It’s never been my plan to go much farther South than Zagreb. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my extensive travels, it’s that (contrary to my earlier opinion) an all-round hyperpaced trip is not the way to go. On my first backpacking trip ever – through Western Europe – my friends and I covered eleven countries in only five weeks, and although it was great to see such a huge variety of places, all you can do in such a short one or two day visit is glance at only the most famous and touristy of sights. It leaves no time to just kick back and feel the vibe of a place, or more importantly, make local friends – one of the most rewarding things about traveling.
In response to one of my recent blog posts, a friend on Facebook asked how I know so many people in so many parts of the world. Well, in addition to the answer I gave (“Just try to be friendly and ‘genki’ everywhere you go”) I think there is a bit more to it: spend nontrivial lengths of time in one place. Doing so gives you the opportunity to meet locals, develop bonds with other travelers, and encounter expats – the latter two of whom will eventually go back to their respective home countries. Thus, your network gradually expands across the globe.
Anyway, I digress…I’m sitting on the train from Ljubljana to Zagreb at the moment with little to do aside from typing away on my cellphone 😛
The reason I mention this is because, again, I never had any intent of going further South than Zagreb. Doing so would add another large chunk of land to my trip, and correspondingly force my pace to increase. However, everyone – and I do mean everyone – I’ve encountered who’s been to Croatia has said that if I go anywhere, it’d better be Dubrovnik. They’ve assured me that Dubrovnik is absolutely the most beautiful place they’ve ever seen, that it’s in a separate world of its own, that it’s like the brightest jewel on the Adriatic coast. Still, I was apprehensive. Just look at a map, it’s waaaay down there and I barely had a week left until my meeting with Peder in Belgrade. Plus I was still a bit sick, and pushing myself right before our first weekend of hardcore partying couldn’t be a good idea.
But in the end I succumbed. I was already this close, and a ticket down the coast was only about 30 euros. So here I am on a train to Zagreb where I’ll catch a 10 hour night bus down to Dubrovnik. Pray that the weather stays nice; if it’s pouring down there like it has been in much of the region…well…that straw just might break this camel’s back 😛