10 Ways to Kick Travel Fatigue’s Ass

10 Ways to Kick Travel Fatigue's Ass

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There was a time a little more than a year ago, when I hated traveling.

After doing it for more than five months, being sick for what seemed like the millionth time, being cramped into a dorm room in blistering heat with no air-conditioning, fearing for my life in Turkey and nearly falling to my death, I was pretty over it as I sat in an outdoor cafe in Varna, Bulgaria.

At that moment, I wanted to be done.

It hurt me deeply to admit that to myself. This trip was supposed to be amazing. An experience of a lifetime. And, instead of planning my next steps, I found my mind wandering to the comforts of my bed in Maryland.  To not having my backpacking weighing me down. To a home-c0oked meal. To breathing in private.

To make things worse, I hated myself for hating traveling.

I was so mad. So disappointed in myself for even letting that awful thought cross my mind. I was embarassed. This funk had embraced me, sucked me deep into the recesses of my mind I didn’t want to touch, and left me feeling cold, alone and sad.

Oh, Travel Fatigue.

When I was going through it, it was the worst thing in the world. I felt like no one knew what it was like. I felt like no one could be of any assistance in pulling me out of it.

10 Ways to Kick Travel Fatigue's Ass

A sign of Travel Fatigue: feeling depressed.

I was wrong. Entirely.

After being home and having relationships with other people who are/were on the road, I know this Travel Fatigue awfulness wasn’t exclusive to me. It happens to the best of us. And, fortunately, only lasts for a brief period of time.

It took a few things in my life to help snap me out of this funk.

Are you experiencing Travel Fatigue? Here are some steps to help kick it’s ugly ass and get back in the game.

1. Communicate your misery

No, don’t have a huge pity party (no one likes those), but talk to someone you trust about it. Someone you know can make you feel all better. For me, I was messaging with my lovely Anthony, who wrote words that were oh-so true: You’ve got to have the funk to have the fun. That was the start of my recovery.

10 Ways to Kick Travel Fatigue's Ass

Sometimes you just need to change your perspective.

2. Change your scenery

Nothing can quite snap you out of a rut like waking up somewhere new. There’s just a feeling of possibility that wasn’t there before. It can revitalize you. Abby and I had been seaside of nearly two weeks, so the mountains was a nice change of pace. And totally different and beautiful scenery.

3. Get comfortable

I was tired. I was hot. I wanted to not drip sweat every night after I had showered. Abby and I found an adorable hostel in the hillside town of Veliko Tarnovo. It had gorgeous air-con and a remote so we could make it as cool as we liked. That first night, we both slept with thick blankets on us. In the dead of summer. It was awesome. Naturally, the next day, the remote disappeared from our room. I can still remember the cool air kissing my face that blissful night.

4. Stay put

Even after Abby left VK, I stayed. And stayed. And stayed.

5. Relax

10 Ways to Kick Travel Fatigue's Ass

How can you not relax with a view like this?

When I was back in the solo realm of travel and feeling better, I treated myself to doing absolutely nothing. I would wake up in the morning, pad  upstairs to the kitchen and enjoy the complimentary breakfast, then head outside to the little balcony overlooking the ravine of green trees across the street. I would chat with the hostel owner, the other guests, and just ease into my morning. Then, when I got hot, I would go to the room, open my computer and write. Not because I felt I had to, but because it felt good. And, I would read. Then, a little nap in the cool room. At night, I would go with the other travelers to dinner, then back to my room for some more reading and then sleep. I did this for three days.

6. Don’t plan until you have to

On the third day of doing nearly nothing, I decided I was almost ready to head out and continue with my trip. Almost. I pondered my next steps. I spent a good deal of time looking at the giant colorful map of Eastern Europe on the wall in the common room. I consulted my guide book. I did research.

10 Ways to Kick Travel Fatigue's Ass

Take off your shoes, kick your feet in the H20 and BREATHE. Deeply.

7. Go somewhere you really want to go

Not somewhere along the way. I was planning on going to Budva, Montenegro. The long route would take me through a few cities of interest along the way. So, I had to make some decisions. Head to Sophia, Bulgaria? Stop in Belgrade, Serbia for a few nights? Finally, I let my heart win this one instead of my mind, which was saying “heya, Buddy, go to all three cities because you can!” I was craving the sun and the Adriatic. I knew deep down that the sea would help me feel better. So, instead of doing the stops for a few nights in these cities, I plowed through them, getting me to my ultimate goal — Budva.

