Time is moving on and I’m two weeks away from handing in my notice at work. It’s been an interesting time mentally because it seems like a huge step. And it’s looming… A timely email update to a travel blogger has led to a taking stock of where I am and where I have been.
Certain changes in personal circumstances have led to a decision regarding getting to Split. My flatmate and I are spending the last week in February 2016 driving to Croatia. February is not an ideal time to be driving over the Alps so we are going through France and into Italy, to take the ferry from Ancona to Split. Given the political situation a friend is going to be meeting us there and then driving back with my flatmate. The thought of a woman driving back north alone makes us all a little nervous.
Where did my idea come from? Well, it was partially my flatmate, partially my ex-boyfriend, and partially by father. My flatmate is a programmer and whilst working on a job, she went to Cyprus alone for 6 months to get away from the noise of family life. She rented a farmhouse just outside a tiny village and was able to really concentrate. But fortunately she also learned a little of the culture, the locals, the language…and I wanted to experience that for myself. She planted the seed.
My father spent the last 10 years of his retirement in an isolated spot in northern Spain. It was a stunning location and a very happy time, something which I’d like to recreate for myself. Being a practical and resourceful person he managed to make it work. I want to test my limits and see what happens when I am left to my own – rather limited – resources. Unlike him I cannot build stuff , make an illegal distillery, assist the local farmer in the grape harvest etc. I can only write. Will I sink or swim?
My ex and I have had some incredible times in Croatia. It is a place of romance, beauty, healing, and fascination. As I wrote at the time:
Sometimes the colours are just there
Waiting for you to stop and stare.
They wave and shout, a call to care
You will be back, you say, do not despair…
But there were also family times there which had an impact on my future life and direction. I was there in the late 80s at a time when Europe was on the cusp of a historic moment; the formation of a collection of new old countries, changing the map, bringing war, and eventually leading to the looking East of the EU. And this counteracts my romantic notions of the region! I am eminently practical.
I’m not a planner by nature. This has been the first time ever that I’ve saved, planned, considered, and made something truly momentous happen. I was always academic and theoretical by preference but never really had to think about my route through my late teens and early 20s. A levels to University and straight into a really incredible career in law librarianship. Working in some of the best places in the City of London and sometimes I am seriously startled at how I managed to get here.
As I have written before, ‘How often do you get the opportunity to get from A to B via ZYX? How often have you been told that the journey is more important than the destination? How often is the longest journey one that takes place in your head? My entire trip away will be a journey of sorts because I don’t – yet – have anything planned.
Planning isn’t really one of my strong points and as a result, everything in my head is in a jumble. By setting things down on paper here, I hope to make sense of my mental post-it notes and their total disarray. The feeling of chaos has been exacerbated by the completion of my structure-giving MA. Now I don’t have that to hold on to, I feel strangely directionless.
Why is it my imagination only flies within the constraints of an academic essay? Why is the lively spark of a poem initiated by the stern rhythmic metre of a first line? Why does my chaotically creative insight only appear when I am tied by deadlines, pressure and plans? Which I know I’m terrible at starting.’
So to stray off this highway and deliberately get lost amongst foreign country roads – or islets – is interesting. And terrifying. Mentally, I wonder if doing a navigation course was a sign that I needed some direction! I now have my Royal Yacht Association skipper theory certificate which will support the practical sailing I want to do there. Is it best to save all the scary practical stuff for when I’m so out of my comfort zone?!
The priority two years ago was money so I’ve been saving and saving and I’m confident that I have enough to be comfortable. My accommodation is sorted and whether it is adequate that’s always a gamble – for both Sipan and Split.
I went with my gut instinct for a tiny apartment in a small fishing village called Sudurad. Sipan is part of the Elaphite Islands and although I’ve been to Lopud and Kolocep nearby, I’ve never been so it’s a bit of an unknown. I reserved it for 6 months but they seem really flexible and laid back! I think because I’ve paid the rent in full in advance, they are extremely happy. Either that or the apartment doesn’t exist and I’m going to be homeless. Still, it’s all part of the fun.
The place in Split was recently booked through AirBnB which I hadn’t heard of last year. If I had thought about it more, there would have been cheaper ways of doing it, but I’d rather be certain and secure. If I get to Zagreb, it could be more homely as I have a contact and an invite to spend time there!
Being in Croatia in London
I’ve been rather haphazardly making contacts in the Croatian expat world in London. I’m sure I could make even more effort but it can be hard fitting it all in. I’ve been to some British Croatian Society events and I actually have a photo in their next exhibition at the Embassy. Given my passion is art, it has been fortuitous two of their events have been art related – Contemporary art in Croatia and then ‘English artists inspired by Croatia’.
It takes 3 months to get a temporary residents visa for Croatia. My renewed UK passport has been issued and is already to go off with the application form, photo and other paperwork. I need to include proof of health insurance, evidence of my savings, and where I’m staying whilst away. How this is going to work in practice, given they are holiday flats, I’ve no clue…I’m going to throw myself on the mercy of the Ambassador and point at my artistic photo as proof of my good character.
I’ve had a clear out of my wardrobe and started to think about the books that I want to take. I’ve been pondering telling my bank and letting the tax office know. I’ve even considered telling my pension scheme. But, you know what, it’s a year. it will all be here when I get back, and I will only be a ferry – plane ride away!
I started this with a panic about giving notice at work, so it seems a good place to end. It’s been good to write and take stock of where I am. It’s a flavour of my incredibly random thought processes and demonstrates that there has been very little in the way of planning. If anyone asks me, how are the plans coming along, I’m replying with a plea for ‘what should I be doing?’ because I’m at a loss!