We woke up at 7:00 a.m. with the hope that we would have ample time to catch the 9:30 a.m. bus to Split. Etta James played in the background as we packed up our things, and the gravity of what we were doing finally started to kick in: “I can’t believe I am about to travel with some stranger to another city,” I thought to myself incredulously.Date: May 26th, 2016
Time: 9:01 a.m. – 09:01 EST
Location: On the train from Venice, Italy to Florence, Italy
Despite waking up so early, we just barely made it to the bus station. At 9:21 a.m. I asked the attendant, “Can we still catch the bus to Split?” and much to our relief he said, “Yes.” We got on right before the driver closed the doors. The Dane turned to me, laughed, and said, “Does this merit a high five?”
For five hours we slept, talked, snacked, and opened up to each other. “I haven’t really dated anyone seriously since the end of September, and that was a total mess,” I admitted to him. “I used to think everything was a competition up until a few years ago,” he said, “I’m 24 now, but if I met the 16 year old me, I would’ve hated him.” There we were two strangers, holding hands on a bus ride and confessing our sins and sorrows along with our hopes and dreams.
The views from the bus window were stunning – majestic mountains and large lakes painted a beautiful vista that left us both in awe. The bus station in Split was next to the harbor, so as soon as we stepped off, we were right by the ocean. I had never seen such beautiful blue water. There must be some kind of magic in the Adriatic Sea because it shined a bright blue that reflected the sun’s rays perfectly.
My Google Maps app wasn’t working, so we ended up wandering quite lost for about fifteen minutes until we saw a woman sitting outside her house. When we stopped to ask her for directions, she responded in an English accent, “Oh I have no idea where that is, but let me ask my landlord.” Fortunately, her landlord was headed in a similar direction. She walked us all the way to our Airbnb and even let us use her phone to call the host. Ironically, it turns out we had been walking around in a circle; we were only a five minute walk from the harbor, but we had gone the complete opposite way.
The Airbnb was small, just a tiny little house with one bed, one table for two people, a stovetop, fridge, and a bathroom, but it was cozy and after over two weeks in a hostel, I was happy with any upgrade. We dropped off our bags, and as we left the room, I started feeling a little annoyed. When I arrive into a new city, my first move after checking in to a hostel is to find food and map out my activities. I had a routine and having the Dane with me through it off. I started thinking about how this trip was supposed to be about personal growth and exploration, and I felt frustrated that now I would have to take someone else’s feelings into consideration. Before, all of my plans revolved solely around me, I didn’t have to ask anyone’s opinion, I did exactly what I wanted to do – that’s why I had been enjoying my solo traveling. But then I thought to myself, “Hadn’t I been lonely in Vienna and Budapest? Hadn’t I craved company and comfort?”
The Dane noticed something in my attitude was off, “You’re upset, something is wrong,” he said as we sat by the ocean, and not wanting to be the bad guy, I subtly said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. What? Do you want to leave then?” And he called my bluff, “If this is going to work, you have to be honest with me,” he paused, “I want to be here, and I think we can have an amazing time, but you have to communicate with me.”
And just like that, I poured it all out. “I know this is selfish, but I just don’t know how to travel with someone else,” I tried to explain. “This trip has been all about me, and now all of the sudden I’m traveling with a stranger. I always make crazy suggestions to friends, but they never actually go along with it, and you just said yes, and now here you are and I mean, someone has to be rational, and this isn’t rational,” I ranted. He took a moment, and then finally responded, “Thank you for being honest, and here’s the thing, you came to explore, and I came to be with you. This is just 48 hours together, and I want to enjoy them together. Do you think we can do that?”
I realized that I had been avoiding commitment for the past few months by just leaving at the first sign of trouble, and now there he was forcing me to confront my fears. “Okay,” I said, realizing that I was in way over my head. We put on our bathing suits and walked over to the beach, and as I laid there, I felt the sun melting away all of my troubles. It started getting a little chilly around 6:00 p.m., so we went back to the room to make plans for the rest of our short visit. It hit me that we only had Monday to spend together, and then Tuesday I would be moving onto my next city. I had definitely overreacted, and now I felt upset about how little time we had together.
