Europe Reflections Part IV: A Broken Sandal in Sardinia

Sardinia was my next stop after a wild journey out of Belgium, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Since these posts are not written chronologically and to make it a little easier to understand here is a brief overview of my backpacking trip:

Amsterdam —> Brussels —> Alghero —> Dolomites/Cortina d’Ampezzo —> Venice —> Florence —> Rome —> Dublin —> Galway —> Westport —> HOME! 

I had a wonderful experience in Amsterdam, a not so great experience in Belgium, and now I was headed to Sardinia with no idea what to expect. One thing that this backpacking trip had already taught me was to not set any expectations at all. I would be attending a 5-day Italian language course and staying in the home of a Sardinian family, who by the way, spoke little to no English at all. I knew little more than “tutto bene” when it came to the Italian language, so I was definitely nervous but excited. 

As soon as the plain landed in Alghero, Sardinia, I was met with a WhatsApp message from the taxi driver who would be picking me up. I found him easily in the airport and he drove me to the home of Tonino and Paola, the Sardinian couple I’d be staying with. I pretty much felt at home from the moment I stepped off that plane. Everyone was so welcoming in Sardinia, although I had no idea what anyone was saying to me, I could just tell. 

When I get to the home I would be staying at, I was met by Paola, an extremely warm and welcoming Sardinian woman who kissed me on both cheeks, ushered me inside and gave me a tour of her home. She was over the moon when she saw my pregnant belly. I also met Paola’s husband, Tonino and Christine. Christine was a girl from Germany who was also staying in the house, she would be attending the language school with me, she spoke fluent English and a decent amount of Italian as well. Her presence was so great. She and I quickly became friends and would spend the next 5 days getting gelato and coffee together. Also, she mostly bridged the communication gap between Paola and I, so that was great. 

It was a lovely 5 days of studying Italian, bike riding, eating ice cream, and sun bathing. I quickly got into a routine of sitting on the porch in the mornings and drinking Italian coffee, riding my bike to class, then eating lunch on the beach in the afternoons. I’d go to little markets and buy fresh peaches and large bottles of sparkling mineral water. It was honestly a dream there and I can’t wait to go back one day and bring my family. I felt at home, safe and secure. 

I highly recommend attending a language school to anyone who plans to travel to a new country, especially if you’re traveling alone. I had such an amazing experience at Italiano in Riviera. Taking Italian lessons in Sardinia gave me a productive way to occupy my time, introduced me to more people, and helped me further integrate into the culture. Although, I returned with little to no actual ability to speak Italian, it was helpful to learn some words and phrases that I would practice over the next two weeks while in Italy and gave me a good foundation for future Italian lessons. Sardinia was definitely my favorite stop on my solo portion of the trip and the language school is a big reason for this.

Sardinia (like much of my trip to Europe) taught me to face my fears. As someone who grew up in Florida, I’ve been on plenty of boat rides and I’ve spent a large portion of my life swimming in, staring out at, and jumping into large bodies of water. So when it was time for me to step onto a sailboat in Sardinia, I wouldn’t expect to feel fear but sometimes our fears sneak up and surprise us. Standing on that dock, my heart started to race. I was thinking about how I hadn’t been on a sail boat in a while, it looked like a small boat. What if it’s a rocky ride? What if I get sea sick? I haven’t been on a boat since I got pregnant, who knows if my body will react differently. I almost wanted to stay back. When I saw the other passengers leaping onto the boat from the dock, I thought about how easy it would be to trip or misstep and fall into the water. I was internally freaking out.

Then it came time for me to take that leap and I’m so glad I did. Kind of like the leap of faith I was taking by going on this trip at all, or preparing to become a mother, or by choosing to take 8 months off from my career instead of jumping into it immediately after college. Leaps of faith are scary before we take them. Fear seems a lot scarier when we’re contemplating it internally, but in those moments when you’re actually facing it, it’s not all that bad and in hind sight it’s always so worth it.

That’s how this sailboat ride felt. The moment I stepped onto that boat, my fears eased. I was sitting next to Christine and facing the other two passengers (two Swiss Germans), while our driver Guiseppe (a Sardinian local) drove the boat. The water was so calm, and floating along the Mediterranean sea was so incredibly peaceful. We anchored the boat and all jumped in the water. It was amazing. 

Apperitivos! Water for me

One night, Christine and I went out for apperitivos (basically the Italian version of happy hour) with a group of classmates and a few of the instructors from the school. Afterward, we all went out to dinner. By this time, it was late in the evening. 10 o’clock isn’t an uncommon dinner time in most of Europe. We had to try a couple of different restaurants to find a place that had seating.

I was sitting around a table with three Germans and one man from Holland (“what did you think of Amsterdam??” he had so excitedly asked me), and we were all trying our hardest to maintain a conversation in Italian, of course I was totally lost. Finally, we all started to speak English. This experience made me feel so motivated to learn another language. Here I was, sitting around with a group of people who all came from another country and spoke a language different from my own, yet they all spoke my language as well, and I didn’t speak anyone’s language but my own. I felt a little ignorant. I still don’t speak a second language but I like to believe that one day I will. 

It was really starting to get late and my pregnant self was ready to go to sleep. Christine and I decided to bike back. I glance down, and somehow my sandal had completely broken. I’m not sure how that happened, because it was fine on the walk here. Oh well, I pulled them off and tossed them in the nearest trash bin. I guess I’ll be purchasing some sandals tomorrow. 

Side note: I got a pair of brown leather sandals that next day (they’re sort of like knock off Birkenstocks) and honestly they are to this day, one of my favorite pairs of shoes. I have walked so many miles in those shoes that they’re actually starting to fall apart. 

So here I was, 6 months pregnant, biking barefoot through the hilly streets of Sardinia at midnight, having an amazing time. Reflecting so fondly on this broken sandal experience reminds me that traveling alone is fun, traveling pregnant is fun, whatever your excuse is, stop it! You’re limiting yourself.

I decided to be free and not put limits on myself and it lead me here, and I was having the time of my life. I was accepting glasses of Prosecco (I only had a few sips) sent over from a group of men at a restaurant, I was floating in the middle of the Mediterranean sea on a paddle board, I was jumping off sail boats, I was staying out late, I was living.

I know I was judged for backpacking Europe alone and pregnant, there was probably a time in my life when I would have judged someone for doing this too, I get it. It does sound a little crazy. But, I felt confident in myself and I just went for it; when I could have let this judgement hold me back. Think of all of the ways we hold ourselves back by making excuses or worrying about the opinions of others. You gotta let that shit go. 

So here are my takeaways: 

  1. Go to Sardinia, it’s AMAZING there!!
  2. If you’re thinking of traveling solo, first of all DO IT. Second of all, I highly recommend a language school.
  3. Stop worrying about what people think. Traveling alone is fun, traveling pregnant is fun, don’t hold yourself back, just go for it!

Please enjoy some more photos from my trip to Sardinia, I cannot get over the beauty of this place!

Beautiful streets of Alghero

“A Bump Abroad”

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