It wasn’t a sudden, burning-bush kind of change, but slower, more subtle. It’s something that’s been changing in me, I suspect, for some time, without me noticing it—a transformation, unfolding gently, quietly, while I wasn’t looking. And it took Dubrovnik to make me aware of it: I no longer hate tourists.
And more than that, I no longer despise hard-partying backpackers, 20-year-olds that sleep all day and drink/cruise for girls all night on mom and dad’s bill. In short, my disapproval of how other people travel, when it isn’t my way of traveling, has dissipated.
I endured the torturous, fluorescent, overly air-conditioned ferry ride from Bari, Italy, in search of sunnier—and cheaper—shores. Well, um, Croatia ain’t it, I’ve discovered. And especially not Dubrovnik.My guidebook gushed about the splendor of the city. After I slept off the sleepless ferry ride, I curled up next to my $4 americano and watched the scene parade by: tour groups led by umbrella thrusting guides; middle-aged folks clutching their Rick Steves’; lots and lots of English. Later, at my hostel, I listened to the play-by-play recounting of the previous night’s drunken antics, and who’d made out with the hottest girl (it was Mark, the kid with the Justin Bieber hair).
And the remarkable thing was, I was okay with it all.
Now it could be that I’m getting older. It could be that I’m more well-traveled, and settling into myself. But I think it’s got more to do with something else, with this personal journey I’ve been on lately, entirely unrelated to travel. It’s got to do with taking care of yourself, with stopping using other people as a way of not looking at your own shit; it’s got to do with lovingly detatching from sick people. It’s potent shit, and it’s changing everything. Including, apparently, the way I travel.
No one likes to think of themself as a judgy a-hole, but hey, we all got our faults. In previous years, Dubrovnik would have evoked all my self-righteous better-than-thou-ness: too expensive, too touristy, too too. And it’s true that I’m not really into the scene here; I definitely dig the more obscure, the more offbeat and bizarre.
But it isn’t awful—it’s not theme-park-ish and you don’t get that resentment vibe from the locals. And it is beautiful: smooth stone streets gleaming white; sheets of ancient walls; passageways that lead to startling, sparkling vistas of aqua-clear water that really does live up to the hype.
And I’m letting myself enjoy that without judging it.
As I’ve learned to focus more on accepting myself, I’ve discovered a curious by-product: I’m better able to accept others, better able to let them be themselves, whatever that entails. And this doesn’t just come, apparently, with emotionally unavailable active alcoholics; it apparently also comes with accepting other travelers.
When you’re constantly measuring yourself against other people, when you’re constantly using other people to determine your worth and what exactly it is you are, there isn’t a lot of room left to just be okay, to just sit with yourself and be okay. And I’m learning to do that. I’m learning to go swim off the deck of a jokey tourist bar with a couple dudes I don’t have much in common with, learning to lay out in the Adriatic sun of a destination I’m not nuts about, and let that be okay.
I don’t think I’ll ever be into the big huge tourists destinations. I’ll probably always love the less obvious, the little-off; I’ll probably always love digging around, getting the dirt of a destination under my nails. That’s just what I’m into. It’s not any better or any worse than what anyone else is into. (Including getting black-out drunk and hooking up with random girls.)
Even now, with the chatter from the hostel’s common room filtering up the stairs, through the cracks under the door, over to my glowing light on this rickety bunk, even now it’s okay. Tomorrow I’ll take off for Montenegro, in search of something a little more me.