The sun is rising. I open my eyes and sit up to see what the situation around is. I do that many times a night when the sun rises and also anytime anyone passes by. I keep myself aware and manage to prevent situations I do not want to happen. This time, however, I pause. Looking at the sunrise, I notice that something is different than it was yesterday. Or, it probably was there yesterday evening too, but it was not visible, and I get very emotional about the sight.
After more than a year it is not only the never-ending sea horizon I am looking at, but there is land. I can see the Albanian mountains, and it was below them that I paddled up north last year. They are so distinct I feel I could almost touch them. The distance is only 90 kilometres across the sea, but it has been more than 2000 kilometres on my journey since I saw them last time. I realise all the things I have gone through and all the things I would have missed if I had gone from Greece or Albany directly to Italy at that time.
I have not written about my inside journey for almost the whole time. There are many reasons for it. One of them is the fact that the truth of the content is more important for me than the volume. So I do not write about what I go through before I fully understand what it is that I am truly experiencing. It is now, when I look back at the past, back at the place in which I found myself, that I feel it is the right moment to look back at what I experienced as well. It is also the first feeling I got when watching the sun rising above Albany. Many could see his trip to the Adriatic Sea could, or to this Mediterranean gulf between the Balkans and Italy, as an unnecessary detour on my journey around Europe. I guess it may seem like that on a map. After more than I year, I find myself only 90 kilometres as the crow flies from a place through which I already paddle before. Surely, that distance could have been crossed over.
The subject of my musing is not the question whether such a crossing is possible or not. I know it is possible, I know people who have done it, but for me, it does not and did not even then make any sense. I have not set on this journey around Europe to beat records, to please my ego or myself by some extreme physical performance. I decided to live this journey, and that also means to live on it. I accept anything and everything it has to offer to me. I am getting to know myself better. Humble to nature and people I notice how kilometre by kilometre, day by day, everything keeps changing. I also see that no matter the environment, the culture, or the weather, there is always something familiar. I decided to share my experience and my insight and to abandon prejudices that I have collected during my life.
That is why today I am able to look at the sun rising above Albany and be happy for all that I have experienced at the Adriatic Sea. It was my first real yachting experience when, in the north of Greece, I was invited to become a member of a crew and had to step behind the steering wheel. It meant many nervous hours when I was paddling through the Albanian waters which are, till this day, marked at mined on the maps. But it was also the meeting with Albanian police who let me stay in a water power plant hosting me for several days. I remember looking for an unofficial taxi and the adventure of taking the kayak on the roof of an illegal car through the borders to the Montenegro and how the driver had to bribe all the police and the customs officers so that he could get me and the kayak to the country.
Another unforgettable encounter was with the Montenegrin police when they took my passport, my kayak and they made me pay a ridiculous fine. I also remember my efforts to get out of the Montenegro the fastest way possible. I remember my meeting with the most famous Balkan singer. How I was a guest at the house of a Montenegrin Olympic yachtsman. And the numerous meetings with friends in Croatia. I remember being accepted into one Croatian family for several weeks and also how I was able to dive for a few weeks there. I would have never spent three weeks on a sailboat had I not gone to the Adriatic Sea. I would not have met a fantastic human being who decided to accompany me on my journey and would have never discovered for myself how it felt to journey with her.
I was able to see my family again, to pass my captain exams and to organise a seminar about my journey thanks to going to the northmost part of the Adriatic Sea which is also the closest to the Czech Republic on my journey. I experienced what it is like to paddle through Venetian channels to places that are generally impossible or even forbidden to visit by tourists. I learnt to minimise my expenses. I have met countless amazing and beautiful people. I have seen stunning places and tried the difference between travelling alone and with a partner. I have lived in the Italian town of Gargano where I repaired ships and took tourists for trips aboard a yacht. I have met a wonderful family in Bari where I spent a month in a small port fixing my kayak and helping others. Had I took the crossing I would have missed the most beautiful part of the Italian shore in the Adriatic Sea.
Those are only small pieces of all my experiences that I got thanks to my decision to paddle around the Adriatic Sea. They are memories that fill me with intense emotions while I look at the sunrise in the Albanian mountains. I would exchange none of those days, adventures and experience for the chance to paddle from Greece or Albany directly to Italy. I am glad for what I have gone through, for where I am and for what is yet there to happen. Thanks! 🙂