8. Get out of your shell

When I arrived to Montenegro, I was exhausted. But, there was the Adriatic. The sea I had spoken of for almost a year to anyone who would listen. Just knowing it was there made me smile. And, put me in a better mood. The first day of being in Budva, I sat outside, under grape vines, and was social. I met a group of other solo travelers and we instantly formed a bond.

9. Remember what it is like to Adventure

When I was with these new friends, we planned a day trip together to the gorgeous little sea town of Sveti Stefan. Well, one guy planned it. The rest of us nodded our heads in agreement and walked down to the bus stop with him. It was so warming to be with other people again, to go somewhere. Then, the next day, myself and one of the guys from the group took our adventuring even further and got on another bus and headed to the stunning town of Kotor. It was not planned. It was fun. It brought a smile to my face. It had been a long time since I had done day trips instead of moving, moving, moving.

10. Find some new, non-Travel Fatigue-y friends

After Montenegro, I decided to go to Sarajevo. Another game-time decision. But, it ended up changing the entire rest of my trip … and my life today. When I was in Sarajevo, I met Katie. We spent a few days together in Sarajevo, and then met up with each other a few days later in Mostar. We planned a trip to Croatia together. When I was in Mostar, I met Dave. Together, the three of us embarked on a week-plus adventure, spending time in Brela, Split and our island paradise of Solta together. The two of them were blissfully happy in their adventures. They woke up every day and embraced their trip, and in turn, made me embrace mine. [Katie came to visit me in Las Vegas in June, and I am visiting her in September in Thailand … see … meet friends!!]

Have you experienced Travel Fatigue? Where were you? How did you overcome its grasp?

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Escape of the Week: Zagreb, Croatia

It’s no secret I love Croatia. My first trip to Croatia is what started me on my current life path. It spawned my career-break, and to this day, holds a very, very special place in my heart.

I have spent more time in Croatia than I have in almost any other country, other than America. I can close my eyes and instantly recall the mesmerizing bluegreen of the Adriatic. I can almost taste the homemade olive oil on my tongue. I can feel that warmth in my heart that Croatia first evoked.

This photo is from my first trip, in September 2010. It was before I knew … anything.

In Zagreb’s Upper Town, there are little streets with exposed brick, colorful graffiti and narrow paths that branch out from the gorgeous cafe-lined main roads. Often short cuts to some amazing view, restaurant or museum, I found myself wandering the tiny paths only accessible to people and motor bikes. I’m pretty sure this photo was taken the moment I fell in love with Zagreb.

Croatia Destinations

The Adventures of D — A Retrospect

Oh, my little blog. It’s been around since before I decided to take my career break and travel. It’s been around since I one sleepless October night in Atlanta when, around midnight, the words to the start of my story I wanted to share just popped into my head. Then, I was up. Out of bed. Laptop open. WordPress blog created.

And the rest is history.

Now, nearly two years later, I certainly have shared. At times, I’ve shared too much. At times, I haven’t shared enough.

Regardless, this ride has been the highlight of my life, taking me through moments, through happy, through sad, that have left me wanting more … and ready to start the next chapter in “The Adventures of D.”

So, when Jason from Jason’s Travels, asked if he could nominate me for this fun little project, My 7 Links, put on by Trip Base, of course I said “yes.” I mean … I get to relive some of my favorite posts!

Without further adieu, My 7 Links:

The Most Beautiful Post:

I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers

It’s not a beautiful photo essay. But it is an example of the beauty and generosity that still exists in this world. It is also one of the many reasons I fell in love with Croatia.

The Most Popular Post:

How to barter like a pro

I spent a good amount of time in Turkey during my trip, where negotiating is a part of the package. It constantly awed me that people could go in to a restaurant and negotiate the cost of their meal. While that wasn’t for me so much, it was fun to go back and forth with the shopkeepers at the Grand Bazaar and elsewhere.

The Most Controversial Post:

My 30-Life-Crisis … Solved?

It wasn’t controversial in the sense it started a heated debate, but to my family and friends, this post was controversial because I was throwing away a comfortable life for the unknown. I was … LIVING instead of deciding to just go through the motions.

The Most Helpful Post:

Airport Sleeping 101

Oh, the beauty of backpacking and being on a budget. There were a few times when I had stop-overs that, while they were 12 or so hours, were overnight. Rather then haul my 40 kilo backpack and my tired self to a hostel in the city, I opted to just crash out on the floor … or a bench … in the airport. This post gives tips on how to make the best of airport sleeping.

