This is Traveling Alone

(ears ringing)
I twisted the ring on my finger and heard it in my ear, too. I wondered if a minute had passed, or maybe two, or three? My brain was barely churning after four hour of sleep. 

In the mirror, my eyes puffed out, looking as if a mosquito had bit me underneath them. 
It was hard to even see myself– but what do you expect from a 4:07 wake up call? It was a first time type of day– 
my first time traveling alone in Europe. 

My identity stared me in the face as I looked down at the crinkled “Passenger locator forms” in my lap, used to exemplify who I was as a person on a few short lines. They were required for other countries for entering and exiting. They read– “Olivja Cox.” Yikes, even the paper didn’t show the real me. 
This is traveling alone, I guess…

I hadn’t been outside alone at this hour yet in my new city. 

I had until 4:50 to appear in front of the train station, but I got up long before, pulling on layers of clothes to preserve warmth thanks to my apartment with a broken AC. I walked over early. The city was empty. Rise time is later in Italy than it is in America; the city lived until 2 in the morning and slept until late morning…
Waiting, I only heard the drill of an early morning worker and the anxious pant of my own breath. 
(ears drilling)
This is traveling alone.
The bus still wasn’t here. I turned from side to side, and eventually retired to sitting on the stairs that were accompanied by the locked station gate. I was locked outside this gate.
To the right, all I could see was a little sliver of an identical staircase- separated by the darkness of the night and a mock train car. I could hear that drill again- and the flies that surrounded the rotten orange next to me. Bzzzz. 
There was that ringing again. 
This is traveling alone.

I heard the bus from a few streets away and sprang to my feet. The driver let off the breaks and steam from his night shift as the bus lowered to the floor. He opened the doors and put on his mask. 
Un biglietto per piacere? Due. 
I only had a 5 dollar bill – 2.50 each way. Easier to get 2. 
Si, he said- handing me two newly printed sheets of paper with words that were foreign to me.
I looked at the bus. It was darker than it was outside. And empty. I didn’t know if that made me feel safer or more in danger. I sighed to the thought of an hour and a half down windy roads on a Cliffside. 
Jolting back and forth, my empty stomach crumbled as my face grew red and hot. 
If I passed out, who would catch me?
This was traveling alone.
Every stop that we made, a few men got on, looking me up and down as they sat around me.
I quickly layered back up to cover up my identity- tucking my dripping hair into my beanie and covering it with a hood. 
I stayed quiet, I didn’t want them to know that I spoke English. 
I didn’t want them to know I was a girl. 
This was traveling alone…
The train station happened to be in one of the roughest parts of Naples. Two men came up to me and walked on either side. I pulled over in a group of people and checked to feel my fanny pack holding my passport and pocket knife pressing up against my stomach.
This is traveling alone.
At the airport, I was forced to reveal my identity, pulling my hair out of the beanie, speaking English and holding my passport out to the security worker- but I felt safer here. 

A lady smiled at me as she picked up the boarding pass I had dropped.
Grazie Mille.

The man working at the coffee bar told a joke. 
A young child rode his tricycle through the airport as he laughed and gave me a smile.

The Italians had a way of softening the air travel experience- clapping their hands and banging on their trey tables while singing as a form of thanks to the crew for a safe take off and landing. 
Marco, a friendly man, sat next to me on the plane with his small son, Mattia, sitting on his lap. He started the chants on the way up and down and eyed me to join in. In Italy, sometimes it feels like family has a broadened term- and if not your family, it’s there.
I took a breath finally…joy- that only I got to experience. 

This is traveling alone.

Now I was happy to be here in this space…scary parts were a definite component, but also the same with special moments. 
This is traveling alone…

Written By: Olivia Cox