At some point during our trip planning, Todd and I decided we needed to be frugal. Long after the miles and points were exhausted on boutique hotels and direct flights. And of course, rather conveniently, after the safari and overwater bungalows were confirmed and paid for.
After a late night discussion, we arrived at the decision to try and rough it during various stages throughout our trip. Really leverage those backpacks we had purchased. So for a few weeks we booked Airbnbs with shared water closets and discussed some alternative group options. One of those was a road trip I had discovered when I was traveling by myself two years ago. A shared bus ride from Croatia to Greece through Montenegro and Albania. Only 5 nights and an absolute steal including accommodations, breakfast and transportation.
As we waited patiently in the parking lot of a supermarket in Dubrovnik for our chariot to arrive, I don't know what I expected to find inside. Perhaps a few other thirty-something couples who also had a temporary lapse in judgement. Intellectually stimulating company we would laugh with and bond with. Future friends we would call up the next time we were in Chicago with the kids, after reconnecting on Facebook about all the fun times we had that perfectly strange summer of '17.
Instead we got exactly what we paid for - 6 freshly faced 21 year olds traveling for the summer before heading back to finish their last years at university. To be fair, everyone was far more mature than I had been at their age, yet the gap in expectations for a holiday were quite large. Evenings were filled with pub crawls and night clubs rather than the speakeasies and craft cocktails we would have preferred. Overcrowded public beaches were chosen over over shaded chairs at the nearby beach bar. And the cockroaches we discovered in our bedroom (on two separate occasions) confirmed that simple comforts had been abandoned for cost savings. In the end, it was a pleasant reminder of the comforts that come with age. And the proper ability to save.
We quickly adjusted our expectations and in the end were pleasantly surprised by the experience. However, days are long when you spend hours on a bus moving from one place to the next. And while the scenery and excursions were breathtaking and unique, it did mean quite a bit of time together as a group.
One girl seemed to occupy my personal space far too often. Our exchange started off rather amicable, but a new character flaw seemed to emerge each day. She talked too much. Interrupted conversations and perseverated on unpleasant topics. She gave advice, which was often cringeworthy given the irony of the source and our significant gap in age, not to mention life experience. She drank too much but didn't grow more tolerable by the glass like some people do.
But it was her facial expressions that were particularly vexing. She had one of those faces that seemed to flatten a bit in the middle. Her eyes were set far back in her head, often casting dark shadows across her face. And while gorgeous in color, they were always half closed. You could only get a fast look at them before she shook her head and covered them with some expressive hand gesture. Without such a contemptuous demeanor, her expressions might have varied more, but she seemed to be forever forced to display a discerning pout to the world. Even a simple observation came across judgmental. But then again, it usually was.
Often times, I wanted to cock by head to the side and ask her that the hell was the matter?! How could anyone possibly be this young?!
And then I realized why I was having such a difficult time with her presence. She was me at 21. A bit naive and insecure. Not willing to listen more than I spoke. Always trying to prove something to someone, and myself. All without accountability. I would like to think I had a bit more tact back then, which is why my sympathies were initially hard to conjure. But in the end how could I not cut my own self a little slack?
It took years to figure out how to appropriately allocate the limited number of fucks I have to give. And I still struggle with it at times. Especially when it comes to other people's perception of me. I just hope she figures it out earlier than I was able to. Because seeing people for who they are and where they are in their life takes patience and understanding. And at the end of the day, it's this very introspection that makes getting older taste even sweeter.