Since the moment that 9-year-old me first caught a glimpse of the breathtaking skyline while riding in the middle row of my family’s silver van, I knew I loved New York City.
In hindsight, I can admit my opinion was not based on anything positive I knew about the city — in fact, it was quite the opposite. All I knew about NYC was that my sister lived there (with more neighbors in a 2 mile radius than I could ever count to), that it was more dangerous and much dirtier than my hometown (Louisville, KY), and that it was, according to my parents at the time, “too noisy and too expensive.”
But I didn’t care.
I had an immediate instinct about the city and I held on fiercely to that notion.
Then, as time passed, that gut feeling only strengthened.
As I got older, I realized my love for writing, and it even started to seem like I was meant to live there. I wanted to become one of the little glowing stars in the skyline I saw behind my eyelids each time I went to sleep.
The magazines and publishing houses I dreamed of working for were based out of the city, and at times it really felt like the stars had aligned to say, “Move to the cramped island already, Breanna!”
I didn’t just want to move there, I had to.
But then I took off my rose-colored glasses, life events got in the way, and I pushed my ‘destiny’ back. I went to college in my hometown, not in the city.
When I graduated I got a job in St. Louis, MO and moved there — not to the city.
I applied for other jobs over and over again in NYC and sometimes didn’t even get so much as a courtesy rejection email.
I could no longer see those glowing towers and smell the sweat on the asphalt when I closed my eyes. The NYC in my dreams had vanished.
Now, almost 13 years to the day since I first saw the skyscrapers twinkling in the distance, I’ve decided it’s time to stop looking at the city on the back of my eyelids and see it in person. It’s time to stop dreaming and make that picture a reality.
So in the past month, I’ve lined up an apartment to move into on August 1. I’ve been working overtime to save up money to have a safety net when I get there, and dedicated my spare time to applying for jobs and downsizing as much as I can to fit into my new, much smaller and much more expensive space.
In a way, I felt a sense of relief the moment I finally decided it was official. I realized I just needed to make the plunge and stop waiting for some sign or a job that I may or may not ever get.
Then, only a few moments later, I felt terrified. All of my fears were at the forefront of my mind, each one more stress-inducing than the last.
What if I don’t meet any new people that actually become friends? How long will my ‘safety net’ last? What if I’m not able to get a part-time job to make ends meet until I find a full-time position? What if I go there and realize it’s nothing like I thought it would be? What if I fail?
Fighting the overwhelming inclination I felt to give in to the panic attack, I focused on remembering the memory of how undauntingly convinced I was that I would live there someday. It helped remind me that it’s not going to do me any good to worry before I get there. All I can do is focus on saving as much money as I can and apply for as many jobs as possible and save the other worries for when I can actually do something about them.
The time for dreaming is over. I’ve finally woken up.
Thank you to everyone who has continued to interact with me over the last month despite my lack of posting. It would be easy to make excuses but I’ll try not to do that and just call it what it was — I got busy, had some disappointments on the career front, and honestly just didn’t feel motivated to sit down and write like I should have. The Wanderluster Blog fell down on the totem pole of priorities and I’m sorry for that.
But, the good news is that I’ve learned from these setbacks and it’s given me some new ideas for the blog. Silver lining, am I right?
Keep an eye out over the next five days — I’ll have two more posts up by Tuesday.
In the meantime, here are some inspirational words of advice that are helping me right now. And happy Hump Day!
It’s a weird feeling. The moment when you’re looking around and you simultaneously want to describe everything you’re seeing and feeling to everyone you know, but yet somehow can’t seem to find the right words.
It happens when you least expect it. One second you’re trudging uphill, out of breath and unable to concentrate on anything except how much your feet hurt, the next second you’re rounding a corner and your breathing stops and your feet stop moving — only it’s not because of the pain. It’s because you just came around a corner and saw something so beautiful you remember why you bothered to walk on through the pain in the first place.
It was for this moment, though you were never sure exactly when this moment might be, that you kept going for. That you pushed yourself for. That for which you decided, “This is all worth it.”