The Post Whose Success Surprised Me:

Dude, don’t be a Hostel Dick

Yes, it’s meant to be funny. I just didn’t realize this post with these tips would be one of my most popular posts of all time. In all seriousness though, every backpacker who stays in hostels should read this.

The Post That Didn’t Get the Attention I Feel it Deserved:

The Best of … Madrid

It’s got some pretty good tips in the post and in the comments for anyone headed to Madrid.

The Post I Am Most Proud Of:

Love, Life and Loss … on the Road

By far, this was the hardest post I have ever written. It took every ounce of me to pull myself together to write this.

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And now comes the fun part. Here are the five bloggers I want to do this on their site, too. These folks are some of the best out there! Be sure to check their sites for the My 7 Links project soon!

Adam from The Travels of Adam

Anna from Frill Seeker Diary

Candice from Candice Does the World

Lindsay AKA Hogga from The Traveller

Margo from The Travel Belles

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Interview: Adrenaline Living

I had the pleasure today of being interviewed by Angelia Miller on her Adrenaline Living Talk Show. It’s my first interview, and quite a change from being the person pitching to the person being interviewed. If you have the time, give it a listen. It’s insight into quitting your job, traveling and my experiences traveling long-term, along with the hardships of returning to America. Check the interview out here: Adrenaline Living with DTravelsRound

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The slow return to America

I arrived to the Zadar airport way too early for my liking.

“This is the bus you have to take if you want to get there in time for your flight,” the receptionst at the hostel informed me.

It got me there more than three hours before my flight.

Maybe there will be something to do, I considered.

Right.

Zadar’s airport is tiny. Two gates. Two restaurants. One Duty Free store. Two little shops outside of security selling overpriced Croatian goods.

I ate, even though I still had no appetite. I wandered through Duty Free, even though I wanted nothing. I sat at the bar and paid an exuberant amount for a tiny bottle of water. I sat in a wicker chair staring into space, listening to “Sideways” for hours.

Finally, the flight boarded.

On the airplane, I sat with my head pressed against the window, tears dripping down my cheeks, as I watched Croatia disappear into the distance.

It’s over, D.

Arriving in Frankfurt, a wave of cold smacked me in the face. After spending the summer in ridiculously hot climates, Frankfurt was chilly, cloudy and about 20 degrees cooler.

RyanAir doesn’t fly into Frankfurt Main, it flies into the other Frankfurt airport, two hours outside of the city. (I have no idea how it can even be called a Frankfurt aiport).

I caught the shuttle bus, eyes glued to the gorgeous green German countryside, still listening to my song.

Today is Grandma’s funeral.

In my mind, I could see everyone standing outside in the rolling Pennsylvania hills. I could hear my blog post being read to the family and friends that had gathered there. I could feel their grief, their loss, as I sat on the bus, alone.

And once again, I cried.

I arrived to the aiport as it was getting dark, around 7:30 p.m. I only had 15 hours to waist at the airport.

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The days after death

“These feelings won’t go away … they’ve been knocking me sideways …”

For the two days after Grandma died, I walked around in a haze. Numb. Listening to the same song on repeat for 12 hours and not once getting sick of it, not once singing along. It was just background to my grief.

“There’s no words to describe it, in French or in English …”

I alternated between tears and silence. I had never felt so alone. So sad. So empty.

There was no one in Trogir.

I talked to my mom, messaged some friends, but even with their kind words, their love and support, they couldn’t erase the fact that I had no one to sit with me, to hold me, to tell me it was OK.

The first night was the hardest. After I wrote my last entry, I sent it to my mom to have her print it out and place with Grandma in her final resting place.

An hour later, I got an e-mail from Mom, reminding me once again how proud Grandma was of me, how much she liked what I had written and one little piece of information: She had asked Grandma to be my guardian angel and Grandma had nodded in agreement.

Now, I am not a believer in much. Never have been, likely never will. BUT, those words, aside from causing me to break into a fresh bout of sobs, also caused me to feel something I desperately needed when I was thousands of miles from home, from family, from hugs — comfort.

That night, I talked to Grandma. And, she told me she was OK. She placed her arms around me as I tucked the covers under my neck and hugged me.
Yes, I went to sleep with a tear-soaked face, but I also went to sleep feeling more at peace.

