Lessons from the bus

If you’ve been following my month in Croatia on LinkedIn, you read my three-part reflection about my bus adventures.  I’ve been traveling by bus in Croatia for nearly ten years and you would think that I would have mastered it by now, right?  Not even close.  Two weeks ago, while sitting in a suffocatingly smoky cafe bar at the bus station in Zagreb, I realized that this bus experience is a metaphor for some of the life lessons I’ve been learning lately.

First, I decided to sit in that smoky cafe bar in Zagreb because I needed to charge my phone.  I weighed my options and decided to sit in discomfort for 15 minutes.  Yes, I walked away with irritated skin and smelling like smoke.  I also walked away with a charged phone before my nearly four-hour ride to Zadar.  

When I first lived in Croatia, Zadar was my home which is why it still holds a special place for me.  I planned to go to Zadar for four nights, but when my plans fell through, I decided to pack my bag and hop on the bus a day early.  Sure.  I hadn’t planned it, but I decided that spending time in Zadar was more important to me than sticking to my schedule.  I don’t love sitting in the Zagreb bus station, but I also appreciate that it is part of the journey that gets me to my next destination.  I prioritize the destination and have come to enjoy relaxing on the bus.  

The next week I traveled from Zagreb to Rijeka on a three-hour bus trip one way.  The first leg of the journey was uneventful.  I was prepared with my water, Dramamine, bread, and training I needed to finish on my laptop.  I had a wonderful day in Rijeka exploring and meeting with a colleague.  I headed back to the bus station and waited for the 7:00 pm return trip.  However, the scanner beeped each time the driver tried to approve my ticket.  She told me that I needed to go to another bus.  The thing is that I didn’t see another bus.  So, I walked down to the six-passenger van (!) that was parked behind the bus going to Zagreb.  The two employees at the location told me to hop in the back of the van.  

I needed to reconsider my options.  I was the only passenger and was not comfortable riding in the van alone.  I thought that I could try to buy a ticket for a later bus.  I could stay in an Airbnb and leave the next morning.  I could try to stow away on the first bus.  At this point, nothing was off the table.  Oh, and there was no phone charger in the van.  I know.  Enough about the phone charger… All of this thinking transpired in less than 60 seconds.  I was contemplating my options when two other passengers who seemed as perplexed as me, entered the van.  Ok.  That changed the equation.  I reconsidered again with this new information and decided to travel in the van.

So much for my bus plans.  I mean, I was ready to spend the next three hours watching Ted Lasso while charging my phone on the bus.  That didn’t happen, but you know what did?  I took some beautiful photos from the van, laughed with the other passengers, nearly vomited from motion sickness, and arrived in Zagreb 45 minutes earlier than the bus.  

It’s nearly always a both/and in life and on the bus. 

I will take the bus again the next time I travel to Croatia and I expect to feel surprised.  I’ll still make plans based on the information available to me, but I’ll hold those plans loosely because grasping onto them for safety means that it’s more difficult to use my logic to make aligned decisions when confronted with a six-passenger van.  

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