Backpacker shenanigans

Katie, David and I walked together back through the old city of Split after hugging Danica goodbye. Rain clouds had begun to make their way from the mountains to the coast, rolling in slowly and ominously.

We hadn’t made any reservations for hostels, so we just started dropping in to places.

Our first stop was Silver Gate, the hostel David had stayed in before we left for Solta. They had one bed, which Katie and I decided belonged to David.

Then, she and I began our wander to Fiesta Siesta to see if there were any beds there.

Nope.

“We can call Booze and Snooze,” offered Fiesta Siesta’s receptionist. She hung up the phone, frowning.

Nope.

So, Katie and I, ready to dodge the rain that was about to pelt us, decided to make our way back to CroParaside, fingers crossed there was something there.

Thank goodness there was.

We quickly grabbed bottom bunks and immediately turned on our computers.

Oh, hello, my dear sweet old friend Internet. I missed you so.

After connecting with the people we needed to connect with, we went into the city and wandered, shopped (well, looked) and grabbed food, planning on meeting David later for dinner at my go-to restaurant in Split, Fife.

Within a few minutes at CroParadise, I met a 20-something Canadian traveler, Carl, and invited him out with us.

The night was a party, at least for Carl and I.

(It should be noted — I love Split. Some of my best travel memories have been in this gorgeous seaside town. There is some sort of backpacker electricity in the air that just seeps into my pores.)

The four of us went to dinner at Fife, dining on fish soup, calamari and more. Katie and I decided to go hard and ordered a liter of Croatian red wine while the guys sipped beer.

Then, it was on to Charlie’s, the smokey backpacker bar under Fiesta Siesta where Simon used to work. David disappeared, leaving Katie, Carl and I sitting outside, avoiding the throngs of people packed into the tiny interior, drinking liters of beer.

Then, Katie left.

Carl and I went inside and ordered another round (of course). Then, we met a group of Aussies, a nice enough group who just wanted to drink their trip away. They had been sitting at the picnic table across from us at Fife, so we immediately started chatting them up.

Then, the beer and wine hit me.

“I’ve got to go home,” I mumbled, making my way towards the door.

“Alright poppet, see you back at the hostel,” one of the Aussie girls said.

I dolled out quick hugs and then raced outside, needing the fresh air to smack me in the face.

I walked fast back to the dorm, not because I was walking alone at night, but because I needed to lay down. Only, when I put my key in the door, nothing happened.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

I tried the other key.

Nononononono.

I rang the doorbell.

Someone, answer. I am spinning.

Silence.

Not wanting to be that girl who passes out at the entrance to the hostel, I walked back to the bar, pushing the thoughts of getting sick out of my head.

“I’m back,” I announced to the group which I had left only 10 minutes earlier.

“What happened?” Carl asked, eyes wide at my sudden re-appearance. “You came back!”

“My key,” I said, frowning, producing the offender in my hand. “It won’t work. I need you to open the door for me.”

“Sure,” he said, wrapping his arm around me. “No problem. But, let’s get another drink first.”

“Ohhhhh … I don’t know about that,” I began to protest. Then, poof, there was another liter of beer in my hand.

Well then.

“Thank you,” I said, resigning myself to accept I was not getting out of it. And, at that moment, I decided I wanted to live it up a little bit. (SEE — crazy backpacker electricity of Split at work!)

And then came the honey rum shot. And then, I was done.

“I’ve got to go home,” I pleaded with Carl.

“OK,” he said. “Let’s go.”

We walked back to the hostel and sat outside together on the balcony. I know we talked … just not sure about what.

Then, the Aussies returned and joined us outside.

The terrace is made for three people. There are three seats. There were six of us.

I scooted closer to Carl, throwing my legs over his, when one of the girls sat on the chair with me.

I didn’t intend my leg-draping as anything other than simply making more room.

Carl, however, took it as anything but that. At that point, I didn’t care.

For an hour, we sat outside, all of us talking. Then, Carl and I were holding hands. Then, it was just Carl and I on the terrace. Then, well, there might have been a little bit of smooching. Then, I put a stop to it.

“We’re not doing anything,” I informed him. “I need to go to bed.”

“Really?”

“Yup. Sorry. I need to sleep.”

Oh, what a backpacking tease am I.

He and I crawled into bed, and I fell asleep nearly straightaway, tucking my head into his neck, laced in his arm.

I woke up the next morning a wee bit groggy, alone in my bed, with only one thought in my mind: What the hell happened to David?

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Traveling the world to say “thank you”

There are some nights you can’t sleep because you are so excited for what the next day holds. Every night of my trip, that was my story. But, my last night in Brela, it stood true even more than usual.

