Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A little Melancholy, and its Antidote, in Rome

A very quick post to keep the solo travel picture honest. I'll write more about this later, but for now let me just say that this morning was tough, at least tough in the admitted context of privilege. I felt existentially alone, with those prickling hot tears that will have their way. Technology does not serve communication, in some ways, as well as the old landline which really rang and was rarely shut off. And there are nine hours (sleeping hours) between my woes and my dearest ear...

Brisk and brusque was the answer. A shower, breakfast, an outfit, a destination, a long walk, and a few reminders about the good fortune I inhabit.

And then the wonders began to show up. Small, discrete pleasures. I spotted a leather bracelet in a window, and this lovely man and I had a conversation in my fractured Italian. He customized the band for me, and conferred something intangible that I will carry home (I asked permission --in Italian! yes! -- for the photograph).


The other small joys will show up in Instagram, eventually, and I'll write more about Getting Lost and Finding My Way later. Solo travel isn't always easy, but it allows, as an Instagram friend commented over there, the "delicious freedom" of getting lost.

For now, I have to run, following a route I've come to know very well. Just a few blocks up the hill is a little girl who needs to be distracted while her Momma makes dinner. A job for Nana...

And when I get back here, perhaps you'll tell me how you manage the down times in solo travel. Or perhaps you never experience those, loving every minute on your own. Or perhaps you avoid solo travel for this very reason. I'm waiting to hear....

46 comments:

  1. I am so,so sorry Frances and hope that everything ends well and that it was not something serious.
    Travelling alone can be perfect but one can feel unprotected and sad in some situations.
    I had very unpleasant situation with help on Heathrow airport with a lot of nasty comments(it is actually a compliment because I look obviously too good for my situation-MS- and age ) of wasting their precious time so they didn't want to lift my suitcase. I was on verge of tears but then later found some nice people . I wanted to write about it (and I should) but ended with nasty flu ,I am still recovering.
    I can't imagine what would happen if I got ill in London.
    But life is full of good and bad and in-between
    Dottoressa

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    1. That sounds awful, I live in the UK and when I travel with my partner who has a long term chronic illness but "looks well" we always book assisted travel on planes and trains and get great help. However I think once you get outside of capital cities people are more likely to be generally helpful so do give the rest of the country a try if you can bear to come back!

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  2. Oh Dottoressa, I'm so sorry! My own experience was just with a bout of sadness, distance and fatigue, and I only mentioned it here in the interest of honesty lest I give the impression that traveling on my own is always easy and happy.
    But my tired tears don't compare to being mistreated by an airline -- shame on them! Especially in that industry, workers should be educated to understand that there are illnesses and disabilities that aren't visible, but that nonetheless require accommodation. I'm glad you finally got some help and so glad you got home before getting ill.
    And yes, life throws it all at us, good, bad, and in-between. Good to have friends to commiserate with. Thank you!

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  3. I understand as I always travel alone. I decided some years ago that the best way to deal with this is to break up my "alone travel" by booking a tour. My next trip to Europe will be 6 weeks with a 14 day tour of Italy included in the mix. I do enjoy traveling alone for the most part as I can do what I want when I want. The advantages definitely outweigh the disadvantages in my book. All the best, Maryann

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    1. This is a good approach, building in some social days to your alone travel -- especially for a 6-week stint, I can see how important this would be, even if it means giving up some of the freedoms you enjoy for the solo part. I've had my daughter and her family for company if I need that, but still, there's something about the huge distance from my other half that reveals some existential realities...

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  4. I honestly don't have much experience of solo travel, except for work, which is different as there is always something you need to be doing. I shall be sure to read your thoughts on it all though as I may well have a solo trip coming up soon ... a literal get-away from the Aged Ps because I sorely need a break.

    I do hope you stay found m'dear, if you see what I mean :)

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    1. Thank you, I hope I stay Found as well, especially during today's foray into the wonderful world of flights and airports and traveling across many time zones. . . Don't want to be consigned to the Lost Luggage room for as long as my daughter's cases were a few years ago! ;-)

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  5. I live alone so solo-ness is usual for me. Down times come and go, less frequently I think than they used to. Fatigue does often contribute, I agree. And sometimes, looking back, there is a small slight, or error, or worry, that seems to underlie and subsequently diminish when exposed to examination.

