There had been a few days of tension where we had words in our throat but wouldn’t give them air. We had been traveling for together in this country that we had researched, saved for, and fantasied about for nearly a year. But the research didn’t tell us about the subtle unwelcome attitudes we could encounter. The fantasies didn’t include frustrating, limited, and difficult transportation to get to the stunning landscape we had envisioned.
I had told Emily and Alison before we got to Croatia that was felt it would be a big country love of mine. They too thought it would top our last big adventure of Iceland and Turkey.
We individually keep our real impressions of the people, who just under the surface spread an energy of distaste for these tourists coming to learn about their heritage, to ourselves. We’d smile to each other, comment on the bright blue waters, drink the national beer, and share stories of past adventures together. None of us wanted to ruin the experience for the other best friend.
When the girl at the bakery counter wouldn’t acknowledge Emily’s repeated requests for a treat, I got her to stop straightening the rolls to get service. After we left a beach on an island in search of lunch and a town, Alison navigated us until we bribed the brother of the bartender of the shack of another beach to give us a ride to the ferry (“Taxi? No, there are no taxis.”). We helped Alison shrug off a tyrant directed toward her about the problems with Americans being impatient and rude (humor did not translate). Emily kept our energy high, even after being served frozen salmon in her salad and having to pay the full price. We all stopped ordering salads when requests for dressing turned into delivered oil and salt.
But finally, one of us made a comment and our wall of false satisfaction crumbled in the streets of Dubrovnik. We didn’t love it. It wasn’t the trip to top all trips. We were put off by a feeling of unwelcome; we never felt that home away from home that we try to carve out in a foreign land.
Now we knew it wasn’t just one of us, we were in this together and the weight of disappointing travel started to lift. We are seasoned travelers and not every seeming paradise will result in reality. So, we found our favorite streets, we fully engaged in conversations with locals when we found an open Croatian, and we laughed at our misfortunes.
Croatia is not my big country love, but at least I experienced that with my big friendship loves.