The next morning, Katie, David and I were boarding a bus up the coast to Split. And, I was going to go and find someone who had been a catalyst in getting me out of Atlanta and into the life I had been living. I was ridiculously excited, to say the least.

When I started my trip in March, I had only plan for certain. One thing I HAD to do before I returned to America.

Find Simon.

I had met him the year before on my “30th Birthday World Tour” that took me through the highlights of Croatia.

When Katie, David and I arrived to Split, I had one goal to accomplish on our afternoon and evening there — to seek Simon. The man who said the right thing at the moment my mind was open to understanding the importance of his words. He had helped me to see how important LIVING was … to live for your dreams, your wishes, to embrace LIFE and to look back knowing you LIVED. And, for that, he needed at least a proper “thank you” for opening my eyes to what was really important.

Katie and I dropped our bags at CroParadise and I annouced I was going to find my Aussie friend.

“Do you know where he is?” She asked from her bunk.

“Yup,” I said. He had been working at the Fiesta Siesta’s bar and I was going to pull up directions on Hostel World to search him out.

I logged on to Facebook and was greeted with his status update: “Officially unemployed.”

Oh shit.

“He isn’t working there anymore,” I said, the vision I had of telling him how he changed my life became more distant.

“What are you going to do?”

With resolve and determination, I told her I would just go and ask around. Split was small enough and he had been there a year — people knew him.
I set out and began my walk into the Old City.

People were everywhere. My eyes could hardly scan every face.

I have to find him.

I had never felt so intensely determined to ever tell anyone anything as I felt with Simon. Even if he didn’t care, I needed to tell him how much meeting him had impacted my life.

I continued walking and then my eyes caught a man, tall, sunglasses on, walking towards me, and eating a sandwich.

I recognized him immediately.

Oh my god, Simon.

My heart raced.

I walked up to him and stood in his tracks.

He stopped and looked at me.

“Do you remember me?”

He stared.

“Simon, my name is D. You and I met last year on your first day of work.”

“Yeah …” he began.

“Can I buy you a beer?”

“OK,” he said and we began to walk to Charlie’s, Fiesta Siesta’s bar.

As we chatted, I found out I had been going the wrong way to even get to the hostels he had worked at … running into him was absolutely randomness. And a little bit of luck.

He looked the same. I immediately felt comfortable as the memories of our conversations last year began to come back to me with every step.

We sat at the bar with large Tuborg’s.

My mom had e-mailed me earlier in the day asking me if I thought Simon had any idea how much he had changed my life, if he had any clue of how grateful I was.

I opened my mouth to tell him and stopped.

Say it now, D.

The words I was about to spill were so laden with gratitude, with emotion, I didn’t know if I could utter them without tears spilling from my eyes.

Say it.

“Simon, I came to Split to find you.”

“Yeah?” He asked, turning his blue eyes towards me, lips curling into his cheeks.

“You probably won’t remember the conversation we had last September, but I came here to thank you.”

He looked at me.

“We were on the beach last year and you said something that changed my life, that set me on this path and I want you to know how grateful I am that we had that conversation and that I met you.”

A smile crept across his face as I relayed our conversation and I told him my story of how drastically my life changed, mostly due to the words he had said to me.

“Wow, I am honored,” he said. “Thank you.”

For two hours we sat at the bar as he relayed his stories of working in Split and how our lives had been.

Later that night, after I went to grab some fish soup at Fife (where I met two of the world’s biggest cheating douchebags EVER), I went back to Charlie’s to see him. It was his second-to-last-night in Split before he headed back to Australia and I wanted to spend more time with him.

For the second time in the day, we sat and talked at the bar, which quickly filled with backpackers from all over the world. A true backpacker bar and awesome.

He introduced me to his friends — he had already told them my story of why I was in Split and what I had said to him. They welcomed me with smiles.

I had only planned to stay for one drink, but somewhere along the way, I began to have an incredible time. I was so happy. My life had come full circle since the last time I was in Split and now, there I was, in an old stone room, having drinks with the one person I never imagined would change my life.

I can’t believe this is going to be over in 20 days. I can’t believe I am here. This just feels right.

We walked back to my hostel and I thanked him again, arms wrapped around him.

I don’t think there are enough words to convey how grateful I am to him.

I kissed him on his cheek and he looked at me.

“I’m going to be cheeky,” he said.

What?

Simon looked me in the eyes and smiled, then kissed me.

He pulled away, smiled at me, said he would be in touch, and walked back into the Split night.

I sat on the step of the hostel and smiled.

I felt light. Free.

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