Any country that's not "first world" or over three hundred years old seems to immediately get crossed off the list. I'm not bashing Western Europe by any means, I believe it's a great place and has a lot of history, I'm just encouraging us to think with an open mind.
It has always been a struggle for me to "fight" for Mexico and try to dispel the myths about it when the press is constantly ragging on it. I will continue to advocate Mexico and now Turkey and Croatia, two of my favorite "under dogs."
If you like pristine nature, untouched coast lines and deep blue water, Croatia is the place for you. This little country was just established in 1991 when Yugoslavia broke apart into Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Croatia. The civil war from 1991-1995 was devastating and evidence of it still remains in the abandoned buildings around Dubrovnik, however, Croatia has not skipped a beat as a developing country. Dubrovnik is by far the cleanest city I have ever visited and feels extremely safe.
My first morning at the hostel I met Nick and Ben, two British guys on holiday for the week. One of the first questions they asked me was, "does fat camp really exist in the U.S.?" and I instantly knew we would be friends.
We were pondering the fat camp idea (come to think about it, I'm really not sure about the answer, anyone have any insight?) and they invited me to explore Locrum, an island just off the cost of Dubrovnik for the day. Locrum, is uninhabited and covered in green foliage with abrupt cliffs and striking views. We were attracted for the cliff jumping. One side of the island had a sort of "beach" consisting of flat volcanic rock that dropped off into the water. We enjoyed a day jumping off the cliff beaches and wandering the island.
When we arrived at the hostel that evening, everyone was gathered around the dinner table discussing Croatian history and politics. I instantly knew I had picked the perfect place to stay! Everyone seemed to be traveling alone and we had a great time getting to know each other, playing cards, and eventually ended the night bar hopping together. What an experience!
The next day, I made plans to visit a local arboretum with my Dubrovnik BFF aka new Dutch friend Ruud. The trip involved taking two different local busses about 20 minutes out of the city. If you looking for adventure, I would recommend taking a multi-bus trip in a foreign country. It never fails to disappoint.
The first bus was a breeze. After inquiring with several locals and switching between several different bus stops, we finally tracked down the second bus.
The arboretum was nice, but we really just breezed through it because the blue water and crashing waves below were too enticing.
The journey down the cliff to the water turned out to be an enlightening lesson in Croatian history and culture. The path was a winding staircase lined with pomegranate trees and grape vines (making for yummy snacks) and little Croatian homes-all of which were abandoned! I was shocked that so many homes in such prime real-estate were vacant and left to crumble into the sea. We never found out the true story, but I'm thinking it has something to do with the war and bombing of Dubrovnik in the '90s.
Regardless, we found ourselves in a quaint little harbor surrounded by gorgeous scenery. A German man event lent us his snorkel gear! We were surrounded by hundreds of fish and could see for meters.
After a few hours of swimming, we decided to try our luck at hitchhiking. It unfortunately proved quite unsuccessful. We stood with our sigh for about 30 minutes until the bus to take us back finally arrived.
When Ruud and I returned to the city we finished the evening walking the top of the wall that surrounds the whole city. The views were striking and sunset was wonderful.