This week’s Women Who Travel Solo column is particularly special to me! My mom, Lea Ann Christenson, shares her story of traveling abroad solo for the first time during a trip to Italy.
My entire life I have enjoyed traveling starting with the almost yearly road trips from California to Nebraska to visit my grandparents that filled my childhood. Partially due to this I have been to all 50 states. Before I had children my husband and I made a couple trips abroad, one to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji and another to Scandinavia, the Netherlands and the former Soviet Union (that dates me!) When my own children were young we would often take road trips throughout the United States. About five years ago we made our first European trip to the United Kingdom with the kids as a family of five.
While I love traveling, all of my travels have involved my parents, my husband and/or children and I never traveled alone except for the occasional domestic trip to present at a conference for my work as a professor.
When my daughter Lauren, the editor of Something In Her Ramblings, started working abroad I visited her in Spain. Last summer we planned to meet in Nice, France. Since the cheapest flight I found was into Milan, it meant I had to navigate my way alone from the airport in Milan to our Airbnb rental in Nice. With Lauren’s help, I was able to navigate the trains alone and find her in Nice.
This past April I had the opportunity to attend a workshop for early childhood educators in Reggio Emilia, Italy. No one was available to go with me but I decided to do the trip alone because I did not know when this opportunity would present itself again. The success of my limited solo travel experience the prior summer also made me confident I could to it.
I never had been to Rome so I decided to be really brave and start my adventure there. Armed with a map of Rome’s must see attractions that the kind hostess of my Airbnb rental provided me with I roamed the streets of Rome (ha, ha) alone. I saw all the major sights including Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Vatican Museum and the Coliseum. I paused for gelato and a lovely dinner at an outside café. In spite of my lack of Italian I was able to navigate my ramblings with broken Italian phrases, gestures and the kindness of Italians who spoke English.
After a wonderful two-night stay I successfully navigated my way north via train to Reggio Emilia where I spent a week at an early childhood workshop. The workshop was very interesting and I learned a lot that I will put to good use in my work. However, I must admit my favorite part was staying in a centuries old apartment and walking to in from the workshop each day through the ancient streets of Reggio Emilia pausing in the morning for a cappuccino and roll, in the afternoon for gelato and in the evening for pasta and wine. I spent most of my time at one outdoor café that had free wifi staying caught up on work back at home and people watch.
At the end of my week I reluctantly but successfully made it to Milan via train to catch my flight home. The evening before my flight I wandered into the village next to my hotel for dinner and, you guessed it, gelato. No one in this bucolic village spoke English but by now I was an expert at making my self understood with my very basic and broken Italian phrases.
After this experience I would definitely solo travel again although I would not want to do it all of the time as one of the most enjoyable things for me while traveling is sharing all the wonderful and amazing things I see with someone.
About Lea Ann Christenson
Lea Ann Christenson is a Professor at Towson University in Maryland. A native of California, she has traveled to all 50 states and many countries in Europe and Central America. She leads study abroad programs to El Salvador on winter breaks. Oh yea, she’s also my mom!
Women Who Travel Solo
Women Who Travel Solo is a weekly column that shares the stories of women’s solo travel adventures in hopes of spreading the message that traveling alone is not only safe, but wildly rewarding. Inspire other women to travel solo by sharing your story with Something In Her Ramblings. Email Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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