And you’re not wrong.
These moments happen at different times and different places to different people for different reasons, but they do happen.
And once they do, after the initial shock wears off and you gain the ability to articulate some piece of what you’re thinking and feeling again, you’re left with an overwhelming feeling to share it. All of it. The pain, the parts where you thought you might quit, the second guessing, the parts where you realized you weren’t going to quit, the home stretch that seemed to last a lifetime; and the part where, after all these other things had passed, that you finally made it.
Maybe you made it to the top of the 14er. Maybe you made it to the city you’d been waiting your entire life to see. Or maybe you were walking down your street for the thousandth time and for some reason it all looked different.
Whatever it was, it changed you. And whether you traveled a mile or a hundred miles or a thousand miles to get to there doesn’t matter.
What matters is, what are you going to do now that you’re there?
Consider this post a friendly reminder to let go of the things that don’t matter.
But this is a task that’s undoubtedly easier said than done. I know I sometimes get so wrapped up in the emotions surrounding a trip that I can lose sight of why I’m going in the first place. I forget the excitement and the wonder and instead focus on the stress: the stress of packing right without overpacking, the stress of making it to the planes or trains I need to catch, the stress of balancing expenses to last me through the trip, the stress of seeing all the people I promised I’d make the time to see; in addition to the places I wanted to venture off to alone.
I think it all goes back to my tendency to overthink things…
Which is why this quote hit me so hard last week when I first read it. It still hasn’t left me quite yet. And I hope you consider what traveling light really means to you, too.
For me, it feels like this quote by Italian poet Cesare Pavese was originally intended to apply to day-to-day emotions we need to let go of in order to move forward in life.
Jealous of that coworker who seems to truly have it all? Holding a grudge against the guy who didn’t call you back? More concerned about getting your afternoon nap in than helping your friend with that favor they asked? Or maybe on some level, just all-around deeply terrified you’re going to fail pursuing your goals if you were to ever actually try?
Take a deep breath.
Let it out.
Do it again.
Now think about what (or who) is weighing on your mind. If it’s keeping you down or holding you back, it’s probably time to let go.
Step 1: Let go of envies and jealousies.
Can you objectively look at why that coworker seems to have it all? Do they have a talent or way of approaching their work that you can learn from? Or can you take them out to coffee, get to know them better and realize they’re — (just banking on the odds, here) human — and that they, too, have problems that might not have been so obvious? Can you make a new friend and turn that jealousy and envy into support and productivity?
Step 2: Stop holding on to unforgiveness.
If that guy didn’t call you back, do you really want him to now? If he’s so easily willing to cast you aside why shouldn’t you be willing to do the same in your mind? There are actually simple solutions sometimes, and this is one of those instances. Move on. Spend time with new people. Holding a grudge against him won’t make him suddenly realize what he lost — but it will make you lose out on other things in the process.
Step 3: Get rid of selfishness.
If you’d rather nap than do your friend a favor, you need to ask yourself two questions. Is this person really my friend? And if they are, Why am I being selfish? And even if they aren’t your friend, Should I help them anyway? We’ve all heard the age-old adage “What goes around comes around.” And though I wish this were always true, the reality is that it’s not. Life is not a children’s fiction novel where all of the heroes come to good ends and the villains come to bad ends. Some people who are selfish and greedy and self-involved might not ever have to deal with the repercussions of their actions. So here is where you make a decision about the person you want to be. Do you want to be selfish? No? Great! Now grab a cup of coffee and go help your friend.
Step 4: Overcome your fears.
Perhaps the hardest step of them all; fear can cripple you, removing any hope of ever moving forward in life. Thus, the question you have to ask yourself is: How bad do you want it?You have to decide for yourself how much work you’re willing to put into it. You have to decide you want to save that extra $50 for your dream trip than go out with your friends this weekend. You have to decide to devote the time to improving your photography and editing skills, decide to work out regularly in order to lose that extra weight, decide to put all efforts into getting that next promotion at your job. Whatever it is, you have to decide you want it. And then you have to decide you want it again and again and again, every day you wake up, until you have it. It’s not just going to fall in your lap because you’re willing it to — you have to decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.
