Daily Wanderlust: Kotor, Montenegro

I always knew as soon as I got to the Adriatic Sea in my travels, I would feel invigorated again. It’s not easy to travel solo for months on end, and after my time in Turkey, I had hit a wall. Hello, Travel Fatigue.

Fortunately, after one very long travel day, as soon as I arrived to Montenegro, I got back into the swing of being a backpacker. While in the gorgeous town of Budva, I met a little group of awesome people and we went on excursions together. Including a beautiful day trip to Kotor.

Tiny wooden boats of different colors are parked against everything in the Kotor Bay … including bridges and pipes.

Destinations

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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Backpacking Awesomeness

I was still tired when I woke up the next morning at Hippo.

Not sleeping and being in transit for nearly 40 hours can do that to a person.
But, I had a one-track mind: the Adriatic.

After a quick breakfast (Hippo gives you eggs to do up however you like), I grabbed a beach towel, a book and headed down to the water.

The day wasn’t perfect — puffy gray clouds hung low — but I didn’t care. It was the sea and I had a hot date with the water.

I laid my towel down on the pebble beach, slathered sunscreen and then bolted into the water.

Ahhh.

It was just as I remembered it from last year. Delicious. Salty.

I laid my head back and enjoyed the weightlessness and the lack of treading.

It was perfect.

Then, the rain began to drop, so I rounded up my few belongings and headed back to the hostel.

It had been a long time since I had met other solo travelers. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time, so when I met Tristan in the TV room, I was thrilled.
A Canadian, traveling for a few months, in med school. He had been to the beach too, and like me, when it began to rain, headed back to shelter.
Then, I met Tana. And Craig. And Mat. And, suddenly, we had a solo backpacker group.

For two days, we were inseperable. Going down to the beach and drinking beers in the water after the clouds had cleared. Making a BBQ that night. Hitting some bars later in the evening. Then, the next day we took a day trip together to Sveti Stefan, a gorgeous little beach town a few kilometers from Budva.

Being with them was rejuvenating. We had our little group and kept meeting other cool people along the way.

The next day, Tana and Craig headed to another little town and Tristan and I went to Kotor to check it out.

I left him to climb up to the fortress — it was sick hot — and I walked around, sitting by the beach, marveling at the beauty of the old walled city, sipping a Coke Light at a cafe.

When the last of our little group parted ways, I was bummed. It had been nice to have a group.

Fortunately, my next stop was Sarajevo, and I had a good feeling about that city.

Blog Montenegro Travel

Trains versus buses — which is better? (The List)

A look at train versus bus travel

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Given the fantastic experiences I had on the trains through the Balkans, I decided to write-up a pros/cons list of taking the bus versus taking the train through most of Europe.

Both can be good.

Both can be bad.

Often times — at least in the Balkans — trains are the less expensive option, so when watching the budget, they are the only mode of transport that can work.

So, travel by train or bus? Which is better?

Why opt for a bus?

1. They don’t have to stop at an entrance to a tunnel for 40 minutes so a train going the opposite direction can pass through.

2. Most times (except in the Balkans), you have an assigned seat. That means the person next to you has an assigned seat, too. You don’t have to sit and silently pray to be the lucky couchette that doesn’t fill up. (Every train I have been on has had one couchette, for some reason or other, that has remained blissfully near-empty).

3. There aren’t sliding glass doors where people in the small aisle can glare at you while they think you are sleeping or reading your book.

4. No one can come into your little bus aisle. On trains, people come into your couchette in the middle of the night.

5. There (most of the time) is air-con.

6. There are stops for food and drink.

7. The toilets aren’t from the 1970s. Yes, most buses don’t have the toilets on-board open, but when you stop for #6, you get to use a REAL restroom. Granted, you have to pay, but is a small fee to know you won’t get some rare disease or have to dodge the grime and gross that comes with toilets that are never cleaned on the train.

8. The lights on the buses turn off at night. You don’t have to wait for everyone in a couchette to finish reading, word puzzles, etc. to turn the light off. The bus driver does it for you. And then, if you WANT a light on, you have your own little light you can turn on.

9. If you stop for a long period of time you can get off of the bus, and tell the driver you are doing so. On trains, good luck finding the conductor.

