Visiting other countries and experiencing their culture has always been at the top of my to-do list. Like many people out there, I have an extremely long bucket list of countries I am desperate to visit, and this is why I try to travel as often as possible.
Travelling abroad, however, can sometimes be a difficult and exhausting experience for me, as I have to factor in my sight impairment. I was born with Nystagmus due to Ocular Albinism and can find navigating new surroundings and different climates challenging.
This October I stretched my travelling ‘comfort zone’ to its limits by spontaneously booking a week long break to Dubrovnik, Croatia with my partner. Croatia was nothing like what we expected. We had anticipated to be greeted with similar weather and terrain to England, but we soon found this to be far from the truth. As we got off the plane a dry, hot sun beat down on us and countless hills and steep, rocky steps met us wherever we went.
Despite the initial stress and worry of not being able to cope, I was determined to do everything I had planned, regardless of the hurdles that were now ahead of me; so I threw myself into the new environment - and I don’t regret my decision for one second.
During our week, we explored the Old Town of Dubrovnik and challenged ourselves to climb the ridiculously high, city walls; as well as take the cable car up to the top of Mount Srd. We were also fortunate enough to be able to visit many of the small Croatian Islands and the neighbouring country of Montenegro.
Being massive “Game of Thrones” fans, we made it our mission to book onto a private tour which took us to Dubrovnik’s Old Town, which doubles up as King’s Landing in “Game of Thrones”. We also visited the Island of Lokrum, as it is home to the original Iron Throne that was used in one of the earlier series. The island is located adjacent to the Old Town and has been kept completely natural and unpopulated. Wild peacocks and rabbits roam the Island and it also houses a beautifully aged monastery and fort.
Getting around the island proved to be very tricky for me as the majority of the paths were loosely carved, rocky, dirt tracks and in many places you had to crawl over rocks to get across small, hidden rivers. All my countless stumbles and falls were worth it, as it was on this island that I learnt something important about my disability.
Whilst clambering up the extremely steep hill that led to the fort, I reluctantly, had to admit defeat. I let my partner continue hiking to the top, whilst I found a comfy spot on a clifftop that overlooked the Adriatic ocean. Initially, I felt very annoyed at myself for giving in, but deep down I knew I would never have been able to reach the top without seriously injuring myself. I learnt that it was okay to realise my own sight limits and that in the end, I lost out on nothing because my partner returned with several breath taking pictures for me to browse through later that day.
Croatia is such a beautiful, friendly country and it is by far one of the best places I have ever been to, rivalling recently destinations I have visited such as Tenerife and Malaysia. Before this trip, I was so determined to not give in to my disabilities but now I realise that it is much more important to focus on what I have achieved rather than what I haven’t.