I am sweating in line wearing all my layers at the airport security as one of the officers destroys my careful packing 30 minutes before our flight is due to leave. I wonder if it is some kind of cruel joke, as my sister-friend and chief travelling partner, Lilly, sends me a message that reads “our flight has been cancelled”. On the other side, I speak to someone who leads me through another security door back to the departure terminal. I find Lilly and am told to stand in line. Several hours, with the help of my friend Marina who is on her laptop on the other end of my phone, my flight is rebooked for 3 days later.
Berlin is humid and dirty when I finally arrive. The girl on the seat next to mine is going in a similar direction so we share an Über towards the centre where my friend Julie is staying up late waiting for me. Julie is a rising fashion designer and I gasp as she walks me around her atelier, her tiny little guest room, and the enormous bathroom with a canary yellow toilet. I follow her upstairs to meet her housemates and we giggle and cry as we attempt to catch up on the past 5 years of life.
My 3 days in Berlin speed by in a blur of walking through the streets, prosecco and pizza by the canal, and beautiful conversations with humans about the world and our hearts and how we can all do better.
On my way to the airport, I stop for a Lomi Lomi massage recommended to me by a friend and walk out 1.5 hours later €90 lighter feeling so exceedingly thwarted by my experience that I cry during the massage. Overwhelmed by frustration, I realise the massage had given me an unforeseen gift — while it did not unravel the aches in my body, it brought to the surface an emotion I had been repressing — deep, pitiful disappointment. About the massage, yes, but even more about the relationship I had just walked out of, the family I no longer had contact with, and how both these huge aspects of my life were impacting me.
I arrive in Dubrovnik, Croatia at midnight bolstered by the comedy of a young British man who keeps me entertained with clownish banter for several hours while our flight is delayed. Lilly is waiting for me and we jubilantly take an Über to our apartment 20 minutes out of town. The next morning, with the crystalline blue of the Adriatic Sea sparkling at us from across the road, we sweep down to greet the salty water like two parched bedouins and submerge ourselves with sighs of ecstasy. For completely different reasons, the past 6 months have been hard on both of us, and this trip is meant to heal and wash away the tears and tears.
The first day we spend catching up and rapidly trying to get all our recent stories off our hearts before we delve into deeper accounts of love and loss and living. We eat fresh fish and drink lemon soda and swim as often as we can, and stop to breathe in the sweet smell of figs ripening, wafting through the air. There are grapes and kiwis heavily drooping off vines and everywhere we look is lush and abundant with fragrance and ripeness and the warm flush of a hot summer approaching.
The second day we go into Dubrovnik and breakfast at a little local place recommended to us and gasp in awe as I discover that I am sitting on the actual set of Game of Thrones’ King’s Landing. Everywhere we look we find beauty stymied by thick bus-loads of tourists. “Tourists always ruin everything” I murmur giggling at the paradox of my own sentiments. We spend our third day back in the alcove of safety away from the tours and their heedless guides and saturate ourselves in the salty sea and make plans for the next part of our journey.
We check out of our apartment and wait for a local bus to take us to the ferry, stop at a supermarket to stock up on fruit and nuts and board the boat to a little island we have heard about called Lopud. It’s car-free and quiet and serene and I feel like we have just stepped into a scene from Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. The island has one village and the village has one main street that runs from one end to the other filled with little outdoor eateries and places to stop and watch the world go by. I have a day filled with tears here as I grieve the life I have left behind. Flowers are in full bloom everywhere. I write in my journal:
I’m feeling sensitive and spacey today… like I’ve been in the void of waiting for my period to begin for weeks now. We arrived on the Croatian Island of Lopud yesterday. It’s stunning and drenched in feminine energy, like Venus herself has made her home here. Last nights she came to me in my dreams and told me “The next level of human evolution requires tremendous rest and devotion to beauty. This evolution is not about pushing or forcing or hustling. It’s about allowing in and magnetically attracting.” I love being in this space. It’s unusual. It feels a little rebellious to my former self. And it feels like the only way forward.
