My alarm is blaring. I flip over and squint to read my phone screen. It is still blaring and I read in a hushed voice, "5:45 am." I rub my eyes, crack by back, and give one last stretch before hopping out of bed to wash my face and head to the train station.
The night before, I booked a last minute trip to Scotland, completely solo, never have been doing solo travel before. Sure, I've done transatlantic flights by myself a good amount and I've traveled by myself to places where I was meeting people but no, I have never been completely solo from the minute I left my apartment, passport waiting to be stamped in hand, to the minute I get back days later. This was going to be a first.
So I decided to get my toes wet with something a little smaller. A quick trip to a famous city in Northern Italy called Verona (ever heard of it? I'll give you a hint: But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?) for a few hours to see how well I could handle the whole nobody-there-to-help-you-but-yourself thing. And let me tell you, it was the most satisfying, awe-inspiring, reminder of how truly lucky I am to be here doing what I do.
When I stepped off the train in Verona, I couldn't help but laugh to myself. Why I am here? I don't know much of anything about this city besides that it is the setting for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Here I am, a solo American woman traveler, not familiar with this town in the slightest. Little would I know that only a few hours later, this would become one of the best experiences of my life.
I felt like Amanda Seyfried in "Letters to Juliet." I was searching for balcone di Giulietta (as they say in Verona) left and right and then all of the sudden, there it was. I was standing right in front of the dang thing. And the best part was that it wasn't swarmed with tourists. No pre-teen girls on vacation with their family writing angsty tear-soaked love letters over their boyfriend of three weeks that they left at home for the summer, no foreign people feeling up the statue of Giulietta for the sake of feeling her up (fun fact: tradition says if you hold Giulietta's left breast, it brings you good luck in love) and making peace signs in front of the wall of heart wrenching letters, no high school and college girls just "doing it for the insta." Just travelers actually learning and embracing and loving the moment. Some in tears over how iconic and beautiful this place is, so full of hope and inevitable tragedy. I felt very honored to be part of such a crowd.
After pulling myself away from the crowd, I roamed. I ended up in Piazza Erbe which is awe-inspiring. The only way I can describe the architecture is eclectic. Moroccan style windows, the Italian homes are shades of orange and yellow with terraces overflowing with jasmine and bougainvillea. Add some Spanish style fountains and there you have it. Its amazing, a true sight to see.
After a caffe doppio and a brioche crema, I pulled out my map and directed myself towards the river. There I just walked. And walked. And walked, and walked, and walked. I saw sweet newlyweds kissing on the edge of the river, elderly couples holding hands still very much in love, and travelers like myself soaking in the love that this town has its foundation. To me, this city is more romantic than any of the major love cities like Rome or Paris. It is a quiet kind of love, not the over-exaggerated gestures of six dozen roses and breakfast in bed after a long night of rosé, but silent strolls through the city and casual romance. It wasn't sappy or overdone, it just naturally occurred.
Again, I kept giggling to myself and whispering, "What is my life? How is it possible that I am so lucky to be here?" In that moment, strolling next to the river, I knew that solo travel is what I love. Not to say that one day I won't love every second of traveling with my future husband and family, but in my "now," I want to be by myself. I have free range to do what I please. It is a time for me to reflect and to think about myself and fall in love with who I am and strive for who I want to be. It is a time to really cherish my freedom, my ability to be courageous and see the world through my eyes and no one else's.
So in the most romantic city in the world, I fell in love with travel all over again. I laughed to myself about how all too cliche it was but in that moment, there was no concerns or worries. It was good and it was full of pure fascination and contentment. Just the way it should be.