I sit in the front passenger seat of the white Roundabout van as we whir through the Slovenian countryside, passing the lush green rolling hills and striking vistas of the Karst region (and where we had just explored the Škocjan Cave) and criss-cross between towering mountains.
We go through a tunnel and in an instant, the scenery goes from mildly cloudy and green to that technicolor I associate with the Adriatic Sea.
And there it is.
Splayed out on the horizon, tiny ripples reflecting a yellow-white bulb of sun as we make our way down from the hills and into Slovenia’s tiny swath of coastline on the Gulf of Piran. From the vantage point we’re at, I can see Croatia, Slovenia and Italy.
At least that’s the way it seems. Because, up here, I feel like I can see the entire universe expanding so beautifully on the horizon.
A rush of emotions pummel me as we head to Piran, one of the few main stops along Slovenia’s coast.
First, it is the sadness. A sadness that has been looming over me since I left Tel Aviv and being happy, since I headed back to the world of solo travel in Trieste. I thought I could have shaken it over the past few days, but … no. Like that high-pitched mosquito who buzzes around my ears, this sad has done so, too.
Then, it is the mourning carried over from four years ago and Trogir, when I learned my grandmother had passed away from ALS. The grief. The smack in the face of encountering the sea only two days earlier in Italy.
Finally, it is the elation. That stirring of happy that rolls in my stomach and makes my heart race.
It’s an odd combination of sad, and loss and happy that deliver me to Piran. A combination I’ve never really dealt with like this, and one I want to shake as quickly as possible.
Piran itself is this tiny (and I mean tiny, its population is just under 5,000 people!) enclave of sheer Mediterranean beauty. Influenced by Venetian times, the Istrian town is incredibly picturesque with the narrow streets shooting off from the main square, Tartini, and capped with the Church of St. George, rising above the little town.
Our group guide walks us from the start of the city and into the old portion, surrounded by narrow homes of pink and yellow and orange, colors popping against the cream, slick ground and green-blue of the sea.
“OK, so one hour and we meet back here at the square,” he says before everyone begins to meander off.
My group is nice, but I know I’m in no position to be friendly or talk or do anything but just take some time to myself. To breathe. To think. To go to the sea.
Automatically, I pop my headphones in to the tune of the day (“Say Something” via Pentatonix) and walk, slowly, purposefully, to where the water laps against the rocky shore of Piran.
Beyond the port where the small fishing boats denoted with black flags bob in the water, there is the main walk, lined with quaint restaurants offering fresh seafood, Slovenian wine and views that I know with enough time would whisk me out of my travel funk and into the world I love. But, I skip those restaurants and instead, head the few little steps to where the water gently moves against some slick rocks.
I toss my flip flops on the walkway and stand at the shore, looking out.
It’s the same sea it has always been. It’s just that over the years that sea has morphed its meaning in my life. From awakening, to glee to heartbreak.
Holding onto the rail, I dip my magenta-painted toes into the water. Its cool. Refreshing.
“And I’m feeling so small …”
I breathe, deeply, inhaling the salty air on the warm Slovenian afternoon. And I don’t move. I just stand there, letting the water come and go against my toes. I stand. I say nothing. I do nothing.
“And I will stumble and I will fall …”
Like in Trieste, my life for the past four years rushes by me in quick montages. Happy. Sad. Belly-bursting laughter. Mascara-laced tears. Las Vegas. Maryland. Thailand. Israel. Croatia. Delaware. Sri Lanka. Bali. Memories I have so politely tucked deep into the back recesses of my mind because they do me no good to dwell … those assholes come out as I am motionless.
And I just let them. They move from my mind. To my heart. Down my arms. And out of my toes, where the Adriatic takes them and whisks them on out to the sea, to the world.
I let the song repeat in my ears a couple of times before I leave the moment and return to the life in Piran, where hand-holding couples stroll down the seaside walk, where children run around giggling loudly, where locals cart their goods via carts to deliver deep into the tiny town.
A weight has been lifted from me as I set out to simply wander through the town …
… exploring all of the spokes leading from the square to the sea and back again.
Discovering nooks and crannies, puddles, shops …
… that in the moment, are only mine.
When the hour is almost up, I park it in the square and sip a coffee, marveling at the tiny little cup I am delivered, loving that it is a tiny little cup, that I am sitting in this gorgeous square, the sea at my side, and for the moment, I am healed.
This post is part of the D Travels Europe (and Israel) series. Stay up-to-date on all of my adventures by following along on Twitter (#dtravelseurope), Instagram,Trover, G+ and Facebook. And, for a look at the health and wellness side of European travel, be sure to follow along at The Comfort Zone Project and on TCZP’s Facebook.