I like to think countries are like people. Sometimes you have an indescribable chemistry that bonds you to a new place. It happens immediately. Maybe even before actually visiting the destination and it resonates with you in a unique way that you can’t really explain. This happened to me with Denmark, Slovenia and, obviously, the UK. I felt so welcomed at this places that I could visit them again and again and never get bored.
I other occasions, it takes sometime to build up. You don’t really know what to expect when you arrive to the foreign country. But in the end, you develop a solid connection with it (I’m talking to you, Sweden). However, there some others when no matter how much you try, you simply can’t relate to a new place. That’s what happened to me and Croatia.
Yeah, it’s uncomfortable to talk about it, but there is a not so nice side of travelling, and here is my experience with it.
The not so nice side of travelling
First of all, I want to clarify that I have nothing against Croatia. I am very aware that it is a BEAUTIFUL country with breath-taking landscapes, delicious food and plenty of Game of Thrones filming locations (what’s more to ask?). I’m also not saying that you shouldn’t visit it, because you absolutely should if you have the chance. I’m only trying to share how I experienced a country in a moment when neither my emotional state nor my circumstances helped me to enjoy a new place to the fullest. I think it could have been any other country. However, timing made Istria the target of my despair and now I’m leaving Rovinj with a bittersweet flavour.
Recently, I read an article that talked about the not so nice side of travelling. On how travellers always have to smile for the Instagram feed while dealing all kinds of crap in the other side of their screens. I have also talked about what nobody tells you about being a full-time traveller. About the constant pressure of carpeing every diem and posting perfect social media pictures hiking the Apalaches in a summer dress when your body is asking you to lay down in your hostel dorm and binge watch Netflix for six hours.
I get it. Travelling is such a unique, inspiring, life-changing opportunity that it is impossible not to feel the pressure of enjoying every moment of it. However, sometimes it’s easy to overlook that travelling is also risky, tiring, expensive and that it does not protect you from your day-to-day and emotional issues. You still experience bad hair days, break-ups, credit card bills and PMS while you are on the road and sometimes not even all the Istrian wine in the country can make you feel better.
Croatian (Mis) Adventure
I arrived to Croatia full of expectations. Before my arrival, I had been travelling non-stop for two months. I had been moving cities and countries every few days, so I was really looking forward to staying in one place to re-charge some batteries. Luckily, I had found a volunteer opportunity in a coastal town in the north. I was going to be working as a graphic designer for a Yoga Retreat House for three weeks. It was near the beach and the owners were a couple of vegan yogis who used to travel around the world as well. It seemed very suitable and it started quite well… Until everything went downhill.
It all started when my hosts dropped the news that I wouldn’t be able to stay for the amount of time we originally agreed. Apparently, they needed someone who could stay for longer, so they were going to hire another girl and I would have to leave ten days before planned.
This may not seem much to you, guys, but when you are on a carefully crafted budget, every penny counts. Ten extra days not only meant accommodation fees, but also transportation and meals that weren’t considered before. Also, it was the middle of June and Croatia is a very popular destination, so every hostel/Airbnb/hotel was either full or ridiculously priced.
The colourful and slightly Italian inspired town of Rovinj #croatia_instagram #istria #wearetravelgirls #rovinj #follow4follow #dametraveler #croatia #photooftheday #tourist #WhereToFindMe #wanderlusting #wanderlust #travelgirl #solotravel #solotraveler #femalesolotraveler #trip #travel #travelbug #traveler #packyourbags #traveling #travelblogger #travelblog #travelbloggerlife #skyporn #travelblogging #sky #traveldiary #lovetotravel
The uncertainty of my accommodation left me in a pretty fragile state to begin with. Additionally, then it created a very tense environment in the Yoga House. I was uncomfortable enough as it was, when one afternoon, my host asked me to go to an island and take some pictures of the guests at the beach. Knowing that I’m a clumsy person, I should have known better. But after a few minutes taking shots, the inevitable happened. I slid on the rocks and fell into the sea… With the camera around my neck.
