The Speechless Storyteller

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?

Quote by Ibn Battuta. Image created by me using Adobe Illustrator.
Quote by Ibn Battuta. Image created by me using Adobe Illustrator.

Travel Light

Quote by Cesare Pavese. Image created by me using Adobe Illustrator.
Quote by Cesare Pavese. Image created by me using Adobe Illustrator.

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.

Just remember to travel light when you go.

Why you should travel to a town in Croatia you’ve never heard of.

OPATIJA, CROATIA  [ɔpǎtija // o-pot-ee-uh]

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.

Out front of Villa Angiolina circa 1900. Source:

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.

Villa Angiolina
The main entrance of Villa Angiolina. Source:

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.

The outside garden of Villa Angiolina. Source:

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:

Villa Angiolina
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. Source:

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. Source:
Casino Rosalia. Source:

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.


Me, snapping a photo while being snapped in Opatija in late May 2013.     Opatija

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.