I’m on day 3 of 10 days of traveling during school vacation and I’ve already walked 30+ miles in dirty keds and two pairs of socks. My toes feel permanently cramped, and I’m having sense memories of my high school era shin splints.
But if you must walk an average of 15 miles a day, Rome is not a bad place to do it ! I spent a regrettably short amount of time in the Eternal City and the only things on my itinerary for the roughly 36 hours were to see some famous monuments and eat as much as possible. Mission Accomplished!
What I love about traveling alone is that I’m not beholden to anyone as I plan my day. Want to walk 25 minutes out of the way to eat at a certain sandwich place someone recommended? Let’s do it. Feel like going back to that cute café even though you spent two hours reading there yesterday? Nothing stopping you. Make it up as you go along and suddenly your pedometer reads 38,000 steps.
What I find fascinating about solo travel is the silence, or sometimes the lack thereof. I spent two days basically not speaking to a single soul save the various merchants who sold me tea and pasta and sandwiches and fried balls of rice and postcards and magnets. Some people prefer to fill that quiet air with music or podcasts. I like to let chance and imagination do that work.
I like to watch and listen to the people I pass on the streets, guess their nationality. If they’re speaking English or French, I like to eavesdrop, imagining joining in their conversation, silently answering their questions or judging their choices. If they’re speaking Italian, I like to listen to the sounds, repeating those round open vowels under my breath and pretending that I actually know more than seventeen words.
In the absence of people to entertain me, I like to invent them myself, hosting long discussions, usually out loud or under my breath, with imaginary persons. I spent a particularly long walk yesterday explaining to a make-believe French person – perhaps a colleague of mine, or a recent acquaintance – why the patriarchy is bad for men and women. Don’t ask me how my mind got me there, but 35 minutes later I had arrived at the Pantheon and worked out exactly what vocabulary to use (correctly conjugated) when this very subject inevitably comes up in conversation…
And sometimes, my mind is honestly just blank. Maybe it’s some kind of meditative state where I simply let the sounds and voices and people and images wash in abstraction in front of me. I’m not necessarily listening or observing, just being for a little while. It’s peaceful, but not in a forced way. I like knowing that I don’t always need to be doing something to occupy my thoughts. Sometimes it suffices to just be. And just like that you don’t even feel the dozens of miles or tens of thousands of steps pass you by. At least not until the next morning!
What do you do to keep your mind occupied when you’re traveling or alone ?? ❂
Slice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate