"People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive."
~ Joseph Campbell

" I would rather die in a bus crash in Nepal than of boredom at home."
~ Me, to my poor mother, circa 1995

As I dropped the van off at the VW dealer in Macedonia, the first of three times(!), the service manager said, "1991, that's an old van!" I said, "Yeah, my friends keep saying, 'why don't you just get a new van,' and I don't have a good answer..." I looked at him imploringly, hoping for some pearls of wisdom, but he just laughed. Maybe the guy who sells brand new Volkswagens isn't the one to ask why I should keep repairing my 30-year-old van. When they couldn't identify an electrical problem with the alternator, he said, "Look at those guys," pointing to the technicians. "They were all born after your car was made!"

But it's a little complicated. I can't be the legal owner of a vehicle in Europe because I'm not a legal resident. Through two amazing friends who were willing to be the legal owners while I paid all the bills, I've had the van now for 11 years. Usually I'm in Europe for four or five months, so spending a big chunk of change on a van didn't make sense to me. But since the pandemic I've been here two years, and lately things keep failing on the van. Given the laws about transferring a vehicle from an EU country into France, I'm only able to bring in a standard factory-made camper van to avoid a costly and time-consuming inspection/normalization. (It was around €1,500 to bring my van from Germany.) I'd love a cozy customized van made in France. Oh, I'll just learn French real quick so I can search for one! Not so simple, really.

There are also some real benefits to driving an inexpensive vehicle to the places that I go. You should see where I go! I'm driving on narrow dirt roads with branches scraping both sides of the van at the same time. No problem! I'm driving where it would be better if I had a 4-wheel drive, I'm backing into things, and aware that one day that the van may die entirely. And it's all no problem, because it's inexpensive enough that I can afford to get it repaired, or get the dents fixed, or walk away entirely. I like that! I also appreciate the simplicity, if not the reliability, of my green monster.

Lastly: if predictability and routine were guiding principles in my life, I'd probably stay home.

SO! I had the engine rebuilt in November, and I need to be back in Slovenia to get some needed repairs under warranty. And I needed to come to Split, Croatia for a normal glaucoma check-up. I took only three days to drive, where you could do it in one long day, or if I didn't have a schedule I'd probably spend a month. Some photos, some stories, please to enjoy.

Too Much Love,

I buzzed through Kosovo quickly, crossing the border into Montenegro, which (who knew) is 80% mountains. Who knew anything about Montenegro! I'm a product of American schooling, and I don't remember much about the Balkans - not that I would have paid much attention anyway.

This is the Tara River Gorge, a spectacular canyon that is 80 km (50 miles) in length. The color of the water is incredible.

The Đurđevića Tara Bridge - wait, are those real letters? As an English-only speaker/reader/thinker/understanderer, sometimes I wonder if these people (somebody somewhere) don't actually give a hoot whether I'm comfortable with their wacky names and not-quite-real letters. Sorry, but I'm feeling marginalized. And feelings are real. Be an ally and support me! Anyway, this bridge-by-any-other-name is 172 metres (564 ft) above the Tara River.

I didn't jump.

Not far from the bridge I found this wide spot next to the road and wild camped for the night. Like many countries, it's technically illegal to wild camp, and widely practiced and accepted both by police and locals. I could hear the rushing river just next to me, just to the right of the photo.

I walked down to the river for a peek. River rafting is a popular sport here.

Do you remember all those other countries I was going to move to? Well, forget about them. I'm moving to Montenegro. If this village has a Peet's coffee, that's all I need.

A great village setting. The water is crystal clear.

I flag sites on Google Maps when someone mentions them, and I saw a flag on my map nearby that indicates "Want to go." I had no memory of why I flagged it, but it was the famous Ostrog monastery, the most popular in Montenegro. The road is narrow at the best places, and barely passable at others.

I took some photos for a friendly family of five. The Mom was an enthusiastic believer and asked how I came to be here. "Uh, kind of by accident, really," I said. She said with authority, "God brought you here!" Yeah, okay.

I really came here because I thought the place was 1,200 years old. I just looked it up, and it's "only" 350 years old. Can I deem that a miracle?? You can't just lose 850 years normally - in my world view, it's a miracle.

I always take a photo like this when I see them - usually in Tibetan temples.

What a setting.

They did a booming business in the shop!

This is a mosaic, taken from under the arch at the entrance.

I've crossed into Bosnia and Hercegovina by this point, and I'm scrambling on a baking hot day to find a place where it's not sweltering. When the road gets up to about 500 meters, (1,650 feet) I started looking for a place to park for the night.

And there you go. This small road went to a smaller village, and I tucked myself away here. Some friendly locals tooted their horn when they went by. Did they think it was ok that I was there? I hope so. It was super hot when I arrived, but cooled down in the night.

And the contrast, as I arrive in Solin, Croatia, just a few minutes from Split. I'm mostly showing you the photo of my room so you'll know that I'm not actually roughing it that much these days. I would NEVER stay in a place like this only a few years ago. My fall from grace started when I had the lip surgery in Delhi and needed a comfortable place to recover. After 10 days in a swish Indian Marriott, it's been downhill (by some people's perspective) ever since!

Walking distance from my hotel, this is the view from my favorite restaurant. That church at the left is brand new, just opened.

The town is ancient. It's thought that the Emperor Diocletian (who I always work into my blog posts) was born here, and he's known to have died here. There are substantial Roman ruins nearby, and the aqueduct that the Romans built to supply Split with water started here. These days Solin is relaxed and chill compared to the bars and night life in Split. So many families with young kids.

Another view from the restaurant.

And this is the interior of the new church. It's an unusual almost-round shape, but spacious and colorful inside. Beautiful.(The End)