Daily Wanderlust: clean clothes in Split

It took me an instant to fall in love with Split. And even less time to realize my traveling days were in front of me, not in the past (thanks to a certain person who provided instantaneous enlightenment).

Nearly one year after I left Split, I found myself back in this seaside town, life entirely different. The first thing I did was track down the person who changed my life — I had to tell him “thank you.”

The second thing I did? Sit back, smile and relish in the beauty of the moment, the beauty of the town (including the laundry hanging from the ancient windows), and the beauty of travel.

Destinations

Escape of the Week: Brela, Croatia

It’s no secret I love Croatia. It is what sparked my blog, it is what sparked my desire to quit my job and head out to explore more of the world. When I booked my long-term travel, I knew I wanted Croatia to be where I would end my trip. There is something magical about the country — the way the water is that perfect cerulean blue and the way the trees are neon green.

Yes, I love Croatia with all of my heart.

When my friend, Katie, suggested we visit Brela en route to Split, I agreed for one reason: there is no place in Croatia I don’t love. Surely, Brela would be no exception to this.

And, it wasn’t.

With amazing storms rolling in from Biokovo Mountain and hovering over the Adriatic Sea, how can you not love this little beach town? It’s enough to make someone book airline tickets immediately and head to this gorgeous destination.

Brela’s beaches are some of the best in Europe, earning one of its beaches, Dugi rat the distinction of being one of the most beautiful on the continent. Maybe you’ve seen this photo, of trees growing out of the white rock in the middle of the water?

With more than 7km. of pebble beaches, there are plenty of options to kick back and take in the colors, the fresh air and the relaxed atmosphere of this town.

There is only one hostel in Brela, Casa Vecchia. It’s awesome. Owned by an Aussie, it’s got a great beach feel with a huge outdoor patio, covered bar and stunning views of the seaside below. We got there the last night it was open, so for our second night, the owner moved us down to one of the apartments he rents out. On. The. Beach. Yeah, it was amazing.

Getting there: If you’re planning a trip to Croatia, there are a few stops most travelers are sure to hit — Dubrovnik and Split are two of them, in South Dalmatia. Brela is located about an hour south of Split, about three hours north of Dubrovnik, and about two hours from Mostar in Bosnia and Herecgovina.

If you’re taking the bus, be sure to let the driver know to stop at Brela. There isn’t a formal bus station, but a stop at the top of the town where you can hop on and off, paying when you board.

Have you been to Croatia? What’s your favorite beach?

Destinations

I am thankful for …

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It’s the time when I get to come home from wherever I am, and spend precious moments with my parents, my brother, my gorgeous little niece, and my friends from childhood and beyond.

It’s the time of year when I bundle up and head East to breathe that icy air into my lungs so deep it hurts. It’s the time of year when Mom and I hit the shopping mall to take advantage of those Black Friday deals, and I always swear through clenched teeth I will never participate in another Black Friday shopping experience again.

But, more than anything else, Thanksgiving is a time of year where I relish those special moments I have with the people I love. Where I give thanks for the years of blessings I have had, and look forward to the next year of blessings.

In honor of my favorite holiday, I am going to take a break from the grind. I am going to actually take some time for myself and not write, not post, not do anything but be in the present for the next few days.

So, enjoy Thanksgiving if you are in America. Hug your family tighter. Spend an extra few minutes at the dinner table sharing stories. Be sure to tell the people you love that you love them and are thankful for them.

And, if you need a breather from family time, or whatever, here are some of my favorite posts that highlight moments in my life I am so thankful to have experienced.

Instantanoues Enlightenment on the Adriatic — what happens when you meet someone who changes your life forever?

Traveling the World to Say ‘Thank You’ — tracking down that someone who changed my life, to tell him he changed my life. Spoiler: it ends with a kiss.

I’ve Always Relied on the Kindness of Strangers — finding the beauty in getting lost in a foreign country.

I Blame My Blog … and Twitter — this new family I have is amazing!

‘Twas the Nigh Before London — sometimes the hardest things in life are the best … and lead you to a better place (like traveling the world)

Love, life and loss … while on the road — words could never do justice for how thankful I am for my grandmother and her endless love and support. My cheerleader. My biggest supporter. My inspiration to write my book.

Escape of the Week: Birds on A Wire — HOME. My family. My friends. Sometimes, that’s all you need to make everything better.

See you next week, when I’m back in the desert.

Happy Thanksgiving! Eat until you have to unbutton that top button!

30 Life Crisis

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.

****

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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‘Round the World Music (The List)

Once traveling has been completed, there are few things more precious than the memories of the experience. I am always giddy when something unexpected triggers a magical moment of Delicious Travel Recall. It can be something as little as sitting outside on a breezy warm night grasping a cup of hot beverage that takes me back to Jose’s front porch in Merida; or the smell of a hookah wafting in the night air that takes me back to Granada; or the meowing of street cats outside my window that takes me back Turkey; or catching a futbol game on television that takes me back to Morocco …

But, more consistently, it is the music.

