I arrived in Milan a bit early, and felt an unusual trepidation… I’d never made this trip alone. Fortunately I was here just a few months ago, and had slogged through figuring out the trains here once before, so I wasn’t too nervous.

Still, I marched up to an employee and with feigned casualness asked where I could find the train, in Italian. His reaction shocked me…

He seemed to actually understand my butchering of his language! Even more shockingly, when he responded to me in equally-casual Italian, I understood what he said.

I navigated my way to the train station downstairs, found the right platform for my train, and cheerfully waited (since I was about 20 minutes early!) So I did what I naturally do in crowded situations: I eavesdropped.

I listened to Americans who were anxious about their travel arrangements, and helped them figure out their way and relax a bit. I listened to an Italian tour guide explaining to some tourists about Cinque Terre and Rome, and I bit my tongue trying not to poopoo those places in favor of Milan and Florence.

And of course, I found myself wistful, looking around at all these couples and families and friend groups… and I’m here by myself, with nobody to share the experience with. That’s really such a big part of my joy of traveling: the shared adventure, the memories together, the stories we can share later. So this trip, traveling alone, is a big stretch for me.

That’s kind of the point, though, right? This trip is about breaking out of my comfort zone. No housekeeping. No concierge. Washing dishes, doing laundry, buying groceries. Figuring out the very complex recycling system. Language courses in the mornings, and working in the afternoons/evenings. And most of all, immersing myself.

Here we go to Siena!

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