It took me a lot of courage to get on the plane to come on this trip. Having not gone solo travelling in over a year, and my anxiety at leaving my home again having re-grown, I was feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of being thrown back into the firepit that is getting to another country and making friends alone.
And I did it.
This particular trip was a kind I had never done before; sailing through the Adriatic Sea with a fleet of yachts, 48 people big. I quickly learnt I was the youngest by a good 5 years and spent the first few days feeling intimidated by talk of marketing and business models and nothing to say back. But after a few days, I began to shed that shy exterior again.
We docked in a bay near the island of Hvar, Croatia’s party capital, bracing ourselves for a heavy night ahead. After bar-hopping for a few hours, I called it a night and made my way back, and spent the next few hours trying to quell the head-spinning-ear-ringing feeling so often induced by alcohol.
At 3 am, I hear the rest of our crew loudly ambling their way back down to the docks, and after some convincing, decide to make my way over with them to the beach on the other side of the island to swim.
As we made our way back, and everyone drifted into their beds (or someone else’s), I and another member of the fleet find ourselves talking until the dawn. By the time it reaches 6 am, we realise it’s too far gone to attempt sleep now; so instead, we get up to walk over the island, barefoot. We feel the coolness of the dewy morning on our skin, the fresh scent of pine cones that will later become drowned and lost in the sun’s heat, stewing in the humidity. I am too quick to trample on ahead, ignorant of everything around me in a bid to get to nowhere in particular, but he holds me back, telling me to pay attention to what is actually happening around us.
It feels as if we’re the only ones; most people are still asleep, and right now, the island belongs to the wildlife that lives on it. Wild families of peacocks amble through the forests and birds twitter in their sky nests. We eventually make our way back to the same bay we found ourselves in 3 hours before, and we climb over rocks and through trees to get to a point on the far right-hand side of the bay. This part of the island is virtually untouched, reachable only by means of adventure.
We sit and observe, but as we do, the clear sky and rising sun soon switch. As I look up, I see a thick grey rain cloud, billowing and rolling under itself, the hot air continually propelling it up and around like a rolling pin. I watch in awe, acutely aware of how small we are in its presence. I spot clouds on the other side of the bay doing the same thing, and realise at some point, they will meet.
I also realise exactly what is about to happen.
More and more clouds roll in, condensing into one impenetrable mass of black, and we clock that we are about to be directly underneath the thunderstorm our fleet and its skippers were so keen to avoid. It’s a 10-minute walk back the way we came; we would never reach the shore by the time the storm will break.
Sure enough, we see the first tentative rain drops fall on the flat sea, little indents on its smooth surface. Within five minutes, we are sitting in the downpour in our pyjamas, water dripping off our eyelashes, barefoot and soaked to the skin, observing with front row seats, the biggest thunderstorm we have witnessed the whole week. At points, the rain is so strong that I struggle to see the few metres ahead of me, and to our right lightning flashes down, while the thunder rumbles around us and the boats move wildly with the erratic waves.
After half an hour, we make our way back yet again, arriving at the boats shivering and dripping, whilst others are getting up and having breakfast. At 10 am, I slide into bed, knowing that scratchy throat I’ve had will turn into a full blown sickness as a result, but not caring anyway because I know that it was worth it; these are the kinds of moments I live for when travelling.