    When travelling, solo or with company, I do get unsettled when I feel too disconnected from animals and the natural world. In Rome, the solution is the cat sanctuary, just to put my hand on a cat's head. In Paris I stuck my hand through a fence and into a turned-over garden plot in the Jardin des Plantes. I find this very calming although it looks quite odd typed out.

    Dottoressa, I hope you will feel better soon; do take care. You have a good idea in writing when you feel up to it.

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    1. Thank you G.!
      D.

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    2. Georgia, I feel this too -- I love the buzz of cities, but I remember especially our only trip to NYC many years ago -- I kept feeling that I needed to get to something NOT concrete.
      Here in Rome, I've been lucky to have the Borghese Gardens so close, and yesterday, I tucked away for a little while in the lovely grounds of the Palazzo Barberini, remarkably quiet. And the lemon and orange trees everywhere calm and nourish (not literally, yet, although it's so tempting to reach up. . . )

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  6. Oh, ha ha, I forgot to mention the series of large and dusty dogs I mauled in Pompeii. I was filthy by the time I left. :)

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  7. I can totally idenify with what you are saying! I am contemplating a solo trip later this year, and I know that will involve feeling "lost and alone" at times. I have traveled alone before and I have always had these moments that can ruin a day or two. Still, I have enjoyed my travels, even if I honestly have to say that I don't enjoy travellng on my own. Weird, but true :) Now I am considering how to do it. What can I do to ease my journey? What situations do I want to avoid? What can I do when the feeling of being "lost and alone occurs? These are the questions I ask myself. I know that I will never be fully prepared, though.

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    1. This is my feeling overall as well. The trade-off is worth it, and I won't give up solo travel because of these moments, but I find it useful to be aware of them and try to anticipate what to do when they arrive. It helps very much to know they've happened before, they pass, I manage... I'll be watching to see what you reveal about the trip you are contemplating...

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  8. Solitude works well for me but I do use Skype frequently (daily) to talk to my mother. I started the habit when Dad was in the hospital and have kept it up.
    There is frustration like the no-hotel in Mexico City episode where I felt like crying
    but it worked out. I read a lot and watch a lot of Netflix because I don't go out at night. Like Dottoressa, I fear getting ill or falling down when I'm solo. Certainly bags are a problem but mine are getting lighter because I can barely reach the overhead bin on a plane. I hope that both you and Dottoressa are feeling better.

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    1. Thank you Madame :-)!
      D.

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    2. Perhaps I should get using Skype. Pater is not on Apple/Mac so he doesn't do FaceTime, but I could set up Skype and have that face-to-face contact. Managing time zones is tricky, though -- I'm sure your mother must appreciate the contact when you're away.
      Yes, those episodes that bring us to tears, or nearly, but then you managed very well in Mexico City in the end -- you're an intrepid traveler!
      Netflix is a boon -- I read a lot as well, as you know, but sometimes the voices in the room are a welcome change ...

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  9. Writing in my journal, taking pictures, getting out and about...I rarely travel alone so it's actually a treat, mostly, but I have had melancholy moments, for sure. You seem the have handled yours beautifully. Please show us the bracelet, too!

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    1. I did end up writing in my journal, in fact. It's a good way of exploring the feeling which helps me move past it. The melancholy or anxiety or whatever "negative" feeling we experience in an otherwise "good" trip is simply part of the whole, isn't it? As for the bracelet, it's simply a narrow length of leather that wraps my wrist a few times before buckling -- I'll be sure to get a photo of it when I get home, and I'll post it...

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  10. Writing in my journal, taking pictures, getting out and about...I rarely travel alone so it's actually a treat, mostly, but I have had melancholy moments, for sure. You seem the have handled yours beautifully. Please show us the bracelet, too!

