Here’s a little piece I wrote for my Psychology of Creativity class. Hope you enjoy!
I wake to the sound of feet stomping and zippers zipping. My body aches from the cramped, single bed; the lack of sleep; the endless travel. Rolling over, I spot Judy shuffling about. It’s not even 6 a.m. and already she’s prepping for the day ahead. Travel guides: check. Sensible shoes: check. She’s only in Florence for two days, she says. She doesn’t want to miss out.
Judy – a divorcee from Stratford, Connecticut – is the first English-speaking traveler I’ve met since arriving in Italy. At 53, she’s a far cry from the hostel-hopping backpackers I’ve been rooming with these past few weeks, but she’s warm and friendly and likes music and doesn’t snore, so we get along just fine. Today, though, Judy has a plan and she’s sticking with it. She’s gone before I can haul myself out of bed, and once again I’m alone at Ciao Hostel.
It’s been three weeks since I landed in Europe, and the instability of travel is beginning to wear on me. At first, everything was an adventure: riding the trains, seeing the sights, meeting new people. Now I miss the familiarity of home. I miss knowing where to find a good cup of coffee. I miss having someone to talk to. I miss my queen-size bed.
Wasn’t this supposed to be fun?
I try recounting the trip in my head to remind myself why I set off in the first place, and why it was so important that I go it alone. In the past few weeks I’ve spent time in eight different countries. I’ve ridden trains through the French and Swiss Alps. I’ve gotten horribly lost while navigating the wilds of Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula. I’ve visited Cesky Krumlov, a medieval town in the South Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. I’ve twice had to explain to Slovenian border control why I’m traveling alone across Europe and why, exactly, I’ve collected so many passport stamps along the way. I’ve drunk too much wine in France, traced Mozart’s history through Austria, and fallen in love with Croatia.
It’s not until later in the day, when an email from home arrives in my inbox, that I realize what’s been missing. Memories are a powerful thing, and the days I’ve spent backpacking around Europe will no doubt remain some of my fondest memories for years to come. But shared memories are something else entirely, and if there’s one thing that’s been true of this entire trip, it’s that most of my key moments have been experienced alone. New sights and cities seem less significant when there’s no one to share them with; my loved ones will know my experiences only through the photos I take and the stories I tell.
With this in mind, I decide to get up and pull myself together. Camera and notebook in tow, I set out to explore the city, just as I’d intended to do when I first woke. The Uffizi, The Duomo, The Boboli Gardens — I would see and record them all.
Exiting the hostel, I’m reminded of Judy’s parting words to me: I’m only in Florence for a few days, I think. I don’t want to miss out.