“We have to be in the moment,” he reminded me. “Stop thinking about the fact that we split ways in Split,” he said with a chuckle. Ah, yes, being present. How had I forgotten such an important concept? I agreed with him and decided to try my best to wholly be here with him in this beautiful place. We tried to figure out what exactly we would do the next day, but after clicking a bunch of different search results on Google’s “What to do in Split,” he eventually said, “I have no desire to plan, so I’ll leave you to it. Don’t tell me what we’re doing, just take the reigns and surprise me.”
I continued doing research, and although there were lots of options, none of them were particularly cheap or time friendly. Instead of trying to figure out what to do, I decided that in the morning when we woke up we would walk to the harbor, and catch the next ferry out to any of the many beautiful islands around us. And so we fell asleep, happily curled up together, watching Serendipity on Netflix.
Monday morning we woke up around 9:00 a.m. and as we made our way to the harbor, he asked, “So, where are we going?” I admitted that I had no idea, and then told him the plan, “I love it!” he exclaimed enthusiastic to be going somewhere totally new.
At the ferry station, I inquired about times for to Ancona. Basically, my plan was to take a ferry from Split, Croatia to Ancona, Italy, and then a train to Rome. The attendant said the ferry leaves every night at 8:15 p.m. and arrives in Ancona at 7:00 a.m., which would mean another full day in Croatia.
As for the plan, the next ferry left to an island called Supetar in Brac at 10:30 a.m. and it cost 120 Kuna for a round-trip ticket, basically the equivalent to $20. Sold. The ferry ride was beautiful. The mountains painted a beautiful scenery over the Adriatic Sea. Looking out into the distance, we were both excited for the day.
“Okay, you definitely made a great choice,” the Dane said as we arrived onto the harbor. The sun shined brightly, the water was perfectly clear, and everything felt perfect. We walked around the little island looking for a good spot to eat and eventually decided on a pizza spot right by the harbor overlooking the amazing Adriatic.
After lunch we walked around looking for the perfect spot to lay out on the beach. We hiked for almost half an hour, searching. On the way we saw a little ledge where other people were jumping out into the ocean, and we leaped in. The water hit like ice. This was my first time in the ocean all year, and I didn’t care how cold it felt because I was at perfect bliss. When we found the right spot, we laid down on our towels and let the sun and the ocean guide us into a deep state of peace.
I ended up falling asleep, and when I awoke slightly sunburned, I realized that this was it. I had enjoyed the beautiful beach, but I was ready to move onto the next city. I had seen what I wanted to see in Croatia, and Italy was calling. I looked at the Dane, and I said, “I think I’m going to take the ferry to Ancona tonight, I’m ready to leave Split.” “Ouch,” he responded, slightly taken aback, and I realized how hurt he was at my wanting to leave. “If everything was perfect,” he said, “you would want to stay as long as possible.” The thing is, everything was perfect, but my heart craved adventure, and the idea of laying out on the beach another day didn’t sound appealing to me. I explained to him that my decision to leave was solely about me, and he acquiesced, “I want you to stay, but I understand that you have to leave, I just wish you wouldn’t.”
We silently made our back to the harbor and took the next ferry back to Split. When we arrived it was 7:00 p.m., and in order to catch the ferry to Ancona I had to be back at the harbor at 7:45 p.m., so I ran back to the room to shower and pack everything up.
When we were saying goodbye, I felt unexpectedly overwhelmed with sadness. I immediately regretted my decision to leave. What if I was making the wrong choice? “Do you think we’ll ever see each other again?” I asked him. “Well, you do have my name and number, so I’m sure if we really want to, we’ll find each other,” he responded. “I will remember this trip for the rest of my life,” I told him as I teared up. We kissed and hugged one last time, both overcome with emotions. As I got onto the ferry, I knew I was saying goodbye to him and Croatia, but I felt the thrill of excitement that came with knowing I was embarking on another adventure. I found my seat, pulled out my laptop and began to write. Next stop Italia.