Hatchet Expat: Flying solo abroad

They say the best experiences are those we can share with friends, but when I look back on my experiences in Florence, the day I braved the city on my own stands out the most. With my friends gone on a day-long excursion that I was unable to attend, I found myself mano-a-mano with Florence, the city’s rich history and breathtaking sites my only company.

Having just returned to London from almost a month-long spring break, filled with travels to four different countries, the tasting of exotic foods and the exploration of cultures very different from my own, I find myself reflecting on the trip both as a whole and digesting the unique experiences I had.

I started off the day with a map and an umbrella – it was pouring – unsure of where the day would take me or where I would end up. After struggling to find my way to my first destination and ending up somewhere completely different, I decided to put away the map and let the beautiful city be my guide. After exploring many side streets, stopping at cafés to try an assortment of pastries and cookies, I decided to use the Duomo cathedral as my compass. This Florentine landmark stands so tall I knew I would be able to see it from anywhere in the city.

Once I reached the Duomo, I found myself the perfect little restaurant to enjoy an Italian meal and people-watch. Although I was originally uncomfortable with the idea of dining alone, I began to enjoy the experience and allowed myself to take it all in. As I watched tourists wander around as well as local Italians go through the motions of their regular days, I learned more about the city and the culture than I could have ever learned from a textbook.

I finished up my day in Florence by walking to the top of the Duomo. Since my friends shot down the idea of walking to the top when we first arrived, I seized this opportunity of having no one to argue with me, and attempted the 526 steps. Although I was huffing and puffing by the time I made it to the top, it was a feeling of accomplishment that I will never forget. Not only did I make it to the top – something I was not sure I would physically be able to do after my large lunch – but I also experienced one of the best days of my life. I independently found my way around a foreign city and stepped into the unfamiliar to find out it wasn’t so uncomfortable after all.

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