Split Decisions

I’m changing things up a bit for this post. We had a wonderful time in Split, but it would be a disservice to simply recap what we did, since what we really took away from the trip was how it made us feel and how it put this entire trip into perspective. So, I’m going to use this post to talk about some broader issues (with a little recap mixed in) and then I’ve put a slideshow of our photos from the weekend at the end to keep the post from getting ridiculously long, and to keep the photos from breaking up the discussion.

We set out to keep this blog for many reasons, but I’ve always wanted the primary focus of the blog to be about what it was really like for us to be here, what we learned from this trip and how we’ve changed as a result. With that in mind, it’s hard to know how honest to be about everything we are experiencing, since it usually takes a while to process our feelings and impressions of a place.

After we had been in Dubrovnik for about a month, we realized that we were both in a bit of a funk. We had separately come to the conclusion that we’d done everything here that we wanted to do, and weren’t really sure how to proceed with another month ahead of us in this sleepy town. We talked about it and realized that we both had this idea that we were supposed to feel a certain way, and felt that we were somehow failing if the reality of a place wasn’t matching our idea of it. We had to admit to ourselves that we were a little disappointed with Dubrovnik, and that it was OK to feel that way. It’s a beautiful place with a lot of interesting things to do, but two months were way too long to be here. Once we came to that realization, we both felt a lot better and were able to let go of the idea that we “should” feel a certain way, and we started to enjoy ourselves again. We started to embrace the downtime that we had, and of course really appreciated all the quality time together, which was the main reason for this trip.

Some important conclusions that we reached from that discussion were:

1. Usually we are feeling the same thing about a given issue, and we don’t realize until we talk about it (and when we do, we feel a lot better knowing we’re not alone in that feeling).

2. We need more of a sense of movement in this trip. In many ways, we enjoyed our drive cross-country more than we’ve enjoyed this trip so far, because we’ve felt stuck in one place.

3. We probably shouldn’t spend more than a month in any destination. Our original reasoning was that by staying here longer and saving on rent we’d be able to take more side trips, but the truth is that for our own mental health it would have been better to move on.

The tragedy is that when we had this talk, one of the solutions we came up with was to move on to Split for the next month. We know now that we absolutely should have done that. At the time, our arguments against leaving were that we felt weird about getting out of our arrangement with our landlady, we had already arranged our transportation to Nice and were leaving from Dubrovnik and (most importantly) literally no source we consulted had much to say about Split. Granted, the majority of travel guides aren’t geared toward our situation, but also the locals and friends we spoke to didn’t make it sound too exciting either. It’s really too bad, because Dubrovnik may be the beautiful favored child of Croatia, but Split is the fun older sister who takes you shopping and lets you get drunk with her cool friends who are home from college for Thanksgiving break.

We made it up to Split by 2:30 and made our way to our sobe. We got really turned around and missed both the entrance to Diocletian’s Palace and the street that our sobe was on, and I began to get really frustrated and suspected the trip was going to be a disaster (spoiler: it wasn’t). No matter what I did, I just could not orient myself to the map and it was driving me crazy. Jared saw that I was shutting down, took over and we found our way. Later, we realized that he had thought I wanted to do the navigating (usually it’s my job, since I USUALLY have a natural sense of direction) and I thought he wanted me to do it so I was even more frustrated that I couldn’t figure out where we were. We acknowledged that sometimes I just need to ask him for help, because he doesn’t always know I need it (which ties in nicely with point #1 above).

The incident also highlighted one of the key differences in Split: the attitude was much lighter here. We had to ask more than one person where we were going and they were all really helpful (one woman even went online to look up the address), which was almost shocking to us after our time in Mostar and some of the surly shopkeepers we’ve encountered in Dubrovnik. The guy who gave us the best directions even remembered us when we came back for breakfast the next day and asked how we were doing. We noticed this difference in attitude almost immediately upon arrival – it was clear that there is a pulse to this city that we hadn’t yet felt anywhere else. It’s true that we’re here in the off season, but Split was still full of people this time of year, and they were locals that didn’t leave once the sun went down. It felt like this was a town that people actually lived in and enjoyed.

We arbitrarily chose a restaurant from our guide book and ended up at Šperun. On our way out, we got to talking with the owner and had a lovely conversation about our trip and the differences we felt between the towns that we’d visited. We gave him our card and he had already posted our blog on the restaurant’s Facebook page by the time we made it back to Dubrovnik. It was the warmest interaction we’ve had on the whole trip, and the kind of meeting that we’d been hoping for all this time. After dinner, we meandered around Diocletian’s Palace, sniffing out bars by following the sounds of conversation. I’m pretty sure we were the only non-locals at any of them.

Another thing that kept coming to mind was how easily the weekend could have gone badly in our minds (or not as well). We already got lost, but we could have arrived to a less charming room, gone to a less inviting restaurant, or walked in a different direction and not found the fun bars to drink at. It all speaks to the fact that on a trip like this, you don’t know what is around each corner, which I think is part of why we gave Dubrovnik more of a chance than we needed to. We are both so open to meeting new people and having a good time here, and we just keep trying and hoping that we’d find that spark that eluded us. I think in this case it was just in Split the whole time.

However, what is steadily becoming the truth for us is the idea that there is no perfect place. We know that we probably would have also gotten bored with Split eventually, and that’s still OK, because we have a home and we’re not trying to find a new one. We’re trying to exhaust our current dreams while we have the mobility and financial means to do it, and to reinforce the idea that the grass is not always greener so that when we have kids and it gets difficult to travel for a while we won’t feel like we’re missing out on something. The one constant we have is that we love spending time together and that we are a good team, and we are very fortunate to have all of this time to just be together in the same space, wherever in the world that may be.

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4 responses

  1. thoughtful post embedded with great advice! So glad you guys are able to be reflective about your trip while you’re on it. Seems like you are learning incredible amounts and I am just lucky I get to share it 🙂

  2. This feeling is almost universal for people who move abroad – when I was a study abroad student, it was actually part of our orientation! And it was part of my training for my Fulbright award. You go through kind of a honeymoon period first where everything is great and wonderful and new and exciting (I just read your first blog post about Dubrovnik!) and then, after 6-8 weeks, the shine wears off and you start to see the place as it really is…. And things that used to be just strange, then start to annoy you in a serious way… It happened to me in college in the UK and again when I moved to Dubrovnik. It will be interesting to see if you have to go through it each time you move to a new location!! Hopefully not.

    I really have enjoyed seeing Dubrovnik through your eyes. It’s so funny, because we must have passed each other on the street so many times, and have even photographed many of the same cats. We live right next to the Hilton!

    We’re thinking of going to Split between Christmas and New Year’s – your post really made me thing we should go!

    • Definitely go! We stayed at Sobe Base (http://www.base-rooms.com/) and loved it (though the church bells really wake you up on Sunday morning)! It just seemed to be a much more vibrant town, and we were really craving some energy at that point. I also didn’t write about the great farmers market they have right next to Diocletian’s Palace – we brought home some excellent brussel sprouts. Leave a comment if/when you do head up there!

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