Within the first few bars, I am whisked away to the moment in time I heard the song … wistfully taken back to the thoughts, the feelings, the warm in the pit of my stomach that quickly takes over my entire body in this brief and amazing bliss.

Now, whenever a song comes on that triggers these fantastical moments of travel joy, I tell my little memory to whomever is in within yelling-at-the-top-of-my-lungs distance.

And, now … a sampling of my RTW soundtrack and little stories to illustrate why each song “rocks” in it’s own little way.  I’ve included links so you can check out the tunes. Enjoy!

1. O.A.R.

This band has longevity with me. It came with me on my first backpacking adventure to Europe in 2002; it returned when I was in Croatia for my 30th; and (so as not to break tradition), they were also loaded onto my iPod for this past Adventure. The band got plenty of play time when I walked about in London.

2. Dropkick Murphys – “I’m Shipping Up to Boston

This is my Ireland Experience in a song. It takes me back to being driven by Abbey through Ireland’s stunning countryside, dotted with old stone castles and vast expanses of farmland, B-Lee, Emily and I intow, headed to Galway to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

3. Milow – “Ayo Technology

The first time I heard this song was the morning after I fell in love with Madrid. Standing in a little store on the outskirts of Plaza de Mayor. This tune came on and I fell in love with it. After a week in Spain, I downloaded the song and, the version I had clocking in at 8 minutes, was the perfect metro song. I would listen to it on repeat as I walked from Anthony’s to the train, on the train, and then walking to my next destination.

4. Rocky Horror – Time Warp

Madrid. With Anthony and Emma. Sitting in her living room and finding videoes on You Tube that took us to other moments in time. We found this, and damnit, we did the Time Warp.

5. Lil Wayne – “Knockout” 

Before I left on my trip, a friend in Atlanta made me a mix for my Walk Abouts. When I took my little walking tour of Berlin (taking the subway to a stop outside the main part of the city and walking back to my hostel in the city), this little ditty came up. I imagine walking down a little side street speckled with naked, spiny-branched trees, and marveling at the Communist-era buildings mixed in with very geometric and artistic, more modern architecture. And eating a pretzel. I was in Germany.

6. Rihanna – “Rude Boy

I don’t know how Bryan, Nicole and I got on the topic of popular music in the US while in Amsterdam [insert comment here], but somehow this song came up. I had never heard of it so Nicole sang it to me. Later, we heard it while sipping hot chocolate in a coffee shop.

7. Shakira – “Waka Waka

While attending World Environment Day and gorilla naming ceremony, one of the babies was bestowed with the name “Waka Waka.” I hear this song and close my eyes to remember driving down bumpy, barely paved roads,  Anna at my side, staring out at the huts and shards of glass lining fence walls.

8. Ani DiFranco – “Every State Line

I had just left Peter in Granada and was on a bus to Tarifa. I was feeling so lonely, so anxious about departing for Morocco in two days time … I leaned my head against the window of the bus with my eyes fixed to the gorgeous green hills and let myself soak into Ani’s lyrics.

9. David Berkley – “Hurricane

I was really nervous the night before I was taking the ferry over to Tangier. I needed to get some sleep and wanted to listen to something to lull me into dreams. This song was the first one that came to mind. I hear this and I remember being on the bottom bunk, head nestled into my pillow, trying to fall asleep while knowing the other roommates had been downing shots of tequila and were sure to wake me … soon.

10. Cee Lo Green – “What Part of Forever

When I was “working” at the hostel in Kusadasi, Turkey, I downloaded the “Twilight Saga: Eclipse” soundtrack. This song’s upbeat (and uplifting) everything took me out of the fear I was feeling … and later stood for the relief that encompassed my body when I boarded the Fez Bus and got the hell out of town.

11. Yolanda Be Cool and D-Cup – “We No Speak Americano

I heard it for the first time while dancing around a fire pit, flips flung into a pile at the outdoor nightclub in Olympos. Then, again it popped up while standing outside another “nightclub” in Goreme. And, again in Bulgaria. And more, and more, and more. I became obsessed and started to crave its infectious little beat.

12. Stromae –  “Alors on Dance” 

This debuted the same time in Turkey, but it wasn’t until hanging with a bunch of backpackers in Budva, Montenegro that this song took over. We sang it on the bus. We listened to it at the hostel. We talked about it always being in our heads.

13. Florence & The Machine – “Kiss With a Fist

Post-iPod, I had to download new music. I downloaded this and the first time I heard it, I was sitting on a bus, deep in the mountains of  Serbia, en route to Sarajevo. It instantly took my attention while immigration examined my passport.

