7 Days Later on an Island in Croatia – Lessons Learned

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And, when you’re in the midst of it all, it’s hard to fully collect your thoughts, feelings, and desires. You’re moving at a fast pace, with roughly 40 pounds of baggage strapped to your back, arms, and innately, your insides. You’re meeting people from all over the world, with hundreds of life stories that they are open to sharing because you’re in a foreign country with people who you may or may not ever see again. And, then, there’s the select few that you know you connect with so strongly that you will make the effort to meet at a another time, in another place.

Sometimes, you’re sitting lazily under a palm tree doing nothing and drifting off to the sound of local kids and a family having a picnic on the waterfront as the wind blows and the sun beats down on your legs. Other times, you’re watching the tourists completely flood the city, gulping down one too many drinks, leaving a trail of their trash as they head into the next pub. You ask the locals how they feel about this, and you know while it’s good for their economy, they’re sick of it, even if it only happens six months out of the 12.

You accept your ignorance of having not known the history of a region so rife with struggle and conflict, and truly understand the impact on personal lives when you become close friends with a girl who was displaced by war and separated from her family for two years. You hear the pain and growth from experiences you’ve been so privileged to have avoided merely by the fortune of being raised elsewhere.

It becomes clear that travel is sometimes glorified and beautified, and not always simple. But, you also realize that all you need to survive is food and water. You can change beds nightly and focus on the beauty of having the opportunity to meet more people because you’re in a constant state of flux. You see that there is a sense of stability in always being open to changing surroundings because you rely on so much less and can be ready for anything, at any time. Things really stop mattering so much. You can be alone and content. You can be surrounded and content.

At times, you’re disconnected technologically, so then, you’re totally connected in real time. As if real time even exists and has meaning. I’ve been consumed by people watching. By endlessly seeing that when people are in big groups and have nothing to say, they bring their phones into the conversation, avoiding eye contact and using their thumb to tap accolades to the edited photos on their screens. Or, they are taking snapchats of what’s live in front of them to broadcast to those back home, showing that they are here and you are there, not experiencing the same thing that they are experiencing behind a screen. I’ve been there. I’m happy I haven’t had the means to be for quite some time. It’s made days longer and connections stronger.

Mental pictures are my oldest and newest currency. They are the ones to cherish because they are becoming a part of my future.

I’ve pulled a splinter out of the toe of a stranger, a bee sting out of the hand of an older man, helped friends to their bed after wild nights that became mornings out, checked in on an acquaintance with low blood pressure, and jumped at any opportunity to help strangers when I have the means. I’ve had multiple nights in a row with no sleep and days of exploration, with days of simply passing the time and avoiding the heat.

I’ve talked about the meaning of life, God, love, desire, goals, fears and challenges with multiple people, mostly men, but also with some women, too. I’ve spent hours inside the busiest club on an island to talk philosophies with a friend. I’ve heard wild stories from wild nights of people who are finding themselves and learning what they seek romantically.

I’ve held onto the fact that many people derive the meaning of life from the relationships they make and the amount of people they can help.

Days roll by and time moves slower because you’re taking it all in. You’re connecting on very deep levels, having serious conversations over drinks and cheap eats while you realize the amount of talent and creativity people possess is broad, extensive and unique. You learn that people discover what they are good at over time, and sometimes later than expected in life, as well as having it come to them by chance. It gives you hope. It makes you realize that life doesn’t happen at ages, it happens in stages. And at various points in time because of the choices you make to take the chances and do the things that have always scared you most.

You see that, while yes, people do the same things to survive all over the world, cultures and norms are vastly different. Ways of talking, value systems, expectations, and actions take different forms. You understand that trusting your intuition is one of the smartest and most necessary tools you can bring to the table. You pick up on ways to know who means well and those that are just floating on by. You can spot the people still finding their way, and you can relate to having been there and then seeing those ahead of you, knowing you’ll get there, too.

You appreciate the inherent goodness in people and learn more about yourself through what people tell you they think of you. And, many times, it’s repetitive, which makes it the “truth”?

It’s not what you do, where you live and what you have. It’s who you are and what you do with the limited time you have here, there, and everywhere.

