Seven Years After Solo Travel

An account of what happens seven years after solo travel. The good, the bad and the truth.

“I hope you find what you’re looking for,” the ticket agent said to me before we hung up the phone on that winter night in Atlanta in 2010.

Pure joy shot through my veins after we disconnected. Sitting in my apartment in the 100-year-old house, listening to the cars pass my house on their way home from work in the bustling city, there was more excitement pumping through me than I’ve ever felt before.

I’m going to travel the world. Solo. 

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Escape of the Week: Budapest

Sometimes, being solo and traveling is hard. You see something so breathtaking, so amazing, such an example of the beauty of the world before you … you turn to convey your joy of the moment … and … nothing. The space beside you is void of anyone.

There are times when solo travel is exhausting. It’s cold. It’s rainy. You hurt from falling on your ass. Hard.

And, then there are times when solo travel is exactly what it is meant to be:

Exhilarating.

Awe-inspiring.

Beautiful.

This photo was not one of those awesome solo travel moments. It was the other one. But, shortly after this photo was taken, I snapped out of my funk, met some great travelers, and was on to my next spot, Romania.

I love this picture because it echoes how I was feeling at that moment: dreary, muted, and yet, peaceful.

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Next stop: Cluj-Napoca

The day following our little Romanian Road Trip, it was time to head out. Tommy and Benjamin had left the previous night, Chris was leaving at the crack of dawn for Istanbul (and an Anzac Day event), and I was boarding a train northeast to Cluj-Napoca for some more time in Romania.

The trip from Brasov to Romania was beautiful. The clouds hung low in the sky, gray against bright green rolling hills and the odd trees poking out of the ground, boasting the first blooms of spring.

And then, after six hours and some harassing by gypsy children, there it was in the distance, spreading up one of those rolling hills in red and yellow and all sorts of pretty, Cluj-Napoca.

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‘Twas the night before London

A little more than 10 years ago I made a decision that would unexpectedly set the universe’s plans in motion for me.

If you asked me then, the decision held little importance in the scheme of what I expected from my life. I was a junior in college and needed money, therefore a job.

I answered an ad in Towson University’s student paper for a server. It was nothing great — two shifts a week to start at a local (and popular) crab restaurant.

That’s it.

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What I learned in Croatia (The List)

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 points if you have someone with you to share the moment. And even more bonus points if the person is a cutie. A Hollywood ending. Almost.

2. For a trip back in time and an eerily beautiful moment of peace, wander around Zagreb’s Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s grounds. It is quiet — a great place to do some writing, thinking, or relaxing.  The unconventional tourist.

3. Plitvice Lakes National Park is quite possibly one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The bluegreen water, the waterfalls that lightly mist you as you walk by, the winding wooden paths — every turn is something new and more beautiful than the next. It’s about two hours from Zadar and Zagreb and a great day trip. Should you want to stay longer, there are a few hotels in the park. The prettiest day trip ever.

4. Don’t get lost. Or take the wrong bus. And, if you do, hope for the bus driver I had in Zadar. Quite possibly one of the kindest souls I have ever met. Remember — if you’re not sure what bus to take, or if the gate number is the seat number of vice-versa, ask. Croatian’s are remarkably wonderful and helpful. English isn’t a common in Croatia, but the closer you are to the tourist areas, the better chance you have. If someone doesn’t speak English, they will help direct you the best they can. I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers.

5. Take the time to stop in Zadar. If you are time crunched while traveling Croatia, it is a great starting point to kick of Adriatic coastal adventures.  There are a lot of ferries from the city, as well as tours of the surrounding islands. While visiting the old city, be sure to head to the water and swing by the Sea Organ. It’s haunting melodies still play in my mind. Plus, the grilled corn is delicious. A Hollywood ending. Almost.

6. Spend at least two days in Split. Climb to the top of the cathedral in the old city for captivating views of the entire city and Adriatic. Every nook and cranny in the main square has something wonderful. Next to the Lacoste shop is a great little food stop with delicious breakfasts cooked fresh while you wait. The egg sandwich is mouth-watering. This could be heaven.

7. While in Split, make sure you hit the beach. The one with the sand. It’s outside the old city and perfect for swimming, sunning and people watching. Plus,  if you have the right company, it will change your life. Instantaneous enlightenment on the Adriatic.

8. If you want to bare it all in Croatia, you can. There are plenty of nudie beaches up and down the coast to run around sans your skivvies. Just  mind where you jump. Birthday suits and Split.

9. An hour ferry trip from Split is Hvar, an upscale island covered in lavender. Hvar’s beaches are rocky and pebble-y. It’s not too bad, but if you want smooth sand, venture to a surrounding island. Renting a little motor boat won’t cost too much, and you can negotiate. Rocky, rocky, pebble-y, pebble-y.

10. A bathroom can lead to another bathroom. And, it is possible to shimmy from one bathing suit into another without revealing anything. Well, almost. Booze, boobs and a beach bar.

11. The sea is not free of dangers. Those little black spiky things in the water? They are not your friends. In fact, Sea Urchin are the devil. No, seriously. There’s WHAT in the water?

12. Never say “goodbye” to the travelers you meet. You never know, you may just cross paths with them again. It’s not “goodbye,” it’s “see you soon.”

13. The bus ride from Split to Dubrovnik is a MUST. Yes, you hug the cliffs, but you also see some of the most stunning sights on the Adriatic. The city of stairs.

14. Dubrovnik is a city of stairs. Be prepared. The city of stairs.

15. Opening yourself to new people, new places and new opportunities can change your entire world. A BRIEF intermission: My 30-Life-Crisis … Solved?

Do you have questions about Croatia? Tips you want to share? Be sure to leave a comment.

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