I’ve always dreamed of travel. But when I led a hectic life, simultaneously running a business and raising a family, I used to have another daydream as well: I used to dream of going into retreat. A house on a mountaintop, with a garden. Or a solo hike along the Appalachian Trail. Day after day of solitude and silence, so I could think, and meditate, and find my spirit.
Little did I know it was possible to do both at once.
Parts of my travel have been loaded with company. Craig was with me for large swathes of the trip. Recently, in Turkey, I had a wonderful fast friendship with Diana and was welcomed by her social circle. What a treat it was to walk down the street in Cirali and hear someone call out “Lauren!” and find a friend waving at me, wearing a big smile.
Here in Croatia it’s very different. I am alone, all the time. In other cities, it’s been easy to establish myself as a ‘regular’ at a restaurant or cafe — like in Tangiers, where Ismael and his entire staff treated me like family. Here, I visit the same cafés every day but I’m not even greeted with a smile. I understand why the Croatians are this way. But it’s hard on me.
My internet connection won’t allow for Skype or even phone calls. My human contact is limited to Facebook interchanges, which means small talk; and only for a few hours a day, when my waking hours overlap with those back home.
So, I am alone, day after day, in silence, for a month. It’s a lot to take. I start my days with yoga practice, then make coffee and check my e-mail. After lunch, I head out to a cafe where the wifi will be fast enough to let me work for a few hours.
In the late afternoon, I visit the beach for a swim. I love slipping into the water… it’s like entering an oil painting. I like the feeling that I am disappearing into this incredible landscape.
Then I stop by the market for some fresh veggies and chicken, and head home to cook dinner, read, and drink a little wine on my patio.
It’s a beautiful but lonely life. I can’t afford to eat in restaurants much, and I don’t have much cookware in the apartment, so meals are nothing to look forward to. The yoga, walking, swimming and simple meals are having a positive impact on my body, and there’s lots of space for my thoughts.
My career is actually slipping. Cafe seating isn’t very comfortable, and I’m barely doing enough work to keep up with deadlines, not moving my career forward.
I’m having lots of nesting thoughts — a desire is growing in me to furnish an apartment and accumulate a wardrobe, to have plans with friends for the weekend, and a normal life.
My plans for the fall are crumbling away, as Kenya looks less safe all the time. Losing my month of free living in Kenya means I can’t really afford the airfare to visit Ethiopia or stay with the baby monkeys in South Africa — and that all leaves me with no plans for the fall or winter. I can’t afford to stay in Europe beyond the end of September. Friends are coming to visit, and matching even a budget vacation lifestyle with them is going to leave me strapped for cash. I’m not sure what will happen next, but I need to decide soon. India might be affordable, but it takes time to get a visa. Greece would be a good place to spend the winter, but I will have used up my Schengen time again. I could go on to Asia, but there’s a dance tour I’d like to join in Egypt in February, and I have the possibility of a free stay at a diving school in Oman in March…
So I’m in a holding place, an empty space with a big question mark at the end. But I’ll either keep traveling or I’ll head somewhere and set up a home — and those are both happy alternatives. So, it’s all good. It’s OK not to know what’s going to happen when all the possibilities are positive. I’m relaxed about it.
And quiet. I’m very, very quiet these days.