Maria, I don’t feel like travelling anymore – I informed my fellow companion as we were standing above the sandy dunes of Huacachina admiring the sunset and the rise of the full moon.
I know – she replied with nonchalance – I’ve been having the same feeling lately.
Really? – I would’ve sworn that she still wanted to wander around.
Yes – she repeated – Every traveller gets fed up with travelling every once in a while. Just remember the feeling you had in Africa. Sooner or later, there is a limit. A limit does not mean that you don’t want to travel ever again, but it means that you need a break. Yes, we’re tired of carrying our backpacks, changing our rides, changing beds and cities all the time. We‘re tired of always having to tell where we’re from, what we do, where we’ve been to. Still, we’re a bit picky because we know we have a choice. The only thing is that maybe we could look for a base.
Moon was looking for its base over the beautiful oasis.
So what, we’re going home? – I asked half-jokingly.
It’s winter back home – she replied coldly – Still, we can find a home in this part of the world.
Let’s! – I took her by the hand.
We carried on northward, but our thoughts were already occupied by a more static adventure that was lying in front of us and which we desperately needed, not only due to the fact that we were exhausted, but also because, a couple of days before that, while I was waiting for the results of the top 5 in “The Best job in the world” job application – I’d started writing a book.
After nearly five years of travelling across the world, numerous life experiences, and writing everything down in my small black notebook, I finally rolled up my sleeves and started working seriously. It was high time to transform all those things into something more concrete, outside the world of the online blogs, Facebook photos or YouTube videos. Thank God, I had plenty of interesting stories, and I did have a bit of a writing self-confidence which was essential if I wanted to start such a big project.
Also, I didn’t make it to the top 5.
We were searching for our new home on Workaway web page, which is useful for finding all sorts of opportunities for volunteering all over the world. We started searching for something from the centre of Peru and searched everywhere north of it. We came across some interesting projects, but they were either full, that is they already had enough volunteers, or they weren’t that interesting. Or we didn’t get any reply. Until, one day, we got this:
You seem like a perfect couple for our hotel. Could you tell us when you could get here and how long you’d be able to stay?
Greetings from Santa Marianita
We googled the location of the place, looked for the photos and descriptions of the hotel we were supposed to stay at and we liked it instantly – a long, sandy beach at the coast of Ecuador; it was a small village off the beaten track, but a popular destination for the fans of kite surfing.
We arrived to Donkey Den Guesthouse, put out things in the guest room, took a stroll down the beach and we were relieved.
It seemed that we finally found what we were looking for. The hotel was not more than ten metres away from the beach, our job wasn’t that demanding – helping out in the kitchen and cleaning the guest rooms for a couple of hours a day. The lady who owned the place was a bit crazy, but a sweet lady with five dogs and fifteen cats; the job of the manager of the hotel was done by a young couple from Holland, and the most important part – there weren’t too many guests. There wasn’t any city rumour, no distractions; there was nothing that could disturb the much needed concentration if I wanted to write a book.
I made myself cozy in the hammock and got down to business.
– FOUR MONTHS LATER –
Maria, I’m done – I told her during one of many sultry afternoons in Santa Marianita, putting down my laptop.
– Done done? – she was a bit suspicious.
– Done done – I replied self-assuredly.
– So, what are you going to do now?
– I have no idea – I shrugged – I’ll probably e-mail it to some people to see what they think of it, work on some details a bit, come up with a cover and find a way to make money for publishing it.
There was only one thing that I did know, from the very beginning – I wanted to self-publish the book. After I was done with it I planned on doing a two-month tour around Croatia and the countries nearby. I wanted to organise a series of lectures about my latest journey and a short presentation of my book.
It seemed like an excellent idea: promote and sell my book about travelling while – travelling.
Everything else was flexible and could easily be changed. Even the title. When I stared I had an idea: I was going to write a book about my journey around the world. It was supposed to carry the same name as my journey – 1000 Days of Summer. Also, I wanted to mention a couple of details that had happened before the very start of my journey and that were important for the entire story.
However, when I was done with the first hundred-and-something pages I realised that I hadn’t even touched upon what I initially wanted to write about. I had written about the years that preceded my Journey: student days, my job as a stockbroker, hosting CSers in my small apartment, my first hitchhiking experience, my first big journeys, hitchhiking race, first sponsors, my trip to Bangladesh. There was so much to write about: so many interesting stories, experiences, acquaintances; I had to make a decision. Was I actually writing one book or two?
After a couple of days of serious rethinking I finally reached a decision – two. I experienced so many important things in the years prior to my journey that I couldn’t drop some of them, or simply touch upon.
At that moment I had a new title for my book – 1000 Days of Spring.
It made perfect sense. My actual Journey started at that very moment – more or less, one thousand days before I actually left: that was the amount of time it took me to adjust my life to my plans. I had to change my priorities, finish the university and, also, I had a number of, equally important, life problems to deal with.
That day – my book was written. And the best part was that I was pretty much satisfied with the job done.
I’d written a book!
I assume we have to go back to Zagreb – Maria inquired appearing a bit sulky, even though the sun had been shining brightly for the past couple of days.
That’s my girl – I replied. I already knew the date and the route of our journey back home. Still, maybe, before we go back, we could get away from here and go somewhere?
In fact, it wasn’t a matter of choice; we had to do it. We’d spent four months in the same place, and every day was just the same as the previous one: everything so that I could work on my book.
Every day, with no exception, we would get up at 10 (in fact, at 8 but we set our clock on Chilean time zone so that we could have two extra hours of sleep), went to the kitchen where, with the help of the local chef, we would prepare breakfast for the guests of the hotel and other volunteers. It wasn’t a difficult assignment, apart from Sundays when the beach would transform into a very lively place, swarming with the locals who would get there from Manta, a town nearby.
