Why I Came Back To The U.S.
It took me a while to write this and apart of me is still processing it all. I went through and still am going through the emotions where I feel like I failed. I thought I would last a lot longer in Europe, heck I thought I was going to live in Switzerland for good or at least the rest of the season until October. My previous posts talk about my struggles in Switzerland so I decided to leave for Italy. I met with Briana and Alissa, the couch surfers I met back in Interlaken, in Cinque Terre. It was surreal to be in my "homeland" for the first time. I was so excited, I felt like I came full circle. All the hard work of getting my Italian passport was being rewarded right now. I could not wait to explore Italy and eventually make it down to Sicily where my family came from.
We spent a lovely three days in Cinque Terre at this beautiful villa, La Francesca. We did not want to leave!
After preparing to leave Cinque Terre, I was getting ready to part ways with my new dear friends I met when I realized I still had a whole day left until I was supposed to be in Rimini for work. I miscalculated the days. The girls were going to Pisa and then to Rome, they said please come with us to Pisa. I did not have any other plans and I always wanted to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa anyway, so I changed my plans and went with them.---
I'm apprehensive to write this next part, but I want people to know shit happens, whether you are home or traveling; sometimes for the best and sometimes for the worst. We arrived in Pisa, hoping this would be a day trip; see the tower and leave for Rome.
We had lunch and were figuring out where we were staying for the night because we arrived later than expected. We were exhausted and wanted to find a hostel that was closest to the train station so we can leave easily the next morning. We found a hostel, I will name this one and you’ll know why soon.
We found Central Station Brandi’s Guest House; it was in our price budget and was close to the train station. We started walking to the hostel and some guy on a vespa came up to us asking if we were looking for the hostel, we said yes. He said ok, I work there I will show you where it is. He sped away and we continued walking in the direction of where he went.
We walked in; it was very tiny, maybe one or two rooms with bunks. He said I do not have any more room for you ladies here but I have another hostel back near the train station. We were exhausted carrying our packs but we turned around and went back to the train station where he would meet us. He was initially a little flirty with Briana when we first got there which was a little weird but not so much where I felt unsafe. He asked who wanted to ride on the back of his Vespa to the fountain near the train station. Alissa and I had too much to carry, so Briana went. They sped off.
This was when I started to question what we were getting ourselves into...
When we finally met up at the fountain, Carlo took us to the other hostel. It was inside, which seemed to be an apartment building. We walked inside; it looked like someone’s flat. Its not uncommon for people to use their homes as hostels or guesthouses so I wasn’t concerned.
We went into the room where there were three bunks; some looked like other people were staying too. Carlo said there was four other English girls staying in the other room down the hall, which made me, feel more at ease that we weren’t the only ones here. He said, “Ok 45 euro for all three of you.” I said I would pay and they can pay me the difference. I told Carlo I only had a 50 so I’ll need change, he said “no problem I’ll bring you to where we can get change.”
I walked with him to fill out necessary paperwork to stay at the hostel; he shut the door where Briana and Alissa were unpacking. We were standing in the middle of the hallway filling out the paperwork, showing him my passport etc. I don’t know if he was impressed or turned on that I had an Italian passport. He asked if I spoke Italian, I said no. He was probably about 6ft 200lbs, he was a big guy and I’m 5’2, so out of nowhere picked me up where I was bear hugging him from the front.
He said, “Kiss me”. I was startled and moved my head when he tried to kiss me. Every time I moved my head he moved in to kiss me. I gave him a quick peck because I really didn’t have a choice, he was holding me pretty tight and I just wanted to get down.
I said, “I just want my change, would you hurry up already.”
He said with this animalistic sexual look, “Look what you do to me.”
I said, “I didn’t do shit, just hurry up.”
We went to walk downstairs to get my change when he threw me into a dark corner down the hall. You think you would know what to do in a situation like that, I can’t tell you how many times a situation like that went through my head and I always would tell myself, I’d kill someone if they attacked me.
I was caught off guard. He was feeling me up, touching my chest over my clothes and I was trying to push him away. He unzipped his pants and took my hand to touch his genitals, I said stop probably about four times at this point. I grabbed his hand because he was trying to go up my shorts and he grabbed my wrist and put it against the wall.
That was the moment where I was really scared. I felt his strength against mine and knew it would be hard to fight him off if I had to. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Why didn’t you scream?” Everything happened so fast, you’re scared, in shock and it’s hard to think.
