My Trip to Venice

Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.
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I’ve never been on a trip alone. Wherever I’ve traveled it’s always been with a partner, family, or friends and I’ve been trying to figure out why that is. I think it’s the norm for people to travel in packs and it’s only the rare wanderer that sets out on their own – a lone wolf to wonder at. Is it because we want to share in the experience of a new place with someone close? Is it for comfort and familiarity? Is it because we’re naturally social creatures?

At the end of last year I was feeling a bit burned out and so decided that I needed a holiday for one. I imagined a week in the Grand Canaries with nothing other than a stack of books and a parade of cocktails to see me through the days. Then I found out that an old friend was going to be in Europe and that she was planning a side trip to Italy. What if I could visit her and have some days to wander the city at my own pace? So that’s how I found myself in Venice – both alone and not-alone.

Pigeons bathing. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

I had both a fantastic time and a miserable one and by the end I was grateful to return home to the Isle of Man. Alone in a foreign city seemed at first exciting, then daunting – especially in the heat and humidity and the language barrier on my last night. As soon as I was safely home I announced that traveling solo wasn’t for me and it was my intention to share some holiday snaps, tell you how beautiful Venice was (and it is stunning) and leave it at that. But after looking through my photos I see my trip with new eyes. To think, if I hadn’t have brought my SLR camera along, I might not have truly understood the difference that ALONE makes.

Italian child. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

Glass blowing. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

My friend Lyndsey and her colleague Alysha were with me during a day and a half of my five day trip. The photos I took of that time are ordinary holiday pics – of us reuniting, having drinks, eating ice cream, posing together and goofing around. We were focused on us and the environment was more of a secondary element. One where we dodged the heat, unscrupulous vendors, the throngs of tourists, and generally talked and had fun. It’s mainly the photos I took when I was wandering around the city on my own that I’m sharing in this post.

Doges Palace, largest room in Europe. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

Geraniums in a window. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

It was uncomfortable traveling without a companion. People would look at me more, or at least I was more aware of them looking. I would find myself lost in the warren of tiny passages that is Venice and on one occasion I was afraid that I might have walked into the wrong area. My heart hammered inside my chest until I eventually spotted people and a busy alleyway.

It was also very freeing – I didn’t have to wait on anyone or to compromise on itinerary or menu. In retrospect I see that I was mainly uncomfortable because I was out of my comfort zone and uncertain of myself. How often do we place ourselves in situations and environments where we need to rely completely on ourselves? It’s incredible how my idea of a relaxing beach holiday morphed into a trip of self-discovery.

Lush balcony. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

Graffiti. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

Vinyard on the island of Burano. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

I feel ridiculous saying it but I’ve just now made the connection between photographers ranging around ‘finding stories’ and the fact that you often spot them solo. When it’s just you, you’re less of a part of the picture and more an observer – you begin to see what’s happening around you without YOU getting in the way.

My stories are mainly simple and quiet and now that I see them again I feel my eyes opening. I remember walking the oven-like passageways of the city wondering what on earth I was thinking with planning so many days on my own. All the while my subconscious snap-o-matic self recorded pigeons bathing in a bucket, steps that beckon from across a canal, and the crumbling walls of an ancient building, the water creeping ever higher up the door. I remember taking the photos but actually seeing them for what they are moves me. I’d have missed these moments if I hadn’t been alone.
Burano island. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

Crumbling building. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

Brutto Ma Bon. Intruglio. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

Venice is a beautiful city, there’s no denying it. You can walk along a deserted passage and then spot a gondolier paddling by at the end – because walkways often end at a canal. Couples walk hand in hand and dance to the classical music filling San Marco square. Everywhere you turn you see buildings that have stood for hundreds of years, bridges built by artists, and a past so deeply entrenched that it seems as if the people who commissioned and built Venice are still there. You can’t help but take amazing photos and I’m so glad that serendipity helped me discover something new about myself in such an amazing place.

Old door & broom. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

Rialto market. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

Valentina Diana - died at 19. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to travel alone again but I know that I’ll have more awareness of that experience when the time comes. Awareness of place, of events, of self. This trip wasn’t so bad at all actually and I feel that I was being close-minded when I judged it so harshly to begin with. Sometimes the new can clash with our expectations though and it takes experiences like this to shake them up. It’s not despite the challenges but because of them that I thank you Venice!

