Plitvice Lakes National Park in winter

Mum and dad

The best thing about visiting the park during winter is having it almost all to yourself. In our 4 hours roaming around plitvice, we saw maybe 4 other people. There was also more water because of the rain that was pouring down the few days before.

Plitvice a month before, during Autumn
A month later – bare trees

Pictures say everything! I definitely feel that going during Autumn was a much better idea but we didn’t have a choice since my parents were in Croatia for the winter. Still, we made the best of our situation.

38 years of love
Super cool to see the fog descending into the lower lakes

We took the suggestion of the park attendant and took route E. It starts from the 2nd entrance of the park.

You walk on the boardwalk and see the tides on both sides
Chanced upon very romantic views along the way, thanks to the fog
Fog on the way to the big waterfall in the lower lakes
10m visibility while walking in the lower lakes
Fav pic of the day – last lake on route E before taking the tram back to entrance 2

There are many different routes you can take in the park during the warm weather days in plitvice. Winter weather would limit your choices if snowing occurs and freezes certain boardwalks making it unsafe to walk on. However, we had a magical day when the sun was up, there was a low fog covering the entire lower lake section. So the views were unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It transports you to another world, where fairies probably exist.

I’ll definitely come back to plitvice during the summer and we shall see what the difference will be. We had a great time, walking through the different pools, having a noon picnic and then being surprised by different sights while walking in the fog.

I’ll write about Krka national park in the next post and tell you how it went! Ciao

The day we drank Rakija for 8 hours

It’s 2pm and we have been drinking Rakija for a few hours now. Alejandro serves up a huge pot of pumpkin stew with chicken – chicken they had slaughtered with their bare hands the day before. I take a bite of the kampong chicken and immediately ate three more spoonfuls. When the bowl was done I ate another one. It was just SO GUD. He had added some barley in there too so they combination of all the flavours and textures just WORKED.

With Chloe, Alejandro and Petra

Petra used to be a professional horse jockey, but according to her wasn’t a great one since she was very tall. I’m sure she was just being humble. After retiring, she brought her horses along with her and started a farm with her husband. They have 24 acres of land, 6 horses, 4 dogs, 3 cats and big hearts.

Chloe and me

We came to the farm to visit chloe, my sweet friend from New York who arrived in Croatia around the same time as me. We had met in a hostel and spent some time together, forming a bond that led us to meet again and again over the next few weeks. She has been doing a workaway at this farm, and I was happy to find her in her element, working with animals, being in nature, and finding many opportunities to reflect and be with her thoughts.

Petra isn’t much more older than chloe and I, she’s 34, once divorced and a bad ass boss lady. In Croatia, people are still rather sexist and she ignored social norms and did things her way. She and her husband have worked hard to build their farm, and are still in the process of finishing a building with a swimming pool. They build everything on their own. Brick by brick, pebble by pebble.

Another workawayer, Alejandro, was a real treat to meet. Although only 24, he has travelled around for 7 years and left Colombia at just 17 years old after high school. My mum asked him “why did you want to leave?” and he replied “I just wanted to, I knew I didn’t want to stay.” I thought about the 17 year olds of now, or the 17 year olds of then – were we so sure of things? Being so sure of something, sure is great! He’s been working everywhere in the world and doesn’t plan to stop. Of course, many Latinos travel because going home isn’t a better option. Unemployment rate is high, governments are more corrupt, social unrest is higher. That is why, I feel that there are even less excuses for singaporeans to go out there and slow travel. What’s the worst that could happen?

Alejandro and mama

Of course after Rakija, you start to use a spoon as a mic. Of course….. (Rakija is a home made liquor made from natural sweetness from fruits. Pears, grapes, cherries etc) it’s distilled for a few weeks or months and the percentage of alcohol is quite high! About 30+ percent.

We started sharing music, and mama put on a Chinese song and belted it out. Alejandro completely immersed himself into it, and jived along with her, while taking a video to commemorate the moment. I took pride in searing this precious memory into my mind. My mummy is experiencing what I have been enjoying for the entire year. She’s meeting a stranger, younger than her youngest child, and singing karaoke together like they’ve been forever friends.

Daddy and I dancing
New best friends
No idea what daddy and I were doing
Dad taking a selfie and cutting himself off – Rakija……

The fact that my parents were dancing the night away with my friends was such a fantastic experience. I wasn’t surprised of course, my parents have always been fun loving people. But seeing Petra, Chloe and Alejandro have so much fun with them, made me extremely proud to be their daughter. I have such cool parents!!

The great thing is how curious my parents were about all 3 of them. They asked questions, good ones! They made the effort to get to know my friends, go beyond the surface to get to really know them. They showed care and love to them as I would. And that’s when I realized, that who I am is greatly influenced by who my parents are.

After a whole afternoon of drinking, our friends kindly invited us to stay the night. We cooked chicken masala for them and slept on mattresses in the attic. We also bought Petra a whole tub of ice cream which she almost finished. The next day, they brought us to their neighbour Goran’s place, where he’s also building his own place and a few glamping tents for tourists.

Goran and me – Croatians are so tall!

From Goran’s place, we started a short walk to visit a cave. I love caves so I was really excited!!!!

