The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
-Maya Angelou, All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes
Nine trains, 80+ hours, four countries, three hotels, one bus, and thousands of dollars after suffering at the hands of UK Border Force for no reason, beautiful Croatia welcomed me back into its warm, friendly embrace. Just like my first get-the-freak-out-of-the-Schengen-Area scramble last year, I was really happy to return to Croatia: it's the one country that excites me as a traveler and never fails to exceed my expectations. It’s beautiful, friendly, delicious, affordable, historic, and fascinating, not to mention pet- and transit-friendly. Crossing the Slovenian border, I felt an immediate inner peace and my heart rate slowed significantly (after immigration checked my passport of course; I'm still dealing with serious PTSD-like symptoms after the UK experience).
Lucky for me, one of my favorite travel bloggers (who was also mistreated by UK Border Force) also happened to be in Croatia, so Mango and I made a detour to Dubrovnik to meet her. Gigi is an established full-time travel blogger with a background similar to my own: young, single woman from the US sets out to explore the world with her pup Luna. We had dinner in Dubrovnik's gorgeous old town, and had a great time swapping experiences and talking about life.
While en route to Croatia, I reflected on my experience in the UK and reluctantly found a few silver linings: I learned many, many valuable lessons (don't over plan a trip, especially with expensive, non-refundable accommodations), I met someone that I admire and truly relate to (Gigi), and I stepped out of my "travel comfort zone." The UK debacle forced me to reevaluate why I'm traveling and what my goals are, and I realized that I was on auto-pilot; I was selecting destinations based on how easy they were to get to with a dog and not necessarily by personal desire to see them. Of course, traveling abroad in general isn't easy, especially as a solo female with a dog, I just realized that there are so many amazing and affordable places to visit outside of Europe, and I *really* wanted to see them. So, after Croatia we traveled to Bosnia and Herzegovina where we are now (simply amazing), and in a few weeks we fly to Istanbul, Turkey. I haven't planned anything past that but am leaning towards Thailand (!). My goal of going to Spain this summer to apply for a freelance visa so I can live a few years there is still on the table, although now I know I have other options and, more importantly, the ability to be flexible in this crazy journey of mine.