On the fifth time of me telling him to stop, he did. I face palmed his face and pushed him away from me. He looked at me and said, “I hate you.” I said, “Get the fuck outta here, go get my damn change.”
When we came back upstairs to see Briana and Alissa, they were chatting with Carlo about where the tower was. He was hugging me from the side and acted like nothing happened. The girls were smiling and laughing with Carlo and one thing about me is, I cannot hide my emotions. It’s usually written all over my face.
Briana was laughing at something Carlo said and I kept staring at her, she caught on and realized something was wrong. Carlo left; I put a table in front of the door because we didn’t have locks on the doors. I told them what happened, they were shocked. We went to look for those other English girls, they weren’t there and their door was locked. I thought this doesn’t seem right, I don’t think there were ever any other people here. Another room looked like someone’s bedroom, any alerts, red flags were going off rampant. Who knows what kind of place this could be.
I was shaking and trying not to cry. I felt violated and disgusted; I went straight to the bathroom to wash my hands. I wanted to wash what just happened away. There wasn’t any soap; I almost used a whole bottle of hand sanitizer to clean my hands. The girls said, “What do we do now?” I said, “ we pack our shit and get the fuck outta here, this is not a safe place. I’d rather pay 200 euro and know we’re safe than stay in this place.”
We immediately packed our things and left for another hostel. We found a safer hostel and things were better. I was worried about the 45 Euro that I just lost, so we left our stuff and went looking for Carlo. All three of us walked together to the first hostel, we found him. He tried to fight us about it, we said the hostel was dirty, which it was but we didn’t talk about what happened to me because we didn’t think we would get our money back that way.
The next morning, we saw the tower, said our goodbyes and parted ways. Rimini was great but I was concerned about money, I wasn’t getting paid for the job I was doing there which I knew from the beginning but the exchange rate was not good versus the US dollar. I only saw my account draining and my job was not guaranteed.
The job was to drive traffic to the hostel using my blog and fan base, this was a big hostel and I didn’t think I would give him the numbers he wanted. He said if I couldn’t than this would only be for the month, which meant I had to immediately look for other work and another place to stay. I honestly did not know what to do.
I started to panic a little bit, I thought of making a desperate move to Croatia because it may be cheaper, I thought of going to Thailand but realized I’d have to figure out how to get a visa and wait for it to go through. I called home and told my dad I literally had not a single clue what to do. He said to come home, regroup and figure out a plan for your next move.
I was resistant to coming home, but later after giving it some thought, I felt relieved. I’d much rather go home with some money still in my account than risk it getting too low and than if I do need to come, I wouldn’t be able to.
Being sexually assaulted is not how I wanted to experience my first Italy trip. Switzerland was a struggle; Italy wasn’t much easier and than that? I was done. I needed to be home with friends and family to mentally process everything.
Some people expressed their opinions about me coming home. I should have stayed, I didn’t do it right, I didn’t manage my money correctly, I should have done this vs. that, you only were there for 3-4 months etc.
Last time I checked, traveling the world is not a competition. There is no correct way to travel; we all are on our own paths. I don’t owe anyone an explanation but I care about my readers and fans, so they deserve to hear the truth. I did what felt right for me in that moment. I am not done traveling. This is not the end of my journey, I need to clear my head and figure out my next move.
Am I still going to travel solo?
Yes. I will not allow one douchebag to scare me from traveling by myself. And you shouldn’t be either. I am very proud of myself for doing what I did; I do not regret any of it. Situations like mine can happen anywhere, whether you are home or abroad. Do not let one incident ruin your dreams. It was certainly scary for sure but I will process it, let it go and move on.
I know it wasn’t my fault but apart of me wishes I did more, I should have screamed, kicked him in the balls, something. But that won’t get me anywhere. Staying in the victim state will not allow myself to heal emotionally. I am grateful it was not any worse because it easily could have. I am grateful that Briana, Alissa and I were safe. That’s all that matters.
As for my plans, I don’t know where I am going next. I’m focusing on establishing my life coach business online so I can easily work online anywhere. I still plan to write posts, maybe become a tourist in my own state, there are so many cool things to do here in New Jersey.
**I did contact hostel bookers because thats where we found his hostel, I told them what happened and they immediately took his hostel off their website. Hostelbookers told me to call the police but I was already back home by then. I honestly did not think about going to the police at that time, I just wanted to get out of there.