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Last month I turned 30. But I didn’t turn 30 in the manner that I always imagined turning 30, in a dingy bar surrounded by my friends and family, drinking away every awkward encounter of the previous decade. Instead, I spent my 30th birthday in a hotel room overlooking the gorgeous scenery of Capri, Italy. As a guy who has admitted to hating traveling and vacations, I’ve decided to give my impressions, as you know if I enjoyed myself at all that place must be amazing.
I spent a week in Italy with my girlfriend, Jennie. It was both a celebration of my 30th and also a trip to attend a wedding of one of her friends. This was our first time traveling alone together (we’d been on group trips before but never just the two of us), my first time in Europe, and my first time flying outside of North America (I’ve been to Canada and Mexico). It was also going to be my longest flight ever (nine and a half hours on the way back), my first time going through customs without an adult (wait…fuck, I’m the adult now aren’t I?), and my first time in a foreign country without my parents. Luckily, Jennie is not only an experienced globe-setter, she’s a fastidious planner and made sure that we had all our hotel and travel arrangements done well in advance of the trip. While my parents always had some form of a plan on our vacations growing up, I gotta give it to my girl; she did a fantastic job of making sure we were traveling in style, with a lot to do and see at each location we visited.
We flew into Rome on Norwegian, an airline I had never heard of with surprisingly cheap tickets, which made me feel like we were somehow getting fleeced worse than the Cowboys did trading a first rounder for Amari Cooper *suppresses laughter* oh God Jerry you moron. But, it turns out that Norwegian is actually really nice for the price tag. We even got an upgrade to premium–which was essentially first class–on the trip there. This turned out to be the worst decision we made all trip.
Not because the flight out there wasn’t a world-class experience, it was. But because the flight back was, by comparison, a hellish landscape. For once I had experienced the majesty of premium, with seats that recline all the way back to be a bed, tons of extra legroom, complimentary alcohol on the flight and in the airport lounge beforehand, and incredible amenities, flying back in coach was unbearable.
Now, once we made it to Rome, getting set up in the hotel was pretty simple and easy. Everyone in Italy speaks English, which is great because my DuoLingo lessons in Italian did not stick (although shouts to Jennie whose young brain hasn’t yet been eaten away by the withers of time and alcohol and did remember some key phrases).
However, everyone in Italy also drives like a fucking lunatic. And this is from someone who grew up in New Jersey and Washington DC, two of the areas with the worst drivers imaginable. And the Italians make us look like saints by comparison. They treat rules of the road the way pirates treat the Brethren Code, guidelines not rules. The number of times we were in a cab that drove down the middle between two lanes of cars, cut across three lanes of traffic or made a right turn from the left lane was shocking. Also, there are really no designated pedestrian crossings, so it was always a matter of finding a gap in traffic, sprinting across the road, and praying that the drivers wouldn’t just barrel into you.
We spent two days in Rome, which was beautiful, I must admit. The architecture, the historical significance of all the buildings, the aesthetic was gorgeous. Everything was within walking distance, everything was cheap, and we had a great time sightseeing. The one thing we did miss, however, was the Colosseum. Because, even though we got tickets in advance, apparently you have to get there the moment it opens to avoid standing on line for three hours to get in. So we skipped that wonderful experience, got some pictures out front, and went to other attractions that we’d actually get to go inside and see.
After the first stint in Rome, we took a train to Naples–which looked like a pretty trashy city, even though we were only there for a few hours–before catching a ferry to Capri. I’ve gone on record as saying that there’s nothing out there that is so captivatingly amazing that the experience is better than just seeing pictures or film, but I have to say Capri is the first place that might have caused me to rethink that. The island is absolutely breathtaking, the cities are quaint but modern, and it was absolutely amazing. For my birthday in Capri, Jennie scheduled us a private boat tour of the island, which was my favorite part of the trip hands down. It was a perfect day, capped off by a delicious birthday dinner.
Oh yes, the food was good. I mean, that goes without saying that in Italy the food will be good, but just to make it abundantly clear the food was very good. I wouldn’t say it was life-changing or anything like that, but it was definitely better than the Trader Joes ravioli that I cook for myself. My birthday dinner, though, was definitely the best with pasta and short ribs that still makes my mouth water even weeks later.
As for the experience itself, we had the perfect balance between enjoying the vacation and having downtime. I never felt bored or like I was wasting my time, but I also didn’t feel exhausted or overwhelmed from being out doing things all day. Jennie’s spent a year with me by this point, and she has a great sense of how much time and space I need. That being said, around the fourth/fifth day I was starting to get a bit exhausted with the whole thing.
Being away from my home and all my creature comforts, having my entire schedule turned upside down, not having my routine, sleeping on a strange bed, being in a country with a language barrier, eventually had me dragging. I would say I didn’t get more than six hours of sleep a night on the back half of the trip, and only the flight home in coach I nodded off for maybe a half hour (despite us taking off at 9:30 PM and me taking a Melatonin). Maybe that contributed to me not enjoying my last few days in Italy as much as my first few, but eventually, that travel took a toll on me that prevented me from enjoying my stay in the foreign country.
That’s where I ultimately end up on my perspective with regards to traveling as a whole. I maintain my stance that it’s not worth the time, energy, and money that I invested, despite the fact that I did have a lot of enjoyable experiences. I’ll admit that I did learn some new perspective, and saw some things that I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate without being there. In that sense, yes the trip was more than worth it; seeing Capri and Rome was a nice experience and if I was asked to do a similar trip in the future I wouldn’t be wholly opposed to it. I might still be against it, but it wouldn’t be an automatic, knee-jerk reaction because I know that there is value to be gained from the experience. .