After living nearly five weeks in Split, Croatia, I can easily say that absolutely nothing could have prepared me properly for this first month living abroad. There was no doubt that uprooting my life, joining Remote Year, and moving across the globe would initiate some change.
Upon my arrival in Split, I found myself feeling like I was 4 years old again. I couldn't read or understand anything with the language barrier, I only had a rudimentary sense of how to interact with the locals, and I could barely cross the street without putting myself in danger. Despite these potential setbacks, I realized that there's something so incredibly liberating about feeling like a child again.
I was suddenly more curious about everything! My sense of optimism, open-mindedness, and freedom increased quite a bit. My slate was clean, and I was more available and willing to break old, toxic habits, face longtime fears, and embrace every situation that may fall at my feet.
My first month on Remote Year in Croatia was the beginning of learning how to get used to being uncomfortable.
Here are a few of my uncomfortable Croatian encounters and the lesson I learned:
1. Location: Tommy's Supermarket
What Happened: The young lady behind the cashier threw a little fit when I came to check out because I didn't weigh my fruits and vegetables before getting to the register. I also failed to bring my own grocery bags to the store and was clueless about the option of purchasing bags at the register.
What I Learned: When in doubt always bag and weigh my fruits and vegetables with the proper price-tag sticker BEFORE I reach the register. Also make sure to bring at least two of my own shopping bags to use after check-out. (hooray for recycling!)
2. Location: Uber car
What Happened: I ordered an Uber to return to my apartment from the Old Town area, and once inside the car the connection through the Uber app was lost. The driver had already started moving, and he didn't insist on kicking me out of the car. In the midst of trying to understand each other through the language barrier, we finally made a compromise.
What I Learned: Whenever there's a slight problem or miscommunication always do your best to stay calm and rational. Use common sense. In this particular situation I wound up finding my address on Google Maps and had the driver follow the directions. When we arrived, I politely thanked him, and he agreed to let me pay him with the little amount of cash I had left in my wallet.
3. Location: Znjan Beach in front of our apartments
What Happened: When we arrived in Split, Croatia at the beginning of October, the beach in front of our apartments was occupied by about 10-15 businesses. It was so convenient to be able to walk across the street and hang out, drink, and eat at the bars and restaurants whenever we pleased. However, these businesses were occupying this area without the correct permits. The recent changes in the local government called for all of these businesses to shut down immediately and be demolished. During the last week, we literally watched these establishments we'd grown to love get gutted and torn to the ground within only a few days.
What I Learned: It was sad to see these places full of memories get removed so suddenly. Instead of getting stuck in a rut of sorrow, it's important to be grateful for the things these places had to offer, accept the circumstances and the new feeling of absence, and then let those sad feelings go to allow room for the next people, places, and experiences.
My examples above may seem minute or insignificant. For me, though, everything that happens, no matter how extreme, has potential in teaching me something valuable.
Change is inevitable. It's constantly happening around us, and it's necessary in order to keep our lives balanced. Change is definitely not easy, but on this journey I am eager to learn how to be more comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Every ounce of change is an opportunity to grow. So I challenge you to join me over the course of the next ten months to accept the changes that occur around you and learn to observe the feelings and emotions surrounding that change rather than reacting to it and letting it consume you.
That's all for now! Stayed tuned for some words about Prague, Czech Republic.