Laundry bunting. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

Surrounded by water and nothing to drink. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world

Container garden. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

The rains in spain always fall on the plain. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world

Laundry lines in Burano. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world

Gondolas at San Marco. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

Heat is behind that door. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world

Tanya from Lovely Greens. Photo diary of a solo trip to Venice, Italy, one of the most romantic cities in the world.

16 Discussion to this post

  1. Sonya says:

    I am so proud of you for traveling alone! It’s one of those things that we or at least I as a woman do not like doing. Living in The Netherlands and almost everyone speaking English makes it a lot easier to go and do something but I can’t seem to bring myself to do it. I am so glad you did though and your photos are so beautiful. The colors are crazy vibrant and I could feel the warmth on my skin from the sun 🙂

    Did you love the food? I am one of those weirdos that buys things in the stores to bring back home to try and I always look for a cookbook or Christmas ornament to bring back as well..lol

    • lovelygreens says:

      You’re not a weirdo at all! There were packets of multi-coloured pasta that I was tempted to buy but I just had zero room in my carry-on bag. I’m proud of myself for that too…a week’s worth of clothing, shoes, etc in such a small suitcase.

      As for food, it was alright in Venice but the standard pasta and pizza seemed standard. It just wasn’t what I wanted to eat in that heat. In the photos there’s a bowl of cheese/olives/garlic/sun-dried tomatoes that I liked so much that I had for lunch three days in a row. It was sooooo tasty with the local Focaccia bread!

  2. Karen Rink says:

    Gorgeous photos! Traveling alone is much different than traveling with someone. Years ago, I was to meet an old friend at the Venice train station so I found a seat and looked at every brown-haired man walking in the door. Then I thought: are you crazy, Italian men love to flirt!!! I went back to reading my book for my own safety.

  3. Guerrina says:

    So very true and good for you! The thought of a language barrier always overwhelms me.I rarely get to go anywhere alone as I help raise my grandson (truly a blessing, yet exhausting!) and I am craving a couple weeks that revolves around drinks, books, beach and just the sounds of the ocean! Ok … would settle for a long weekend.

  4. Mary says:

    Great insight; wonderful perspective in your photos too. Thanks for sharing.

  5. CJ says:

    What wonderful photos. Venice is somewhere I’d really love to visit, and I’d definitely pluck up the courage to go alone if I could, although I think I’d feel the same as you. I’m glad you enjoyed yourself, despite the challenge of being on your own. CJ xx

    • lovelygreens says:

      Thanks CJ and I hope you make it to Venice too. Now that I know the feelings to expect I’m much more open to trying it out again, if the boyfriend allows it 😉 Some people adjust naturally to solo travelling though so you could be one of those happy wanderers.

  6. Chris says:

    Beautiful pics Tanya,

    Long time ago I traveled to Spain all by myself. The only thing I booked in advance was the plane ticket. I recognize a lot of the feelings and experiences you shared. I was able to enjoy the freedom while I was there even though there were some scary moments as well as I was in the big city of Granada en needed to find a room to sleep for instance … Unfortunately I did not have a camera with me at the time, but took notes and postcards home instead. Nevertheless the experience of traveling alone is irreplaceable. I believe we can only grow as a person when we get out of our comfort zone every ones in a while :). Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    • lovelygreens says:

      Thank you for sharing your experience too, Chris – I couldn’t agree more about solo travelling helping you to grow as a person and Granada is someplace I’d love to visit one day as well!

  7. Caro says:

    What gorgeous photos, Tanya – I’ve never been to Venice but really want to go now. I have to say that I adore travelling on my own, it gives me such a sense of freedom and I’ve done it many times before I had my son (quite a few years ago now!). I’ve always found that I return home with my confidence boosted by the adventure. I can only encourage you to go again now that you’ve done it once!

  8. Mary Penza says:

    I just stumbled across your compassionate article and enjoyed it. I am going to Venice by myself and it is my first trip to Europe. I am a photographer so i can relate to the feelings you had about your photos taken when you were alone. Your photos are beautiful and i especially like the broom in the doorway. This is exactly what i hope to capture during my 6 day stay. Thanks so much for sharing.
    Mary
    Capecodphoto.etsy.com

  9. Justine says:

    My first trip to Venice was nearly the opposite. I went with a friend for a week and had 1 and 1/2 days in the middle while she went to visit a friend. My favorite photos from that trip are from the days alone and the early mornings where I got out early and wandered on my own. Now I try to work some time alone into any trip I take. It really makes it more relaxing, and I’m better able to enjoy the shared experiences because I’ve had opportunity to do what I really want to do.

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