Step 5: Move forward.
It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight, but if you can do these things, you will move forward. It might not be exactly what you envisioned, but you will find yourself in a better place. Whether that’s literally somewhere else in the world or just confined to the spaces within your sanity is up to you.
I try each day to find beauty, to learn something new, or discover new ways to keep going, to keep being inspired. In doing this, I’ve realized that sharing my inspiration is just as important as going out to seek it.
So whether anyone is actually paying attention or not, I’m going to start sharing my findings with you. My goal, my hope, is to share a little daily inspiration – I hope to both inspire and be inspired, as I mention in my brief bio on the About page.
So here we go. Day 1.
It’s something I won’t ever be able to forget. The moment I was changed permanently, the moment my view of the world and the people in it shifted. Everything was the same, but somehow different. I realized that everyone and everything around me was worth seeing, worth documenting. Traveling literally takes you to another place, but what people don’t talk about is how it takes you to new places figuratively, too.
Seeing a new style of architecture, experiencing a foreign culture, communicating with people who don’t speak the same language – it’s all doing more to you than just giving you more stories to tell and beautiful photos to share. It’s connecting you to new ways of thought and living, providing you with a new perspective on life or love or even something as simple as what good coffee is to you. It allows everyone the opportunity to peer out to the world with fresh eyes, taking in more than just what you literally see in front of you.
It will change you. It will grow you. It will force you to look at yourself and the world and come to terms with what you think about both. And you will be better for it.
It’s the tagline for this blog and quickly becoming the tagline for my life: Getting lost is not a waste of time.
It’s a simple thought, really. But it goes against what most people operate by. A lot of us are in a hurry. Or even if we’re not in a hurry per se, we’re on a set timeline. We have a list of things we need to see or do and an idea of when they need to be done by.
We do this without really thinking about it. Maybe we’re concerned about making a deadline or not missing the train and subconsciously checking everything off our list. And this isn’t always a bad thing — this can promote productivity, keep us focused on a goal, or help us find order in all the chaos of a busy schedule.
But sometimes we’re trying so hard to get everything finished that we forget to pay attention to what we’re actually doing.
Case in point: in the summer of 2013, I was backpacking through Europe with two relatively new friends. Prior to the trip, I wasn’t really sure how it was all going to work out.
Would we compliment each other in our habits and desires on what to do? Or would we all have different preferences of an ideal trip and bicker most of the time?
Luckily, our instincts seemed to be right about each other and we all got along just fine the majority of the time. We wanted to see the major sights but at the same time wanted an authentic, off-the-beaten-path type of experience in each city if we could manage it. But there was one day of our travels in particular which didn’t run so smoothly.
We were in Rome at the time and were set to leave the next morning for Florence. We had been there for a day and a half already but, let’s be honest, it’s actually really difficult to see all the things there are to see in Rome in two and half days. We had seen the big attractions — the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Capitoline Hill, the Sistine Chapel and Vatican museums — along with other, less-common spots thanks to research and the experience Drew (one of our party) had from living abroad there in college.
But the only thing on my list, perhaps cheesy and a little predictable I know, was the Trevi Fountain. I fault Hilary Duff in the Lizzie McGuire Movie for an unrealistic expectation of what would happen after I cast my wish (Just kidding, but there is probably some truth there. I blame my ingrained ’90s kid’ tendencies).
But regardless of my reasons, that’s all I wanted to see. As long as that was checked off, everything else would be icing on the cake.
Unfortunately, it felt like fate just did not want me to go there. We had planned on going there the first day, but because of our tour time of the Sistine Chapel, we didn’t have time to stop there. Then, for one reason or another, it kept getting bumped by something else on our list. It was too far of a walk, or we needed to eat first, or this, or that.