14. Glee Cast – “Defying Gravity

This song is beautiful and bittersweet. When I first really began to accept my grandma was dying, I sat on the decaying Olympic stairs outside Hostel SA in Sarajevo, put in my headphones (thankful for my new iTouch), turned on this song, buried my head in my legs, and cried buckets of tears.

15. Jon Lejoie – “Show Me Your Genitals

I was lucky to have a travel friend like Katie. She knew I was sad after we left Mostar. While we were on the bus, driving through the Bosnian mountains on the way to Brela, Croatia, she played me this song to cheer me up. It produced the best laugh I had in a while. Note: These lyrics are NSFW or for anyone who is easily offended.

16. MGMT – “Kids

I’m sitting in Fiesta Siesta’s cavernous stone bar, talking with Simon. This song comes on. I always feel so uplifted and happy when I hear this now.

17. Jonell Mosser – “Stop in the Name of Love

Towards the end of my trip, Katie, David and I headed to Solta. The first night there, Katie gifted me with some of her music library. For hours, she and I sat outside, drinking red wine and taking in the Adriatic’s light wind, and listened to some of her favorite music, one ear bud each. This was one of the songs she played — a truly beautiful take on the classic.

18. Mumford & Sons – “Little Lion Man

Zadar was one of my last stops on my trip. I met up with Katie in Trogir and together we traveled up to Zadar. The first night in our dorm, I was laying in bed trying to sleep and this jam perked up my ears. Immediately, I fell in love with the band. Now, any song by them makes me think of Croatia. And summer. And hope.

19. Eminem and Rihanna – “Love the Way You Lie

After Katie and I parted, I had a few more days until my flight home. I didn’t want to stay in Zadar, so I took the bus back to Trogir to go and explore. On the way, our bus broke down. For an hour, I sat on a hot bench at a bus stop while we waited for a new bus to pick us up. A French girl, with headphones on, sang this. To this day, I remember feeling so gross, dripping sweat, and looking over in disbelief at the girl, bopping around on the side of the road, caught up in the music.

20. Citizen Cope – “Sideways

I had never heard this song in my life, but Katie had put it on my iTouch. When I found out my grandma was doing worse, I struggled to find a song to allow me to go numb and cathartic. Each song that came on, I quickly skipped. And, then this song came on. And the guitar, the voice, all of it, instantly spoke to me. When Grandma passed away, it became the only song on my playlist. Until I arrived back in America, it was the only song I would listen to.

What about you? What songs take you back to memories … and what are those memories?

Africa Europe Travel Tips

One year later

365 days. Wow.

A lot can happen in 365 days.

People can lose their job. Can find another job. Can fall in love. Can have a child. Can lose someone they love. Can see the world.

365 days ago, I embarked on a life-changing journey that would take me through Europe and parts of Africa, that would introduce me to new worlds. To new people. To a new way of thinking.

365 days ago I would have never imagined being where I am today. I would never have fathomed the experiences I would find myself a part of.

Yes. It was one year ago, today, when I left America. When I took my career-break. When I began my Adventure. It started in London.

Now, after one year of truly living, I can still vividly recall the moments leading up to leaving America. The moments on the airplane. The thrill of seeing the Atlantic sparkling in the sunrise. The anticipation of grabbing my backpack at Heathrow, getting on the Tube and the DLR and ending up at Sean’s place in Poplar.

I will never forget getting lost in Poplar. Wandering the streets around that part of London for hours, searching for a tiny sidestreet. Walking into bakeries and asking people where I was going. And the excitement I felt when I finally came across Sean’s place and found the little key tucked under a bench in her front yard. I will always remember meeting Tim and being quickly whisked from her house to the city, grabbing beers and then going back to her house and catching up on a lifetime that had happened since we had met in Croatia only months earlier.

It’s days like today, when I find myself sitting, reminiscing about the life I lived in those seven months abroad that make it impossible to do anything but hold tight to those memories. To those instances of life when you realize you are truly doing something so spectacular, so monumental …

Now, one year later, I have many moments, mostly when I am sad, where my mind transports me back to my trip … to a time when the world was my oyster (it still is, just in a very different way). I will be going to sleep at night, and an image of my journey will pop into my head and it fills me with such hope, such inspiration, such happiness.

Am I where I thought I would be a year ago today? Nope. Not even close. I am somewhere different … living a life that took me an adventure to realize I wanted. Is it permanent? No. Nothing is.

There are many moments when I find myself longing for the culture of Spain … for the crystal waters of Croatia … for the amazing friends I have met along the way. And the beauty of the past year is that I know, without a shadow of a doubt, I can capture that again … perhaps in the next 365 days. Or longer. I just know it is there, smiling on my shoulder, rooting for me …

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