What a week it has been! I’ve gone to Milan, returned to catch-up with all my University work, took a trip to London for Code First: Girls’ annual conference (post detailing all about it coming soon!) and all the same time, been trying to balance my health and wellness and other commitments. It has been busy, but I’m learning loads of different things, and that’s always great.
Over the past year, I’ve made active steps to get out of my comfort zone — by speaking publically in events, by putting myself out there (fully aware of criticism that may follow), by doing things that terrify me: whether that’s getting involved in hackathons or travelling.
Travelling. I did a lot of it over the last few months – around Europe and beyond. Although I was dealing with my aggressive travel anxiety, I did it, and over time it’s gotten a lot better. In fact, one thing that’s always at the back of my mind is where to go next 🌎
The final place of the year that we chose was Milan, Italy. Truthfully, I was very excited to go when I first booked it but increasingly as time went on, I had a bad feeling about it and felt quite lazy to go especially in the week I had a lot to do. But as it was already booked, I just went and besides, you all know how I feel about Italian food!
So off we went with strangely high expectations… 🚀
DAY ONE – Wanting sleep
Most of the first day was just me feeling exhausted. The flight was super early, and I had slept for about 2 hours. I wasn’t feeling my best, but I finally got some sleep on the plane and woke up to beautiful views of the alps:
Once we arrived, we took a coach to central Milan where we then took the metro to our hotel, Star Business Palace. Unlike New York, the metro system in Europe has consistently been quite easy to understand and follow. Central Milano station reminded me a lot of Grand Central Station!
- If you’re wearing a backpack, place your zip right at the bottom, not the top. Hamdah got her purse stolen because of this. Thankfully, we could freeze the cards so no one could use them.
- When buying a metro ticket, be super aware of your surroundings. I wasn’t at first and let this random woman “help” me by my ticket where she then tricked me into giving her the rest of the change from the ticket.
After the trauma in the metro, we decided to stay in the hotel for the rest of the day and ordered two UberEats meals instead of going out. It was the first time I had felt super unsafe and paranoid whilst travelling to the extent I just wanted to stay inside.
DAY TWO – Exploring Milan
Feeling more confident, we prepared ourselves to explore Milan. It felt like preparing for war 😅
The Duomo Cathedral was beautiful. But the surrounding area though wasn’t very nice. Everyone seemed to be trying to take our things or scam us in some way.
Apart from cathedrals and museums, we went to visit a Departmental store which I found didn’t really excite me at all. It was freeing to find out that I didn’t actually like shopping as much as I used to so we didn’t stick around for too long. I tweeted:
Yesterday I surprised myself by not caring about the shopping district in Milan.
— Pauline P. Narvas (@paulienuh) November 15, 2017
For lunch, we came across the Old Wild West and had chips and a burger (no Italian food as of yet!) which was nearby the Arco della Pace where we also saw a couple getting a little wedding photoshoot done. It was warmed my heart and reminded me of when I went to New York and saw about 6 wedding photoshoots in one day! 😆 Would you ever get a wedding shoot (wearing your wedding dress) outside like that?
At around dinner, we went to a restaurant just outside our hotel. It was the first time we were actually having “Italian” food because up until this point, we only had burgers and chips. Being an absolute Italian food lover, I was very excited!
Unfortunately, it wasn’t great. 🤢 I was quite disappointed, I had better pasta and pizza back in Sheffield. I think the presentation of the pizza in the photo above says it all really.
DAY THREE – Finding headspace
This was probably my favourite day of the trip. Everything so far was such a disappointment and I felt incredibly stressed by my constant paranoia of the environment around me. To get away from the city, we went to Lake Como which is quite far out from central Milan (over an hour train ride) but offered a beautiful, tranquil place to find some headspace.
We got off at Varenna and then took the ferry to Bellagio. Georgie pointed out that this was the area where Nick proposed to her 😍 I can’t tell you enough how gorgeous it is – the water, the houses on hills, and the Alps! I bet it would be even better in the summer; definitely an amazing place for a proposal 😉
When we were visiting, for some reason, all the shops were closed so we couldn’t really do much apart from walk around and admire the sights. It was super calming though. 🧘🏻♀️
When we returned to Milan in the evening, we headed over to a restaurant by the Duomo Cathedral. Prices were ridiculously expensive! 😱 I ended up ordering a risotto which didn’t look appetising at all – imagine watery orange rice – it tasted just like pot noodles and had a 16 euro price tag attached. We also paid 10 euros for water too 😩
Top tip: I shared this on Instagram and a few people replied suggesting to go further away from the centre (more in back streets etc.) for cheap and more authentic food. Noted for the future!
It was getting quite late when we were on our way back to the hotel. When we got back to Milan, we witnessed a few things:
- Seeing a girl with her bag wide open (just like what happened to Hamdah)
- People begging for money or selling us something we don’t want and when we said “sorry, no” they went on a rant and started swearing at us or keep going
- More people (groups of them) trying to hover over us at metro ticket points
I never felt more relieved when we got to our hotel room. 😓 It was constant harassment, I was exhausted by the end of it.
DAY FOUR – Worst day of the year
…hey, that’s pretty good seeing as it’s nearly the end of the year, right? Woop! *Pawsitivity*
We didn’t do much apart from getting ready to leave as soon as possible. And just our luck, we ended up missing our flight back home to Manchester. The next few hours was a blur and the most anxious I’ve ever been abroad 😰 People who were supposed to be helping us only pointed and laughed and until the very end tried to get as much money out of us as possible (even though we all knew it was a scam.)
On a positive note though, I learned a lot for future travels (avoiding Italy is one them, maybe) and was reminded how amazing my family and Matt are (seriously, I would’ve had a full-blown panic attack if it wasn’t for them guiding me throughout.) Although it wasn’t the best way to unwind – which was the whole point of the trip – I’m sort of glad I did it. I’ve come back with scars but that’s okay, it’s helped shaped future ventures. 🌟