people (so I promptly let him know I was an ‘old person’ as far as he was concerned).
Despite the rocky start, Milan offered me a chance to see beautiful sites, meet wonderful people and gelato that was to die for. Still I was glad when the time came to head to Venice and have the company of a friend from Toronto. My friend was scheduled to arrive about 2 hours after me so I decided to check my email while waiting for her. And that’s where I saw the email saying she had missed her connecting flight and would be stuck in Montreal for another day. Clearly the travel gods felt I needed to make up for my lack of solo travel experience right away.