We spend our days walking coastlines, swimming in salty seas, sunbathing, reading books and absorbing the love and companionship of two women who have taken big leaps in life to find themselves in the here and now. On our last night, we drink wine and watch the sunset and talk about what our lives might look like next.
Another ferry, and lunch in a cafe too grandiose for the strip it sits on, we board a third ferry. Neither of us has been to Montenegro before and we are excited to find out what awaits us. An hour in at the border our handsome, weathered driver with a cheeky twinkle in his bright blue eyes tells us that we all have to get out because the police “is making trouble”. A young Australian backpacker comes to chat with us. He’s from Sydney and travelling on his “quarter-life crises” break. I smile knowingly. I’ve been there. In Kotor 5 hours later, we follow our new friend Rory to the town centre before finding the apartment we had booked.
Surrounded by mountain ranges and a winding castle wall across the lake, Kotor brought a mysterious shade to our adventures. The days are hot and we spend much of them walking through the old town, sitting in shady cafes sipping Aperol Spritz and hiking in the hills sniffing on handfuls of wildflowers. I dedicate 3 half-days on Skype with my private clients and completely rekindle my love for my work with each call. Remembering the Rumi quote “What you seek is seeking you” I reminisce that there couldn’t be a statement truer.
A short 2-hour bus ride to the south of Montenegro we spend two nights in Budva, a small and very touristic beach-side town, with more umbrella-strewn beaches than we can count. Lilly buys me a quartz crystal necklace from a little street stand to commemorate our journey. As if I could forget any trip we take. Such as that one scary border crossing in Honduras… Budva is very pretty but too commercial for our taste, so we head on, further south towards Albania.
Another 5-hour bus trip later we arrive in the capital, Tirana, and walk half an hour from the bus stop to the apartment we have booked. After being oogled and cat-called at every corner by Montenegran men, we had silent fears that Albania would be even more chauvinistic but are pleasantly surprised by the respect and kindness we encounter from the men and the smiles of solidarity sent our way by the women. I hadn’t realised how tense I had been until I discovered that I felt perfectly safe, and even, cared for in this little-known country.
Tirana holds the remnants of the communist regime that only ended just over 20 years ago. There is art filled with hope all around the city, where the people have attempted to turn the pain of war into the beauty of creativity. We spend hours weaving through the city streets admiring buildings and murals. I avoided the bunkers that tell stories of what happened to the families and children. I can’t bare another horrific tale in my head right now. The present world is more than enough to contend with. We drink coffee and eat pastries and keep walking until it’s time to catch our next bus. The salty seas are calling us further south again.
I love travelling because of the uninterrupted expanses it gives me to just think. I think about all the incredible friendships I have in this world and how grateful I am to have them. I think about the ridiculous amount of life experience I have garnered by choosing to do life a little differently. I think about the sadness of reinventing myself and my path earlier this year. I think about why my relationship with such a beautiful human didn’t work out. And while I can come up with a number of reasons, I also completely trust myself and the choices I have made. It didn’t feel right, and that’s enough. I think about the work that I do, and my passion for psychology and the human condition of expansion and growth, and how I can do better, give more, create portals that transform and are powerful.
By the time we arrive in Sarandë, it’s late and we walk to the hotel I’ve booked and sit on the balcony and drink a beer. In the morning we are astounded to find a beautiful little port outside and free breakfast every morning with weak coffee, eggs, tomatoes and brioche. We are upgraded to a room with a balcony overlooking the sea and decide to walk up the mountain to an old castle.
It’s impossible not to fall in love with Albania. The women are graceful and sweet, the men are gallant and attentive, the waters are such lucid turquoise colour I cannot believe my eyes, and the food tastes like it just came from Grandma’s garden, with fresh, sweet, juicy chunks of tomato and thick, dark olive oil served with everything. I almost don’t want to share the heaven that is Albania with you, I want to selfishly keep it a secret, but I can tell that we have come at the precipice of their tourism awakening. Hotels are springing up everywhere and the entire country is preparing to feast on its share of the holiday-maker market. Which means if you want to go before it’s completely spoiled by the crowds, go now.