At least she didn’t suffer. It was an instant death. But needless to say, the event made me crumble. I felt that the country was rejecting me like a bad kidney transplant. Now I had not only 10 days of extra accommodation to figure out, but now my $500.00 DHRL camera was completely useless. Needless to say I didn’t and still don’t have the money to replace it. And when you make a living out of writing and taking pictures of your travels, you can see the predicament.
The Guilt Trip: What happens when you don’t like a new country
At the end and after my camera incident, my hosts allowed me to stay longer in the house. I had to sleep in the yoga studio, but at least I wouldn’t have to pay for a room somewhere. However, all these circumstances piling up, plus added to the fact that I missed my boyfriend, my back was killing me after a minor injury I had while carrying my luggage and some troubles with my best friend made me want to book the next flight out of the country.
I felt absolutely no desire to go outside and explore the town and the biggest comfort I got came from watching TV series and cry when no one could hear me. And whenever I did manage to go out, I felt bad for spending money while I had these new debts piling up. The guilt was always there. I knew I was not making the most out of my trip, but I didn’t even feel like making an effort. Did all travellers experience that feeling? Was the travel life not meant for me after all? Did that mean that I should get back home?
At some point during my crisis I met another solo female traveller, Allison. She told me she also had a similar experience while in Greece. She was going through some personal issues so she ended up not enjoying the Greek Islands as much as she thought and she also felt miserable for the same reasons.
It was so soothing to find out I was not alone in this that a realisation hit me. After some thought I decided that:
A. I was entitled to feel like I felt.
B. I was being ridiculous pressuring myself to enjoy something when I didn’t have any reason to do so.
I thought about when I used to live in Mexico. There, I also had break-down moments. I got tired, I got sad, I spent a few days lying in my bed reading Harry Potter books… And then, when I felt better I moved on and continue with my day. It is perfectly normal and it is part of life. There’s no guilt on it. I guess it’s understandable to try to enjoy a trip as much as possible when it’s a one-time opportunity. However, travelling was my life now. Therefore, all those mood swings, all those bad streaks, all those hormone-inducing crisis had to find a place into my new lifestyle. Because living in a problem-less paradise during a year is simply not possible.
You are allowed to leave: It is OK not to enjoy your trip
At the end, I decided it was not worth it. If I was being miserable, there was no reason no to do something about it. And, even though I could have stayed some extra days in Rovinj or even Pula, I still changed my flight back to Ireland. It gave me such a peace of mind that I never regretted it. Not even a little.
One of the beauties of travelling full-time is the fact that you can have a fresh start every time you move. So if things are not going as planned, you have the chance to press a reset button and book a ticket somewhere else. And that’s exactly what I did.
I wish I’d had more energy properly explore Croatia. Maybe travel to Dubrovnik or to Plitvice Lakes, but I am also glad I did the right thing for my mental health. I might come back in the future to fill the gaps I left or not. I don’t know. At least I got to visit Rovinj and some of the surrounding islands. I went hiking, kayaking and dolphin watching and generally made the most out of my trip. Even if I wasn’t feeling at my best.
🎶I've been staring at the edge of the water🎶 I had the chance to go kayaking yesterday in Croatia and I couldn't help feeling like Moana haha it was amazing! Although I did get some land sickness afterwards #croatia_instagram #istria #wearetravelgirls #rovinj #follow4follow #dametraveler #croatia #photooftheday #kayak #Kayaking #wanderlusting #wanderlust #travelgirl #solotravel #solotraveler #femalesolotraveler #trip #travel #travelbug #traveler #moana #traveling #travelblogger #travelblog #travelbloggerlife #oceanbeach #travelblogging #disney #traveldiary #lovetotravel
So, if you are ever on the road and you feel miserable about it, try to remind yourself that having bad streaks is part of life, whether you are travelling or at home. I know most people will try to convince you to let it go and enjoy. However sometimes I do think you have to let the feeling come and go on its own. Take some time out, let yourself heal naturally. Whenever you are ready to move on, do it and enjoy the rest of your travels. Going from one country to another is amazing, but there is a not so nice side of travelling and we need to embrace it as part of the experience.
I guess I’ll see you on the road.