It's that time of the semester again. Suitcases are packed, flats are cleaned and emptied and students trickle out of London. Also, the semester's travel writing winner was announced at the End of Term Party this past Friday! Turned into this week's guest blogger, we would like to congratulate Michele Fortier and her fearlessness.
My finger hovered over the “Purchase” button, hesitating as my brain ran through every possible challenge and scenario I might soon encounter if I clicked it. The possibilities were endless, an entire world of problems could arise, and yet, I knew if I did not do it, I would regret it tremendously. My finger trembled as I clicked the button; there was no going back now.
I had just purchased a roundtrip ticket to Positano, a small cliff side town on the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy. It was the first time I would be traveling alone to a country I had never visited before with a language I could not speak. On every past trip I had undertaken, I always traveled with the security of my friends, depending on them to obtain maps and decide where to go. I was always the follower in the group, not the leader. Suddenly, I was putting myself into a situation where I had no one else to rely on so if anything went wrong, I had to take care of it myself. To say I was terrified would be a huge understatement.
The morning of my departure, I sat in the airport, my heart pounding from nerves and my mind racing on overdrive. I was as ready as I would ever be. This was it. Time to throw myself into the unknown. “Be Fearless.” That would be my motto. I even wrote it out on my hand as a reminder.
I flew into Naples in the early afternoon but I still had to catch two buses before reaching my destination. If I missed either bus, I could very well end up stranded without any back up plan and no way to reach my hostel. My preplanning, however, had helped as the entire journey went off without a hitch. At 7:30pm, I climbed down from the bus in Positano, Italy, just in time to see the last few moments of the sunset.
After unpacking in the hostel, I sat in the common room eating some delicious Italian pizza wondering “Now what?” What exactly was I going to do for the next four days? I had chosen Positano because I was tired of visiting city after city; they had all begun to resemble each other in an undistinguishable mass. I had chosen this town because I wanted time to rejuvenate myself and avoid crowded streets, time to immerse myself in a culture that was not entirely stifled by modern tourism. Yet, now that I was here, what exactly was I going to do?
It was at that precise moment when I met Hannah, an Australian girl studying in Leeds, England, who had taken the weekend off to travel through Italy. As I sat there, eating the last slice of my delicious pizza, she told me of her adventures she had had in Positano. She told me of the places she had been to and the people she had met. I was envious of all the exciting things she had done. I desperately wanted to have adventures like that, but I was unsure of where to start. Then, she offered me a solution.
“Hey, I met some Italian guys while I’ve been here who are taking me out for dessert later tonight, care to join?”
My initial thought was to reply with a polite, “Thank you, but no,” as I had always been a cautious girl who never went off with strangers, especially alone in a foreign country. But for some reason, I couldn’t let those words pass from my lips. I couldn’t shake the motto I had scribbled on my hand: “Be Fearless.”
Before I could even allow my over-analytical brain a second to consider all the possible outcomes of this evening, I replied, “Sure, I’ll come,” and sealed my fate.
That night was the beginning of a brilliant weekend. I spent the evening with some locals, had my first sip of the local favorite drink, Limoncello, and tasted four different mouthwatering desserts. I returned to the hostel that night exhausted and happy, excited to see what the rest of the weekend would hold in store.
I spent the next day by the beach, writing in my journal as I allowed my pale body to soak up the hot Mediterranean sun (a decision I would later regret as I rubbed aloe lotion onto my lobster-red skin). While growing up, I had always had a deep connection to the ocean, and being here cleared up my mind and made everything beautiful. The power of the waves lapping at my toes complimented itself perfectly with the peace I finally felt in my mind. Everything was perfect.
Over the next two days, I became closely acquainted with Positano and all of the beautiful things available in this town. I walked to and from the beach (approx 800 stairs one way) four times over those two days, much to the dismay of my calves. I watched the sunset on the beach, explored every part of the town, ate my fill of Gelato and Pizza and met many other travelers staying at the hostel.
On Saturday night, I sat around a large table on the hostel’s terrace with other travelers and shared drinks and anecdotes. We laughed about our craziest travel experiences and discussed the differences in our cultures. I met people from Australia, US, Spain, Italy and Thailand. They were all so friendly and outgoing; after just one evening, I felt as though we had known each other for years. We all went dancing by the beach until four in the morning and spent the long walk back to the hostel laughing and sharing stories as the sun came up. We had become such a close-knit group in such a short time and I silently dreaded Monday morning when I would say my goodbyes.
That Monday came far sooner than I had hoped and expected, and before I could even wrap my mind around what was happening, I was seated on a bus headed back to Naples Airport. I watched as Positano faded into the distance, quickly becoming hidden behind the cliff side. I tried to hold back the sudden tears I could feel welling up in my eyes.
I wanted to stay in this town and hold on to every amazing experience. I wanted to relive every second and bask in the amazingly liberated feeling that had come with my independence. I realized how much I had missed on other trips when I had failed to explore, meet people and befriend locals because I was so stuck in my safety net of friends. This weekend had shown me what amazing things could happen when you just let go of everything holding you back and just dive in, headfirst.
I suddenly felt empowered by this new realization. I could do anything and go anywhere; all the strength I needed was inside of me. On that bus ride back to the airport, I began planning my next trip to Italy. I would come back to Italy, of that I was certain. As I glanced out the window at the crystal blue waters of the Amalfi Coast, I was struck with one last lingering thought about this weekend: I had been Fearless.