Last week I traveled to the city of Noto with my Italian madre Stefania. It was a beautiful city that comes to life with many people throughout the day and lends to many tourists. I am definitely one to try to avoid tourist towns but knew that I had to see Noto given its beauty and close proximity to where I was staying. Check out our video of the beauty and fun things to see in Noto.
It has been almost 4 weeks in Italy and I have experienced both traveling alone and with others and come to a few conclusions. It’s not like one is better than the other, it is just different and comes with different benefits and downsides, so here is a list to think about.
Everyone is always shocked when they find out that I’m traveling alone to some places. To me, it is so normal. If others are busy, then I’m not going to sit around, and I can tell you that I’ve seen others become a victim to this. They are too scared to travel by themselves. If you are younger than 18 I would definitely not recommend this, but if you feel like a responsible adult, then it doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, get the courage, get your bag and go out. You will regret it if you don’t. If you are constantly waiting for others to go with you on adventures you will be doing just that… constantly waiting.
People work. People have school. They are not always going to stop their lives to take you around to the towns, and you shouldn’t expect that. But, you also shouldn’t let that stop you.
Traveling with Others – Pros and Cons
1. You always have a travel buddy.
PRO: You always have someone to talk with, take photos with and venture with.
CON: It is no longer your trip. You have to take the other person into account and what they want to see and do. Sometimes I find myself focusing on the other person and making them happy and making sure they are having fun, instead of really taking in the scenery around me.
2. You don’t have to stick to being a “tourist”
PRO: If you are traveling with a local, they will know more about the areas and be able to take you to places that aren’t the “typical touristy places.”
CON: Because they are a local, they may want to brush through things more quickly than you want to, and feel more antsy if you want to constantly stop and take photos or videos.
3. Always have someone who speaks the language.
PRO: If you are with someone who speaks the language, your fear is eliminated and you feel more free, knowing that someone at least knows what they are doing.
CON: You are constantly dependent on someone else to tell you where to go and what to do and taking the “easy road,” knowing that you always have a crutch.
TRAVELING SOLO – Pros & Cons
1. It is just you, you don’t have anyone else to help you speak the language.
Pro: You are stretched to practice your language skills because you HAVE to, there is no one you can lean on.
Con: Sometimes you will get confused, go wrong ways, miss places that you should have seen but didn’t because you didn’t know about them.
2. You are forced to talk with others.
Pro: Because you have no one else with you, you are more conscious of other people and seek out foreigners or other people who may speak the language.
Con: You won’t always meet people that you become friends with right away, and sometimes you can’t tell if someone has good intentions or bad intentions. There have been countless times where I’ve taken the more cautious road and said “no” to having coffee with random people or going places. However, Stefania informed me that Italians in particular love foreigners so if people ask me to have coffee or food with them, there is no harm in going- obviously getting on the back of a moped with a stranger is most likely not a good idea. (I actually almost considered this last week when I was going with the whole “When in Roma!” idea but ended up running into another friend them away.)
3. You have no distractions.
Pro: I’ve noticed that you really take in the experience. You slow down. You hear and see things you wouldn’t have seen with another person distracting you and talking to you. You stare at people more and it is perfectly acceptable because you are a foreigner and “don’t know otherwise.” You can constantly use the whole “Oh, I didn’t know, sorry, I’m American…” which I’ve used many times
Con: Sometimes you want a distraction or someone to reflect with.
It is perfectly your preference of whether or not you want to travel alone or with others. With my Taormina experience, going with friends made it the best trip, but going to Catania and exhibits by myself are my favorite.
So what do you prefer?
I have been asking myself lately, am I an introvert or an extrovert?
Anyone who knows me would say, “you are obviously an extrovert.” I always thought I would always want to be around other people. I love people. I love talking. But, I can honestly say that I also thrive by being by myself. There is something so freeing of getting somewhere somewhat far away on your own, being able to communicate with strangers in a language that was completely foreign to you. I slow down and read more about the places I am at. I am constantly seeking out people, asking questions and just open to whatever God puts in my way, whereas when I’m with others, I feel secure because I have a travel buddy and don’t “need” to go outside our little bubble.
You feel older, wiser and more in control of your life. It becomes addictive. Once you’ve gown somewhere foreign by yourself, you realize, why are you waiting for others and letting others hold you back? There is absolutely no reason why you should let ANYTHING get in your way of traveling or venturing, whether it is down the street or across the world. Believe in yourself and have courage. You will realize that you are a lot stronger and braver than you thought you were!
You will meet so many people and you will see that you and fellow travelers cling on to each other. When I meet an American or someone else who speaks English, it is like we are automatic friends! That is exactly how it was with my Australian friend, a new friend from New Zealand and others I’ve met along the way.
However, I’ve also met SO many people from friends of friends’ of the family or cousins of brothers and there is an automatic TRUST there because you know that they are family or friends and they in return will take you to meet even more people. I’ve learned to say “yes” to almost everything because you never know who you are going to meet or what you are going to learn- even if it’s going to the supermarket or walking around the city. I now have friends in Milan, Rome, Verona and Mount Etna that I am so excited to see!
Have fun exploring and if you have any tips, please share them below!