Finding my center in Croatia

Finding my center in Croatia

Croatia is where I learned how to be alone. It’s an extraordinarily beautiful country. If I’d stayed in Split or Dubrovnik, where there are lots of solo travelers, I think I could have connected and made friends with backpackers there — although the Croatians themselves are very self-contained and not inclined to be warm with strangers.

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Bustling downtown Sutivan – this quiet harbor sunset is as crazy as life gets on the island.

But the Universe had something else in mind for me altogether. Back when I had children at home, and a busy work life, I used to daydream about living in retreat. Meditating in a cave, or living in a cabin in the mountains with a garden, where a supply plane would visit me every 6 months or so and I would live in solitude and silence. In Croatia, I got a taste of that solitude.

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Lots of time to think…

Lodging in Croatia is expensive, and the most affordable option that appealed to me was an apartment in the village of Sutivan, on the island of Brac. I didn’t know that this village was a popular vacation spot for Croatian families, or that I wouldn’t lay eyes on another solo traveler, or meet another English speaker, for the entire month of my stay.

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My street in Sutivan.

 

 

 

 

 

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The main road in town. Beautiful, and peaceful.

I met my landlady the day before I was to go to the island. She was fascinated by my travels, and we talked about sharing dinner or a glass of wine on the island. I’ve made friends with all my other landladies, so this sounded great. But the morning I left for the village, she injured her ankle badly, and couldn’t come to the island. I never saw her again. She healed up right as I was leaving. Clearly, I was not meant to have company on the island.

The wifi at my apartment was limited, and it was immediately clear that I wouldn’t be able to Skype or use my internet-based phone from there. Netflix was out of the question — I couldn’t even watch funny cat clips on Youtube. I was truly isolated.

At first, I was miserable. The empty days seemed endless, and the loneliness was staggering. I started thinking about coming home. I missed my friends, my family, my home. My apartment kitchen was minimally equipped – no oven, no knives bigger than a steak knife. I started daydreaming about my ‘someday home’ and what I would want in my kitchen. I started thinking about having furniture again, and owning more than four shirts. I started wanting to nest. I was rejecting the solitude and aloneness, the ungrounded feeling I had without any connections or belongings, without a home.

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I went for quiet walks along the shoreline every day. Not once did anyone ever speak to me.
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I bought fresh produce at this stand every day. The woman who worked there didn’t speak English, but she would sometimes smile at me, which made her the closest thing I had to a friend on the island.

But gradually, I learned to enjoy my own company and fill my time with things I loved. I started doing yoga in the mornings. I revived my love of cooking, in spite of the challenges, and tried out some local ingredients and specialties. I found some great books and thoroughly enjoyed them. I found a major new client and put my career in high gear (which is why I haven’t blogged in so long, I’m writing constantly these days and need to rest my carpal tunnel when I’m not working).

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Swimming in the sea here was an out-of-this-world delight. I did it every day.

In the early evening, when I finished my work, I’d walk down to the stony beach and slip into the turquoise sea. Becoming part of that glorious landscape fed my soul, every single day. Daily yoga, long walks along the shore, and swimming quickly strengthened my body and I liked the way that felt, so I did more of it.

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I liked to stop by this little café to work in the afternoons. I came every day, but the staff never showed any sign of recognition or friendliness toward me. So unlike Turkey or Morocco!

Making new travel plans rekindled my enthusiasm, and by the time I left Sutivan, I was enjoying my life again and facing the future with enthusiasm. I’ve never really lived alone before, but the intensity of that period of solitude helped me get past loneliness and fall in love with the peace and absolute freedom of being alone.

 

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The view from my backyard. How can you not find peace here?

If you’re thinking of traveling to Croatia, and you want a peaceful retreat with gorgeous scenery, I recommend Sutivan highly. If you want a more active vacation, with lots of Roman and historic European sites to visit and equally gorgeous scenery, I highly recommend Split or Dubrovnik. Either way, Croatia is an amazing place, well worth visiting.

Published by Lauren

I'm a nomadic freelance writer, out enjoying the world!

7 Comments

  • Jane Hill

    August 30, 2014 at 8:29 pm Reply

    At first, I wondered if I could do this! Then I was proud of you for doing it! For sticking it out and finding the peace you found. Then I was jealous!

    • Lauren

      August 31, 2014 at 1:40 am Reply

      How nice, thank you! They say nothing worth having comes easy, and I suppose it’s true. I’m glad I didn’t give up or walk away. I’m really happy with my life again now, and I feel like I’ve grown so much.

  • Sue

    August 30, 2014 at 9:09 pm Reply

    Beautiful words with stunning photos!!

    We were fortunate enough to spend one day in Dubrovnik as part of our cruise. It is one of our favorite ports. We walked the entire wall & marveled at the colorful scenery of orange rooftops against azure sea.

    I felt a sense of peace in you reading your blog. Enjoy the remainder of your journey!

    Sue

    • Lauren

      August 31, 2014 at 1:41 am Reply

      There is deep peace in this. I wish I’d made it to Dubrovnik, it looks so beautiful and everyone who’s been there tells me it’s their new favorite city! I won’t miss the opportunity if I go that way again.

  • Rita

    August 31, 2014 at 7:29 am Reply

    Once again Lauren, your narrative and photos make me want to shadow you.

  • li

    January 22, 2015 at 9:41 am Reply

    Is this blog dead? I have followed it for a while but no recent updates.

    • Lauren

      January 22, 2015 at 9:47 am Reply

      Hi there! Thanks for your interest. The blog isn’t dead, but it has been in a coma for a while. I’ve been thinking about reviving it, thanks for the nudge. 😀

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