I went through a multitude of emotions in the next two days.

Sadness. Loneliness. Anger.

I’ve never had to mourn without the company of people I loved and who loved me, and being in Trogir, in Croatia, thousands and thousands of miles from home, was a test for me.

What do you do? How do you cope? How can you escape the myriad of thoughts running through your mind?

My homecoming wasn’t going to be happy. It was laden with grief. With loss.
Like a zombie, I walked through town, listening to “Sideways” on repeat for hours. I ate dinner. I sat outside. I was a robot, going through the motions. I wasn’t hungry. I wasn’t thirsty. And yet, I made myself eat. I made myself drink. I made myself keep moving.

I decided the next day I would head back to Zadar, spend the night there and then get a bus to the airport the following day.

On the morning I was departing Trogir, I wandered the town, looking for a Murano glass ring. I needed a quest to take my mind off of the sadness that was clouding every inch of me.

Then, I took the bus (without incident) back to Zadar.

“Well, diamonds they fade … and flowers they bloom … but I’m telling you, these feelings won’t go away … they’ve been knocking me sideways … I keep thinking in a moment that time will take them away … but these feelings won’t go away.”

The entire bus ride, the same song played on repeat.

I returned to Zadar, sat outside at a cafe on my last night of living in Europe. There was no ‘this is my unofficial last night in Europe’ night out. There was no ‘end of trip’ party. It came, and it went. I sat at the outdoor cafe, by myself, with some red wine.

Still numb. Still sad. Still a walking zombie.

The funeral was the day before I arrived home. I was too late, despite my best efforts.

In 48 hours I knew I would be home. Would be seeing my parents for the first time in 6 1/2 months. Would be able to sit in their arms, bury my head in their shoulders … and cry.

On my last official night in Europe, I had to resign myself to falling asleep listening to that same song on repeat, tears wetting my pillow and my heart heavy.

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Love, life and loss … while on the road

On September 13, 2010 at 6:15 a.m. EST the world lost an amazing woman, my grandmother. She died in her sleep and in no pain, surrounded by her husband, her son and his wife, and her daughter, my mom.

And I was thousands and thousands of miles away.

I knew it would happen. The possibility of her passing while I was traveling was very real and I was encouraged to still make plans, to take that flight from Dulles to Heathrow on March 7.

Grandma was my biggest supporter.

“Are you sure it is OK for me to go and do this?” I had asked my mom repeatedly.

“Yes,” she would answer calmly. “Grandma wants you to go. She doesn’t want you to miss this opportunity and wait for something to happen here.”

So, I boarded the flight and headed out on my adventure.

At first, everything was wonderful back in Pennsylvania where she and my grandfather had moved only months earlier.

ALS, what she had, is a cruel, cruel disease. It atrophies your muscles, and often times one of the first signs is limping. She had a limp, but we hadn’t noticed anything was wrong at first, nothing that would scream “fatal disease.”

When I moved to Atlanta, I was thrilled to be closer to home and closer to Florida, where my grandparents were living. I went to visit them a handful of times in the year I lived in the South.

And each visit, she got worse. At first she was just slurring her speech (a mini-stroke Mom had suggested), and then it got difficult for her to swallow. And then she started using a cane, and then a walker. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around last year, she had a hard time even with that.

The first e-mails I got hinting that all was not well was in May, when I was in Madrid.

“Grandma has told us she doesn’t want a feeding tube,” Mom had written. The doctors had suggested it as a means to slow down the progression of ALS.

Immediately, I burst into tears, Anthony at my side.

I called my mom and she reasoned with me. This was Grandma’s fight. If she didn’t want to prolong it, she didn’t have to. We had to support it.

I called her a few days later when I was in Merida to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. She talked to me, but ALS had taken away her ability to form words so all I heard was noises.

A few months later, when I was in Bulgaria, Mom e-mailed me to tell me she had stopped eating.

I knew she was in Penn. with her parents, so I hopped on Abby’s Skype and called them.

Through stifled cries, I told her I loved her and she made noises back. I know she was telling me the same.

Then, a few weeks later, I got word she wanted to be transferred to a nursing home.

I knew it wouldn’t be much longer.

In Sarajevo, once I had my iTouch and had installed Skype, I called my mom and for the first time in a long time, we talked. And cried.

I don’t want to be here when this happens.

When we spoke, she told me she had showed Grandma my blog about going topless. Before she had stopped using the Internet, Grandma read my blog regularly and would write to me, telling me in each e-mail how proud she was of me.

