Daily Wanderlust: Split from above

It’s been nearly four years since I started¬†d travels ’round. In that time, I have traveled much of Europe, parts of Africa, SE Asia and have become an expat in Thailand. To say four years flies by is a HUGE understatement.

Today, I want to pay homage to the town that started this life of mine, Split. This gorgeous Croatian town is where I had my Adriatic enlightenment and decided to live my life for me, by my set of rules, rather what society told me was right.

Four years ago, I was in Split at this time. Wandering through Diocletian’s Palace, climbing the many, many stairs of the bell tower, and being treated to views like this. Standing at the top of the tower, gentle sea breeze kissing my face, made me feel so tiny in this world around me. But, it also awakened a passion in me that I always knew I had, but never had the bravery touch upon.

What a difference four years makes.

Want to experience you own enlightenment?

The view from a top the bell tower in Split, Croatia.

Destinations

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

Realization

I never imagined my brain would tell me I wanted to go home. Early. But, it did that night in Split.

I had 10 days left of my trip. Originally, and for months, I had planned on extending my adventure, heading to Spain (for the sixth time), back to Merida to see my friends and celebrate my birthday on October 1.  I had looked at my funds earlier in the day, looked at the cost to get there, looked at the penalties I would face to change my flight, calculated the extra cost of staying in Europe for three more weeks, and realized it was just entirely not going to happen.

Suddenly, my body ached. My mind was exhausted. I craved my family. I craved a good night’s sleep. I craved home. I wanted to be with my mom as she coped with my grandma’s sickness. I wanted to be with my grandma.

I think I’m ready.

Realizing it is time to end the trip of a lifetime was hard for me. I struggled with the idea of ending it — especially early. I had ended my first trip in Europe early (for entirely different reasons) and had promised myself I would return and do the trip right the next time.

This adventure was my do-over.

And now, my do-over was starting to wear me thin.

I called my Dad.

“I want to come home. I want to be with my family. This is so hard to be away from home. I want to see grandma.”

“D,” he said quietly, “There is no guarantee that when you get home she will still be here.”

“I know,” I said, fighting back tears, “But I at least want to try.”

I messaged friends.

“Are you sure you want to come home early?” They all asked the same question.

“Yes.”

It’s time.

I called United and engaged in a three-hour long battle over changing my ticket.

Then, around 9 p.m., it was set.

I was coming home. Four days early. Which wasn’t much, but I hoped it would get me back in time to see my grandma. I told Dad not to let Mom know about my arrival. Together, we plotted a surprise arrival and I could hardly sleep that night knowing how happy my mom would be when I walked through the front door four days early.

During my epic fight with United, Katie messaged me from Trogir.

“Come up here!” she urged. “Meet me tomorrow and we can go to Zadar together!”

I was going to say no, then I looked around me.

I don’t want to be in Split anymore. I want to be with Katie. I want my friend back. I NEED a friend.

So, I agreed.

The next morning, after nearly oversleeping and power-walking to the bus stop in Split, I was reunited with Katie for the third time in as many weeks.

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Getting over Split

I walked slowly, silently and solo back to CroParadise and crawled into my bed. I looked across the bed to where Katie had been.

Empty.

Then, as if on cue, Carl walked back into our room.

“Heya,” I said, looking up from my laptop to see him standing next to his bed.

“Hi,” he replied. “What did you to today?”

We quickly caught up on our activities of the day and then decided we would go get dinner.

“You want to go out tonight?” he asked over terrible burritos (note – don’t try to eat Mexican in Split. It doesn’t work).

“Ummm … I don’t know, I’m a little tired from last night still. I think I need a night off.”

“Oh, right,” he said. “I think I am going to go out with the Aussies.”

And out he most certainly went.

I was curled up in my bed, fast asleep until 5 a.m. when I heard the group of them come stumbling back into the hostel.

“Dude, I’m soaked,” exclaimed Carl loud enough so I could hear him through the door where he sat on the terrace.

Shut up.

Laughter. Drunken loudness.

Please, please, please, shut up.

For an hour, I tossed and turned as Carl came in and out of the room we shared, opening his locker, going back to the terrace.

I’ve had it.

At that moment, it hit me: I don’t like dorms anymore. They were never my favorite thing, but after spending 6 1/2 months living in them, I was finally and absolutely sick and tired of them. I wanted a good night’s sleep. I wanted privacy. I wanted to sleep naked, dammit. And, each night instead, I resigned myself to sleep in a room with between two and 20 strangers, never quite sleeping peacefully because I never knew when someone might come in to the room, make noise, rustle their belongings, talk in non-whispers at 3 a.m.

