I'm not a fan of throwing around the term "life-changing." It tends to be overused for things that aren't actually changing someone's life. But every once in a while, something incredible happens that really lives up to the term. The combination of an awe-inspiring destination, wonderful travel companions, and experiences that teach me something new, is the perfect recipe for a memorable time. So, disdain for the term aside, I'm always looking for a product or trip that will have a life-altering impact on me. This is how my recent seven-day sailing trip in Croatia changed my life.
Let me start off by saying that, prior to my trip, I didn't really know anything about sailing. I had been on boats, but never spent an extended amount of time on the water. When I embarked on Sunsail's food and wine flotilla through Croatia's Dalmatian Coast, even though it sounded like an exciting and unique experience, I was the tiniest bit apprehensive. I wasn't sure if I would get seasick or if I would be useless on the boat — not to mention the fact that I knew absolutely nothing about Croatian culture.
I'm so glad I took the leap and decided to go, because it was a trip unlike anything I had ever experienced before. (I think I used the word "magical" more than once.) I hopped off the boat at the end of the week completely refreshed with an open mind and a newfound appreciation for sailing and Croatia. And after this trip, I truly can't wait to go back.
I Explored A Country I Didn't Know I Needed To Visit
When you think of must-see European destinations, Croatia may not immediately come to mind. But as I walked through the streets of the Dalmatian islands, I couldn't help but marvel at the picturesque scenery that looked straight out of a movie. (Fun fact: Scenes from Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again were filmed in the town in my picture above.)
In addition to getting lost in the windy stone-lined streets, I had the pleasure of visiting a few local wineries and trying out some Croatian wine. The food was flavorful and fresh; one of my favorite meals from the trip was the traditional dish called "Peka," which featured octopus (a Croatian specialty) and rice that had been slow-cooked under a bell.
Even more, the people were warm and welcoming, and I felt safe as a woman walking through the towns. Plus, because the country isn't too touristy (yet), our beautiful destinations were far from crowded.
I Got To Experience The Country Through The Eyes Of A Local
On top of falling head over heels in love with the country, I was able to experience the Dalmatian Coast through the eyes of a native. The skipper on our boat, Sandro, was born and raised on the coast of Croatia, and he has been a skipper for over seven years. He took us to some of his favorite spots, which included little-known parts of the islands that featured breathtaking lagoons with crystal clear waters and impossibly green foliage. It also helped to have him as a translator.
I Learned How To Live Life A Little Simpler
This probably should have been common sense, but before I went on the trip, I didn't think about how much I would have to downsize my normal life to adapt to living on a boat. First off, we were told to pack as light as possible. (This is always such a struggle for me, but I've figured out some tricks through trial and error.)
Although I had my own cabin on the boat, there was very little space to spread out my things the way I normally would in a hotel room. I literally lived out of my suitcase (which always had to be closed so my things wouldn't spill when we hit choppy water). This led to me repeating a lot of outfits to avoid the hassle of unzipping and re-zipping my bag.
I also learned how to go without showering for a couple days at a time. If we decided to dock at a mooring buoy instead of a quay, we didn't have access to showers except the tiny ones on our boat — which, in my opinion, were less appealing than living with salty hair for another day.
I Spent The Whole Week In A Bathing Suit And Felt Incredible
Maybe it was the Mediterranean sun or the few glasses of rosé I drank on the boat, but I could not have been less self-conscious during the trip. I felt comfortable spending my days in a bikini, even though sometimes it's a struggle for me to get to a beach.
I'm normally a huge fan of wearing makeup on a daily basis, but because of the nature of our traveling — hopping in the water every couple hours and windy conditions on the deck as we island hopped — putting makeup on felt unnecessary. I left the trip feeling empowered and glowing from the inside out. (My new tan didn't hurt, either.)
I Had Time To Clear My Mind
Something about sitting on the deck of a boat — with no sounds but the deep blue water beneath the boat and the wind rushing through my ears — felt really meditative. It was so refreshing to take a break from my busy hectic life in New York City and just allow myself to zone out on the open sea. I felt calm, joyful, and peaceful all at once.
I would have stayed an extra month in Croatia if I could have. I know that this sailing trip is one I'll remember for the rest of my life.