My First Solo Trip in a Foreign Country

I have been an airline brat my entire life.  Growing up my dad was a pilot, so our family traveled quite a bit.  I have always been fascinated by different places, cultures, and ways of life.  So no great surprise when my soul mate walked into my life and also worked for an airline.  We traveled extensively (thanks to me no longer being a stubborn teenager who never wanted to leave friends or boyfriends…dumbass!)  The key was we always traveled together, and Dan handled everything!  I just got to show up and enjoy!  No stress or scary stuff for me…I could always trust that Dan had everything under control.

I like to think I’m pretty independent and adventuresome in my own right, so when we decided we were ready to redo Dan’s ancestral home, I was no longer working and so the natural choice was for me to go to Croatia and oversee the work.  I would also be tasked with getting our new (to us) boat set up and ready for adventures.  Sounded pretty good….I could handle this, right?  As planned, my wonderful husband made all the arrangements which would include accompanying me to Croatia and spending a week getting me squared away.  “You can drive a manual, right?” He asks.  “Ummm….I guess.  My first car was a manual, but I really haven’t driven one in probably 25 years.”  I figure it’s no problem….kinda like riding a bike, right?  Except, I have NEVER driven in a foreign country (never mind an island that has steep cliff drop offs and crazy winding roads that in America are considered one lane, not two).  Okay, feeling a little queasy from the stress, but I got this….right?  Oh, I forgot to mention the ferry that I have to drive the car onto and get myself off of like something out of the starting line up of a NASCAR race.

On your mark….get set…GOOO!

Prior to leaving for this trip, we loaded up 6 large duffles with clothes, kitchen items, and boat things we have acquired over the years (careful to ensure that no bag is over 50 pounds).  We also pack up 3 large boxes with more household goods and things to furnish our boat (shopping is immensely easier in America).  We Fedex’d the boxes 2 weeks before our departure to a receiving facility in Trieste, Italy (Croatia did not have this available and would’ve charged a 25% tax on whatever we brought in).  We figured everything would arrive while Dan was still here so that we could drive together and pick up the 3 fifty pound boxes.  Can you guess where this is going?

My back hurts looking at this picture     

Dan and I scrambled, fast and furious, to try and accomplish as much as possible before he had to leave me to return to work.  Keep in mind, we now own a boat that is wired for 220v which means none of our household appliances would work on the boat.  Finding the creature comforts I am use to in America meant trips to a ridiculous number of stores (and odd looks when they had no clue what I was looking for).  For example, I was looking for new bedding.  They do not understand “queen” sized.  Sheets and blankets are labeled by size in centimeters!  I am out shopping armed with the knowledge that I have a queen sized bed, I don’t even know where to begin with sizes in centimeters!  And, they do not do top sheets here.  It is a bottom sheet with a duvet on top.  Needless to say, I brought sheets from the US 🙂 While we did get an incredible amount accomplished, it was not everything 🙁

As I said goodbye to my husband for my 1 month solo run, I naturally (for me) felt a little apprehensive (okay, a lot apprehensive) and very lonely.  Although I didn’t know anyone or have anyone to talk to, everyone was very friendly and helpful to the crazy American who could only speak English.  

We got notice that two of our 3 boxes had arrived in Trieste which meant  I had to drive alone to Trieste.  It’s a 30 minute drive to the ferry, a half hour ferry ride, followed by a 2 hour drive to Trieste, crossing 2 borders.  Uh yeah, I’m a little freaked out!  I find my ferry time, work backwards with my time, and begin my journey.  I decide to spend the night in Trieste in the hopes that the 3rd box will arrive the next day, and I don’t have to make this drive again.

I’m ready for my big adventure!  I head out making my way to the ferry.  What follows is a recap of an earlier Facebook post about the scariest drive of my life:

“It’s been a wild 26 hours!  Went to the ferry at the farther end of the island.  This requires driving a narrow road that winds along the top of the island and without a guardrail between you and a 1000 foot plunge to the sea.  Normally not a huge deal, but yesterday the island was engulfed in fog.  I could not see more than 2 feet in front of my car.  I watched the white line like it was a life line and drove 12 mph, praying anyone else driving was being as cautious.  You are probably wondering, as any seasoned driver would, why didn’t you pull off the road and wait?  Well, here is a Croatian fun fact….there is no such thing as a shoulder here on the island.  Rarely you might find a tiny pull out barely big enough to fit a very small car (and remember, I can’t see what lies beyond that white line).  Then I hit the old road, no more white line, so I watched the dirt edge.  Eventually I came upon some large flashing lights and discovered a cement truck stopped in the road.  I stopped behind him and waited.  After a bit, I decided to get out and see if he spoke enough English to tell me whether to go around him or stay put.  At that point I see head lights emerge and someone starts yelling in German.  I understood 1 word (trajekt), but it was the word I needed.  Ferry traffic was coming up the hill so stay put!  Once clear, the truck began moving again.  I was completely content to sit behind him (safe barrier, right?). He pulls aside and waves me to pass…noooo 😞

Whew, survived that ordeal.  The drive through Slovenia and Italy was painless and beautiful.  And then I hit Trieste…ack.  Total chaos and me trying to find the place that has our shipped boxes and close parking since each box weighs 50 pounds.  I think I may have pissed off some of the Italians with my driving. Ordeal complete…yeah me.  Off to find the Airbnb Dan booked for me in this little hillside town.  Perfect.  Out of the city and off the beaten path.  I wind through tiny little one way streets and dead ends (which you don’t know ahead of time) and have to back down them.  After repeated, failed attempts the owner walks to a corner I am now very familiar with and guides me in.  I think I will stay a few days since we are waiting for one more box to clear customs.  Nope, could take 3 or more days to clear before being delivered to Trieste.  So back to the island I go.  And I have several days to fret over making the drive into Trieste once again 😥”

So needless to say, I had to make one more trip to Trieste.  This time, no fog, I knew exactly where I was going, and I left early enough to miss the chaos of lunch hour traffic.  Yeah me!

Well, I survived my solo month and actually learned to enjoy it.  The winter storms on the boat kept things interesting (including preventing me from sleeping) but in the end, she looks great and very livable.  Our next few trips out here brought more bags as we shuttled goods, so I am looking forward to the day that I am no longer unpacking stuff!

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Judi & Ken Biss
Judi & Ken Biss
2 years ago

Great read, loved it, reminded me a little bit of driving around Mexico!

Robyn
Robyn
2 years ago

Thank you!