Moving On

Stunning waters of Cres

Dear Cres, Croatia,

It’s not you—it’s me. I’m over you. (Ok so maybe it is you.) It’s not that you’ve changed. Your simple beauty and authenticity is unaltered since the day we met. But maybe that’s the problem. I have changed immensely since I first started visiting you. I’m not the same person who first landed on your sparkling shores a decade ago.

Don’t get me wrong. It was love at first sight, absolutely. I was enthralled from the first ferry ride. But like all good things, our relationship must come to an end. But first, as a tribute, let me tell my readers what I loved about you.

My husband and I started going to Valun soon after we met. He had been going to this tiny fishing village since he was in his 20s, and he introduced it to me. The first time I stepped foot there I thought I had landed in heaven. I had written about the country a few years prior in my job as a copywriter, but to actually be there was completely different. The Adriatic Ocean with its seemingly endless shades of blue was a balm to the soul.

The village sits on just one mile of coastline and you can walk from end to end in just ten minutes. It has this quiet, unique charm that I had never really experienced before. There are a few small guest houses, a maximum of five small restaurants, one ice cream shop, and a tiny port for small yachts to dock.

Sometimes at golden hour, my absolute favorite time of the day on the beach, or FTODOTB as I call it, we’d see dolphins jumping in the distance. Every night we’d sit for dinner almost directly above the water and witness a hunting ritual: big fish snacking on schools of smaller fish in a fight for their lives. It was our nightly entertainment. (You may have figured out by now it’s definitely not a party destination.) I’ve never been to the Cote d’ Azur, but I imagined it as a mini French Rivieria, minus the skyhigh prices and glamorous tourists.

During one hellishly hot summer in Vienna, I was schlepping to work on the roasting, crowded Ubahn, and there were these enormous ads for Croatia that plastered the sides of busses, the walls of the underground—they were really just everywhere. I wasn’t able to take any vacation time then. It was such a tease. So when the next summer/ early fall, we were able to go to Cres, it was like a fantasy. We rented a little boat to visit the rock beach coves near our village. Looking down into the crystal clear water at the multi-colored fish felt like a dream. We had finally arrived! That was a few years ago and it was perfect—truly heaven on earth.

But alas, the dream seems to have faded. The last time we visited, it didn’t feel like my place anymore. It felt old, like a has-been. I felt like I was a different person and it was time to move on and explore new destinations. Leaving a familiar place can feel like a breakup. It can bring so much sadness with it. And yet: it also allows new destinations to come into focus. New spots on the horizon. New adventures.

Rituals and habits can be soothing, familiar … even hypnotic. But change is where true soul growth happens. So I guess I should see moving on not as finding something bigger and better, just more expansive.

My grandmother used to say, so simply but poignantly, ‘That was yesterday. Today we begin a new chapter.’ It’s time to let in what wants to be discovered. So my dear Valun: this is goodbye for now. Thank you for the times we had. I’ll never forget you.

Do you have any formerly favorite places that you’ve moved on from?

A New Loaf

About 14 years ago, I consciously changed my life. I had been sick for going on three years and had healed myself naturally using organic foods, herbs—you name it, I tried it. And it worked. And I was ready to live life again after hiding away for so long.

Long story short, I created a beautiful life. Truly a life beyond my wildest dreams or imagination. (Never would I have imagined I’d live in Austria, for one.) I was happy, fulfilled and my life was full of discovery and joy. It hasn’t been all roses, and there’s been lots of pain involved, as one of my biggest dreams blew up in smoke. But overall I had an amazing time. Metaphorically I had managed to bake a beautiful, fluffy, warm loaf of bread.

But now, all these years later, I’ve had to admit to myself that I’ve been living off the stale, moldy rind of that loaf for probably a few years now, if I’m being honest. It’s time to own up to that and to bake a new loaf.