This time, Grandma had requested a print out of my blog so she could read it.

Two days later, when I was in Mostar, I got word she had moved to the home and had told everyone via written word she was “ready.”

I did what I had to do — I wrote her an e-mail telling her how much I loved her, how I remembered crying each time her and Papa would leave our house after their annual summer visits, how I loved going to Disney World with them, and above all, how much I loved the support she had given me through my life, and told her in a million ways how much I loved her, and that, if she was ready, I understood.

Two weeks later, on a sunny Monday afternoon when I was in Croatia, her body was finally ready. Her mind had been for a long time.

The day before I had spoken to Mom and she told me things didn’t look well, that she had packed her clothes and was staying until …

I hadn’t known how to react. As she talked, I slid down the old stone wall of the hostel, burying my head in my hands and talking in hushed tones through tears.

“I am so close to being home,” I had sobbed. I changed my flight the week before with the hopes I could make it home to hold her hand and tell her I loved her one last time.

I never got to do that in person.

The night before she left this world, Mom put the phone up to her ear and I told her I loved her.

I HATE ALS. That this disease leaves the mind to KNOW the body is shutting down and there is nothing that can be done about it.

Mom and I had an agreement — no e-mails about anything. If there was news to be delivered, it had to be via the phone.

Sunday night I didn’t sleep. I wasn’t interested. I closed my eyes, but nothing happened.

Monday, I woke up, called my Dad who reported he had heard nothing overnight. I went to the beach. I tried to enjoy it, but nothing felt right.

Today is the day.

I tried to take my mind off of what was going on at home and focus on being in the moment since I only had a few days of being in the moment left.

I boarded the water taxi and headed back to Hostel Trogir and loaded my e-mail.

“Give me a call, Love Dad,” was written in the subject line.

Instantly, I knew. And instantly I began to cry. Painful tears of heartbreak and alone.

“Dad,” I said into my headset, barely audible through my sobs, expecting what he was going to say.

“I’m sorry, D,” he said somberly.

“I was so close …”

“I know.”

He told me what had happened. He reminded me she wanted me there and that I needed to be OK with that since that was what she had wanted.

Then, I called Mom.

“I’m so sorry you are so far away,” she said softly as I sobbed on the other end of the phone. I could barely talk. “D, she was so, so proud of you. This morning, one of the nurses came up to me and asked if I had just gotten back from Europe. She told everyone about what you were doing.”

More tears.

We said our “goodbyes,” our “I love you’s,” and I sat on my bunk bed, tears rolling down my face with reckless abandon.

The hostel owner had given me the dorm to myself, thank goodness, so I could wail softly and not worry about others asking me what was wrong.

Then, I went numb. I started looking for hotels in Zadar for my last night in Croatia. I called Old Town Hostel, where I had stayed a few days prior when my hotel options had failed.

“I just need a bed, I have a flight from Zadar Wednesday morning,” I had explained.

“All we have is a private.”

Perfect. I could grieve and mourn without being around anyone.

Then, I walked into the city.

Expressionless. Like a zombie. I wandered the marble streets while blaring on repeat Citizen Cope’s “Sideways.” I probably listened to it 100 times in the two days this was going on.

I got some blood orange gelatto and smiled politely when the shop owner asked for my number. I sat at a restaurant on the water and ordered garlic bread, tuna salad and a glass of red wine. I picked the corn, tomato and egg out of the salad and struggled to get it down. I ate the garlic bites of the bread. I drank the wine.

I walked back to my hostel and took out my flat iron and straightened my hair, all the while trapped in my thoughts, running like wildfire through my mind. So close. ALS. Pain. Heartache. ALS. Love. Life. Loss. Far from home.

What do you do when you are alone and grieving? When you know no one?

Normal conventions don’t apply. No amount of virtual hugs replaces the real thing. No amount of phone conversations replaces face-to-face contact.

I was alone.

And then, I sat down outside in the late summer night and pulled out my laptop and wrote this story.

Grandma, you will never be forgotten. Your love and support meant and will always mean the world to me. While we may not have you here, I know you are now a star in the sky, looking down on me for the world to see. Mom said you agreed to be my guardian angel. Thank you. My book is for you. You will read it over my shoulders. I love you forever and always.

To learn more about ALS, click here.

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Backtracking

I pulled up hostel after hostel, bus schedule after bus schedule, as I sat on my bunk bed in Zadar.

