The place where it all began and the place to conclude this first chapter.
Although I try not to have expectations, this summer exceeded mine.
I fell in love with this region of the world years before I traveled throughout it. I fell in love with Croatia the moment I swam with wild dolphins amongst rugged islands in the Adriatic. Every sunset, every waterfall, every alley, and every gemišt seduces me over and over again.
In any career where you work with children you are faced with a different form of exhaustion. Your mind and your body need to be on all the time. You are no longer the priority, the welfare of the kids around you are. This summer as the program director was joyful, challenging, hilarious, exhausting, and rewarding. I deep belly laughed on the floor of the office. I cried at 3am when hit with a fierce stomach virus. I made new friends and strengthened my bond with old ones. My patience ran on empty for a while. I recharged and tried to conquer the world. I learned how to delegate. I poured my whole being into my job. It was a legendary summer.
In between the early mornings, late nights, cheesy songs, and refreshing swims I absorbed every moment of my Croatia. I returned to Krka for the sights, Skradin for the jump, Pag for the party, a boat for the open sea, and Pakoštane for the people.
Croatia’s history gives the country a leather skin, worn through but solid. Its character is revealed in the cracks and folds. Croats groomed a Balkan way of living where food, leisure, and family are the ruling trifecta. Elderly women draped in black sell their home made wine and home grown figs on the side of the road. Hidden marbled alleys bring you to authentic hole in the wall pubs where old men share old stories. The air is laced with strong grappa and rich coffee. Passionate conversations are carried in the wind. The salt in your hair never fully washes out and the sun bronzes your body so deeply it warms your core. There is a stark honesty to this country; its imperfection is perfection.
Croatia and Camp California have been my home every summer while I have been abroad. It has become part of my soul more than I ever could have imagined. When I arrived on this historic soil in 2012 I had no idea I would return several times or fall in love with a place so much. Croatia offers unconditional comfort and beauty to anyone who opens their heart up to it. Although this trip has come to an end, I know that I have not had my last swim or my last gemišt. I received an absolutely magical send off this summer and I know my return will be even sweeter.