Affording a Getaway: Traveling Saved Me from Going Crazy

Pipeaway blogger Ivan Kralj sitting on one of the jetties in Georgetown, Penang Island, Malaysia, boats lining up on the horizon, photo by Weile Ng

Lazy Sunday afternoon. After waiting for the assistance of the waiter, I was seated in a restaurant on Södermalm island, at Folkungagatan. The restaurant was called Taste of Vietnam. Stockholm doesn’t get much more central than this.

Wok dish with chicken, cashew nuts and rice, with jasmine tea, at Taste of Vietnam restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden, photo by Ivan Kralj
Taste of Vietnam restaurant in Stockholm – Southeast Asian flavors with North European prices

A local friend recommended this place for a nice lunch, describing its prices as quite affordable. I cannot deny that the wok dish I ordered was delicious. Yet prices of the main course in this supposedly typical Vietnamese restaurant were starting at 149 SEK (15 Euros).

Affordable for the Western standard indeed. I recalled the memories from Vietnam and thought how eight months earlier I could have stretched this lunch budget to possibly an entire week.

In the middle of cold Stockholm, enjoying just a tiny taste of the beautiful tropical country from my memories, I was reflecting on the enormous differences in life and perspectives this world, full of contrasts, is cultivating. Traveling is a luxury, one way or the other. Even if it may be highly therapeutic, not everyone affords it.

Tricking my mind

At about this time last year, I made an instantaneous decision that changed the way how I was looking at my life, and my life itself. In the middle of the night, I was in front of my computer, buying a flight ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo. It sounds like any other ticket one can buy, but in November 2016 I was still permanently residing in – Croatia.

Long-term traveling is not easy, it might be even scary for some of us. In my case, it helped me to liberate from the chains I have put on my own wrists

My workaholic life in event management provided procrastination in which one deeply rationalized the decision of NOT taking a break. At that moment, I knew that a ticket from Croatia to any world destination would not push me over the edge. After any regular return trip, I would probably come home with only seemingly recharged batteries, which were actually severely drained.

So I tricked my brain with a deliberately irrational ticket from Malaysia to Japan. To rationalize this purchase, I knew that in the months to follow I will need to find the solution for how to get from Croatia to Malaysia and where to go after Japan so that the Kuala Lumpur-Tokyo ticket does not get wasted.

That exhausting night in Zagreb pushed me to make possibly my most significant decision in a decade and I – piped away. Asia, North America, EuropeAfrica, Central America, and return to Asia are already being planned, as I write this.

Long-term traveling certainly is not easy, it might be even scary for some of us, but in my case, it helped me to liberate myself from the chains I have put on my own wrists. I will never look back on this with the same eyes.

Does traveling really make us grow?

The other day I published the post on my private Facebook account, memorizing the anniversary of the date when I made the decision which instantly destroyed my procrastination. I confessed how I have learned, experienced, and gained a lot, and that, hopefully, I have even grown.

Many friends and colleagues sent love for the post speaking about the growth, but I especially appreciated one who contacted me with raising another question – what is precisely this concept of growth? She pointed out that it became almost distasteful by entering into this new-age jibberish self-help vocabulary. Oh, and I felt I agreed with her.

Paradoxically, when I say that traveling made me grow, I actually want to say it made me small. Small like a child. Because children learn the most and grow the most

Why do I think that traveling made me grow?

It certainly stopped the state of decay in which we end up by not embracing the inevitable life changes.

It threw me into this real-life encyclopedia of the world, in which every day one can learn something new.

Paradoxically, when I say that traveling made me grow, I actually want to say it made me small. Small like a child. Because children learn the most and grow the most. The moment when they stop growing is the same moment when they slow down their learning processes.

So traveling did not enable growth by itself; moving away just opened the growth potential. And that is what people who get stuck in their daily routines (even if those might sometimes seem creative and fun to outsiders), mostly need.

I believe that potential can be unleashed by traveling or any other adventure we delay jumping into, relying on the comfort of procrastinating. And I hope that’s not jibberish.

Ghosts of the past

My old life grabbed me by the neck in October – I surrendered to one event in Zagreb, my hometown, and accepted to organize it. It again reminded me how stress is actually tempting! It fills out our life with many exciting moments, which blur the fact that we are slowly eaten alive from the inside.

Organizing this event got me off my travel blogging track and, except for keeping Pipeaway‘s social accounts such as Instagram and Facebook alive, sadly I wasn’t posting anything on this site, even if so many stories, photographs, and videos were waiting to burst out of me.

Well, that will change now, as the experiment with “only one more event” actually proved how right I was. Even if I might be seemingly good at organizing events, doing them in Croatia, which has plenty of issues connected to the economy, cultural politics, organizational models, personnel policies, and people’s working habits, always took a significant toll.

Guidepost at Subcase showcase 2017, providing directions for even such activities such as "sleep" or "recharge", photo by Ivan Kralj
Organizers of the Subcase showcase thought about downtime too – providing tents in which professionals could take a nap between the talks, or a Swedish sauna and hot tub where they could recharge

Being outside

Luckily, my past career in the contemporary circus field still keeps my name alive in circus circles.

In November, it brought me to Subcase, the Nordic showcase of circus performances, where a seminar entitled ‘Circus as Outsider’ was held.

Being outside of the circus, but also, I guess, because my circus management career focused on providing public space for others, I was invited as a keynote speaker at the event.

Besides this enabling my trip to Stockholm (always a nice perk!), speaking in front of my old colleagues and friends reminded me how circus nomads and digital nomads were not that much different. All of us may feel displaced in our search to find stable ground – it is not just our talents that count, but also the environment that can sometimes be more, sometimes less supportive.

One of my dear circus friends Chloë Dear, a great pioneer of circus development in Scotland, left her stable position in Edinburgh for something unknown. She applied for the job she was only marginally interested in, and ended up in – New Zealand! Five years later, she feels no regrets, she says.

Every good cake starts with a recipe

I can’t say it is right for everyone, but following our gut is sometimes the best thing we can do. Taking a leap of faith can shake our stable worlds with just the right amount of intensity! Some experiences might not be so positive, but learning is always beneficial.

This reminds me that I need to learn to bake cakes. Chloë was always a good listener, and when she found out how much I loved cakes and how I was dreaming of owning a cake shop in the future, my mailbox quickly received two cake-baking booklets! That positive push from friends is sometimes all we need for a step forward.

Well, the cake business is still a dream for the future. Yet Chloë invites me to her new home, as long as I bake a cake. Affording a getaway is not really about funding your dreams, it’s about daring to found your dreams. Hmm, I guess I should roll up my sleeves and start baking. It might be a taste of Croatia in New Zealand next.

The author of the cover image of this article is WeiLe Ng.
The author of the other two photographs is Ivan Kralj. 
Ivan Kralj


Award-winning journalist and editor from Croatia

    1. I had to go back to my archives to investigate 🙂
      Somehow, I assumed it was done with GoPro.
      But no, it was my Canon, but the only person who could have shot it is you, as I’m in the picture, and we went there together. So I’ll credit you properly 😉
      And I’m surprised to hear about the locked gate – are all jetties closed off?
      Some special reason behind it?

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Pipeaway is a travel blog mapping extraordinary people, places and passions.
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