10. You don’t have to lift your heavy bag into the storage compartment above. It won’t fit. Instead, it goes below (sometimes for a small fee), but you are gloriously rid of the extra baggage until you arrive at your destination. (Just keep your valuables on you, not stowed away.)

11. You don’t have to worry about avoiding eye contact. No one is sitting in front of you and facing you. The only thing you can stare at is the scenery out your window, or the back of the person’s head who is sitting on front of you.

12. The guy in the food car can’t blare his loud polka-style music so everyone the next car over can hear. There is no food car on the bus.

13. At stops, you have a selection of food. On the train, you have a choice of a few very overpriced sandwiches, none of which are actually filling or tasty.

14. Unless there is a problem with the bus, every time you stop, or go down a hill, or wind around a mountain, you don’t damage your ear drums with the high-pitched scraping of the brakes.

15. Buses take less time to get to the final destination than trains.

Why travel by train?

1. You can walk around.

2. You can’t watch the conductor and hope the person doesn’t fall asleep. You just have to assume the person won’t.

3. You can use the toilet on board. At your own risk. And wash your face … if you trust the water coming out of the faucet. If there is water coming out of the faucet.

4. You get off of the road and get to see some beautiful and untouched parts of the world.

5. If people speak your language in your couchette, you can have a conversation. Or a party.

6. Trains are cheaper (at least in the Balkans).

7. You don’t have to worry about traffic.

Which do you prefer and why?

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The longest day

In theory, I should have arrived to Bar, Montenegro from Belgrade, Serbia around 8:30 p.m. Which, in theory, would have given me plenty of time to catch the bus from Bar to Budva and check-in to Hippo Hostel.

In theory …

Unfortunately, that was not the case.

As I sat in the train at the Belgrade station I was reminded of what my friend, Frances, had said to me when she booked me in to Hippo, the hostel she worked at.

“It’s the Balkans, the trains are always at least two hours late.”

Not mine, I thought.

But, as the clock ticked, her words began to sink it.

Shit.

We were only 20 minutes late leaving the station, but during the course of the next five hours, we stopped and started and crawled along at a snails speed in the hot summer sun, making us really late when my couchette got its first guests, a French couple.

“How late are we?” I asked.

“Two hours,” the guy replied.

Well, we’re on track.

Then, the train stopped. And, then it went. And, then it stopped again. Each time the wind would begin to cool the cars, the train would stop. People would get off, buy ice creams, and then get back on 30 minutes later.

But the time we arrived in Podgorica, we were five hours late. And, I had missed the last bus to Budva from Bar.

Of course, we were stopped here, too.

I got off the train and started talking to someone who spoke English.

“There’s a protest on the tracks down a bit, 500 people,” he explained.

“Oh my god,” I sighed. “Any idea how late we be?”

“Nope, but if you can get the bus, I would.”

He pointed to the bus station, a quick two-minute walk from where we were standing outside out idle train.

Right.

I grabbed my belongings off the train and booked it to the bus.

I ended up on the midnight bus to Budva.

After 12 hours on the hot train, the bus was a welcome relief. Air-con.

Comfortable seats. Darkness.

I didn’t want to fall asleep. I knew if I did, there would be a chance I would miss my stop since the night before my sleep was negligible.

So, I kept my eyes open as we drove towards the Adriatic.

I looked up and the view was incredible. Breathtaking. Stars twinkling in nearly every inch of the sky.

Then, one streaked across.

Shooting star!

I wanted to tell someone, but there was no one to tell, so I smiled to myself, happy with my decision to head to Budva instead of sit on the train.

Then, another! And another! And one more!

I knew there had been a meteor shower a few nights earlier, but this was my own special show, my reward for enduring the hell train journey for the past two days.

As the bus wound down the mountain, I could make out the sea below, black and blending in with the sky, but I knew as soon as I would wake up the next day, my favorite sea in the world would be staring back at me, welcoming me to where I had been less than a year before.

I didn’t get in to Hippo until 2 a.m. and when I did, crawling into that dorm bed was pure bliss. The pillow was soft. The bed was perfect.

I still felt like I was in transit, but as soon as I closed my eyes, I was out.

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