“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head?”
This week was definitely a week of firsts. Not just because I added two new cities to the list of places I have been (the beautiful Orebić and Korćula of Croatia), but because I ate fresh seafood, and anyone who knows me knows that I have a strong disliking for seafood. From what I have gathered it is a texture thing. And an aesthetic thing. There is just something about a chewy morsel of squid tentacle that I cannot overcome; or the way a shrimp looks with its long and pin-like legs and antennae. But this past weekend I overcame some of this fear.
A group of 10 of us decided to go to the beach this past weekend, and Orebić was suggested to us by our wonderful program director, Ann. We decided to rent two cars, which was yet another first. We wound our way through the beautiful country side of Bosnia and Herzegovina, noting the pronounced difference between the two climates that exist in the Balkan region, the humid continental climate in the mountains of Bosnia, and the Mediterranean climate as you move closer toward the sea.
Our 6-hour drive provided us with laughs and getting to know one another, signing along to American pop, and times of needed silence. As we reached our destination, dusk was creeping into the mainland and the city lights were becoming more prominent. As I saw the Adriatic at dusk, I felt a sense of calmness and beauty.
Now for the exciting part. Once we checked into our apartment we were renting, and dropped out bags, we realized that we were all starved. We walked down to the shore-line and found a restaurant that was still open. This poor waitress. She had 10 individuals that were starved, tired from being in a car for 6 hours, and it was 10 pm. Normally going to a place to get food this late would not be a problem, except that we were in a tiny seaside town, and while it sees its fair share of tourists, was still a tiny seaside town nonetheless. We all sit-down and order water and wine, and of course are dining at one of the more-finer establishments in this city. As we enjoy our wine and look over our menu, our waitress tells us about the special fish of the day, she tells us that it is quite good and is enough to feed a decent amount of people. Following this, she asks us if we would like to see the fish. She promptly brings out a massive, raw white-fish (I have no idea what kind of fish it was) that had to be around 20 pounds (again no knowledge of fishing, and how to guess weight from size). A few decided that they wanted it, and the entire time I am freaking out because we are going to eat this ginormous fish that she just showed us. We of course ,order other dishes as well.
Because the fish was taking a while to prepare, the other dishes arrive first, and what do I see next to me? My friend, Lindsey, had just ordered a shrimp and pasta dish, with the heads, legs, and shells still on them! I tell her that I am quietly freaking out and that I cannot fathom eating one of those shrimp, all while she is ripping the heads, legs, and shells off of them. While I eat my boring chicken, Lindsey asks me if I want to try a shrimp. She says that she’ll take everything off if I just try it… Just then a little voice in my head tells me “Julia, when will you ever be in a place where you can get this fresh of seafood? Just get over it and try it”. And that was it. I pop the little guy in my mouth. What a delicious little morsel of food!! It was not chewy as seafood at home has been. It was succulent and tossed in this amazing pasta sauce. Just then the waitress comes back with the cooked fish. Figuring why not, I take some fish meat. What a great decision that was! It was lemony, fresh, spiced, and did not taste too fishy. Who was I becoming?! I was eating fresh seafood and liking it!
I decided to write about this moment because I feel that this is what travel is about. Taking risks, learning new things, and pushing yourself. How can I ever grow if I never push myself? Immersing yourself in a new culture, learning to see how another lives, and putting yourself in the shoes of another. Changing your worldview. That is what all of this is about.