I had wanted to go up the coast to the Istria region of Croatia, to hop some islands before I boarded my flight from Zadar to Frankfurt, and from Frankfurt to Washington, DC.

No hostels. No beds. Too expensive.

What the hell am I going to do?

Staying in Zadar for four more nights was not an option. I didn’t need to go back to Zagreb. I had no desire to go back to Split and party away my remaining days in Europe.

Trogir.

I had wanted to go there, but opted to head to Zadar with Katie instead.
It’s a quick bus ride back.

Could I do three nights there?

It didn’t matter. I was going to.

The next morning, I crept out of the dorm room and walked to the bus stop, headed to the bus station, and boarded the first bus to Trogir.

Zadar and I don’t have the best bus relationship. Not even a year earlier, it was the scene of my bus riding debacle. Now, I have the whole riding-the-bus-thing under control, but on that afternoon, it didn’t matter.

As the bus wound around the inland road, it began to putter a little bit.

Great.

Then, we were pulled over at a little bus stop in the middle of nowhere.
The driver got out and walked around back. My eyes followed him as he returned to the bus, grabbed some sort of tool, and turned off the engine.
Oh, no.

For 15 minutes, we sat there. Finally, the heat began to get to me, so I grabbed my messenger bag and got off, sitting at the glass-encased stop, waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

After 20 more minutes, the driver motioned for us to get back on the bus.

Finally.

He started the engine. Then, a moment later, he turned it off.

There was little communication between him and the passengers. Everyone just got off of the bus.

“What’s going on?” I asked someone who spoke Croatian.

“The bus is broken. We have to wait here 20 minutes and a new bus will come and get us.”

Thank goodness I had no place to be. No flight to catch. An hour later, we were back on the road, in a new (and functioning) ride.

We arrived to Trogir shortly after and I found my way to the hostel, crossing a bridge over the water.

The hostel was cute, tucked into a little street behind a church.
There was nearly no one there.

I got a map, found out how to get to the beach (take a water taxi) and then went to get dinner. And a bottle of wine for later.

That night was a quiet one for me. I sat outside on the terrace messaging with Katie who had arrived safely to London (she hated the flight) and writing. And talking to my mom about my grandma.

“I just don’t know, D. I can’t tell you how long it could be,” she said. “It could be hours, days … I just don’t know.”

I’ll be home soon. It’s OK.

I could visualize my arrival on four days …

A group of people from the hostel parked themselves at the table next to me and we all began to chat. They were headed out. I was headed to bed.

The next day, I took myself to the beach. A gorgeous stretch of coast lined with little cafes and restaurants. I spent the entire day there. It was relaxing. It was beautiful. It was perfect.

What a great place to end my adventure. I’m so happy.

And then, when I got back to the hostel, that’s when everything changed.

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The final reunion

A wave of happiness rushed over me as soon as I saw Katie, sitting under an awning at the yellow bus station in Trogir.

The bus ride from Split to Trogir had taken a little longer than expected, and I had told her I would do my very best to meet her there by 10:30 a.m.

When the bus hit traffic heading out of Split, I began to get a little anxious.

One hour. I have one hour. Oh, Katie, please wait for me.

Fortunately, I was dropped off close to our agreed upon time. And, she was there. Laden with snacks for our 3-hour bus ride up to Zadar.

My smile grew larger and larger as I got closer to where she was sitting, and then she saw me, and smiled too.

“Hi!!!” I squealed, embracing her.

It felt so good to see her. Even if it had only been two nights since we last saw each other.

There is no better feeling when traveling to see a familiar face. Especially feeling the way I felt at that moment.

Together, we walked across the street to stand outside the Konzum to wait for our bus to stop and fetch us.

We had been told the buses come pretty regularly.

It took an hour. Under the beating late-morning sun.

“At least I can work on my tan,” I reasoned, dropping my bags at my feet and squinting my eyes up towards the sky.

While we waited, we kept ourselves entertained.

In Solta, David had tried to explain to us it was nearly impossible to not lick your lips while eating doughnuts.

And, Katie, being the awesome friend she is, remembered I liked doughnuts filled with jam.

She produced two from her plastic bag and we tried to prove David wrong.

Have you ever tried to not lick your lips while eating a doughnut? It’s hard.

I succeed a few times, but the little challenge grew tiring, so I succumbed and decided to just enjoy the fresh and delicious pastry.

