“I don’t really have any desire to go to Croatia,” I said casually. “I mean, it’s just not a must-see for me, you know?” I know I sneered with a despicable tone—the one I use in a desperate but subliminal attempt to convince myself of my idea and other people to agree with it. It was only out of spite, because I knew I just didn’t have the money. I wanted to go. I wanted to go everywhere, to do everything, but I didn’t have the means nor the time, and it tore at my soul like a rabid animal.
I spent my first few weeks in Italy obsessing over travel pamphlets, drawing out calendars and placing a different country in each Friday through Sunday sequence for the next four months. It was relatively unrealistic for my circumstances, but I felt that I had to try, because if I didn’t, I might never—who knew if I’d ever have the opportunity to travel outside such daunting perimeters again? I have no greater fear than falling in love with all of these dreams and waking up married and a mother and late for a 9 to 5 job I never really wanted, and never seeing the other side of the sea again, just like so many people I’ve come to know; people who thought they had more time than they did. Life is strange that way. It sort of just moves you, like swimming through the ocean, time rippling across your skin. You don’t feel yourself drifting—you don’t mean to, but when you look back at the beach, you realize you’re not at all where you began. You’re not really where you meant to go.
“I wanna book one more trip—let’s just book one more trip.” Kirsten sat at our wooden kitchen table, smiling like a child. I guess I just needed her to say it—I needed someone else to be as sporadic and impulsive as me, but outwardly. And so we did—we booked one more trip. Destination? The Dalmatian Coast.
Split was quiet. The shops closed early, and by the time we got done adventuring each day, the city had little to offer. I suppose this wasn’t unusual; it was only mid April, and given the wet, cold rain and wind that greeted our early morning arrival, the weather served no invitation for anyone else. But I didn’t mind. It was beautiful, in all of its grayness—and even more so without tourists tainting the view. The weather eventually cleared up and we explored the street fair, where I gave in to a Croatian’s eggplant concoction and a jar of honey the size of a thimble.
We eventually found time to wander into a charming pastry shop where I spent the last of my kuna on the most mouthwatering cheesecake I’ve probably ever had (until I eat my next piece, which I’ll likely feel the same way about). I didn’t think I could love Croatia any more, until darkness fell and the street lights gave way to a pride of feral cats, at which point I declared the city meant for me. And as for the nightlife? Surprisingly…wild.
Escaping Split, we spent our first day at sea on a self-made booze cruise towards Supetar, a town on the Northern end of the island of Brač. Naturally, we ran to the deck hoping to score a seat with a view. However, as the boat began to take speed, the wind came blistering against our face. Like the others, I was severely under dressed, and as the sun hid behind thick overcast, we didn’t survive long and soon relocated to the lower deck.
We eventually made it to land, the lot of us wattling off the boat with open bottles of cheap white wine and a walk as wavering as the ocean—some worse off than others. We didn’t have long, so we explored the shoreline (which was more or less just mounds of sharp rocks), desperate for the perfect place to lay out. Time was only wasting, so we decided to stake out at a slab of concrete, later deserting our post still in search of sand, only to return to the pier again. It was still cold and cloudy, the sun only ever so often peaking through, but we didn’t come this far not to swim.
It was clear we’d been drinking, but apparently not enough, because the the moment I hit the water I’d never been so sober. It was freezing. Vein-crippling. I couldn’t even think, at least not about anything other than the cold, and I couldn’t feel anything other than my eyes rushing frantically around my skull. I just kept moving my arms and legs around madly, the temperature so debilitating, I didn’t know whether I wanted to evaporate or deep-dive into a coma. But I didn’t want to get out of the water, frigid as it was; I knew soon enough I would be numb, as I’d become to everything else that once engulfed me with tribulation.
Supetar was strangely deserted, for reasons unknown to me; the town was quaint, like a small, winsome land of loneliness, lined with exotic trees and white stone, a ghost-town survived by seemingly empty, withering stone homes with boarded windows, and a single convenience store which lost power the moment we walked in. History hid within every crevice; so mysterious and serene—or so it all seemed. There wasn’t time to determine otherwise, as we were allotted only an instant to explore, choosing to follow a single path that circled right back to the harbor. Recklessly, we ventured onto small boats, which lined the port just as unattended as everything else seemed to be.
After the first of our island excursions, we returned to the boat where we were served grilled fish…in its entirety. I’ve never eaten anything with its eyes still in tact; the idea only threatens the legitimacy of my morals, as limited as they often are. Kirstin ordered the same thing, and I just remember looking up at her as if to determine whether or not it would be the moment I became vegan. (It wasn’t.)
The following morning we went white water river rafting, a three hour excursion boasting cinematic views. Our cameras died within the first five minutes—go figure, but it was nice to experience life outside a lens. We put on wet suits and began the journey, our raft filled with new friends we’d met at the pier the day before, and guided by a tall, charming Croatian boy who entertained us with his history and aspirations. Somewhere along the line I learned we’d have an opportunity to cliff jump. Cliff jumping in Croatia, how thrilling to say! It sounded so adventurous, so perfectly daring—and I knew I would be the last one left on the ledge.
Looking up at the cliff from the raft, it didn’t look so bad. Some people were even disappointed by its modesty. But when it came to my turn, from the moment I spilled over the yellow raft and onto muddy ground, I was overcome with dread. I finally approached the edge, staring into the water which seemed light years away, and I felt my knees buckling at the same rate of my shortness of breath. Who knew I’d done this before, more than once, but still never any less afraid? My legs wouldn’t move forward, even when I told them to, so I quickly stepped off to the side. Not only had I been holding up the line, but I realized the line had evolved into soaking wet bodies who, amidst my crisis, already climbed back up to taste adrenaline for a second time.
One of the more experienced guides led us up the cliff and stood at the edge, noting when it was clear to jump. Turning to the last of us, he’d become alarmingly impatient. “People are freezing down there, you have to go now.”
“Okay, okay.” I was ready. I was going to jump. I walked again to the edge, such a narrow mound of grass and rock with questionable stability, bent my knees, poured my body over—but I could not lift my feet.
“People are freezing. They’re in wet suits and freezing, we have to go—”
“I can’t do it. I can’t go. I’m sorry.”
He leaned into my face and looked me straight into my eyes, his blue glass spheres piercing the greatest interiors of my soul. “You want to climb all the way back down?”
Then I jumped.
Swimsuit (left) | Zara, shop similar at Asos
And Croatia became one of my favorite places I’ve ever been. I don’t know why. The whether was disappointing, the water comparable to everything I knew of the Arctic, and our accommodation was a considerable definition away from endearing. But none of it mattered. I think because none of it was really planned; the people we met and places we’d gone were so unexpected. We just went, subduing all cares in the world, and embarked on an unbeknownst memory that will last all my life.