Very often we land in exactly the place we are supposed to be.
Sometimes my life experience seems a bit too extreme, even for me, but without this extraordinary dichotomy I wouldn’t be one tenth of the person I am; at an exponential level I was reminded of this earlier this week.
I had traveled by bus from Dalmatia back to Istra. Dalmatia will always be my Croatian equivalent of Heidelberg (my first German city). Dalmatia is stunningly beautiful but just not as green as someone from the Great Lakes region of New York state requires to be ‘whole’, whereas Istra is VERY green. Istra just so happens to also have a vibrant agroturizum sector so necessary to my soul. And perhaps because Istra has been at crossroads of more historic trade its populations are a bit more cosmopolitan in their collective mindset (I met a man on Hvar from Zagreb who told me he had lived there and worked there for 10 years and was still considered an outsider, can’t even imagine what Dalmatians would make of “me” on a permanent basis) so truly welcomed is what I feel here.
I was motion sick en route. I arrived in Pula only to find that my AirBnB host had over booked leaving me stranded on a dead-end street with a small mountain of luggage. Discovered by one of the neighbours, she in turn was joined by three other women all of whom were completely distraught that I was both physically ill, in their city without accommodations and took on anger toward the AirBnB host (for many infractions against the neighbourhood and humanity in general it seems) and they set upon a path to make this as right as they possibly could. I found my luggage and my person stuffed into a small blue car and transported to Pula’s waterfront and a hostel. And, in truth, arriving at the hostel my heart felt like a cold hard stone. I had leapt into the void without a plan and the reasonably soft landing anticipated had failed to materialize. Materialize being the critical word. What actually do we ‘need’? The hostel was to be my reminder.
It was critically important for me to recognise in that moment that I had chosen to strip away everything known to me and to make a pilgrimage of reinvention, to give up ‘things’ just like these young people who stay in hostels, they travel with all their possessions in a backpack across Europe eating pasta day after day, seeing and experiencing different cultures and are truly happy. Equally important was the concept of ‘in the moment’. Stripping away any expectations and simply resting (to the extent possible sleeping in a dormitory with eight bunks – let alone a co-ed one – for the very first time EVER IN MY LIFE). I was safe, had a hot shower, Wi-Fi and a soft (enough) bed. The next day I was moved to another room and found myself easily fall into friendships with a group of twenty-something young women – Marianka, Alison, Alina and Katharina – I invited them to make a community dinner, they contributed and I made tortellini Alfredo. There was laughter. There were tears. Stories of broken hearts and Twin Flames. They reminded me of all that lay before them, in fact before all of us, and if not chronologically then at least in spirit I am twenty-something once again because they have invited me to be such. The next night three of us wandered Pula’s streets, had gelato, Alison had a massage near the Golden Arch, and I had the pleasure of introducing Marianka and Alison to Pula native son Stjepan Hauser of 2Cellos (who had not a clue in the universe who he was, making this truly a “normal” experience for him).
But sitting at two separate small tables in the Riva Hostel of Pula, first with Carmela, a young woman from the perfect small, medieval Istrian town of Svetvincenat (population 200 or so), and then a bit later with Hayley and Josh, a young couple from Vancouver, British Columbia the resonance of my life’s journey smacked me right upside my head. The content of our conversations couldn’t have be more different but for one thing – all three of these young people (as much as Katharina and Marianka had also conveyed) felt that my presence there had been orchestrated to pass kernels of wisdom from my life (twice as long as each of theirs), to “give more than you take” from our planet and all that you encounter, and finally to experience life in possibilities and not dwell in the negative. It is hard not to be humbled in recognising that while I might not have consciously chosen to sleep in a hostel that my presence was demanded there. When I left on Monday morning for Motovun I was different. As they stood in the windows of an Austro-Hungarian Empire building and blew kisses and waved goodbye I was a better version of myself because of each of these young people had embraced me physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. Life lessons, and the poignant reminders we need, are always waiting for us in unexpected places, in the very moments we ‘think’ we should be some other place.
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