Finally, a bus came and we got on. I looked back wistfully at the beautiful town of Trogir.

Next time, D.

Two hours later (not sure how we got there so quickly), we were in Zadar.
The bus station in Zadar is a hike from the old town where we had booked a hostel, so we decided to fork over the kuna and grab a cab to the city gate.

Zadar is not known for its hostels. There are really only two — the Old Town hostel where we stayed, and then a youth hostel outside of town. Both book up reasonably quickly, so we had been fortunate to reserve beds.

She and I made our way down the slippery marble main street of Zadar and found our hostel. It was smack in the middle of the little city, near an abundance of outdoor cafes and shops.

It was a perfect location.

We climbed the four flights of stairs and dropped our bags in our room.
We had one night together in Zadar. The next evening, she was boarding a flight to London.

We spent the afternoon lazily, grabbing an amazing lunch down the street from us, toying around on the Internet and relaxing.

Zadar is a small town — there isn’t much to do unless you take a boat tour of the Kornati Islands. Most of the tours go all day and are a bit pricey, so we opted to just chill out.

That night, we walked to the water and had a gourmet dinner with a spectacular sunset over the sea as our background. The oranges and pinks blending into the greens and blues, finally giving way to the black night sky.

It was expensive as far as backpacker dining goes, but it didn’t matter to me. I had less than a week left, and it was my last dinner (for real) with Katie in Europe.

After dinner, I insisted we stop by the Sea Organ and the Salutation to the Sun, both beautiful must-sees in Zadar. Then, we mozied through town, stopping at a little bar near the hostel and grabbing some beers. After a big beer or two each, it was time for sleep.

The  next day, she, Brian (a guy who I met in Sarajevo and ran into again in Zadar) and I toured the city, wandering down its twisting alleys, eating and drinking.

Katie doesn’t like to fly, so we had to accompany her to the cafes while she sipped wine. And well, she couldn’t drink alone now, could she?

In the late afternoon, she headed to the bus stop to catch a ride to the airport.

In just a few shorts days, I would do exactly the same.

I hugged her tight, promising we would see each other once she returned to America, and then she was gone.

Brian and I walked back to the hostel. He was prepping to go out. I was not.
I found myself craving some “me” time, so that night I stayed in, reading my book and writing.

And researching where I would go next.

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Realization

I never imagined my brain would tell me I wanted to go home. Early. But, it did that night in Split.

I had 10 days left of my trip. Originally, and for months, I had planned on extending my adventure, heading to Spain (for the sixth time), back to Merida to see my friends and celebrate my birthday on October 1.  I had looked at my funds earlier in the day, looked at the cost to get there, looked at the penalties I would face to change my flight, calculated the extra cost of staying in Europe for three more weeks, and realized it was just entirely not going to happen.

Suddenly, my body ached. My mind was exhausted. I craved my family. I craved a good night’s sleep. I craved home. I wanted to be with my mom as she coped with my grandma’s sickness. I wanted to be with my grandma.

I think I’m ready.

Realizing it is time to end the trip of a lifetime was hard for me. I struggled with the idea of ending it — especially early. I had ended my first trip in Europe early (for entirely different reasons) and had promised myself I would return and do the trip right the next time.

This adventure was my do-over.

And now, my do-over was starting to wear me thin.

I called my Dad.

“I want to come home. I want to be with my family. This is so hard to be away from home. I want to see grandma.”

“D,” he said quietly, “There is no guarantee that when you get home she will still be here.”

“I know,” I said, fighting back tears, “But I at least want to try.”

I messaged friends.

“Are you sure you want to come home early?” They all asked the same question.

“Yes.”

It’s time.

I called United and engaged in a three-hour long battle over changing my ticket.

Then, around 9 p.m., it was set.

I was coming home. Four days early. Which wasn’t much, but I hoped it would get me back in time to see my grandma. I told Dad not to let Mom know about my arrival. Together, we plotted a surprise arrival and I could hardly sleep that night knowing how happy my mom would be when I walked through the front door four days early.

During my epic fight with United, Katie messaged me from Trogir.

“Come up here!” she urged. “Meet me tomorrow and we can go to Zadar together!”

I was going to say no, then I looked around me.

I don’t want to be in Split anymore. I want to be with Katie. I want my friend back. I NEED a friend.

So, I agreed.

The next morning, after nearly oversleeping and power-walking to the bus stop in Split, I was reunited with Katie for the third time in as many weeks.

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