 

 

Foreign, Phoneless and Functioning

Croatia has been a shocking surprise. Most people talk about the beauty of Italy, Spain and France and make Western Europe a must-see destination, but recently, Croatia has been gaining popularity amongst travelers. It hasn’t ever been on my list of places to go, but from Mallorca, I was deciding between Mykonos, Greece/ Seville, Spain/ Lisbon, Portugal or Croatia. Since I have a few friends who said Croatia was great, I decided to just go for it. Because… why not?

Two days before my flight left on July 13, I booked a ticket to Split, Croatia, and I am beyond happy with the decision. Arriving here, I had no clue what to expect, but the romantic and charming landscape mixed with the festive atmosphere has made Split a place to remember forever. I’ve been here a few days, and immediately upon arriving at the airport and on the bus into the city, I’ve made friends. I’ve also learned so much about the history. A few fun facts:

  1. Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia all speak similar dialects. The most common feature that is different among the regions is religion: Croatia – Catholic, Serbia – Eastern Orthodox, Bosnia – Muslim
  2. Diocletian’s Palace – a Roman emperor who barely went to Rome during his reign has his palace here. It’s the only structure from the Roman era that actually has people living in it today.

When I arrived, I went out that night for dinner with two hostel mates and then met up with my friends who coincidentally were in Split to go out to some parties. The next day, I booked an early start to take a tour of Plitvice National Park up north (also met great people on the trip). The sights were unbelievable, truly. Words can’t describe the views and neither can pictures, so if you make it to this part of the world, definitely go take a live look at the park.

The only bad news is that my phone slipped out of my jacket pocket into the toilet and died during the visit. So, for a few days, I’ve been in a foreign country with no cell phone for GPS, photos or communication. The funny thing is, before it happened, I was telling people my realization that I really don’t need much other than the basics to live, plus a phone. Perhaps this is a lesson that I don’t even need that. It’s almost refreshing to be cut off of social media and my phone because I’m really living in the moment for me, not to share and broadcast every second or look at what others are up to. Instead, I’m focusing on what’s directly in front of me and making more lasting connections and memories in real time. Also, for the times I have been alone, I haven’t been able to rely on my phone for “comfort,” which I think is a good behavior to adopt.

Anyways, I spent the next day at a local and distant beach with my Swedish hostel mate who has become a good friend. We spent all night out, and since Ultra Music Festival is also happening at this time, the city is always alive and busy. While we didn’t make it to the actual festival, we went to an after party and stayed out all night until morning.

My next step is to take a ferry to Hvar for a few days before I make my way out of Croatia to Amsterdam and London. #SoloAdventures

#SoloAdventures Begin

It’s been a while since I last posted and began traveling. Days were so busy that I haven’t actually sat down to write for a while, but I’ve really been meaning to. Now that I’m here on an island by myself, it’s definitely the right time.

After being in Italy and exploring Florence and various cities in Tuscany, Venice, Rapallo, and Cinque Terre with mom, we flew to Israel for my sister’s wedding (at Sandrine in Nahariyya) and festivities before and after the big night on June 29. She made the most beautiful bride! It was such an incredible night and vacation with all of our friends and family in the country. We visited Tzfat, Nahariyya, Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv. I never wanted to leave Tel Aviv. The sun sets differently there, I swear it.

Then, my mom and I went to Barcelona for 6 days. It was my second time there and her first. We hit all the main tourist attractions like Casa Batllo, La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. The last day was spent at the beach in sprinkles of rain – something new for the both of us, but definitely memorable and fun because then the sun came out.

And now, #SoloAdventures officially started yesterday when I flew to Mallorca by myself. Mallorca is an island off the coast of Spain. The flight was super quick, so fast that I thought the plane had a malfunction when it was actually just landing. Once I arrived, I grabbed my backpack (from basically the furthest baggage belt possible) and headed outside to catch the bus into town. The island weather, humidity and heat were palpable from the moment I stepped outside, but I was very excited to see the land.

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The transportation system from the airport here is amazing – a 5 euro “public” bus that is actually like a coach charter took me practically outside my hostel (Hostal Atlanta). At the front desk, I was greeted by a funny Englishman who told me all about where to go and what to see.

