I have always considered myself to have a little bit of a “type-A” personality, which mostly stems from my overwhelming desire to be neat and organized. However, I did not realize how this quality would affect me as a young traveler. As I began to travel around Italy with my classmates, I soon noticed that most people did not put as much effort into where they were going and what they were seeing as I did. While I tended to know what I wanted to see, when I wanted to see it and how I planned to get there, others seemed to fly by the seat of their pants.
It did not bother me that other people traveled in this way, but I just felt “winging it” was something I could not possibly do. For me, unfortunately, it was too stressful and anxiety-provoking to not have a plan. In fact, I began to envy those around me who were calm and comfortable enough to take the back seat when it came to travel plans. It was impossible for me to be unprepared.
I went to the Amalfi Coast with several of my friends one weekend during our summer semester abroad. As usual, I knew exactly where we were going, what I wanted to see and when I wanted to see it. On the Saturday of our trip, we decided to hop on a ferry and travel to the island of Capri. I was really looking forward to this destination because of the blue grotto on the island.
The blue grotto is a sea cave on the coast of the island. It is renowned as one of Italy’s greatest environmental wonders. Sunlight passes through an underwater cavity and shines through the seawater in the cavern, which creates a blue reflection that illuminates the entire grotto. The cave extends some 50 meters into the cliff at the surface, and is about 150 meters (or 490 feet) deep, with a sandy bottom. I was excited and prepared to get to Capri, hop on a bus and spend the whole day at the grotto with my friends.
As we arrived, a flash storm engulfed our ferry and the island. Although the storm was just minutes long, it brought a lot of precipitation and unfortunately flooded the blue grotto for the day. Although I tried hard to hide it, I was incredibly disappointed. Besides being unable to see one of my top destinations, my plan for the day was also ruined. I began to feel anxious and stressed at the idea of being in a foreign place without an agenda. As I realized that these feelings were just a personal character flaw, I tried my best to stay calm and collected in front of my friends.
We made small talk with a British couple who was also set back by the closing of the grotto, and they told us about a chairlift at the top of the island. We decided to go check it out because we had nothing else to do anyway. The ride was incredible. We got to look down on the island from many different vantage points as we slowly rode up the side of the mountain. At the top, we had a 360 degree view over all of Capri. It was an unbelievable sight and we got some nice photos too.
Afterwards we traveled back down the mountain to the harbor. I chatted with some vendors in an attempt to find something else to do. I stumbled upon a stand that was renting out boats. Despite my presumption that boats would be too expensive, I approached the vendor. He offered to let the five of my friends and me rent our own speedboat for the rest of the day. No boating license was necessary, and it would only cost us 18 euros per person. I officially loved Italy.
We drove our speedboat around the island and stumbled upon a white grotto, which had not been flooded by the morning storm, the lighthouse of Punta Carena, Marina Piccola and its legendary Faraglioni, Villa Malaparte and the Natural Arch. In addition to lowering the anchor and swimming around the crystal clear blue water, my friends and I also dove in and explored the inside of the white grotto together. We spent the rest of the day drifting around the island and enjoying the absurd beauty that surrounded us.
I would not have had that amazing day in Capri if I had let myself be bogged down by a rigid plan — or lack thereof, in this case. This was a major lesson that I learned while traveling this summer. Traveling without a plan gives you incredible flexibility and letting the day unfold randomly can lead to exciting and unplanned adventures. But let’s be honest — when you are traveling to an amazing place like Capri, you do not really need to do much for a fantastic time.
Unplanned travel presents the opportunity to make spontaneous memories. (Courtesy of Erin Shanahan)