I gathered some inspiration from Traveling the World Solo, collecting small memories from the last year that either make me cringe in embarrassment or chuckle at the uncomfortable situation.
Seville, Spain – Secret Dates You Do Not Know You Are On
My flight to Seville was delayed so I ran through the streets like a starving mad woman just as siesta was beginning, hoping to find an open tapas bar. I managed to stumble upon one, which has been some of the best tapas I have ever gotten to sample.
The owner & his son are foreign immigrants to the area. The father was a chatty older fellow, he came to sit with me at the bar to talk about travels & let me try some free samples of other menu items I did not order. His son was my age, fulfilling every stereotype of the entitled millennial brat. The son had a greasy man bun, his nose buried in his iPhone the few hours I was there. I appreciated the father’s company though, I always love listening to the travel stories of others.
Seville is famous for flamenco performances so I asked the father where the best places were for this. The father insisted that I let him make a reservation at his favorite place for me, which reservations are extremely common & I was grateful for his enthusiastic insistence at the time.
I show up for my reserved show later that night, expecting to pick-up a ticket for one. Oh no, I was part of a reservation of four. There was the father from the tapas bar, his much younger girlfriend & the completely unamused son. I am slightly uneasy, but I paid for my own ticket & it was a public setting. What was the worst that could happen? The show was uneventful apart from the younger girlfriend casting glares in my direction on occasion.
As the show was wrapping up, the father told his girlfriend that they should give the kids some privacy. The son sighed, he guessed he could take me out for a drink if I insisted. Nope, I am good. I checked out of there quicker than I ever have in my life.
Cinque Terre – Committing Public Indecency Witnessed by Monks
Italians, much like the French, enjoy a good labor strike. The regional train strike skewed my plans for hiking the Cinque Terre. There are two trails I wanted to hike during my stay: The Cinque Terre & The Sanctuaries Path, which runs parallel of the Cinque Terre through the mountains.
I consider myself a fit & active person, I hike in the mountains on a weekly basis. I was determined to complete both trails despite the train strikes, I would just have to fit both into one day instead of two. The major cathedrals & monasteries located along The Sanctuaries Path are located in each of the Cinque Terre towns, just located at a higher elevation. I figured I could walk along the Cinque Terre as my main path & hike up to the sites in the mountains.
I start my Cinque Terre hike in Monterosso, the farthest town. The Capuchin Friars Monastery was the site in the mountains, it was a slightly strenuous hike though only about a 40 minute detour & the views were well worth it.
Next town is Vernazza, easily my favorite on the Cinque Terre. The mountain site was the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora delle Grazie. This one appeared to be located slightly further into the mountains according to the map, but I thought it would only take an extra half hour. Wrong. It was 3 hour detour that ended up being a very steep 385 meters above sea level.
I was wholly unprepared for the duration & climate change, I did not even have a water bottle on hand. This hauntingly beautiful cathedral from the 7th century is completely isolated in the mountains so I found it eerie being there by myself. The cathedral is completely open, but it was deserted.
Or so I thought at the time.
I quietly slinked through the chapel, fresh food was left out for any pilgrims passing through yet I had not even heard birds stir outside. I really had to use bathroom facilities at this point in the hike, but I was too nervous to go further into the sanctuary. It seemed I was completely isolated in this area & there were plenty of trees, I would just relieve myself in a patch of pine trees.
I found my desired pine tree to suit my purposes & just about the time I have my blue jeans down to my knees, I heard a man call out to me in Italian. Fuck me. I look over my shoulder only to see two figures with monk robes billowing in the wind. Queue myself face planting into the dirt, pulling my jeans up so fast I tear one of the belt loop holes. I hear one laughing as the other races forward, inquiring if I speak English.
I think I died at least three times in those moments. I was mortified, even though I am certain men of the cloth have not seen my pasty bum due to the dense pines. The monks coaxed me back into the chapel, I was silent with embarrassment. They kept offering me a Fanta & a sandwich, but eventually brought overs beers for all of us.
Amalfi Coast – Taking “Italian Medicine” aka Drunk Hiking
I spent over a week hiking through the Amalfi Coast, using the small town of Minori as a home-base. A bit of travel insight for the area is there are no traditional bus stations for the regional bus line, only bus stop stalls so all bus tickets must be bought from the Tabacchi [Tobacco] shop. There will be a few of these convenience style shops in every town, they are indicated by a large, red “T“.
My town of Minori had a particularly friendly clerk that I became acquainted with over my stay. It was my first day in the area, I woke up early in the morning when the first tabacchi shop would be opening to get on a bus as soon as I could. I was anxiously waiting as the clerk leisurely chatted with everyone in the shop because the buses only run once an hour.
The clerk must have been quietly amused by the twitchy American in hiking gear because he poured me something in an espresso cup as he took my money for the ticket, he told me it was a free welcome present. When I inquired further, he only clarified that it was Italian medicine & it would make me feel better. Whatever. I slammed the espresso cup & ran to the bus stop with ticket in-hand.
It was fucking genepì. At 8am.
I will not pretend I handle my alcohol well, I rarely drink & residing in France has not changed that for me. I hiked Il Sentiero degli Dei [Path of the Gods] that day. It is 8km through the mountains, 580km above sea level, which converts to a lot of fucking stairs in American. That hike was not my best or finest hour.
Lufthansa In-Flight – Hello, Full-Blown Panic Attack
I think it is important to keep travel tales human. Jet-setters are not the coolest people you know, travel can be stressful & chaotic. While we need to be realistic in telling travel truths, it should not dissuade people from going on an adventure.
I am not the most calm & collected flier ever. It is a minimum 12-hour flight from current residence to visit home, I am from a place known as the Windy City so it is rarely ideal flying weather. I was sitting in the tail of the plane & after three hours of the worst turbulence I have ever experienced, I just broke. I had asked a stewardess if there was seat closer to the wings so I was not being jerked around so much, but it was a full flight. I tried to keep calm, but I just broke down sobbing. I managed to calm myself down after a few moments, but my embarrassment of a public breakdown was not aided by the entire flight crew being notified my teary outburst so someone came to check on me every 15 minutes.
If you are going to have a panic attack, may I recommend doing it on Luftansa. They will give you chocolate truffles from the first-class cabin.