In the days leading up to Croatia I decided this trip was going to be different for me. I was going to challenge myself. I looked into sea kayaking trips, but those required too much time. I contemplated renting bikes and biking the coast, but wasn’t sure if it was a safe option given my propensity to bite it. So, I decided I would do something I would NEVER do in America — go to a nude beach.
The night I lay in bed in Zadar, I scanned the pages of my Lonely Planet book and read about a few beaches that welcomed the naked traveler. I starred, circled, wrote down those names and made a silent vow to take my clothes off and dive into the Adriatic before my trip was complete.
When I actually did throw my clothes and comfort-level to the wind, it wasn’t at one of those nudie beaches I had jotted down. In fact, it was in Split.
Simon and I were enjoying the Croatian sun’s late rays that Tuesday afternoon when we heard some rather obnoxious older English-speaking people behind us, carrying on about lord knows what. We had looked back to see they were cast in the stereotypical tourist role — sandals stuffed with white-socked feet, cargo shorts, polo shirts, cameras strapped around the neck and visors — and decided we needed to not give them any attention. We knew they weren’t American (thank goodness, I had enough of the “you loud American” comments to last a lifetime), but couldn’t decided whether they were Aussies or Kiwis.
As we debated, two girls who were laying in front of us joined in. Simon was immediately taken with the brunette — a ringer for Kate Beckinsale — and we all moved our towels closer together. Mel, the brunette, and her sister, Siobhan, were traveling from Dubrovnik. Siobhan, whom we all called Shaun, had been packing for more than four months, and Mel had met her in Croatia after camping in Africa and visiting villages for five weeks.
The four of us immediately clicked, along with another American who had brought a flask of vodka and silently had gotten drunk after sipping it all afternoon.
When it was time to head back to the hostel, we invited Mel, Shaun and the other American, Connor, to our hostel to come have drinks and then go to dinner. So, on the way back, we stopped at the market to get alcohol. Nothing compliments a hostel terrace like some good company and alcohol. And bread to dip in Nutella.
I don’t know what we were thinking, but the girls (Mel, Shaun and I) ended up purchasing three bottles of wine and some snacks, while the guys kept it much more conservative, simply grabbing some local beer.
We had the best intentions that evening. Drinks. Dinner. Maybe a club. Somehow, the drinks took over and what was meant to be a night of late summer celebrations turned a little more raucous than we ever had planned.
The buzzed lot of us, along with a newcomer, Annabelle, floated to the restaurant, Fife, upon Snooze & Booze’s recommendation.
All I had wanted was fresh fish. In my mind, I pictured a filet of flakey deliciousness. Only, what was served to me didn’t look a thing like it. As we sat in the upstairs of the restaurant, which had pretty much emptied out once we took it over, I looked at the fish, slightly confused.
It was an entire fish. Eyes. Head. Fins. Tail. I didn’t know what to do with it.
“Give it here,” Shaun had said, taking the fish. Mel explained Shaun was a chef and to trust her. Shaun carefully picked apart my fish, putting the best of it back onto my plate. “The cheeks are delicious. Be sure to eat them.”
And, they were.
As our dinner continued, we made friends with the hostess, an older and jovial woman who kept coming up to see how we were doing. After we finished our wine and our meals she presented us with grappa, which we drank with her and another man who worked at the restaurant.
I am not a dancer. I am a clutz. I only dance after drinking. Fortunately, this was one of those nights where I had been drinking so when Simon stuck his hand out for me to stand up and dance, I did so.
It was on that impromptu dance floor I learned how to dance properly — how to follow, dip, spin. There are some great photos Mel took of this lesson that I treasure.
Following dinner, our motley crew which now consisted of two Americans, three Aussies and a French Canadian, took to the old city to chase our next adventure for the evening.
Simon and Mel continued to move closer together, and Shaun and I somewhat drunknely planned to travel the next day to Hvar together. Originally, I was supposed to meet Amy in Korcula, but the boat schedule was off-season, which menat I would be there for less than 24 hours, unless I wanted to spend more time there and forefit a different city. After spending time with Mel and Shaun, I decided Hvar fit more into my schedule, and the two sisters were wonderful travel companions.
We spent some time at the pub Simon had taken a few of us the night before, meeting up with some others from the hostel, before we decided to go to the club on the beach.
Once we got to the club, Simon and Mel broke off from the group, and the rest of us continued our evening. Shaun and I were both pretty done at that point and decided to begin our trek back towards our respective hostels. Of course, as fate would have it, we took the route that led us by the Adriatic.
“See … I have this thing …” I began to explain to Shaun as we walked by the inky water. I told her of my desire to push myself.
“Well,” she said. “Do it.”
“Oh, I will.”
“Come on. Let’s do it now.”
“Stop it! Let’s go skinny dipping right now in the Adriatic!”
It took about half of a second to make my decision.