On our second night, we order grilled fish and salad and half a litre of white wine and exhale little squeals of delight. Later, tipsy and confident, I barter our hotel room down to €25 from €40 for the next five nights since we love it here enough to stay.
One day we hire a car to explore the Albanian Riviera. (Watch the 2-minute video here). We stop and stare at the lush land- and epic cliff-scapes around every tight corner on the winding coastal road, and jump into the water at every second beach we encounter. Salty and happy, everything feels like a cinematic marvel, until we end on a beach road that turns into a dirt track that is supposed to lead us back to the highway. At times the dirt track becomes nothing but a few rocks and a ravine that our four wheels leap over.. We have gone too far up to turn around, and besides, there’s nowhere to turn around. I grip onto my seat with anxious fear mixed with hope that we make it, while Lilly manoeuvres our little hire car on a track no soul should drive up, and both our legs turn to jelly. Finally, at the top, we exhale and feel high on the adrenaline pulsing through our veins. We jubilantly celebrate being alive and dub the car ‘Punto Mountain Goat’.
Another day we take the local bus to a lesser known beach. Our adventurous spirits always guide us away from the common routes and we follow a dirt track in the direction of the Ionian Sea. At the end, we find a restaurant overlooking a little cove and beyond-perfect beach with crystal-clear water. The 3 boys who run the restaurant are excited that we’ve come and astounded that we walked there. They arrange lounges and an umbrella for us on the beach where we take it all in between swims in the perfect, salty liquid before us. Hours later, deeply tanned with bellies full of salad and grilled peppers, the boys clamour over us to drive us back to the main road. “We are always ready for girls,” the cutest one says with a grin “Are men in your country always ready for girls?” “Sometimes” I smile “But they’re not as chivalrous as Albanian men.” He nods in silent agreement as if he knows it.
From the main road, we stick our thumbs out while a herd of goats surrounds us and get picked up by a man with construction tools in his back seat. “Sarandë?” we ask him to which he nods in reply. Halfway along he stops to rescue 2 teenage boys who have run out of fuel. We tow them behind us to the next petrol station with a rope. It’s all very exciting and our driver turns to Lilly besides him with a big, crinkly, weathered smile and says “Albania!!!!”. We laugh in agreement. Yes. Albania. It is a very special place.
Everything pales after our week in Albania. We leave on a ferry to Corfu with heavy hearts akin to leaving a behind lover. Corfu is noisy and dirty and expensive. The apartment I had booked smells like burnt ash and the internet doesn’t work, and I have to cancel my full schedule of private client calls for the next 3 days. I feel jilted and annoyed. The weather is overcast and stormy so we hire a car to fill our final days and explore. Corfu is lush and tropical, with many beautiful bays and mountain views, with far too many tourists spilling out of every pocket we find.
I’m ready to go home now. While travelling I manifested the perfect flat to live in for the next 6 months in London, and I’m excited to create a little space of my own for a while. The past 3 weeks of travel have healed so much of me, and I feel renewed and excited for the next chapter of my life.
I’m 36,000 feet in the air as I write these final words to you. It’s a Full Moon in Capricorn and I blame it for everything as I spill my salt and vinegar chips on the floor while the coffee cart is making its way towards me. The woman across the aisle smiles at me and then laughs as the wheels crunch over them. After almost 4 weeks in the spaces between, exploring both my external and internal expanse I’m ready for the next chapter of my life.
One of the most recurring insights I’ve gathered is the power and magnetism of living and being my most authentic self. I’ve been thinking a lot about my BSc in Psychology and how I want to utilise it in my work further. I’ve come to realise that the inner-integrity to one’s own heartbeat and life force is the secret behind everything I believe in. It’s the backbone of what I have to give and share, teach and practice in the world. I can’t wait to show you exactly how. Stay tuned for this next evolution.
Around here, we do things a little differently...
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