A bit over seven years ago, I was holidaying in Dubrovnik with my then boyfriend; at least, I was until I decided he shouldn’t be my boyfriend any more. That’s not really a story for a travel blog, but the consequence was that I decided to leave beautiful Dubrovnik the next day and head back to my temporary home in Germany.
|View over Dubrovnik, Croatia|
The trip started with a long wait for a bus, and a long bus ride from Dubrovnik up to Zagreb. During the long wait I’d been at an internet cafe researching my options and had seen a train leaving Zagreb shortly after my bus was due to arrive. I don’t remember the destination of that train any more, but it would have got me home relatively quickly. I didn’t take two problems into account: one, that my bus would arrive an hour or so late, and two, that the train and bus stations in Zagreb weren’t next to each other and I’d be arriving there in the middle of the night.
And that’s how I found myself wandering around the Zagreb bus station at two o’clock in the morning one Croatian summer night. It was one of those surreal moments where I could see myself from several different perspectives.
|Zagreb bus station via davehighbury|
I could see that here was a young(ish!) foreign female, on her own, in the dark of night, in a pretty sparsely populated bus station, lugging a nearly-too-heavy backpack, with no particular plan of what to do. Nobody knew where I was and if something happened to me it would be difficult for anyone to figure out where I’d ended up. If I’d landed in such a circumstance a few years earlier I would have completely freaked out. Anxiety would have consumed me, I’m sure.
But I could also see that here I was, a young, newly single woman, able to carry her own backpack, able to make her own plans and decisions, and then I reached the ticket counter. I’ll never forget looking up at the board behind the counter which listed the next dozen or so buses and their various international destinations. I actually began daydreaming about the places I might go and what I might do there, except it was more than mere daydreaming because if I wanted to, I could actually do it: would I head back to the Czech Republic and surprise my good friend Zitka; would I go somewhere entirely new and treat myself to a bit of a holiday first; would I take the bus to Vienna, where I knew I could get a reasonably direct train back to southern Germany.
I did choose the German option in the end, but not because it was the easiest way, it was simply the most practical at the time. But that moment of power, of being able to pick and choose from that destination board and go anywhere, that moment has stayed with me ever since. I don’t mean to sound clichéd about it but it was one of those turning points of travel (and life) that never leave you.