‘You’re kidding me.’
I stared incredulously at Mark, my travel companion, on the creaking local bus. We had just pulled up at a ferry port on the island of Korcula in Croatia and waiting to drive up onto the ferry that moored on the sandy bank.
Can I just say that it was 7am in the morning and I had only ONE rather small cup of coffee. If you want to give me bad news that I don’t want to hear, then don’t tell me after I’ve been awake since 4am.
As you know, I didn’t really exactly enjoy myself on the last two days on the island.
See More: Korcula: NOT my island in the Adriatic
I stayed in one of the worst hostels I’ve experienced in the last three years; the island was far too quiet; and I swear I picked up a cough from the menacing scorpion that cackled behind me every time I sat gingerly on the hostel toilet. Yes, I’m sure I may have embellished that but there was a scorpion. But I couldn’t wait to get off the island pronto and head on to our next destination in Croatia.
So I was in a bad mood. Very bad mood. I wanted to crash out on top of the deck of the ferry in the sun and sunbathe until I was even browner as we sailed towards Dubrovnik. It would take a few hours I figured and I’m sure the fresh sea air would sort me out.
But no. That didn’t happen. I made plenty of mistakes…
Mistake Number One: I let Mark buy the ferry tickets without me.
Okay, I’m being harsh. While I was coughing my guts out in the bar, waiting for the bus office to open, Mark decided to buy the ferry tickets by himself for the both of us. So off he toddled and came back with a satisfied grin on his face that we would be getting off this island. I was happy enough and continued to marvel at the green phlegm in the cusp of my tissue.
I should have asked about the ticket details.
Mistake Number Two: I didn’t go to bed early the night before.
I had to do a lot of travel blogging work that evening. So off I went typing away on my computer into the early hours of the morning. I figured, I would grab the forty winks on the ferry to Dubrovnik. Easy. All I had to look forward to was the serene rocking of the waves on the ferry and I was be blissful in wondrous sleep.
I should have gone to bed early. The next day would keep me awake…
Mistake Number Three: I had packed only the items I would need on the ferry in my carry on luggage.
All I needed was a drink, sunglasses, a book and a jumper. That would sort me out on the sun deck of the ferry. My backpack would have been slung in the deck below, only processed out when we anchored into port at Dubrovnik.
I should have packed for all eventualities.
So as I keenly celebrated by undertaking a seat dance as the bus rolled onto the ferry and slapping a high-five with Mark, delighted that we were on our way, I looked outside and saw that the ferry was not the catamaran we had traveled on before. If anything, it looked like a very slow ferry. Massive and grimy from the journeys past.
Ah, no matter I thought. It’s a Sunday and this is the only ferry to get out of Korcula to Dubrovnik. I would have extra time to sleep, relax and sunbathe. I was tres looking forward to the day ahead.
I noticed Mark fidgeting nervously beside me on the bus and looked at him puzzedly. He wanted to tell me something. Only that the bus driver turned round and barked at us a sentence that had me even more alarmingly puzzled.
‘Back on bus 15 minutes!’
‘Huh?’ I exclaimed, bemused as I turned to Mark who went white, ‘did my tired ears just deceive me? We are going on a 15 minute ferry journey? Dubrovnik is hours away!’
Mark rubbed his neck and didn’t meet my eyes before muttering under his breath,
‘Well…it is a 15 minute ferry journey…’ He leant away from me expecting me to go crazy, which I did after what he said next,
‘Ed, we are crossing on the ferry to the mainland and we are making the rest of the journey by bus.’
‘You’re kidding me.’
Mark ran off the bus before I had the chance to work out how arduous the journey would be ahead on the bus. Grabbing my map, I saw that we would be crossing to the spit of land that stuck out from the main coast. A hardly marked road could be seen crisscrossing and meandering over mountains, gorges and shearing cliffs from the point where the ferry would drop us off.
Steam erupted out of my ears, my eyes flashed red and my fingers turned into talons. Mark would pay. Okay, okay, I’m being a drama queen aren’t I? I know that. But I just needed today to be the most relaxing it could be. Yet, it proved to be the most enlightening moment I had in the last few months.
Looking out the Adriatic Sea against a rail, I thought about my experience in the last 48 hours. Mark was probably hiding out for the next 15 minutes. But seeing Korcula drifting away into the horizon, I realised I was no longer the traveller I was.
The last three years had been utterly amazing, sightseeing the world through these wise eyes. I had scrimped and saved as much as I could give a bad name to budgeting to the extreme. But I was getting older and I liked my comforts more and more. I couldn’t ‘doss’ in the cheapest hostel. Nor could I eat the cheapest pot noodles or ignore exciting tours that proved to be a little expensive.
It was time for a change. That moment, I was no longer a budget backpacker.
What does this mean? Am I going to stop backpacking and instead live the James Bond lifestyle?
I still love backpacking. I just love the feel of becoming an explorer to sights unknown to you. Experiences that’ll give you a lifetime of memories as I interact locally through unexpected means. I don’t want to be shown around by poorly trained luxury guides who hasn’t a clue about culture and history.
I would become a Luxury Backpacker.
I would free up my funds. I would stay in more luxurious hostels aptly called luxury hostels in my own private room yet social spaces are there. I would pack properly choosing to pack jackets instead of SE Asia vests with your standard beer logo on them. I would opt first to fly with better airline brands such as KLM or British Airways instead of the cheapest budget airlines that land at an airport miles away from your desired destination. I would dine out in local restaurants, ask to meet people instead of the pot noodle in the social kitchen of beer swilling backpackers. I would choose not to go out partying almost every night, choosing only to go to bed early and rise up for a hike or capture that epic sunrise. My travels would be slower and more planned out instead of rip-roaring speedily making my way round every destination within a short space of time. I would be a luxury backpacker personified.
So as the 15 minute ferry ride came to a close, I got back on the bus to find Mark apologetically looking at me from his seat. I came up close to him staring him down.
Then I gave him a bear hug.
‘Geroof!’ He flailed wildly, embarrassed at the titters coming from the rest of the bus, ‘What are you?’
I simply smiled, my head still resting on his shoulder, and replied,
‘A Luxury Backpacker.’
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