After a few weeks exploring the Amalfi coast on my own I got a train over to Rome to meet a friend. Travelling in Italy by train is easy and cheap and my only concern was how was I going to adapt to sharing my time, space and decision making with someone else. Losing the independence of solo travel, which I love, of setting my own agenda, budget and pace was a bit of a worry.
The friend I met was one I’ve known since we were two years old, we have shared so many good and bad times together and it quickly became apparent that my concerns were invalid. However, I was very aware how different I became when I wasn’t travelling on my own.
I threw out my usual travel budget out the train window and replaced it with a holiday one which was the biggest, most obvious change – as it meant I visited more tourist attractions, drank in more bars and ate out more than I usually would on my own. I ate out a lot more. In the week we were there, we only used our kitchen in the apartment to make morning cups of tea and bowls of cereals, the rest of the day we ate like queens (as this previous post illustrated quite clearly).
But it was the more nuanced changes that interested me the most – all the experiences (whether it was an awesome view, the comprehension of an amazing historical fact or simply standing in the remains of an iconic building) were all enhanced because I was sharing them with someone else. Alone, I would have experienced my own amazement or joy but experiencing it with a friend meant that her amazement or joy reflected back on me which then increased my own – a bit like a contagious yawn but more fulfilling and a lot more fun.
Also, I became more present, more engaged. The best experience I can think of was watching the sunset from a rooftop bar over looking Il Vittoriano. I have taken myself to many a bar on my own, bought an overpriced beer and enjoyed watching the sunset. But I have also watched the other people watching the sunset – with me being an observer, an outsider. This time I was a participant – experiencing the experience, not just watching it.
I obviously enjoyed myself in Rome and more so than if I had visited on my own. I still love my solo travel – the independence and freedom, the quiet of my own company and the comfort of being on the outside looking in but I liked this experience of exploring with a friend too. Mixing it up, doing a bit of both side by side is probably the perfect way of doing for me, am going to try to experiment again with this on future trips.