Since moving to New York, the fear morphed to discomfort, and the discomfort has now settled into a considerably more tolerable "feh. I'd rather not." That being said, when I took off for Italy, I knew there'd be a solo day or two, and I knew my old fears would likely reappear when introduced to a strange new setting. I gave Taryn a preparatory talk instructing her that, under no circumstances, is she to allow Old Alison to seize control of Alison v.2.0. I would spend time alone in a foreign country and I would like it, dammit.
After our Rome adventure, I did spend a day of rest and managed a walk into Ponsacco only to discover everything was closed. But since Tuesday promised pretty blue skies, Taryn dropped me off at the train station en route to work, and I set out solo for Cinque Terre. This involved an hour or so train ride to La Spezia, and then a transfer to the "local" trains that run through these adorably quaint little mountain-on-the-beach towns.
Despite the fact that I hadn't packed proper mountain gear, I decided to take the train all the way through to town number 5, Monterosso, and then hike my way back through to Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. How hard could it be?
How lucky am I to have experience it?
There is nothing - nothing - like taking a train from anytown, Italy through a mountain tunnel and arriving in a place that feels like it just may be on a completely different planet from anything you've ever known. And there is nothing (nothing) like a 2 hour hike over mountain cliffs dangling over the sea.
As I hiked, I laid little pieces of my former self to rest along that trail and bid them a long, eternal sleep. I said goodbye to alone-aphobic Alison, because she never would have had the guts to take in this view:
And I gave peace to 300 pound Alison, who never would have made it across the narrow paths and up and down the mountains.
I giggled at workaholic Alison and thanked her for loosening the reigns on her blackberry long enough to take this picture:
And I wished luck to bitter Alison and said a quiet prayer of thanks for the opportunity to stroll Lover's Lane at all, even without my hand in someone else's.
(And I wished luck to future Alison, in the hopes that someday, she'll get the chance to clasp hands, hearts, and clang down a lock over there here bars.)
Cinque Terre ranks high on the list of coolest things I've ever experienced. I'm glad I didn't let fear strap me to the couch that day. And in some odd little way, it's something I'm almost grateful to have experienced alone because nothing can quite touch the feeling of learning something new about yourself while you listen to your feet thud and heart race between the hills and sea.