Steep walk into the entrance

Mummy was pretty scared at first, because she didn’t like how dark the cave would be. So I told her to “find your fear and do it anyway!”

Stalactites and stalagmites
Small bats in the cave

I’m really glad I decided to show what slow traveling is to dad and mum. From the start I told them I wouldn’t make plans past 2 or 3 nights, that I wanted them to experience how not planning makes room for spontaneity. Because we had no plans at all, we could accept the invitation to stay. Because of that, we were able to exchange recipes with our friends, and gift them our spices. They also made time to bring us to the cave to show us what we wouldn’t have found without them.

Not planning is pretty hard to do at first. But once you get hooked on it, you pretty much never turn back. Letting go of trying to control the future helps us be in the present. I couldn’t explain this to my parents but I’m glad I could show them. Life unfolded, and we received what life gifted us – 36 hours of being in a ranch with 3 amazing hosts and their precious animals.

Till next story – ciao ciao!

The Tor Rebels in Croatia

“Joanne, you’re absolutely crazy. How can you be going to Croatia now when it’s still covid times??? And you want to risk your husband’s life as well by bringing him there?”

My mother, unlike me, has a problem fighting against her people pleasing tendencies. By a stroke of luck, I have always grown up as a natural rebel. The more someone says it can’t be done, the more intrigued I am in getting it done. But not my mother.

Sunset in zadar

I had been in split with some friends when my mum video called me. I showed her where I was and she said “Waaaaaaahhhhhhh I want!!!!!!” to which I said “technically you could come! Just have to pay for quarantine when you go back.”

Against much well meaning advice and concerns, my mother made an executive decision to come find me. Me – her daughter who powered through covid times and continued slow traveling, as though I were invincible. The recovery from grief and trauma makes you a little delirious sometimes, and that’s what brought my journey to Croatia. A few days later, my dad joined the rebel team. We were a formidable trio who had our minds set on reuniting in a few weeks.

For the next few weeks, we got everything sorted – what they needed to bring me (mostly food food and more food), where they would serve quarantine, travel insurance etc etc. My dad would ask “how many days!” and from 25! It went down to 19! Then 5! Then 18 hours!!!

Reunited after 11 months

My parents brought along 30kilos of baggage, a ton of guilt, took a 15 hour flight and arrived safe in my arms about a week ago. They were made to feel very guilty before leaving, and were tremendously afraid of contracting the virus and being irresponsible to their family and friends back home. But love prevails, and their love for me helped them swim against the tides of societal pressures. The first thing they asked me at the airport was “Here need to check in anot” I hadn’t got a clue what they meant so I said uh….. No?

After taking a test and providing their negative results to the government, they received confirmation that they could be released into the wild. They only had to quarantine for 48 hours.

After completing their quarantine, we spent a few freezing days exploring Zagreb before coming to sunny Zadar, where blue skies are taken for granted and everyone is happy and says hi to you.

Having not met them for a year, it was hard at first to adjust to being together all the time. Certain topics came to discussion and there have been tears, laughter and lots of hugs and holding hands. For those who haven’t read my personal blog before, 2020 has been, for me, a year of healing from a divorce. A divorce happens not just to you, but to your family too. My parents have also been hurting and being emotional caregivers for me, needed this break to breathe and let loose.

Since we’ve been reunited, we spend every day enjoying the little things. Being able to see each other once we wake up in the morning, borrowing tooth paste to brush our teeth before we sleep at night. We enjoy watching the leaves fall, we laugh at seagulls stealing food from pigeons. We hold hands while walking to the grocery store, we watch sunsets together, go for long walks together, and cook alot.

In Croatia, most restaurants and shops are open, although only till 10pm, which is fine because the sun sets by 5pm, making you sleepy by 9pm.

Mum enjoys taking her walks, cooking soups and then watching Korean drama shows while facing the sunset.

Dad enjoys following me on grocery runs, twirling me around like he always does when we walk, and drinking Croatian beer while flipping through Croatian TV channels.

Taking an afternoon dip in the 14 Deg water

I’ve always known my parents were special, but this trip is extra unforgettable. I’m thankful for them taking this leap of faith and trusting me to bring them around Croatia safely. Its not easy to go against the grain, and have to constantly answer to people. Luckily, now that they’re here, they realize its completely doable to keep a 5 metre distance from people if they wanted, and that its not that scary to travel amidst covid.

We have 5 precious weeks together, and I’ve got a good number of places to show them. Croatia has been one of my favourite places to explore so far, and my parents being here with me just tops the cake. Plus gelato here is $2, I think that’s reason enough to stay here for a while.

Life is a gift, and it’s up to us to decide how we want to enjoy this honour of living. When we dare to make our own choices, walk our own paths and tell our own stories, we take ownership of our lives. We stop blaming things or situations, and we learn that there are a million things that are out of our control. We only get to choose how we behave as people, and how we respond to what life throws us into.

My parents gave me this sweet breath of life, they taught me what love is, and they’ve always had my back no matter what. They’re my tribe, my people, my best friends. I’m so thankful to them and incredibly grateful that we have this chance of a lifetime to explore Croatia together – covid or not.

Till the next update! The Tor Rebels sending everyone love and light.