I’m in Cinque Terre at the moment, an insanely beautiful series of coastal towns joined only by harsh, winding hilltop walking trails (and trains, but shhh that’s not as cool.) It’s overun with tourists and caters to an English speaking audience without hesitation, yet even so it retains an impressive magic. Both times I rode the train out from the nearby station in La Spezia to the first of the villages, the same thing happened. The whole carriage, confronted with their first glimpse of the stunning ocean, audibly gasped. The water is so impossibly blue, almost as blue as the sky, and it glitters and shines beneath the sun. All of which is only a taste of how incredibly beautiful this place is.
But there I am, sitting on a rocky outcrop that stretches over the water. The heavy sound of waves crashing and the distant cries of laughter from below soar up and through me, and I watch the hundreds of tiny little people swimming and kissing and loving this place, more than anything.
And I love it too, I do. It’s a kind of beauty that’s impossible to describe but that you desperately want to describe anyway. It’s the kind of beauty poetry exists for. It’s the kind of beauty I want to share.
Solo travel is hard. That’s what I’m getting from these first few days. It’s hard to see something incredible and not have anyone nearby to grin about it with. It’s hard to be as happy as all those people down there, because all those people are down there, while I’m up here. It’s hard, is the point I’m making. It’s haaaaard.
I’ve talked to people, people I never would have talked to in any other situation. An Italian guy on a train said that I looked like Riccardo Zanotti, which, apart from the hair, is entirely inaccurate. An Australian family told me about their winter holidays, and how it’s snowing in some parts of Australia for the first time in forever. A French trio walking the same trail over took me, just after I over took them, a dance we would repeat many times. At one point I looked back across the landscape behind me and saw them there, a collection of vague shapes in the distance. I waved, and they waved back. It was nice.
But it was small. That’s the problem. I miss having a proper connection with someone. Even in this impossible place.
But being comfortable isn’t why I’m out here, really. You can be comfortable at home. You can’t make a complete fool out of yourself in front of two girls from Sweden at home. I think looking back, it’ll all seem worth it, for the experience if nothing else.
And this place. This ridiculous, brilliant place. If I get good at this whole travel thing, if I get comfortable with it and confident with it, I’m coming back. It’s a beauty worth experiencing, really experiencing, and I want to hear those gasps of amazement all over again.