But finally, finally, it was the nearing the end of our full second day there and it was finally decided that that’s where we were headed. It was going to be easy, too — we had been walking almost everywhere, but due to the time and being 5mi away, we were going to take a bus.
So we waited. And waited… and waited. Four buses came and went, but not ours. We waited until it had been half an hour before deciding something wasn’t right. Eventually, from talking broken Italian to a woman at the stop, we deduced that a few of the buses, including ours, weren’t running due to engine problems. She wasn’t surprised; apparently it happens a lot.
But I was determined. I resolved to walk. I didn’t care how far we had already walked that day or how hungry I already was. I was going to make it there, plain and simple.
Drew didn’t feel so inclined, so it was just Jessica and I. Our hostel was close, so he was going to go clean up and take a nap before dinner. We were going to walk there, have our moment, and try to catch a different bus back to the hostel.
But once again, fate intervened. There was a marathon or parade or something big happening on one of the major roads we had to cross in order to get there (I didn’t pay attention to what it was in my utter frustration). This added an extra mile to go around to where the Polizia said we could cross.
We walked faster — and keep in mind we were close-to-broke college students, so spending money on a cab was avoided at all costs except emergencies — until we were almost there. We had made decent time despite the setback and had just under a mile to go.
Jessica, however, needed to sit. This was the absolute last thing I was inclined to do, but I was grateful she hadn’t left me to my lonesome and tagged along, so I begrudgingly agreed. We needed to find a spot though, because we didn’t want to pay to sit at a café. On a whim, we veered off course and onto a smaller side street in the hopes there’d be some sort of wall we could hop up and rest on.
And then I saw it. A rather small and somewhat dingy sign bearing the name of a saint in front of large but modest double doors. I glanced overhead to check for a steeple (and that’s when I learned that looking up is just as important as looking around). And that told me all I needed to know. It was a church.
Jessica didn’t hesitate, scrambling in to her sanctuary to rest her aching feet. I followed more slowly behind, having just noticed something for the first time. We were completely alone.
Which, if you’ve been there, you know doesn’t happen. Especially in the middle of the summer in primetime tourist season. But yet here we were, on a little side street about to walk into what looked like a forgotten church with no one else in sight. It hit me so forcefully that I felt nervous for a moment. Were we supposed to be here? Was this allowed?
I decided to walk in.
It wasn’t the most beautiful church I had seen in Europe, or even in Rome, but it had a modest beauty that I hadn’t seen in any church in my lifetime, and haven’t encountered since.
The ceiling was covered in slightly chipped murals, there were three columns lining the far sides of the pews, the altar and tabernacle in front were unassuming but well-kept and recently polished. It was relatively small for a catholic church, about the square footage of a three bedroom apartment in total, and we were the only two people in there that I could see, apart from one elderly Italian woman sitting in one of the pews.
I took a breath. I had been so preoccupied over the last hour about getting to the Trevi Fountain that the entire time we had been walking I hadn’t been appreciating the beauty of the ancient city. And here I was, not exactly lost but not precisely sure where I was either, standing in the middle of what felt like an existential scene crossed between Roman Holiday and The Bicycle Thieves.
I sat down and for as long as I needed to collect my thoughts, we sat there. It didn’t matter so much anymore whether I saw the Trevi Fountain or not, because what was the point if I was just going to be miserable or in a hurry the entire time anyway?
It’s a lesson that still resonates with me today. Getting lost is not a waste of time when you take a step back and get some perspective. You might not see everything you intended to see, but some of the best experiences in life are the ones we don’t expect.
Like that little church, forever stuck in that moment. Its name and location shall remain anonymous — for one, this way it still feels precious and all mine in some capacity — but mostly because two, it leaves the mystery open for you and others out there. I wish for you to stumble into your own little sanctuary and have an unexpectedly profound experience.
And for what it’s worth, Jessica and I did make it to the Trevi Fountain afterwards. Although it was by accident, after taking a narrow alley shortcut that wasn’t marked on our map.
It’s funny how you find things when you stop looking for them.