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  11. I did a lot of traveling alone when I worked. I do see that the work gives you a structure, but then so do family and the grandchild and a sense of where you should be next and of being useful. Work doesn't protect you from the sudden attack of longing for the person to whom you mean the most. For me that was often followed by a phone call in which we totally failed to connect. Ian is the master of the functional phone call. Struggles with the I a missing you. Sounds as if you dealt with it splendidly. And the Italian!

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    1. This is so true, Elizabeth. I've had the same "attack of longing" when back in my room after a day of sessions at an academic conference. Here, I've got family just up the street, and it still hit. I think, ultimately, it's a good thing to nurture my ability to get through these solo times, and I love much of the freedom, but I also miss the companionship and comfort and security. And HA! to use your splendid description, Paul is also "master of the functional phone call" -- but only when he actually is in the vicinity of his cell/ mobile

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  12. I've rarely traveled alone other than short business-type trips. I would feel those down times as you've experienced, I think. There's something about sharing experiences with someone you love (sister, husband, mother) that is fulfilling. I think you handled the moments well.
    Looking forward to seeing the leather bracelet.

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    1. Thanks, Lorrie. Re bracelet, see my reply to Beth, above.

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  13. It really seems unfair, doesn't it? Those down times just shouldn't happen when one has saved, and anticipated such a trip. For me, the down times come when I set limits on myself, as in 'it's late and I'm alone and I'll do best to just stay in this nice hotel room' and then I hear everyone outside on the street having a grand old time. I'm just not good at the after-hours part of travelling solo.

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    1. It's true -- there's always a sense one should be doing more. I've mainly managed to go easy on myself and allow some quiet evenings. Even afternoon nap and tea in my room when, really, there are museums and galleries I haven't visited yet. . .

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  14. I have had very little experience of travelling solo. I once had a thoroughly miserable work trip to Bologna. I was inadequately dressed because I though March in Italy was going to be warm(!) and got food poisoning and as I was staying at a different (cheaper) hotel from my colleagues was left to cope alone. It has rather put me off and as the opportunity hasn't presented itself again I have not gone looking for it. I think you are brave. I have not had much practice at being alone.

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    1. Ugh! I can see why you'd chalk that up to experience and never want to chance repeating. And I thank you for thinking me brave. I don't feel it, but need to channel my Inner Brave Girl for the travel home today. Two huge airports, potential for missing connection, security checks, potential scolding by all manner of airline employees, etc. etc. Not looking forward to it at all!

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  15. I have travelled alone a number of times , once as far as South Africa , but the difference was there was always a familiar face waiting for me at an airport or ferry terminal . Ive wandered about having an explore on my own & thoroughly enjoyed the freedom but I think I would find the evenings more tricky . This happened once & I invented I new persona for myself - more mysterious ! Silly but it helped my confidence in a far away place
    Wendy in York

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    1. I was met by the driver my daughter's family uses, who carried a big sign with my name on it -- a complete novelty to me, although I know everyone does that these days -- and it was so comforting after a long trip. He'll be driving me to the airport today as well.
      I love your idea of inventing a persona for yourself -- what fun! and why not? That's what solo travel allows us, if we choose (or we can bring takeout back to the hotel room and hole up with Netflix -- I know someone who might just have done the latter ;-)

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  16. Some years ago, I travelled alone to join a large group of international runners on an ultra in China. I had wanted to go to the Silk Route for years. One glance at the rest of the crew made me realise that I was going to be last quite a lot. I was! At first, this was hard to bear but then I settled into just being me, doing the thing I had waited so long to accomplish and enjoying the beauty. It took a lot of thinking and reasurring myself to get to this point. I also contracted dramatic food poisoning high in the mountains. My final conclusion is this: sitting quietly, taking time to relax and having a cup of tea cures just about every problem. And it always passes, to be replaced by something wonderful. It was a long and costly way to go to prove to myself that I could manage, come what may. Have a cuppa, Mater and a little sit. Forza!

