The air in Rome is dirty. I can feel it weighing on my chest. Each breath heavy with the fumes of busy city life. I realise how spoiled I am to have grown up in the country with air clean and crisp like cut glass. A man in workman’s trousers, a thin puffer jacket, and a blue baseball cap, sharpens knives collected from the surrounding restaurants and cafes in the boot of his car. The grinding noise blends into the hubbub of sirens, car engines, and motorbikes busying the street below. We are on the first floor of the apartment block we are staying in, in Via Silvestri. Opposite us, varieties of pine and palm trees, grow up taller than the blocks of flats they lean close to. Down on the street, a man wheels three crates, overflowing with rocket, around the corner. Matthew is working on his paper for Friday. We drink espresso, with a bowl of olives and cold cured meats that we bought yesterday from a local delicatessen, between us. In an hour or so, we will take a tram to the centre of Rome, and begin exploring…
It was 11:00am and I wanted to leave.
Stuart was smoking. “We’re not in a rush, are we?”
“Umm, no, we’re not in a rush.” How could I say we were? We weren’t. But I wanted to go. I didn’t want to “chill out” and “slow down”. I wanted to go, go, go. I had a town to see. Sights to explore. An environment to take in.
I could feel myself getting fractious. Irritable. Continue reading
We got up, packed and were on our way to Cesky Krumlov by 11:00am. We took the number 16 to just outside of the coach station. We had six minutes before our coach was due to leave.
We couldn’t find it.
We found a yellow bus with “Cesky Krumlov” written on the list of stops on the side of the bus. “Could this be us?” I pointed.
“FlixBus are usually green. But they do sometimes contract out… I’m not sure.” We asked the driver, he nodded, or at least we thought he did, until we showed him our ticket before trying to board.
“THIS IS NOT FLIXBUS!” he shouted, pointing dramatically at the bus logo on the side, placing his hands on to it for extra emphasis. “NOT THIS BUS.” He took our bags out of the hold with dramatic exasperation, sighing loudly.
We wondered what to do. If this wasn’t our bus, then our bus wasn’t here. Had we missed it? Continue reading
The previous evening, chilling in my PJs, I met Stu. He was from Canada, had been travelling for seven months, with another three to go. We chatted and laughed. Went for a beer and bought takeaway pizza. It was nice to feel a connection with someone. I’d been sad to leave that behind in Berlin.
I laughed, “Every five minutes? You’ll be lucky if I check it every hour.” I wasn’t joking. Travelling alone, separated from everyone, I was enjoying it. I didn’t want to feel attached to my phone waiting for a text. I wasn’t even sure I wanted company.
The weather was brighter but chilly, the sky had cleared. My plan was to cross the Charles Bridge, visit Prague Castle, and then go to the monastic brewery.
I caught the number 22 to Narodni Trida and from there walked the streets until I found the Charles Bridge. I wasn’t in a rush. I was happy to see where the roads took me. Continue reading
Kelly, my first couchsurfing host, is confident, outgoing, and independent. She lives on her own in a studio apartment, and has only ever travelled alone. She loves it that way, she says. “You can do anything you want, you don’t have to check with anyone, and you can change your plans without having to think of anyone else!”
Having Kelly as my first host was brilliant. When she picked me up from The Pink Cafe I was raw with emotion and wanted to curl up and cry under a blanket and stay there. However, with Kelly as a host I wasn’t able to. Which actually, was great, and exactly as it should have been. Her enthusiasm for total independence helped me get my gears moving.
As we walked the streets of Neukölln she told me about the area, “This is the hipster part of Berlin. All the young people come here. It’s where everything is happening.” I told her about my plans to go to Adlershof and Pankow. “Why you go there? There is nothing there! Everything is here!” Continue reading