Facing fears while abroad.

Most people picture Venice to be a picturesque and romantic city. You imagine dreamy gondola rides, delicious pasta, mesmerizing music playing throughout the city, and the beautiful canals that run throughout the city. I mean that is how I pictured it anyway. I had really high hopes for Venice, only to get there and realize this city was probably something straight out of my nightmares. Venice forced me to face some of my biggest fears and anxiety points.

Venice, Italy

To give you a little background on what I’m talking about, let me list a few fun facts about me.

  1. I hate birds. I know hate is a strong word, but it drives my point home on my feelings towards them. They creep me tf out with those pointy little beaks and the fact that they just crap all over the place. Gross.  
  2. I despise seafood. I think it is the most repulsive food on the planet. It smells awful, people eat it raw, and it just never even looks appetizing. HARD PASS.
  3. I absolutely love the ocean. I respect the ocean and everything about it. So much that I have learned WAY more than I should have about it, so I have developed this deep fear of what lives in the ocean and what we don’t know lives in the ocean. I think it is absolutely beautiful BUT I am terrified of going into any body of water (other than a pool obviously), especially if I cannot see what is below me.

Back to my nightmare of Venice!

I visited Venice in May 2019 with my Contiki group. I was really excited about this stop just because I imagined it to be this perfect spot as I stated above. Everyone always raves about it so much, so I had very high expectations. We arrived early in the morning and had the entire day to do whatever we wanted. The top of my priority list was to go to Libreria Acqua Alta, which is this, quaint, unique, and beautiful bookstore in Venice. There are books EVERYWHERE, and it was the store there that I wanted to visit. Well to my disappointment, no one in my little group wanted to go, and I didn’t want to wander off alone, so I didn’t go. Right off the bat, I was upset about that. What a way to start the day.

Glass blowing demonstration.

Our tour manager had planned a group visit to a glass blowing shop for anyone who was interested in seeing how all of the beautiful glass was made. Most of us went, and a few of our fellow Contiki friends wanted to shop there after. While waiting for them to finish shopping, we waited outside the shop on a cute little bridge overlooking the canal that the Bridge of Sighs was also on, so I was standing there enjoying the beauty and snapping a few pictures of course. While standing there, a bird flew so close to my head I actually felt its wings. My immediate reaction was to scream, cry, and just fall to the floor. One of my new Contiki friends, Angelo, watched the whole thing happen. After he made sure I was physically fine, he laughed about it to the point of tears. I was teased about it for the rest of the day, but I wasn’t kidding when I said I didn’t like birds!

Me standing in front of the Bridge of Sighs RIGHT before a bird basically flew into my head.

After that traumatizing experience, we decided to head to St. Mark’s Square to climb to the top of the Cathedral tower, which is an active bell tower. Well you know what else is in St. Mark’s Square? Apparently every single pigeon that ever lived. I literally walked around holding my denim jacket above my head the entire time in constant anxiety. These birds have zero fear of the people around, and they fly way too close for comfort. I did not enjoy being in that space AT ALL. Luckily, I made it out of there without getting crapped on, but of my fellow group members was not as lucky as me.

Gondola Ride, Venice (Do I look calm, because I was definitely not)

Next on the agenda was a gondola ride. Yay! …. or so I thought. The water traffic in Venice is heavy all around as you can imagine. There are constant ferries coming in, personal boats, and gondolas everywhere. This makes the waterways very rough. Although the ride was beautiful there were some very rocky spots, which did not sit well with my anxiety about the ocean.  I kept telling myself how often they do these rides, and everything would be fine. Once I was able to calm down a little bit, I was able to enjoy the sights and the memories I was making with my friends. The gondola driver made a joke in Italian, and not that I speak fluent Italian in any regard, but I understood enough of his sentence to laugh at what he said. After he realized I understood what he said, he kept making comments and funny jokes about the ride and the people in the gondola with us. His joking definitely helped me calm down and enjoy the ride, so wherever you are sir, thank you!! (or should I say, mille grazie!)

Our last activity was a food tour throughout the city. In my head, that meant yummy wine, yummy pasta, and maybe some yummy pastries. I did not take in to account that Venice was in fact an island city, which meant that they ate a lot of fish and there were fish markets around every corner. You know what that means? It smells like fish throughout the city, and for someone who does not like fish or the smell of fish this became an issue really quick on the food tour. I always write down that I am allergic to fish when I have to share my dietary restrictions. It just makes it easier than explaining that I despise fish and won’t eat anything that it touches. I know I’m a pain in the ass 🙂 . At one point of the tour, the area smelled soooo bad that I actually started gagging and had to sit that restaurant stop out. Lucky for me, my new Contiki friend, Ben, grabbed an extra glass of champagne and ran it over to me while everyone snacked on their seafood tastings (gag). I was so grateful because in that moment I really needed that champagne.

At the end of the day, I could not wait to get back to the hostel. Looking back I have to admit I really did have a fun time while I was there even though there were some hiccups, and I made some really great memories and left with some funny stories. I promise even though I only talked about the negatives here, there are plenty of positives to Venice too, and I’ll cover those one of these days, so stay tuned!

St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice

Was there ever a city you visited where you were faced with some of your biggest fears? Where did you go, and what is your story? Comment below!

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