Opatija is a Croatian coastal town resting on the northeastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, and as pointed out in my last post, most people traveling to Croatia have never heard of it. They’ve heard of Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik… but usually not Opatija.
However, this wasn’t always the case. The story behind Opatija is a checkered one, dating all the way back to pre-Roman times. But to avoid turning this post into a full-on history lesson, I’ll try to briefly cover the highlights of the town’s modern history, beginning in 1844.
At this time, Iginio Scarpa, a rich merchant from Rijeka (another town in Croatia not far east of Opatija), founded Villa Angiolina. Villa Angiolina is the building that really marked the beginning of tourism in Opatija. This building still stands in Opatija today, converted into a museum devoted to telling you the story I’m telling you now.
Over time, the town became a fashionable spot for the Austrian imperial family and Austrian nobility. The first luxury hotel was built in 1884 and named Hotel Quarnero, but today stands as Grand Hotel Kvarner. Many more hotels and villas were soon built, and Opatija hit the height of tourism in 1889 when the Austrian government declared “Abbazia” (Opatija) the first climatic seaside resort on the Adriatic.
However, Opatija would change hands many times over the next century. It was assigned to Italy in 1920 with the advent of fascism, given over to Yugoslavia in 1947, and finally would fall into Croatia’s hands in 1991 with the breakup of Yugoslavia.
Since then, Opatija has been fairly quiet, operating to provide a peaceful getaway to tourists and Croatians on holiday alike.
So then what makes Opatija special?
I traveled to a multiple towns and cities throughout Croatia during my stay there, and while each was unique and beautiful in its own right – and I’ll go into each of those in later posts – there was a certain air in Opatija that didn’t seem to be anywhere else. It was that certain air, a feeling, essentially, that made you feel like nothing bad could ever happen there.
It’s not an imitation of anything – like a Disney resort trying to lure you into feeling like you’re standing in Germany when you’re really in Florida – it’s authentic. It’s an arresting, tranquil place to forget about the worries on your mind. And it’s not flashy, like a five-star resort in Shanghai, but it will have everything you want and plenty more than you need.
I don’t think I’ve ever slept better than I did there, listening to the soothing sounds of the Adriatic and the gentle hum that the activity of people seem to make…
A small collection of moments from my time in Opatija.
If you decide to check Opatija out, here are the things you won’t want to miss:
As mentioned earlier, it’s one of the most recognizable landmarks in the town, and the museum inside will be able to give a much more in-depth account than my brief post about the history of the town. ADDED BONUS: the park surrounding Villa Angiolina is a green thumb’s dream, boasting over 150 different plant species both native to the region and other parts of the world.
Maiden with the Seagull
This statue has become one of the symbols of the town, and is recognizable across Croatia. It is, however, a new sculpture in comparison to others in Opatija. Maiden with the Seagull was erected in 1956 by the sculptor Zvonko Car. In its place once stood the Madonna del Mare, which was demolished by communists after the end of World War II.
Abbey of Saint James
This 14th-century Benedictine abbey, Opatija Sv. Jakova, or Abbey of Saint James, from which the town gets its name (“opatija“ means “abbey” in Croatian) can be found in Park Svetog Jakova or Saint James’s Park. Saint James’s Church, originally built in 1506, now stands in the same spot.
Casino Rosalia A less common destination in the town, but fun if you’re looking for a little luck, is the Villa Rosalia, which today is known as Casino Rosalia. Originally constructed in 1896 as a luxurious villa for Austrian aristocracy, it was later credited as being the first casino in eastern Europe.
Seaside of Opatija Last, and my personal favorite, part of Opatija you won’t want to miss is simply walking along the stone path that winds through the majority of the water’s edge of the town. There’ll be places to lay out in the sun as you pass, to climb rocks, to take the perfect snapshot, and to look at various street vendors’ art.
Left: Me snapping a photo while being snapped in Opatija near Hotel Kvarner.
Right: The garden in front of Villa Angiolina facing the Adriatic Sea.