So there I was, at a standstill with my cousin-turned-month-long-travel-companion. With only a few days left in Kotor, Montenegro, I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of taking a day trip to Dubrovnik. After all, we had only just arrived, and it had taken me the last few days to fall in love with Kotor for what it was, and not what I expected it to be…
I had learned to love the cruise ships docked at it’s harbour, I had leabred to love the clock that chimed every hour through the night, and I had learned to love the hoards of tourist that would swarm the tiny town each day. I had accepted it for what it was, and embraced it for what it was not. So, I was not about to be talked into leaving this town a moment too soon.
But, there she was, standing in front of me, proposing quote the day trip. A 4 hour round trip, plus 6 hours exploring a town that frankly, we both knew little about. If I close my eyes, I can still see her face, the lines of stubbornness etched into her head, begging me to give in and accompany her to Dubrovnik. (Or as I have recently coined it, the ‘nik, for short. And by recently, I mean as of today. But it’s tots cute, right? Right?).
To be fair, she didn’t really want to go, but only to take a peek at some of the places Game of Thrones filmed scenes at. For a 10 hour round trip, I don’t think I was being unreasonable to call it all slightly excessive. Plus, day trips are a risk – you don’t get enough time to really immerse yourself in the town, or begin to understand the nuances of the city. You’re in an out – a bite to eat here, a photo there, done, on the bus home.
So, there we were. At a standstill. But that line in her forehead was relentless, and I had never seen those eyes so wide with anticipation. Besides, who am I to deny her this experience? After all, we were only a 2 hours away, which was a far better commute than the 30 hours it would normally take us to get there from the Land Down Under.
So, I gave in. And before I knew it, I was on a bus to Dubrovnik. Just like that. With not a shred of excitement, though no bitterness either, I really had no expectations for my day. And if I did, trust me, they weren’t high.
And yet, somehow, life has a funny way of throwing these handfuls of glitter on your life in the moments you least expect them. And it’s in these moments you remember to put down your pride for a moment, and open your eyes, because there’s always a big, beautiful world out there.
As was the case here. Because, between you and me, the ‘nik has got it going on, like, fo reals.
But for me, the greatest surprise was not that I fell in love with it, nor was it that it was visually stunning. The greatest surprise was the way in which the aura of the ‘nik came and crept inside my soul, offering comfort to my loneliness and the exhaustion I felt from living out of a suitcase for months. The power of Dubrovnik swept toward me in a graceful wave, like a tide etching away at the coast, pulling those on the shore closer to it’s beauty.
A beauty so surmountable I felt it viscerally: I felt it in the tips of my fingers and the bottom of my heart, like a physical pull in my chest, willing me closer. This love came and grew out of the cobblestones on the path, the burnt orange terracotta roofs and the ancient buildings with their typical European architectural details.
My love for Dubrovnik grew as bright as its blue blue water, felt as sharply as the crispness of the air – a crispness that not created from the cool weather, but from the overwhelming history of the town. My love for Dubrovnik stemmed from the smile I saw on every other person I saw, who realised, at the same moment as I, just how wonderfully insane this place is. And it stemmed from that slow realisation that GoT chose to film here not only for the scenic advantages, but also, for it’s intangible beauty that won’t be seen through a lens or a screen, but rather, will be felt.
My love for the ‘nik grew as tall as the vines on the buildings, and shines as bright as the glistening terracotta roofs. Often when you visit a new town or city, and you like it a little bit, it’ll bring you a smile. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, it’ll give you a little tingle in your fingertips. And if you’re super lucky, you’ll get a sneaky lil jolt in the heart as you realise this place is home, because in an instant you realise you could spend so many more of your days here. The ‘nik made me feel the last one – that even if I was without my travel buddy, my friends, or my family, who were halfway across the world, that I could still call this place home and find true happiness here.
It’s not often you’ll get that feeling. But if you do, you hold onto it, tightly, with both hands, eyes shut, willing your body to not forget this feeling.
The ‘nik, like so many towns before it, showed me that happiness is always there, ready to surprise you, should you choose to open your eyes and feel it. It taught me to release expectations and it reminded me that plans and routines will close more doors than they will open. It taught me, if ever in doubt, just go. But more importantly, if ever not in doubt, and determined not to go, this is when it is most important that you must.
Your turn! When was the last time you went somewhere and felt this joy? Where did you go that you loved and didn’t expect to? I want to hear your stories! ♥