The unexpected

I’ve been in Europe for a week now, and the one word I can think of to describe my trip so far is “eventful”. The past 3 days have been spent in Croatia, but right now I am sort of trapped in a Holiday Inn in Athens. Yes, there is a story here. I’ll start from the beginning.

However, before I get to that, there is something very serious that I can’t go without mentioning. Early Wednesday, an earthquake devastated part of central Italy, especially the town of Amatrice. Currently the death toll is 247, and the photos being posted are heartbreaking. I had a few people check up on me on Facebook that morning; since I had a flight to catch, I only had enough time to read the posts on my wall. At first was confused as to why anyone would be concerned for my well being as I hadn’t heard anything about an earthquake in person (although news outlets reported the earthquake as being close to Rome, it’s actually somewhat far from where the events took place). Once I got to Croatia, however, I was able to read news articles and realized the magnitude of the devastation. I am okay, but so many others in this country are not. CNN posted an article about how to help the victims; it’s possible to donate both blood and money directly to the Italian red cross.

But back on a more personal tangent… I’m lucky enough to say that I was unharmed after the disaster, and I was able to go on to Croatia and have a lovely time. I cliff jumped and kayaked around the Elaphite Islands, swam in underwater caves, and people watched by the harbor at night. One morning I got coffee from a tiny cafe off an alley by the harbor, and the only other patrons were crusty sailors already on their second beer at 8:30AM (how very European?). I also walked on top of the walls surrounding the city at sunset, talked in-depth about Croatian culture with a local woman at a wine bar (side note: Croatian wine is great), and visited an island only populated by peacocks. It’s safe to say that I’d go back in a heartbeat. Dubrovnik has a long and rich history, but to me, its standout story comes from more recent times. During its fight for independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, it endured a 7-month siege in which over half of the city’s buildings were damaged. However, resilient little Dubrovnik was able to reconstruct and recover. Humanity’s ability to rebuild from wreckage is both astounding and inspiring.

But on with the story. Despite all the wonderful things that have happened here, there have been setbacks. On my final night in Croatia, on the post-kayak ferry ride back to Dubrovnik, I found myself suddenly nauseous. Ten minutes later, I found myself throwing up off the side of the boat. I chalked it up to seasickness until I got back to my hostel and things continued to go downhill; that’s when I realized this was either a stomach virus or food poisoning. For the remainder of the night, I ran a fever and couldn’t even keep liquids down. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been horribly sick in a tiny dorm with three strangers, but I can say from experience that it’s not a lot of fun (for me or for my roommates).

From Dubrovnik, my plan was to take a plane into Athens and then a ferry to Hydra. I booked a hostel in Athens for the night, but considering that I was still sick the next day and didn’t have the energy to deal with public transport and lots of walking, I ended up staying in the airport Holiday Inn. Did you know that Holiday Inns are a thing in Greece? I totally didn't. They feel like the ones in America until you go down to breakfast and have the option of ordering a spinach pie. Today I woke up still sans appetite, but I felt good enough to continue on to Hydra. Well, at least that was my original plan. Once I got to the airport and tried to withdraw Euros from the ATM, I realized that my bank had frozen my debit card.

This has happened before. Every time I leave the country, I am always extra cautious to alert Regions that I’m going to be making withdrawals overseas, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference. I have no idea why the bank chose today to freeze my card after allowing me to use it overseas for a week already. Today is Sunday and Regions is closed, so I’m a bit out of luck. I can’t go anywhere or do anything without any form of payment. There would be no way to purchase a ferry ticket, much less pay for B&B in Hydra.

My parents were gracious enough to give the airport Holiday Inn their credit card info and pay for another night for me, so now I’m in my own room armed with cherry juice, crackers, and Wi-Fi that actually works. Tomorrow I’m going to sort things out with my bank and fly to Florence earlier than planned. Honestly, it’s for the best. I still haven’t got any appetite after getting sick, and I’d prefer to be in perfect health if I’m planning on hiking a Greek island. I’ll be here for two years; there will be plenty more opportunities to go to Hydra.

All things considered, there was a lot that did not go according to plan this past week- allergic reactions, food poisoning, and then a frozen debit card. However, the fact of the matter is that I just spent 3 days in one of the most beautiful cities imaginable, and I’m about to spend 2 years actually living in another spectacular place. The devastation of this week’s earthquakes is worth getting upset over. The stomach flu is not. For everything that went wrong this week, there were five things that went right.

Everyone has been so immensely kind, from the kayak tour guide who went out of his way to take care of me when I got sick to the Holiday Inn shuttle bus driver who did his best to cheer me up without being prompted. Two separate women offered to give me money and even a place to stay during the bank card debacle in the Athens airport (I can keep my cool, but holding back tears is another story). Even the owner of my hostel brought me medicine and Sprite when I was sick.

Stuff happens. You can let the bad parts make or break your overall experience; despite the difficulties, I wouldn’t trade this week for anything. Plus, in my experience, being put in a less-than-ideal situation has a funny way of showing me what I’m capable of. Through my misadventures with traveling, I've learn to problem-solve and rely on myself. No, these are certainly not the first setbacks I’ve faced doing this kind of thing. I’ve had my phone stolen out of my hand in Tangier (so long, Google Maps) and had to fight a drunk man off in an alleyway in Vernazza of all places; compared to those experiences, the stuff that’s happened this time around seems easy. Plus, despite the difficulties, I keep spending all of my money on plane tickets. That alone should go to prove just how worth it this whole thing is in the end.

I’m going to close with a few photos from gorgeous Dubrovnik along with a forewarning: I still have some stories to tell about Croatia, so this blog series isn’t over just yet. I have a hotel room to myself and unlimited internet access, so writing feels like the logical thing to do. However, before I write any more, I’m going to see if room service can bring me cocoa puffs. Real food still sounds repulsive after being so sick, but I think I could tolerate sugar and chocolate. Clearly I’m handling this entire situation like a bona fide adult.