This marks my 200th post since I first started this blog. Can’t believe how much I have learned and experienced all because I made some bold changes to go after what I really want. I’ve also been really inspired watching some friends and family go against the grain in order to pursue their passions. It just goes to show that we all have that drive and ability in us to change things up if we want to, we just have to take the first steps.
“Your life always has a Plan B.” – Robert
I met Robert almost one year ago when I was working at Projective Space. He and his friends had a start up and were working out of the space, and we instantly bonded over our love of football (and really, how could you miss a group of tall Slovenes anyway?) When I told him I was heading to Milano for the year, he mentioned how I had to visit Slovenia and how he would show me around next time he goes home. Of course I said yes, but who knew if it would actually happen.
Fast forward to March and I found myself on a train making the trek across Italy to Trieste, the Italian coastal town near the Slovenian border. Robert had invited me over not once but twice when he was home for winter to join him and his friends skiing but ironically both times I was studying for finals. So when he sprung a last minute invitation to join him in Izola, a beach town just a half hour from Trieste, I knew I couldn’t turn it down. And I was extremely excited because I’d be visiting Slovenia for the first time, and nothing beats that high you get when you step into a new country.
Izola is a sleepy beach town, which if you know me you know is one of my favorite types of vacation spots, so I was all smiles as we arrived into town and checked out the gorgeous view from my friend’s apartment. Mental note: definitely live by the water once you settle down.I have been curious about Slovenia ever since my friend Shawn told me about what an unknown gem it is. Slovenia is a small country, tiny really in comparison to some of its neighbors, but it packs a lot of punch. As we were driving to Ljubljana, the capital (and they really do refer to it as The Capital, almost in an eerie Hunger Games style), I was marveling at how many different types of places this country has to offer: the beach, the countryside, the mountains to go skiing… what the, did we just drive by a shepherd herding his sheep? I love this place! I was given the option to either check out Bled, a town with a lake that’s quite popular among the tourists, or Ljubljana to visit the city center and the main castle. Bled looked beautiful but we in Milan are spoiled by having Como only a short distance away so I opted for the capital. And I must say I am a big fan of the city! Its smaller in size than Milano, and with a river running through it its filled with many cute bridges. The city’s castle is quite nice as well since the city put a lot of money into renovations – you can see an interesting mix of old and new when you visit. The castle’s viewing tower offers a fantastic view, and it’s said that on a clear day you can see up to a third of the entire country.
Aside from visiting the castle we made it a point to have some traditional Slovenian food, starting off with some Slovenian schnapps to keep us warm while we were walking around. We went to one of my friend’s favorite restaurants, Güjžina, which serves food from the Prekmurje region (in northeast Slovenia) – two hours later I was in major food coma from all the deliciousness. The typical drink which many locals prefer is the “prekmurski spricar” which is a spritzer of white wine mixed with mineral water, and the most pleasantly surprising find of the day was trying pumpkin seed oil, the country’s equivalent to olive oil. Ljubljana has a lot of character with it’s artistic expression, for example all around the main streets of the city you can see tons of shoes hanging from wires, and there were also interesting floating orange Monopoly-esque houses that we couldn’t exactly explain. Personally though, what I liked the most was the emphasis on dragons: the dragon is the symbol of the city and is on its coat of arms, and it symbolizes strength and courage. Robert even said the local football teams fans wear green to dress up as dragons at games. Love!
In addition to checking out Ljubljana, we also visited Izola’s neighboring town Piran which is the oldest Slovenian coastal town. It’s charm, aside from being along the water, has to be its narrow winding streets that lead through the town. Piran is such a picturesque town, and its no wonder that its the country’s main tourist destination. Slovenia in general is a very warm, friendly country. It’s so safe that many people don’t even worry about locking their doors or cars. Robert mentioned that many people here are too shy to speak English, and we actually noticed several times as people started to approach us, overheard our conversation got nervous and walked away! I found it adorable actually, and have to say I can relate after living in Milan these past 6 months and watching some of my guy friends unsuccessfully try to flirt with Italian girls. Overall I’d have to agree with my friend Shawn – Slovenia really is a gem, and I’m glad to have seen it through the eyes of a local.
I’m always amazed at where life can lead us. A year ago I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d be in Slovenia sharing a glass of wine and good conversation with a friend I made in NYC. And two summers ago as I was visiting my friend in Milan during my month of backpacking, I only wished I could live in Italy and couldn’t foresee that I’d be making it a reality this year. As I was sharing the past year’s highs and lows and my concerns for my future career path, Robert reminded me that years ago we were worried about different things in our lives that have managed to work themselves out today. I’ve had major disappointments and setbacks in the last few years in both my professional and personal life, and yet I could not imagine that those would lead to this moment here today, spending a year learning so much about business, other cultures, Europe and about myself. So when I think about it that way, that our lives will always have a plan B and that it’ll still work out magnificently, it relieves some of the tension and anxiety that I have been putting on myself. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop trying for the things I really want; on the contrary I will continue to kick like hell to go after it. But perhaps what is right for me is something that is so big that I can’t even wrap my head around it yet but will be patiently waiting for me when the right time comes. And that is pretty damn exciting.