I’m in that end of a trip mellow state when you feel heavy in your heart that it’s over, but full of great memories at the same time.
I’m actually happy to be the last to fly out from Dubrovnik today, because I now have time to reflect on all the special moments I shared with six wonderful people sailing along the coast of Croatia this week.
Firstly, this trip was an incredible privilege and not something many people get to experience. It’s not something I would normally choose to do while aiming to survive on a humble budget for a year, but when one of my dearest friends Mimi, who I haven’t seen for over three years, invited me to celebrate her 30th birthday on a sailboat for a week, I could hardly say no.
Out of the six people I sailed with, I only knew three at the beginning. But I now know all six intimately after sharing a confined space for seven days. Sailboats are a luxury don’t get me wrong, but there’s elements to consider like not being able to poop onboard (only in extreme circumstances), showering with a very small hose over a sink, sleeping in little bunks in steaming hot rooms, and battling hungry mosquitos that insist on keeping you awake all night. It was by no means roughing it, but it required a certain amount of tolerance, flexibility and good humour to stay sane, especially if you’re constipated or feeling sea sick, which members of our group suffered to varying degrees.
The best part of the trip was sharing the experience with these people. Human connection has been my theme of 2018, and this trip was a perfect articulation of the importance of reconnecting with friends. So many people float in and out of ours lives, and sometimes even the special ones slip through our fingers. But I couldn’t let that happen with Mimi, Murad and Mahi, three incredible friends who were introduced to me through my event work in the Middle East. I haven’t been back to Abu Dhabi or Dubai for over three years now, so the investment was well worth the opportunity to reconnect, and the sailing was just an added bonus as far as I’m concerned!
We visited a number of islands over our seven day journey: Palmižana was the first, then Hvar, Korčula, Mljet and Šipan, before reaching Dubrovnik on the mainland yesterday. Each day involved a completely different activity: hiking, biking, swimming in caves, buggy rides through vineyards and exploring tiny villages. But the most satisfying element was witnessing everyone being pushed out of their comfort zone in a unique way. Fears of bugs and the sea were overcome, some pushed themselves physically and mentally beyond their perceived abilities, others learned how to compromise and go with the flow, while I learned how to completely relax in the company of others, while finding ways to reenergise without flying solo.
If I were to do this trip again, I wouldn’t change much about the experience at all. A week at sea was enough for me, and having a mix of partying and adventure was perfectly balanced. Other than experiencing the Bora winds and torrential rain once we landed in Dubrovnik, we were blessed with perfect weather for the entire trip, and because we hit the season early, the islands weren’t crawling with hundreds of tourists either.
It was also fortuitous timing that we happened to be in Croatia to witness their team beat Argentina in the FIFA World Cup qualifier. The Croatians are an incredibly patriotic bunch, so even though we were on an island with a population of 400 people, it felt like we were in the front row of the stadium while eating dinner in front of the TV.
Despite our great fortune, we did experience a few hiccups on and off the boat that are worth mentioning:
– We lost the ladder from the back of the boat while attempting to surf on a stand up paddle board
– We rented a van that broke down on a 180-degree switchback on a horrifyingly narrow road
– The anchor of the boat got stuck and then fell off the rail and hit the side with a loud clunk
– Four people had their lunch come crashing to the floor when half the table collapsed while sailing
– We blocked one of the toilets… twice
– We narrowly missed collisions with other boats because our mountain of floaties were blocking the skipper’s view
– The engine of our dingy broke down momentarily
– We damaged the fin while docking
– and we lost a sun hat!
Mimi booked this trip through a company called Sailweek Croatia, and chose the Adventure option over the full Party Week, which for a mature 35-year-old like me, was definitely the right choice (though I thoroughly enjoyed our one night out on the party island of Hvar).
In a few hours I’ll be off to the airport again where I’ll be flying to Venice, Italy, and then catching a FlixBus for four hours to reach Trento where I’m visiting one of my most favourite people who I met whilst working on the Olympic Torch Relay in Vancouver. I haven’t seen my friend Carissa since 2014, and since then she’s given birth to her second child, so it’ll be interesting to see how her life has developed since then.
This has been such a fascinating journey so far. Some people’s lives have changed dramatically, while others appear to be exactly the same. In the midst of these experiences I find myself craving that feeling of home, which most of my friends have successfully established. But the itch to roam again was undeniable last year, so I need to keep faith that this journey is leading me somewhere, even if it’s just back to where I started.