So, naturally, I ventured to the cliffside and spent about an hour watching the ocean tide crash along the rocks and splash my toes. Everything is beautiful here – from the houses to the trees to the clear blue sea. Once I showered, I headed back down the street to catch the sunset at about 9 PM. It’s really nice because the sun sets behind the mountains along the side of the ocean, and that’s the flight path from the airport, so you see planes gliding into the sun as it’s going down.

I’ve never traveled to a country alone without the intention of meeting someone. While I’ve flown into Paris, Barcelona, Israel, Canada, Australia and Rome alone, I always went with the plan to meet up with a friend. Here, I know absolutely no one and it’s both refreshing and somewhat nerve-wracking. I’m embracing the quiet time more than anything because it really allows for reflection and opportunity to be open to everything. Today, I’ll probably catch a bus into the main part of the town – Palma de Mallorca, which should take about 30 minutes and then, I’ll go from there. Follow the ride @ #SoloAdventures.

Late Night Rambles 

What the fuck am I so afraid of? Every person has a story, a history, a future and the power to act. Every day brings with it millions of opportunities for life to go one way or the other. It’s all about choices we make and the convuluted act of just going for it. 

We (maybe I should say I, but a collective make it easier to swallow) want to do something. Then, we spend so many days, months and years talking about it instead of acting. What is with human nature that makes us this way? We all know that life is finite, yet we procrastinate carelessly until it’s too late. Only then do some of us wake up and wish we could’ve done it all differently. 
Not me. Not anymore. 

I am going for it. I only have small inklings of what it is, but I will know when I’ve done it. I can feel that is the truth. I’m trusting intuition, finally. 

I am going to explore and do things I’ve never done and see what I come back with, or without. Mind games and tricks can put illusionary limits on capabilities. I am learning to quiet those unneeded thoughts. There’s a whole lot of brain power that I won’t allow to be left unused and potential lingering that needs to be ignited. 
T-3 days until takeoff. 

One Way Ticket

I’ve got a one-way ticket, my passport, and an open mind with the willingness to tear down the boundaries of my comfort zone. It’s like spring cleaning for my life, yet again.

There’s something about summer coming that makes me want to escape and start fresh. It’s like being in school for so many years gave my mind, body, and soul the muscle memory to get away for a few months, take a break, and then jump back into routine. But, what if there was never meant to be a routine? Society has this way of making you think you have to do what everyone else is doing and puts this notion of success at the end of a supposed, and possibly illusionary path.

And then, writing it down makes everything so real. Like the truth of your inner self is staring you back and asking you what you’re going to do next. I don’t know.

I sat in the sauna today and watched my sweat roll off of my chin and hit my hands, cascading into a puddle on the floor. I was there, but I wasn’t there. I was just watching things happen to my body and the people around me, but letting everything go in and out, like watching a screenplay unfold and accepting whatever was to come. A man slipped down from leaning against the wall and fell to the floor. Slightly embarrassed, he quickly stood back up like nothing happened. On my part, there was zero judgment. Just an understanding that the floor is wet, and yeah, shit happens, but you get back up and readjust yourself the next time you lean back on the wall. Learn from your experience.

Like the drops of water and the man, I think that’s the way life is meant to be lived. Letting things roll and fall however they may, and being accepting of the outcome, while also knowing when to wipe it all off and try again, taking with you what you know and being open to knowing that there is still a lot you don’t.

Before You Go

And when you reach the top of the mountain

What do you think you might find? 

You pushed and pushed and pushed 

The uphill battle weathered the soles of your feet 

Cut the insides of your veins

And stripped tears from your eyes 

But you did not stop 

There were visions and dreams and infinite thoughts lingering in the distance 

Capturing them was key 

Nothing else mattered but fancy accomplishments 

and sultry accolades 

And now you ask, was it all worth it? 

Had you ever have stopped in your path to question its purpose? 

Did you ever look inside and listen to your own mind’s eye without the disillusioned sounds crowding your voice? 

But yet, you made it 

And in the end, you realized there is no end 

So you will go and take each step back down

continuing along the cascading mountain range 

But before you go 

Stop and breathe

Take in the sights 

Admire the beauty 

of falling to rise 

And go on slowly 

with every next step

As to be sure you want 

to take it 

before you make a move