The morning air still has the pleasant coolness that the night brings but the sun’s rays are starting to peek over the mountains and that will soon change. The beer trucks are parked in the roadway while their muscular drivers quickly restock the waterfront cafes with cases of Ozujsko and Karlovacko before the flow of tourists make the road impassible. Mario rides by on his quiet, blue electric scooter in route to his morning coffee. It’s the start of another summer day in Podgora but this one won’t end with me watching the parade of tour boats returning to port, it’s time for me to leave the Croatian coast. At the bus stop I rest against my pack and marvel at how much you can experience in just two weeks on the road. Awkward first greetings lead quickly to pleasant late night conversations and conclude with warm embraces with sincere wishes for safe travels. On the road time takes on another dimension, experiences are intensified and you live a lifetime between welcome and goodbye.
My time on the road is not ending but it is about to change significantly. I am going from a solo wanderer with a loose agenda to a “couple” on a mission to walk 800 kilometers (500 miles) from the French side of the Pyrenees Mountains to Santiago de Compostela Spain, the French Camino. I am looking forward to the mental and physical challenge of the hike and the pleasant companionship of my wife. We enjoy taking on adventures together such as cycling across North America or hiking month after month along the Appalachian Trail but traveling as a couple can also change your interactions with others. The solo adventure I am concluding was in part an experiment to examine the difference between traveling solo vs as a couple. My conclusion is many of the interactions I had, probably would not have occurred if I was traveling with my wife. The experience cannot be dumbed down to one being good and the other bad. They are just different ways to see the world and each have their merits.
So what was it like traveling without my best friend of 28 years?
I have always had times in my solo travels that I wished Sue was with me to share a paramount moment. I even had moments like that when I was in the Navy such as when I sailed into the Suez Canal, Persian Gulf or across the Atlantic. Then there are those romantic moments when I’m sitting by myself, smiling at a golden moon in a sky rich with stars and say, “Gosh, I wish Sue was here to share this with”.
I find being alone in beach towns can magnify my solitary state. In Podgora I think I was the only person on holiday without a family, partner, friend or pet. Such beaches are geared for families or couples down to the meals. They had some great looking seafood platters for two. However, it did give me insight and increased my empathy for being a middle aged single, i.e. widowed, divorced, etc. So even those moments were enriching.
But with that said I don’t mind traveling alone. It’s similar to biking up mountains that make me breath hard or hiking long distances that make my legs sore, they all have some discomfort associated with them that lead to personal growth and make me appreciate the easy days and the days with Sue that much more. It’s also nice to have time by myself to think and see the world without distractions. I have also found that when I am alone its easier for me to write and do photography.
Thankfully my wife understands my need to explore the world on my own but enough is enough. I also like seeing the world with someone that points out things I would have missed if I was by myself. A coach that makes sure I eat more than just gummy bears and beef jerky and checks to make sure I’m carrying enough water. A friend who can make me laugh even when I’m lost, cold, tired and hungry.
Yes, a significant change is coming but I like change. Especially if it’s an old friend named Sue.