The problem is, I don’t even know how to bake. I’m scared to bake. Do I even like baking? What kind of bread do I want? What if I eff it up and the dough doesn’t rise? Do I even like bread? To beat a dead metaphor, I know it’s time to co-create with the universe again and manifest the next chapter of my life. Time to put on my big girl pants and rise again (so to speak 😁). We are only blessed with so many chapters in life, and endless time to write them isn’t a given. Your story could end at any moment, and what then? What if, as Annie Lamott writes:

Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Repent just means to change direction — and NOT to be said by someone who is waggling their forefinger at you. Repentance is a blessing. Pick a new direction, one you wouldn’t mind ending up at, and aim for that. Shoot the moon.’ Or as Wayne Dyer said, ‘Don’t die with the music still in you.’ But what IS my music? What notes was I put here to write? Who needs to hear my music? Does it matter if no one hears my music, or is it only for me?

None of that matters. I have to stop grappling with the ‘what if’s’ and the fear and just do it. So a lot of my posts are probably going to be random, different things. And my Instagram account won’t be streamlined and only focused on one thing. I’m sure that will change with time, but for now I’m ok with it. It’s not about the number of followers. For now, I am writing about things that interest me, things that light me up, things I’m curious about. Because it’s time to get baking again.

The Sensitive Traveler (Part 1)

I am a highly sensitive person, or HSP. Yes, there is an actual acronym for this type of person!  We are overly sensitive to stimuli such as things that itch, overly loud people or places, flashing lights, and time zones, to name just a few.  There are many articles on HSPs in general if you’re interested in this topic.  But this post is about traveling as a sensitive person, which often brings out our sensitivities more than everyday life does.  It doesn’t have to stop you in your tracks or keep you from enjoying things that ‘normal’ people do and enjoy every day. I don’t love using the word normal, but I often feel like such a freak because of my sensitivities, and I know other people who don’t have these issues get annoyed or don’t understand, which can be frustrating for both sides.   But I know there are plenty of other people out there like me, who have a low tolerance for certain things, which makes travelling trickier. 

Recently I went on a 4-day trip with a group of 4 women (including me) and two men. The women drove, and the men went by motorcycle, and we met in certain pre-planned spots each day. We had a fairly packed schedule to follow each day, which is not my preferred way to travel, but we did get to see and experience a lot, which was fun. I tried to mentally prepare, but you never really know how it is going to be until you’re in the thick of your journey. 

So regarding the sensitivities: for starters, I have food allergies. When I’m home, I try to eat a mostly plant-based diet, and avoid anything that triggers stomach aches or migraines or whatever, which is a lot of things. The sad thing is, the cleaner you eat, and the cleaner your body becomes, the less you can tolerate unhealthy foods. Which is a total bummer, because sometimes you just want to eat how ‘normal’ people do, especially when traveling. So you have to find a balance between indulging in ‘normal’ person food and sensitive person food. Eating out creates a lot of challenges, especially when you don’t know in advance where you’ll be eating. But there are ways to do so, which I will get into in Part 2 of this post.

Another thing I have to watch while with groups is making time for some alone time. I just need a few minutes a day to check in with myself and get grounded.  It was tough to find the time to do so on this trip, and by Day 4 I was a bit cranky and snapped at my friend. I apologized within a few minutes, but I don’t like getting to that point.  On this trip I needed to be better about carving out those moments and creating boundaries without hurting anyone’s feelings. 

Thankfully I am not that picky about pillows or sheets or things like that, but I know people who can’t sleep unless certain conditions are met.  That makes traveling pretty rough, because sleep is essential, especially when you’re on the move a lot. 

Planning ahead helps a lot, but you can’t plan everything, and that is where flexibility comes in. You need to know your limits, but be flexible enough when plans change, restaurants change, etc.  Knowing what could potentially set you back before it happens can help a lot in the long run.

A few items that can help HSPs while traveling:

Essential oils: help with bug bites, anxiety reduction, and literally thousands of other uses

Ginger: for everything from motion sickness to cramps

Travel candle: makes a hotel room feel more homey, good to use for meditation

Ear plugs: to drown out snorers or other loud noises

Eye mask: (but I usually just put a t-shirt over my eyes)

Loose teas: to help everything from headaches to anxiety

Melatonin: to help you get to sleep when you’re switching time zones

Your own chemical-free toiletries:  most hotels don’t offer organic or clean toiletries, which is fine for most people, but not necessarily HSPs.  Think ahead of time!

 Are you a HSP, or even just somewhat sensitive? What are some things you do to help ease some parts of traveling that can be a burden or a headache?  Let me know in the comments!