It’s been four years since I visited Venice, but I can always remember, quite vividly, my first day there. The moody unfriendly skies and the tiny drops of rain that calmly dripped from it; the light rain, which thanks to the windy day could only manage a gentle spritz against my skin. My newly flat ironed hair had already started to coil into tiny zig zag curls under the misty day, and if that, a lack of directions, and a missing cell phone were any indication, I was off to a bad start.
It was the first time, I had put on my big girl panties and went on a traveling adventure alone.
I remember how lost I was when I arrived, how little research I had done about the city and how, because of that, it was pretty difficult to even figure out getting around from the place my train had left me. I was alone and confused—I had purchased a ticket for a train to take me to Venice, but when that train brought and left me in Venice like it was supposed to, I felt like I had been abandoned. I had only been in the city 10 minutes and panic and worries had already come running to greet me. But the biggest problem was the obvious one, I couldn’t speak any Italian.
I remember getting on a water taxi to the other side of town and wandering through very narrow alleys, not understanding why these extremely narrow alleys were considered streets on my map. I remember the shop owners who would instantly say “prego” when I entered their shop to ask for directions and would say it again when I expressed gratitude for their help. I felt stupid for not even knowing what this seemingly simple and multifunctional word meant but I learned quickly to say it every time. Burdens of regret troubled me for traveling alone in a city which was entirely too confusing for words. But I always remember the view beyond the big white bridge I climbed to finally get to my hostel. I have no photographs to remind me of it, but every time I think of how crazy my first few hours in Venice were, I remember the view beyond the big white bridge. It was breathtaking! It halted my hurriedly walking feet in its tracks. I felt like it had embraced me with comfort—my first sign of assurance that everything was going to be all right.
The cool wind blew tufts of my now completely frizzy hair onto my face like a person waving their hands in your face to interrupt your daydreaming, and sadly I had to leave my heartwarming “view” alone, never to see it in the daylight again for the rest of my trip. I wish I wasn’t in such in a panicked state and in a hurry to find my way home, for it would have been nice to stand there and stare just a bit longer.When I finally found my hostel, my phone, and some friends who I learned were in town for just a short while, half of my day was already gone, and I spent the rest of my evening in the comfort of friendly familiar faces, laughter(mainly at my confused state earlier that day), and the best Tiramisu dessert I had ever had.By noon the next day, I had already found and settled into my new hostel. My friends had left for Greece very early in the morning, so I was back to being by myself again. This time it wasn’t so bad, I finally had a hang on the map and I wandered through the city with ease. I also remember this is where a new tradition began: I would since that day, save one extra day to stay in a city by myself after my friends who I travelled with had left. I had come to enjoy the serenity of being by myself, the freedom to quicken and slow my pace when I strolled through the city, and the pleasures of feeling completely anonymous. By the end of my trip, I would also come to master the courage to ask strangers on the street to take pictures of me. Selfies(front cameras) weren’t as popular in public then.
I spent the day on my feet, souvenir shopping and sight-seeing, and only realized I was tired when it became dark and there was very little to see.
On my last evening there, I didn’t want to leave. I had really come to fall in love with the city’s charm: The old peeling walls, and the illuminated reflections the river made on them at night, the air of romance that swirled around, the boats sailing slowly like they had no place to go. The beautiful piazzas and the gelato shops at every corner. I stayed out till 2am, sitting next to a bridge and a lonely boat that was right outside my hostel. I didn’t want to go in and end the night, but I eventually did, and by the next morning, I bid the gentle city farewell and headed out to start a new adventure, once again by myself, this time in Milan. But that’s a story for another day. So I kind of owe it to that time in Venice, an experience of a lifetime, the beginning of many traditions and many crazy adventures.