Monday, 16 July 2018

A Quick Guide to Croatia

I recently came back from a trip to Croatia, and decided it would be a good idea to make a mini guide for you.

I'll eventually also do a more detailed guide to each place I visited which I'll link to here, but this post will serve as a quick summary for those of you who are just beginning to contemplate whether or not Croatia is the sort of place you might quite like to go and visit.

It's odd to me that when I first really wanted to go to Croatia it was about ten years ago - back then it seemed to be a place that nobody really went to, the budget airlines didn't touch, and I got a confused look if I ever said the name. Now - helped largely by Game of Thrones, presumably - it's one of the big name European destinations of the moment.

A Balkan country on the Adriatic coast, Croatia is opposite Italy but surrounded by the likes of Slovenia, Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina. I had expected Croatian food to be similar of that of Italy, but found it was actually far different than I had predicted. The main Italian influences that I saw was the love of wine (although you'll find far more white wine in Croatia - something that made me very happy! They are also rather fond of their own wines, which is lucky as it is delicious) and the frequent appearance of colourful Vespas' in the bigger cities - which again, was a welcome appearance although it did mean I consistently missed my own Vespa (which didn't get stolen while I was away. Hooray!) The pizza is more American inspired than it is Italian, and sadly the bread just isn't up to the same standard.

While we're on the topic of food in Croatia - breakfast isn't really a thing. Your quick lunch stops that you'd get at Pret or Costa aren't a thing either. Croatia is absolutely filled with cafes in large outdoor squares giving you lots of people watching time and an escape from the heat - but somewhat oddly, it rarely actually includes any food. You'll have a hard time finding any typical brunch choices over here, and what you do find won't taste very nice. And it's unfortunately true what you hear - Croatia IS expensive, particularly the more south you go and of course anywhere where a cruise ship is likely to approach.

Public transport? It does work, but it isn't very frequent. The long distance buses are very affordable, but they're not the most frequent so you will have to essentially plan your days around them. The ferries are a good price but again, not very consistent, but there's no real way of getting around using them unless you happen to have brought your own yacht with you. You can buy tickets online or in person and it is straightforward.

When you think of Croatia, you'll probably think of beautiful blue beaches and fairytale villages, and both are correct. However, don't expect to go and sit on a lovely sand beach - the waters are a perfect shimmering blue, but the beaches are formed of the far less comfortable rocks and pebbles. If that doesn't bother you, go right ahead, but it's not the kind of beach I can enjoy. The towns and cities are as beautiful as the photos tell you they're going to be, and it's interesting to walk around a location that feels like it's straight from a fantasy novel - but we'll go more into that on the individual posts. And make sure you're not forgetting the beautiful Plitvice Lakes National Park - easily in my top 3 national parks that I've visited and absolutely worth a visit.

Check back soon for individual posts on Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes, Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik - and feel free to ask if you have anything you're curious about in the meantime!


Monday, 9 July 2018

14 Things I Learned From A 10 Day Social Media/Technology Ban

  Before going on my recent trip to Croatia, I decided to commit to a 10 day complete social media ban, whilst also cutting out all texts, all phone calls, and just generally not using technology as much as possible. I'd wanted to try this for a while, but it was just too difficult when I was constantly expecting messages from work or people I'd arranged to meet up with, and so I decided to coincide it with the trip to make it as easy as possible.

  It wasn't a complete technology ban - I was allowed to use my kindle and my camera as much as I wanted, and when on a boat I was allowed to use my phone (in airplane mode, so no notifications!) to listen to music I'd already downloaded. I didn't look at any social media, any notifications, and no messages - but we did use my friends' phone for directions and timetables and the occasional trip advisor restaurant hunt, though my use was minimal to try and keep to it.

  And here's the 14 things I learned from doing so!

001. Everyone should give it a try! It was refreshing, far more so than I expected to be. The freedom I eventually felt was pretty surprising.

002. The first 3 days were really difficult - especially in the evenings. I found myself going to bed really early just because I was thinking about using my phone so much. It felt really pathetic, and it was - but that had become my routine so much it was really difficult to stop. The hour or so before I go to bed is when I always scroll through all my normal sites and check youtube and whatever else, so that time period was a struggle.

003. It took about 6 days to get completely used to it - and at that point, I felt happy with the situation and like I could probably quite happily never go back to social media at all.

004. When I returned, I actually didn't want my technology access back. In a way, I was almost afraid to go back to using it when I'd enjoyed how I was without it much more.

005. I think my biggest worry was that no one would have even noticed I'd gone, or that I'd have no messages to come back to. I did, by the way. And so will you, if you do the same.

006. It's so difficult to keep up the technology break in real life. I wanted to try and perhaps never take my phone to work unless I'm going out afterwards - but I can't, because how would I call work to let them know my train has broken down on the way in or whatever else?

007. I actually miss how it used to be before social media was a big thing. You tried places you'd heard about, you managed to always meet your friends on time, you didn't feel so stressed.

008. I didn't realise until I stopped just how much pressure social media can make me feel. And I say this as someone who doesn't consider themselves particularly active on any social media platform, but the amount of pressure to be on there, replying to things, commenting, showing that I'm doing fun things is ridiculous.

009. Reading is fun! I never seem to read anymore because I'm always distracted by other things. Without technology, I read my way through three books!

010. Equally, there's a lot of interesting magazines out there now. I know we hear a lot about how print media is dying, and in some forms it is - but there are lots of independent magazines out there doing great things at the moment and are worth you taking a look at if you want to get a news fix and a perspective without having to find it online.

011. I realised how often I will compulsively check my phone to see if I have a message. I'm constantly picking it up just to check. It was nice to lose that need for a while.

012. It's worrying how quickly it all comes back to you. Despite how reluctant my return was, it didn't take long at all before I was back to consistently opening up the exact same apps and websites that I used to check a zillion times a day.

013. I used to think there was something a bit odd about the people who deleted facebook because they didn't want to deal with it anymore, but actually now I think they're on to something.

014. And no, the irony of writing a post about how social media isn't all that great for us which I am then going to promote on social media has not escaped me.

Have you taken a social media ban? Is it something you've considered doing?

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