1. If you want Zagreb’s Upper Town to yourself for wandering, it is deserted at 2 a.m. There is nothing more magical than having the city in your hands to breathe in. Even if nothing is open, to walk on the old streets, to see the gothic buildings, it is an amazing experience. Bonus pointsContinue reading “What I learned in Croatia (The List)”
I woke up on my last morning in Croatia, shaggy blonde Brit by my side.
I love Saturdays. Except when the Saturday is my last day in Croatia. Then, I despise it. Chopper and I had a grand plan for my last full day of traveling: lounge at the beach and then head out to a nice birthday dinner for myself. And we did just that.
I looked up at the stairs that seemed to rise to the sky. Panting. We had made it up the first few sets of stairs, me trying to balance the very unsteady bag I had on my back. I had specifically taken this piece of luggage for my trip because it had wheels (!) and straps to turn into one massive backpack. But, it really wasn’t made to be balanced on a back. I could barely stand up straight, and when I was upright, it felt like the weight of the bag would have me topple over, down the stairs and back to Square One.
Even though the Sea Urchin were stationery, I hated them.
Once we docked the boat and headed to our beach (which was almost as small as the boat, but sandy), I carefully surveyed the water. Just a patch of seaweed a few feet out … I’d have to swim over it so as not to risk any chance of anything.
When I say swim, I mean it this time. Earlier, swimming meant more fa-la-la-la-la-look-at-me-I’m-in-the-water, a kick here, an arm movement there, a little treading water. In Hvar,
swimming meant actual strokes to move past that patch of seaweed. Granted, because the water is clear, I could see its brown green tangle for what it was. But, you never know. Lurking entangled in the plant could have been my Croatian nemesis, black spiky awfulness, just waiting to stick its needles into the soft arches of my naked feet.
At the dock, about 15 woman, most of them older, stood crowded around the boat ramp, awaiting the boat’s passengers to disembark so they could descend on them. They all clutched laminated one-sheets boasting color photos of their sobes. As soon as people would begin to walk off the boat, they would commence hounding to rent their rooms.
“You need a room?” “I’ll give you a good deal.” “I’m in the city.” “My home is beautiful.” And so it continues until you either tell them you are not interested, have other lodging, or are able to escape unscathed, beyond the fortress of sobe owners.
As a traveler, it is overwhelming to depart a boat, or a bus or a train and be surrounded by people trying to hawk their rooms at you. I get it, but sometimes you just want to get off whatever mode of transportation you are on and not have to dodge, weave or otherwise avoid being chased after.
I planted myself just outside the group of women to avoid the chaos and to survey the passengers for Mel and Sean.
I left my bag at the chair — it felt perfectly safe to do so and my passport and important documents and valuables were locked safely away back at Green Lizard — and got into the water.
It was chilly. Not as chilly as the night before when Shaun and I had gone in, but it was still pretty cool until you got used to it, which took a few mintes.
I swam for about 10 minutes and then got out, choosing to lay down and have some quiet, alone time with myself.
I closed my eyes, letting the sun’s warmth soak up my body, and just thought. And, then, something happened.
For the first time in my life, when I was laying there, I was able to chase away the negative thoughts, the thoughts that rained on my Croatian parade.
I had made it my goal to go outside of my comfort zone, and this certainly did just that.
So, I did what any slightly intoxicated traveler in a foreign land would do — hastily removed all of my clothes, threw them on the sidewalk next to the water, and, along with Shaun, plunged into the inky black sea.
The first thing I felt was bliss.
The second thing I felt was the cold water seeping into my pores.
The third thing I felt was pain.
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.
“I recon you and I are one of the lucky ones. There is only a small percentage of people in this world, D, that have the wealth. And you and I? We are the lucky people. We are people who have this wealth. And, as people who have this wealth, we have to do something,” he had commented. “When I am an old man, I am not going to sit there and count how much money I had, or look at a wall of all of my achievements. Those things don’t make me happy. When I am an old man,” he said, “I want to be able to look back at my life and know that I did something to make a difference. I helped someone. I was as happy as I could ever possibly be. And I didn’t need wealth, or a nice home, or a white fence, to get me to that point. I want to know that I did everything in my power to live.”