“The island is ours. Here, in some way, we are young forever.” – E. Lockhart.
Flip flops, easy smiles, and friendly hey–where-are-you-froms surround us from all sides. Rach and I have just walked into Earthers Hostel in Hvar, Croatia to check in. Even after just minutes waiting in the reception area to find out our room, we’ve met great people.
Our morale is high at this point; we’re so excited to be in Hvar. But where appearances are concerned, we’re in dire straits. Hair in top buns because we’re running out of our travel-sized shampoo and conditioner. I’m wearing a still-damp shirt that I rinsed out with sink water and hung dry the night before. My last “clean” pair of socks are turned inside out to wear them one more time before they absolutely have to be washed. Make-up is a distant memory. Our first question to the staff here isn’t the standard “what’s the Wi-Fi?” It’s “where can we do laundry,” smiling but serious, more of a desperate statement then question, actually.
The last time I remember being this committed to the backpacking look was in Glacier National Park, Montana with one of my best friends Kelly. We were on a cross-country road trip from Pennsylvania to Washington state, taking a week to do it. The night we camped out in Glacier, I barely slept. I was convinced I’d feel a bear paw slicing across my sleep bag. At three in the morning I woke Kell up because I had to go to the bathroom and couldn’t bring myself to venture out alone. With headlamps on and a massive container of bear mace at the ready, Kell and I trekked through the dark woods to one of the park’s public restrooms. That morning I was exhausted and euphoric. We climbed onto the picnic table outside our tent and fist pumped in victory. Kell and Anna: 1, Bears: 0. Grunge Level: 10/10.
Hvar brought the exact same bliss. Our first night at Earthers, Rach and I brought our meager dinner ingredients (eggs and lettuce…we’re on a tight budget) into the main kitchen and sat outside with other hostel guests after we made our meal. Before we knew it, twenty of us were out on the hostel’s picnic tables, sharing our wine and beers, playing cards and trading stories. We met people from all over the world, solo travelers and huge groups of friends. All different personalities, yet all completely open books, wanting to learn about our adventures as much as they wanted to share theirs.
The hostel staff took all of us out with them after they got off work, leading us like ducklings through Hvar’s lively streets into their favorite bars. We sang and danced until early in the morning; we didn’t want to let the night end.
One night in Hvar during sunset, Rachel and I were on a boat with new friends. Our boat pulled up near a trampoline in the ocean that others were jumping on. We all looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. Why not? We leaped off the side and swam to the trampoline, Rachel and I yelling like kids. I grabbed her shoulders and we both asked, “how is this real?”
It’s real because we wanted it. We planned this trip, saved up, and boarded that plane. There are challenges, of course. We’re three months in and as fun as it is, we are tired. We are constantly figuring out routes. We are monitoring expenses. And, yeah, sometimes we wear unwashed clothes and the same pair of socks for an unacceptable number of days. But we are seeing the world, and taking care of each other while we do it. That’s more than enough for me right now.
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26 year-old Anna Idler lives in Montgomery County, PA and is a freelance writer for Montco Happening. To learn more about her travels, check out her website Outlaw Summer.