My first week as a solo traveler was pretty discouraging to say the least, and not only do I blame my anxious head for this rough start, I also blame coffee. Yep, you definitely read that right…
Back home in New Jersey, I drink coffee like it’s my job. In fact, it’s mostly at my job that I drink this absurd amount of caffeine; about 4 cups every shift. So, as you can imagine, I’m pretty desperate to find a good cup of Joe around here. If you didn’t know, “Italian Coffee” is what most Americans call espresso and “American Coffee” is what most Italians call water. To keep me from the caffeine withdrawal that I certainly do not want, I’ve been drinking “Italian Coffee” from the Nespresso machine in the kitchen (one shot is roughly the equivalent of an 8oz at home). Nespresso has become increasingly popular among the homes of Italians; it’s fast and convenient—basically the characteristics most Americans strive for when it comes to food and drink (haha). While the Nespresso makes a great cup of coffee, all I wanted was the confidence want to walk down the street and walk into a café. Why was this so difficult for me?
In Italy, there are plenty of bars and caffés from which you can choose to get your morning, mid-morning, afternoon, mid-afternoon, evening, etc. etc.—coffee fix. Just walk down the street, find your favorite local stop, drink your coffee in about two or three sips, and move on with your day. Sounds easy, right? Yet almost every afternoon last week, I sat in my new home in Turin with Italian television blasting in the background and another level of “Duolingo” complete, trying to combat my fear of going into a café. Was it the language barrier? Was it because I’m alone? Both? I really didn’t know. Everyday, I walked down the street confident that I would open the door of the next bar that I passed yet, I approached each shop with hesitation, looked in, and walked away. My heart told me to open the door and get the damn cappuccino, but my feet kept walking. I remembered my time in Rome; the city in which I studied abroad, and realized it had never been this difficult for me before. Perhaps it was because I was always had my best friends at my side or perhaps it was because Rome is naturally accustomed to Americans because of the tourism. Turin seems more traditional and much less “touristy” than Italy’s capital. And I definitely miss the confidence boost my friends gave me just by standing next to me.
My desire for a cappuccino that I couldn’t find the courage to order had left me wondering the obvious: if I can’t overcome this small obstacle, how in the world am I supposed to explore Turin or the many other places I’ve dreamed of?
Prior to this week, I really didn’t anticipate solo travel being this difficult. I have been accompanied by my loving host family who has welcomed me with open arms and has made me feel at home however, I worry that my fears will hold me back on this journey. It’s a learning experience from which I know I’ll grow from, but adjusting to this solo lifestyle is definitely a challenge.
This past Friday (Friday the 13th for all you superstitious Americans…aka Dad), I visited Piazza San Carlo, home of two very well known cafés: Caffé San Carlo and Caffé Torino. Both historical cafés were local favorites for many important artists, literary personalities, famous Italians, and international stars including Ava Gardner, who used to have coffee at Caffé Torino! Most would be surprised if I told you that I ordered my first coffee at Caffé Torino, yet those who know me probably wouldn’t be surprised at all. Those who know me know that, for most things, my attitude is “go hard or go home” (Mom and Dad: that means, do it big or don’t do it at all). So, yeah, I ordered my first coffee at Caffé Torino. I couldn’t find the courage to walk into a local bar on Corso Monte Cucco, but I could somehow manage to walk into a famous café in the center of the city and drink a shot of espresso. Go figure. It was as delicious, and not as difficult, as I anticipated. After almost two weeks of being in Turin AND after mastering the subway (again, go figure) I finally ordered a coffee. Now, to sit down in a restaurant…That’s a different adventure for a different day. For now, I’ll stick with coffee.
Shout out to my Mom, Dad, and best friends who dealt with my anxiety 4,000 miles away. Love you.