Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Glimpse into our Paradise

When I stepped onto the bus in Zagreb, I had no idea that the other people on it would soon become great friends and leave such a strong impact on my life. I was sleep-deprived, luggage-less, and yearning for a shower to rinse off the after-plane-ride dirtiness I felt covered in.  Drifting in and out of consciousness, I overheard conversations of anxious people, eager to spend a summer working in Croatia, and found myself unable to wipe the goofy smile off my face.

The following 24 hours were a complete blur; there were countless names to memorize, silly camp songs to sing, and what seemed to be a maze of dirt paths to become familiar with. I was beyond excited to live by the sea in Croatia, knowing it was only just the beginning of my journey abroad.

Over 30 amazing souls from all over the world came together to a small village in Croatia where we worked together at an international summer camp and created our own piece of paradise. Little did we know that we signed up for a summer of getting excited over fruit yogurt, avoiding sea urchins, playing volleyball at night, eating bushels of fresh fruit, falling asleep with camp songs in our heads, making lifelong friendships, and falling in love for some.

The days at camp started early and ended late.  I was ruled by my watch, yet found myself amazed at how quickly the time was passing.  My typical day began with a run through Pakoštane, hoping for hot coffee at breakfast, managing activities, food, more activities, more food, and an evening event where I happily was going to make a fool of myself. It was wonderful and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Every night I went to sleep smiling and feeling so blessed that I was able to have this experience.  It was a major improvement from an unfulfilled life Farmington, Connecticut.  I was lucky enough to live on the Adriatic sea, swim daily in the bluest water, play sports and games with fun-loving people, eat well, and be surrounded by truly amazing friends.

To add some excitement to our daily routines, each week we were gifted with a precious 24-hours off. The anxious wait for the release of days and names became a secret highlight of the week. These days off were not a time to rest and recharge our batteries; but rather, they were the green light to go ahead and explore Croatia and enjoy 24 carefree hours together – which is exactly what we did. Once the list of names went up, the cogs began turning and plans were instantly being churned out. We rented countless Fiats, flagged down buses, and chartered a few boats throughout the summer. These wonderful days brought us to Zadar, Pag Island, Plitvice, Krka, Šibenik, and multiple islands throughout the Adriatic.  Although it wasn’t always easy to reach consensus on plans, there was an unspoken agreement that we were all itching for some sort of adventure. We danced all night, drank a lot of wine, swam with dolphins, jumped off bridges, island hopped, bungee jumped, ate delicious meals, visited pristine waterfalls, and cliff jumped into the open sea.  The days off left us with sun-tanned skin, for the most part wound-free, buzzing with adrenaline, and even more in love with each other and Croatia.

The summer was an emotional roller-coaster ride from the constant tearful goodbyes that had to be said at the end of every session. However, after we finished singing ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ for the final time, my heart wasn’t breaking. I knew that our adventures were going to continue beyond our upcoming backpacking travels and throughout the year. Now instead of days off to organize, we have reunions in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Hungary, and Italy to plan. The paradise we created in Croatia this summer is now spread throughout the world, living within us until the fragmented pieces can be joined again next summer. 

Pakoštane, Croatia

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