Holding a crumpled map in one hand, and a bottle of luke-warm water from which I was stopping to take a mouthful every few minutes in the other, we staggered up the steep road—my backpack now seeming to weigh twice as heavy as usual.
The sticky air was thick with humidity, and the sun beat down relentlessly. Frustrated, we looked around for any clues to say that we were going in the right direction.
There were none. It was useless.
We had only stepped off the bus from Mostar—a place that I had adored—about 40 minutes earlier, and already I was missing the relaxed pace of Bosnia.
Despite its beauty, Dubrovnik had not yet charmed me.
As we walked, impatient tourists barged past us annoyed that our luggage was blocking their path. With no clear instructions as to where our guesthouse was located we guessed at which direction to walk.
It was the wrong direction.
Defeated, we had to accept that a taxi was now our only chance of finding the beds that we were very much in need of. As we flagged it down, I sighed and said: “This is going to cost us”. It was clear from the colossal cruise liners docked in port not far away that Dubrovnik was not a cheap city. The taxi driver laughed when we gave him the address.
“What are you doing all the way over here? You are completely lost!”
I ignored the comment, not in the mood for a mocking taxi driver—no matter how good-natured he thought he was being.
One U-turn and a very short drive later, we parted with the first of our large Croatian notes. He had no change to give us and so treated himself to a generous tip. The length of the drive was not equal to the money we paid. He had driven us the long way around to make it seem like a longer journey, and he dropped us off at the wrong end of our road.
Tired, hot, hungry—and now angry—we left the taxi to look for the hostel that was located at number 15. The road was a very steep, very narrow, stone step alleyway. We counted the numbers down: 23, 21, 19, 17, 7, 5…
Where was number 15?
We walked up and down, hoping to find some kind of clue, but there was nothing obvious. Eventually a girl sunbathing on a rooftop terrace peered over the wall, squinting at us in the bright light.
“What are you looking for?” she called.
“Number 15” we said. A discussion ensued up on the rooftop terrace, and then she turned to us. “Go down there” she said, and pointed to a tiny alleyway that led past number 7, an alleyway that looked like the route to somebody’s backyard. Our best hope was to follow it and see where it led. It wound around a few more twists, and more steep steps appeared. Following them for what seemed like another age, we finally came to number 15. We were ecstatic that we had at last found our accommodation.
After a quick shower, we walked to the Old Town of Dubrovnik, a 25-minute walk from our hostel. The walls of the city are absolutely stunning, but the tourist circus that lurks inside is not. I am not berating tourists here because I am one myself, but after eating amazing local cuisine in the other Balkan countries, I was upset to find that Dubrovnik has sold out to the tourists. Menu after menu offered the same boring holiday cuisine: pizza, burgers, lasagne, chips…and at over €20 a main dish, I knew that I would not be eating in the walled city that night. In fact, after only 10 minutes of being inside the walls, I felt stifled and needed to get out.
Trying to avoid the main thoroughfare, we skipped into a side alleyway in the hopes that we could get out by the back roads.
It was like stepping into another world.
Here in this tiny stone alleyway, only metres from the bars and restaurants of the main street, no other tourists ventured. We had it virtually to ourselves. Colourful laundry flapped from the windowsills, and bougainvillea crawled the crumbling brickwork. It was the perfect moment of peace in a frustrating day.
I reflected on why I was not enjoying Dubrovnik as much as I had expected, and then it hit me.
I was burned out.
I had travelled at break-neck speed through 7 countries in less than 4 weeks. I had barely stopped to catch breath in between train rides.
We needed to stop.
We needed a beach.
We didn’t want to be around hoards of people anymore.
I wanted to like Croatia, but travel burnout was preventing me from connecting with Dubrovnik.
We left the city less than 22 hours after arriving. Our final goodbye was when we ended up paying more for our (already expensive) room because the landlady had no change for our large note—something that seems to happen frequently in Dubrovnik.
As far as I was concerned, the best thing about Dubrovnik was watching it disappear in the rear-view mirror of the bus.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
We were on our way to a beach, and I was happy!
Have you ever suffered from travel burn out? How did you deal with it? If you have any tips for dealing with travel fatigue, please leave a comment below!