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    1. A momentous trip, one that must have been worth all the challenges, but those are some big challenges!
      The cup of tea approach is a good one, but part of being away from home is that it can be so much harder to get that cup. Here, for example, I can brew a cup in my hotel room, but that's rarely the case in N.A., and in restaurants, it's often made with water that might as well have come directly from the hot-water tap, never visiting a kettle on its way. I take milk with my tea, but make do in this room with the little plastic cream container which doesn't quite come up to a Forza! One thing for sure, though, these travel experiences help us appreciate the beauty of our simple comforts and my first cuppa back home will be appreciated even more than usual!

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  17. Oh gosh the floors of that store!!!!!! And yes, I've traveled solo, still have the story of my Indian trip to finish on the blog, I have let it slide shamelessly. I prefer company, plain and simple, although visiting a daughter and granddaughter might just be enough - I don't know!

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    1. Aren't they wonderful floors? It was actually a huge workshop, with a few goods displayed in the window, and I called my enquiry in through the doors and was invited in. . . I have a few more pics -- such a great space with tools beautifully organised everywhere. And yes, do tell us more about your Indian trip!

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  18. And sorry you had a moment like that, but, seems that you now see them as simply part of your life experience, and as such, less threatening than they might have been when young. Home awaits you<3.

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    1. Exactly! They're part of life at home, and there seems no clear way to leave them out of the suitcase, so . . .

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  19. I'm glad you recovered your oomph , quickly . Luckily Rome has endless fascinating corners to explore and to distract .
    But yes , sometimes one would love to share a thought with someone who knows one's 'shorthand' !

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    1. I feel pleased I recovered quickly, thanks to Rome's fascinations, but you're so right about the comfort of someone who knows me so well, my "shorthand." I wonder if I would have indulged the mood longer, though, rather than shaking myself out of it....

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  20. You usually have a travel dip and rebound (and always regain your sea legs!) For me, it happens when I push too hard and the smallest thing then reduces me to fits. And FaceTime, when possible, has helped with "missing you" malaise.

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    1. Oh yes! And I'd walked too much for a couple of days in a row, instead of allowing a catch-up day. Not sleeping well/enough doesn't help. . . Thank goodness I got a bit of rebound before having to contend with this big travel day home. . .

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  21. I sometimes have difficult downtimes with solo travel but I haven't much experience of being solo outside of English-speaking lands, so it would be difficult for me to say. Usually there is a bit of upset, then a drive to pull myself out of it and get out, which always makes me feel better. I've come to the conclusion that I really prefer companionship, someone to share the journey with, but since that is currently not an option, I'm not quite sure where my travels will lead me. Of course, if I had a child in a distant land, I'd be off whenever I could and I'd be needing to find my own ways around the occasional bursts of tears.

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    1. You always strike me as resilient and resourceful, and I imagine you'd shake yourself out of melancholy quickly enough. I know that you and George traveled considerably together but that you weren't able to in your last years together, and I imagine that figuring out how to accommodate your own wanderlust in your new single state will be a challenge with rewards, eventually. I think I prefer some companionship as well, but because I crave regular bouts of solitude, it has to be the companionship of someone independent enough to give me that -- I get pretty squirrelly if I don't get time to myself, and I so appreciate Susan Cain's legitimising my introvert preferences... ;-)

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  22. I really enjoy solo travel but it's a slightly guilty pleasure and since post "retirement" I've gone back to professional acting I'm getting to do a lot more of it. Though I am very extrovert I am also an only child of a single parent who had lots of time as a youth doing exactly what I wanted to without having to pay much attention to the needs of others (partner, grown up children, elderly relatives, distressed friends etc) So when I'm away I get to be that only child again. Of course when stuff goes wrong I'm sobbing down the phone to my long suffering partner............

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    1. I do find that solo travel, when you're in a relationship, can easily be constructed as something to feel guilty about. I never had the experience of being an only child (oldest of 12!!), but like you, I quite revel in the freedom from other's needs when I'm on my own. And I'd be sobbing down the phone, too, if someone would only answer. As I say, I fondly remember the old days when someone had to answer the landline, no option to shut off the phone...

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    2. meant to say, as well, that your return to professional acting sounds like a very interesting twist on "retirement" -- very cool!

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    3. That's true . As an only child I learned early to wander around exploring everywhere on my own ... with occasionally rather narrow escapes, in retrospect !

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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