I stepped off the train and into the bustle of Rome’s main terminal station. Ten minutes prior, I had been fast asleep and now I was a mixture of disoriented and invigorated. I had virtually no idea where I was but was certain I liked it.
I pulled out my iPod Touch and got the address for the cheap bed and breakfast I was staying at. I caught a cab and proceeded to get driven exactly one block. Feeling foolish, I reluctantly paid the cab driver and checked into my room. I did my normal arrival routine and then walked aimlessly out the door. It was time to get lost for a while.
My first impression of Rome was that it looked a lot like San Francisco.
After walking a dozen blocks or so, I decided that I was wrong and that Rome looked a lot like Buenos Aires.
A dozen blocks later I realized I was wrong yet again and that Rome most certainly looked like Los Angeles.
It later occurred to me that Rome was the original mega city. Rome didn’t look like those other cities, those other cities looked like Rome. In addition, it looked like somewhere else entirely:
I had learned during my Florence trip that when in Italy, there is no excuse to not be eating something at least once every couple hours. I stumbled into the first pizzeria I could find and ordered the simplest pizza on the menu.
Yes, this was what I had come for. The flavor of Buffalo Mozzarella is hauntingly beautiful. It is savory and lingers after the last bite.
After eating, it was time to listen to other parts of my body. I loved Florence but it didn’t have the beautiful Italian women I have heard so much about. Luckily, Rome more than made up for this.
Traveling Full-time and Dating
Traveling full-time and dating is tough. Not only do I run into the same problems as every other guy (what should I say? How should I approach? Am I being too forward?), but I also get the “fun” challenge of not speaking the language. (No this is not some Men are from Mars mojo, I am actually talking about the language. Italian in this example.) Hitting this hurdle a few dozen times quickly helped me get over the anxiety I used to feel when starting to talk to a random women back in the States. Screw up enough times and the small flubs take their rightful place as small.
I used to use my travel schedule as an excuse for being single. When I really got down to it though, this was really just a convenient excuse. Those are by far the most dangerous kind of excuses.
It is easy to be happy in some parts of your life (the ones you are good at) but the real challenge (and reward) comes from balance. Now, I do my best to approach and chat with as many women as seems natural. Some days I have it and some days I don’t. It is not something I stress about anymore. Certain parts of life are going to come your way regardless of whether or not you are looking for them. The trick is to be prepared for it when it does.
I have met some really amazing women on my journey around the world and even had the opportunity to date a few of them. It is not a perfect system but it generally works :-p
A Park Full of Dead People
Tired, full and completely lost, I walked toward what looked like a big park. I am huge fan of parks and was eager to check out what Rome had to offer. It turned out, I was slightly off course. Rather than a park, I had walked into the biggest cemetery I have ever seen. Even though I found myself surrounded by dead people (…that was weird to type…) it turned out to be the highlight of my day.
The cemetery was beautiful, quiet and free of other tourists. After a long day of big crowds, this bizarre place ended up being exactly what I needed.
It started to get dark and I was already feeling a little spooked so I started in the direction of my room. I eventually found it and got to work.
I did some research that night and was completely overwhelmed by what the city had to offer. Truly exploring Rome would take years. I didn’t know where to start. Luckily, my bucket list answered my question. I was in Rome to explore the Colosseum. Thus, that would be starting point.
The next morning I got up late and went to the Colosseum.
While there are many reasons that I prefer not to travel alone, it does have some benefits. Most notably, it makes it easier to blend in when it proves advantageous. The line to get into the Colosseum was about an hour and half long. Feeling adventurous, I strategically blended into favorable groups until I made it past all of the lines. The entire process took about 5 minutes. It felt quite appropriate to sneak into the Colosseum. There is rebellion built into its history.
The Colosseum was better than I expected. It was huge, exciting and incredibly interesting. It made me a nostalgic for a time I never had a chance to experience. Not only did I learn that they really did used to flood it to do naval battles but I also learned that they used to release wild animals into the stage to fight the gladiators. That is totally awesome. I would pay huge money to see bears, lions and gladiators fight each other.
After my Colosseum adventure, I walked around the Roman Forum. It was nice but I actually preferred the “park” from the day before. I went to a cafe, did some work and helped myself to more pizza. This became a reoccurring trend.
The next day I worked from a cafe, hit my mental work wall, visited the Trevi fountain, did some more work and walked around. The following was the similar but I visited the Vatican and jogged the Spanish Steps.
By day three, I was left with a strange feeling of “too much”. There is so many great things in Rome that it became hard to appreciate any of it. I found myself walking by incredibly elaborate churches and not feeling inclined to visit them. I was so overwhelmed by famous works that I was not enjoying the second place pieces. These same pieces would have been the center piece of most exhibits or towns had they not been in Rome. Whereas I crave minimalism, I was surrounded by maximumism.
I thought about the Mona Lisa in Paris hanging on a wall in the Louvre all by itself. That is my preferred way of showcasing wonderful art.
Feeling numb, I took a nap and finalized my plans for that night.
A New Friend To Help Me Out
I run into a funny situation with this blog. Many people get to meet me through my writing but up until recently, I haven’t had the chance to meet them (meaning you). If I am ever in your city, please reach out. I’d love to meet you in person.
Luckily, Franco, a reader like you, reached out to me before my trip and I was excited to get the opportunity to meet him. He is a native Roman and very graciously invited me into his home. Franco was funny, smart and an incredibly genuine and interesting person. Spending time with him and seeing his home city from his point of view ended up being the highlight of my trip.
My experience of wondering Rome before and after seeing it from the point of view of a local was night and day. It went from feeling like I was exploring a museum to feeling like I was exploring a vibrant home. I was actually quite sad to leave when I got to the airport but was happy knowing that I now had many reasons to come back. This would only be my first adventure in Rome.