Rome has been one of the best stops of the entire journey thus far, but after a week in the city it’s time to get back on the road and make my way north.
I’m going to miss this place. Sarah and her partner Armando were incredible hosts, guiding me as I gawked at the Colosseum, Pyramid of Cestius, Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain.
There was also a stop at Ponte Milvio, a tiny bridge where thousands of lovers hang padlocks as a symbol of their bond. Little things like that, sights off the beaten path, made me truly appreciate how lucky I was to experience the city with people who live it every day.
The Vatican I toured on my own, at least as much as anyone can be on their own in a sea of hundreds of people.
Together we crammed ourselves into the museums, ooh’d in some hallways, ahh’d in others and, after leaving, wondered why a place as holy as the Sistine Chapel smelled so much like us.
If anything, craning my neck at Michelangelo’s work made me realize that I’d rather be outside.
As beautiful as the chapel was, my memory of it has already faded, squeezing itself into a bite-size cliche to pass around the dinner table.
How strange, then, that I remember exactly how the road felt under my tires in the Yukon, the colour of dawn as it broke over the English channel and the sound of rain cascading over my tent in Belgium.
I can still smell the olive groves of Spain, still see my afternoons floating by in the blue skies over the Mediterranean.
And what lingers, I think, aren’t these experiences but the thread that ties them together. True beauty is the freedom to explore.
There will be plenty of time for just that in the coming months.
I’m setting out from Rome today, leaving for Budapest where I’ll cut east to Turkey. There are a few thousand kilometers between here and there, and I haven’t a clue how they’ll look. It’s perfect.