I stood at the open window in my room, letting the fresh air kiss my face, taking in the beauty and majestic scenery in front of me when there was a knock on my door.

“Yes,” I called, walking to open it.

Greg stood on the other side of the door.

“I’m closing the hostel. It’s the end of the season. You and your friends are moving to the beach.”

“Right,” I said. “Thanks.”

I shut the door.

If the beds would not have been on flimsy wooden frames, I would have kicked off my flippie floppies and jumped on them to release the excitement that was now streaming through my blood.

Holy shit!! A beach apartment!!! For the same price!

“Katie!!” I yelped, running to find her. “We are moving to the beach!!”

“Oh, I like it up here,” she said, frowning.

I could understand what she liked about it. Aside from the spectacular view of the sea below, t he hostel had a beach vibe and it’s terrace was perfect for late night drinks and bonding.

But, it didn’t matter. We were headed down the massive hill to our new lodging.

We loaded our packs into Greg’s car and descended down the hill to the water.

The apartment could be anywhere.

We continued down, down, down … stopping at the end of the sidewalk, next to the water and a line of little cafes.

“OK, we’re here,” Greg announced, turning off the car and popping the trunk so we could fetch our stuff.

Then, he walked two feet from the car to a white door in between outdoor seating for a cafe.

This is it.

Now, I have learned while traveling just because someone says a property is “in town,” “next to …” or “on the beach” it doesn’t always mean it is. Most times those descriptions are open to interpretation.

However …

It was On! The! Beach!

The three of us could hardly contain our excitement as Greg let us into our new home. It was across a small sidewalk  from the beach. Next to a cafe. A few stairs down from the sobe where Greg was staying with a terrace and a grill.

This was perfect. This was bliss.

Katie, David and I unloaded our stuff and set out to explore our new beach surroundings. We walked down the coast, lo0king for a perfect spot to drop our towels and hit the water.

The seaside path wound us around Brela, showing us the little beach town up close … the gelato stands, the tiny restaurants boasting fresh seafood, the little cafes where people sat and chatted overlooking the clear water in front of them. Brela was a little paradise.

I stood at the water’s edge, thoughts of Greg’s comments the night before about the water being “fresh” after the rain repeating in my mind.

It’s YOUR sea, D. Don’t just stand there.

I dipped my feet in.

FRESH. Ripe. Freezing.

I shook it off.

There’s no way to skip swimming in the Adriatic.

I took a deep breath and stepped further out.

Holycrapit’scold.

And, then it wasn’t so bad. And, then it was OK.

I didn’t swim for hours, but I let myself enjoy the salty sea and the lack of treading for a few minutes … until I thought my legs were numb.

Then, it was back to the shore to lounge and enjoy the warm sun.

The three of us spent the day at the sea, lounging, eating mussels and calamari and plotting our next stop — an off-the-beaten-path island, Solta, that no one in Brela (or the tour books) had heard of.

Lucky for us, Katie had heard of it.

We had decided the night before for our last evening in Brela we would live it up. While David and I took disco naps, Katie ran to Konzum (the grocery store) and grabbed an assortment of fruit. And a big bottle of vodka.

“Jungle juice,” she had announced the night before. It would be our poison on our last night. Along with grilling some chicken and meat and making a Shopska Salad (onion, tomato, cucumber, lemon juice and the most amazing Croatian homemade olive oil EVER).

The three of us hauled our loot up to Greg’s sobe, a few stairs above our apartment. The Jungle Juice was poured into a large plastic bag since there were no bowls big enough at our place to fit the massive amount of alcoholic deliciousness she had prepared. Because of the nature of plastic bags, there was a small line of the sweet concoction that followed us from our apartment up to Greg’s.

David manned the grill while I made the salad, and we, along with Greg and some of his friends, enjoyed a last night together in Brela.

We drank the vodka-laden juice and snacked on the alcohol-soaked fruit for hours before we headed down to the cafe next to our apartment.

When it was just the three of us remaining, and minutes before we all went to bed, I decided I needed some time to myself.

I needed to just be.

I walked to the beach, sitting on the pebbles and looking out into the now black Adriatic Sea.

There’s an entire world out there.

I sat and thought about my trip. About home. About Grandma. About friends. About life after this adventure was through.

Then, I caught the night breeze in my face and shook off the thoughts, thankful to be in the moment, in Brela, with new friends.

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