After the breakfast, with no exception, we were left with enough time to have a coffee and take a little break, and later we would do some other chores in the hotel or do whatever we wanted to do. I always had something to do – write – and Maria would always find something to do: she would go to a neighbour to draw flowers on the walls, help some guests with the translation from Spanish to English, do the groceries, jog or walk down the beach and stuff like that.
Each evening, with no exception, we would go for a walk and pick a spot where we would observe the big yellow ball making its way down into the ocean. On the very same spot, with a glass of wine (or beer) we would talk about the book, gossips in Donkey Den, and the meaning of life.
When it got real dark, we would go to visit a woman and her family who would prepare us dinner every night. Freshly caught fish, side dish, salad – everything for two dollars.
After the dinner, with no exception, we would go back to our hotel, to our small room, watch a movie sometimes and fall asleep.
And the following day, everything from the beginning. For four months in a row.
On my previous journeys I had never stayed in one place for more than a month because I would get bored, I had always reached my moment to leave. But there, it was different. We decided to stay and give it a try – let the people and the place win us over. It is completely different, maybe even easier, to be the one that comes and leaves soon, after they’ve seen the happy and colourful stuff, looking through the glasses of the colour they themselves have chosen. Staying in one place is a completely different story.
The people in the hotel had become more like a family to us. Linda, the owner of the hotel was the one person who made the place have a special appeal. Even though she wasn’t that young anymore, she still kept on cherishing and developing her biggest duty and skill – socialising with people. She invested all of her energy in getting the volunteers acquainted with the guests, saving animals, especially dogs and cats, which were really neglected in the Third World countries.
We met volunteers from all around the world who would arrive there and change the energy of the place: people from different cultures, speaking different languages and with different life experiences would gather in one place in one moment, around the same table and share their stories. There was a big amount of big friendships, but also small differences. A lot of inspiring stories. A lot of people with different lifestyles who were trying to do what made them happy.
Finally, at the very end, there were the local people of that small village who reminded us that we were in a far away Ecuador; people who made their living out of fishing. People who, in a few months, had had a good chance to meet us and accept us as one of their own.
However, one day, we stuffed our backpacks with the basic things, and hit the road. We wanted to get to explore Ecuador, at least for a bit since in four months that we’d been there we didn’t manage to see much of it. So, we wanted to use a couple of weeks we had left before heading back to the homeland.
Our first stop was supposed to be – Quilotoa – a relatively popular tourist destination with a lot of trekking trails and a volcano. In the middle of the volcano there was a volcanic lake.
However, when we arrived to Zumbagua, a place nearby, that didn’t appear as a good idea anymore. We were at nearly 4000 meters above sea level, the temperature barely reached 10°C, and when you only think that we’d spent the previous four months on a beach never wearing not even a sock. Still, our bodies served us better that time than the one when we’d arrived to Peru, a couple of months before, only to wake up at 4300 meters above sea level. We didn’t have a great headache, and we managed to overcome our tiredness and exhaustion, so we even started going to Quilotoa tomorrow, which was about twenty kilometres away, on foot. To warm ourselves up a bit.
After a couple of hours of walking in the drizzle, observing the beautiful nature and the local people doing their everyday chores, we reached our destination. We found a small room, started the fire in the fireplace after the tenth try, and covered ourselves with five blankets to welcome the morning.
In the morning, when the sun got out, we decided to visit the volcanic lake.
We saw it, took a few photos, went down the volcano and moved on.
Our next stop was a nice, small tourist town – Banos.
Our plan was to stick around for a few days and head southward in order to explore as much as possible, given the amount of time we had. However, when a week passed and we still found ourselves in the same hotel room we realised that our plan fell apart.
When did we grow old? – Maria exasperated as we were heading to the mercado as we did every day: she would wander around the fruit and vegetable stands and bought groceries for that day, and I would pause my avoiding of the meat products for a brief moment to eat one of the biggest treats on the stand – beef tongue.
I know – I said – But it’s okay. It’s nice here, we have a gorgeous room, a pool table in front of it, and there are all kinds of activities we can do every day.
You’re right, but…
There is no but – I interrupted her – We are the rulers of our destiny. If we want to leave, we would’ve already been gone. And the fact that we’ve stayed in one place is not something we should be ashamed of. Nor is it that we’re missing something. We simply prefer to stay in one place, and that’s it. You can also travel by not travelling.
We made better use of that one week in Banos than what we would’ve if we’d gone somewhere else.
We went rafting, we rented bikes and cycled around, visited a lot of waterfalls (there are approx. sixty waterfalls in and around Banos), watched as some guys jumped off the bridges in what appeared to be a local version of bungee-jumping, observed the smoke rising from an active volcano nearby. We enjoyed the quality, not the quantity.
And so, after two weeks of travelling, we returned to Santa Marianita, said goodbye to our family and flew to Europe.
Before the very return to Zagreb, after being away for nearly ten months, we did have another plan. Since the previous years I surprised my father with a trip to Kenya, that time I decided to make my mother happy by a trip to Venice. Her sister Nada, my biggest Facebook fan, accompanied her, but also Maria’s mother who hadn’t seen her child ever since she had gone to the other part of the world, not even via Skype.
We spent two beautiful days in Venice and returned home, to Zagreb.
GALLERY – ECUADOR.
1000 Days of Summer were officially over. That chapter of my life was closed. And, I have to say, it was amazing.
Still, it wasn’t time to remember, to look back; new adventures were ahead of me, ahead of us.
And the name of the adventure was – 1000 Days of Spring.
More about it – HERE.