Throughout the days leading up to my solo trip, I had been worried, anxious, and actually dreading the fact that I would need to take a train from Florence to Pisa, as I would be flying out of Pisa and it was about an 1 1/2 hour away by train or car. I couldn’t miss out on seeing the Leaning Tower, either! So I booked a hotel for my last night in Italy in Pisa.
I’ve only ridden a train once, in Europe, many moons ago, in Paris . . . with my husband. I know people take trains all the time, but when you’ve never done something before, it can be quite intimidating. I kept going over all the things that could go wrong. I would get on the wrong train. I wouldn’t find a space for my luggage. I’d get really anxious and have a panic attack on the train. Or I’d get sick on the train. What if I did take the wrong train and ended up miles away from where I wanted to be. What if I tripped as I walked into the train and fell flat on my face? Oh man . . . anxiety! Instead of the quote about all the things that could go right, when you’re anxious then you think of all the things that can go wrong. I had gone to the train station in Florence the day earlier to meet my friend Amy, and I was so overwhelmed. By all the people. The signs. The voices on the speakers. I was thinking, “there’s no way I’m going to be able to ride on that train tomorrow.” I had already bought a ticket online, but my palms were sweating at just the thought of riding the train.
I know I am an advocate for facing your fears (wasn’t this what all this trip was about – facing fears and stepping out of your comfort zone?) but there also comes a time when you have to have some wisdom in listening to your body. I had been through so much as in facing so many “new things” and “firsts” and little challenges along the way, that I felt like my heart and body were telling me I needed to give myself a little break and not push myself so hard, at least not concerning whether or not I take a train.
So, when I awoke that Friday morning, and my body was literally shaking with nerves, I then, with resolve, made a decision. A decision on my own. I decided to not take the train.
“What? You didn’t face your fears and do that which you didn’t think you could do?” You may be thinking. What I did was made a decision that I knew would be best for myself in that moment. I almost think of the word “self-care” . . . I knew how I was mentally and emotionally feeling that morning, and that if I had gotten on that train, that might have honestly been too much for me. Maybe that sounds like taking the easy way out or being a coward or not a true traveler, but I am so proud of that decision I made. I think I’m even more proud because I did make it on my own – I didn’t call up my husband and ask him what to do or ask his permission to take a taxi instead to Pisa.
It’s kind of ironic, because one of my inspirational quotes that I kept thinking of and that I had written down in my journal that I took with me, was from the movie, “The Polar Express.”
“The thing about trains… it doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.”
Well, folks, I didn’t get on the actual train from Florence to Pisa. But, I did get on the train. The train was every step that I took that WAS outside of my comfort zone. The train was the plane. The train was the taxi. The train was wandering through the streets of a foreign city, alone. The train was walking outside of my hotel room each day, when I desperately wanted to stay inside and be safe and comfortable and protect myself from any “anxious feelings”. The train was this entire trip. Every moment.
It was an incredibly liberating feeling as I rode in the back seat of the taxi and looked out the window at the beautiful Tuscan countryside. For I had taken matters into my own hands and looked after myself. It was a relaxing car ride that took a little over an hour to get to Pisa. Of course, taking the taxi ended up costing much more than the train, but we had allowed room in the budget for unforeseen circumstances that might arise. I do not regret it, and I truly believe it was worth every penny.
Anyways, at last, I arrived in Pisa! The sun was shining which brought happiness to me after seeing so much rain in Florence the past few days. I arrived at my hotel, The Grand Hotel Duomo, which was in a pedestrian-only area. I breathed a sigh of relief as I stepped out of the taxi. It was quiet here. Peaceful. A pizzeria was right across from my hotel.
I needed this day in Pisa. I was so happy here. It was a night and day difference environment when comparing Florence to Pisa. I of course loved Florence, but it was what my soul, heart and mind needed after being in the hustle and bustle of a big city. The pace was much slower here in Pisa. I found myself walking slower and really taking every little detail in, like the lavender wisteria that draped across the doorway of one of the local shops.
After checking into my hotel, I immediately walked over to the main attraction. To see the Leaning Tower in person after seeing it my entire life in pictures growing up . . . again, there really are just no words for those kind of moments. Surreal, really. It towered above me and I was one happy girl. The tower does lean, yes, and I laughed at myself and all the other people doing silly poses and trying to get that “perfect shot”.
For lunch, I ate at a little cafe that had a direct view of the Tower, and I had spaghetti and roasted chicken. That afternoon, I was quite tired, and just relaxed in my room, with the window open, listening to the birds singing outside and watching the clouds change shape. It was wonderful!
I had a smorgasbord of cold cuts for dinner as well as a delicious pizza. That day was truly spent just relaxing and enjoying what little time I had left in Italy. I bought souvenirs for my family and dropped postcards in the mail. The excitement of returning home was welling up within me. I was so ready to come home and be back with my husband and daughter.
And so, the next morning, Saturday, I took my taxi to the airport that had my plane waiting for me to take me back home. I was less anxious this time about flying and this time the adrenaline that ran through my veins was because I was so excited to embrace my husband at the airport and to hold my daughter again.
I flew into London Heathrow Airport where I had a two hour layover and then boarded my final flight that was to take me back to Texas.
Again, I don’t like flying, but this time I wasn’t as nervous as my flight across the pond a few days earlier. However, about 45 minutes before we landed we encountered extreme turbulence, and I was gripping the armrests for dear life! I think those moments make getting home all the sweeter!
When the wheels hit the tarmac, the most powerful emotions washed over me and tears started streaming down my face. That moment, when we landed, and I knew that I had done it, that I had accomplished this solo journey, is a moment I will never forget. I will forever be grateful for those moments when the tears fell down and I didn’t care that I was crying in front of strangers. They had no idea what my story was. It will be etched in my memory for all of time. I was so thankful. My heart was filled with gratitude for this beautiful journey I had just taken. And, just about more than anything, and this is what my soul had needed, was . . . I was proud of myself. My heart overflowed with pride for what all I had accomplished on my own. It boosted my confidence in myself again – in my capabilities. It made me believe in myself again. As I mentioned in Part 1, a few years ago I feel like postpartum depression had taken so much away from me. It had made me feel like a failure. Like I malfunctioned. Like I was incapable.
But, I learned this – I AM CAPABLE.
Events that happen to us in life can hold us back and hold us down. They can leave us feeling stuck. They can damage us and warp our reality and how we see ourselves, or it can allow us to see ourselves in a negative light. PPD was that event for me. I think we all have our “events”. And, if we find ourselves living and dwelling in the past, and holding onto these negative perceptions, maybe we need to do something about it. Maybe something drastic. Like taking a solo trip thousands of miles away from your comfort zone. You never know what may happen when you take that first step.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”