I’m not saying I dislike dorms — they are inexpensive and a great way to meet people. But, after 180+ nights of dorm life, I was craving a big bed and a little privacy. And silence.

I woke up the next morning and was shocked to find Carl awake.

“Good night last night?”

“Oh yeah, we had a great time. We went on a pub crawl, then went to a club, then went skinny dipping.”

Sounds like last year when I was in Split. I suppose it is a Split Rite of Passage to get absolutely pissed and then take your clothes off and jump in the sea.

“Nice!”

“I’m hungry, want to go get breakfast?”

Carl and I trudged down to the market, snapping up some eggs and fresh bread, then returned to the hostel.

I set the table while he made us breakfast.

“What are you going to do today?”

“I think I am just going to stay in, watch movies, do some writing,” I said, slightly tired from being woken up in the middle of the night.

“Yeah, that sounds like a good idea, me too.”

So, he and I spent the day locked in our room, selecting random movies from the more than 1,000 the hostel had saved on its computer.

When night began to creep up, Carl turned to me and asked if I was going out tonight.

Not a chance. I want to go home.

I paused, shocked at the thought I had just had.

Home?

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“See you soon,” the Split version

“Katie,” I mumbled, waking up from my semi-drunken slumber the next morning, “what the hell happened to David?”

Katie looked at me from her bunk. “What?”

“He never came back to the bar last night. I hope he’s ok,” I said, images of him laying in one of the narrow UNESCO alleys of Split being forcefully pushed out of my mind.

“I’m sure he’s fine.”

I knew she was right.

Then, I cut to catching her up to the gossip from the previous night, mainly spilling the details about my little rendezvous with the Canadian in the bunk above her.

“So … you going to hang out with him again tonight?”

“Maybe,” I said, but knew the answer was leaning more towards no than yes. Carl was a nice guy, but I was only willing to take it as far as intoxicated snogging, I had no interest in anything else with him. “Well, probably not.”

A few minutes later, Carl poked his head in the room. We exchanged smiles, hellos, and then he left and I opened my laptop, and thankfully a note from David.

He was on his way to meet us. My heart instantly filled with joy. I knew he was taking the ferry to Hvar in a few hours and thought we would not have a chance to say “see you soon” before he left.

An hour later, David appeared at CroParadise and he, Katie and I were once again together, heading to get coffee and spend the last few hours as our awesome party of three.

Then, the afternoon was upon us. And it was time for both Katie (she was heading to up the coast 45 minutes to Trogir) and David to continue on with their journeys.

“D, just come up to Trogir with me,” Katie tried to reason.

I wasn’t ready yet. My trip had two weeks left, and I wanted to make sure I timed everything right so I could get to Zagreb to catch my flight. Leaving Split and heading north would mean I would need to spend more time in Zagreb, or Zadar than I wanted to.

“I don’t think I can make it there tonight, but I will walk you both to the bus and ferry,” I offered, switching into my bathing suit and grabbing a towel to head to the beach after I would leave them.

The three of us walked together for the last time, down towards the water.

Don’t go.

David stopped once we hit the little line of cafes near the port.

“Right, I am going to go now and get the boat,” he said.

Tears immediately filled my eyes.

Katie and I both hugged him and watched as he crossed the street.

“Love you two,” he yelled as merged into the crowd of people heading to catch their boats.

And then, there were two.

Katie and I continued walking to the bus station. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to her, so I accompanied her to the ticketing office.

We stood outside the station at platform one.

I don’t want to do this.

“OK, well …” I began. “See you soon.”

We hugged. I thanked her for everything. And then, I walked on towards Split’s sandy beach.

Just like that, two of the most important people I had met on my trip had faded back into the world of backpackers … on to new adventures … on to meet new people. And there I was, sitting alone on a soft beach, book by my side … thinking about my two friends and the time I had shared with them.

As a backpacker, there are so many people you meet while traveling. Some, you get to know. Most you don’t. Some you stay in touch with. Most you don’t. Meeting Katie, meeting David — those two people were nothing short of a blessing. Other than Anthony, I spent the most amount of time with them, grew close to them so quickly, and easily found room for them in my heart.

After an hour, I grew tired and the clouds began to roll in, so I gathered my belongings and headed back to CroParadise.

And back to Carl.

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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?

Blog Croatia

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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