7 years ago, I decided to study International Relations in Masters programme in the UK after my long holiday. I finished my bachelor’s degree in South Korea, and had an experience studying in Tokyo for a year in between. But, somewhat my inner self was eager to see the bigger world. But, instead of fulling my desire, I soon started working in Tokyo. I believe my quarter life crisis started from this point. Working in a different country was not as easy as I thought. Moreover, working life was not exactly what I imagined. That is, I thought I would become a cool sociable and competent individual. Looking back those days, I may have been too impatient, and emotionally unstable. Though, I couldn’t stand a sense of the self-defeated. So, I quit the job, and flew to London for my long vacation.
London life was great. The city was so charming that I fell in love soon. But months of clubbing and drinking as an excuse of my long vacation did not make me happy. ‘I wanted to study abroad with many bright people’. This thought struck me all of a sudden. Like the decision to come to London, I spontaneously decided to study, and started preparing all the requirements to be met to enter the university in the UK. So, I received an admission offer from the university I aimed for, and had a couple of months until the first semester started. So, traveling came to my first priority list.
On top of my preference of Eastern Europe as a travel destination, two minutes conversation with a guy I met in Stockholm was stuck in my head for weeks. The guy asked “Have you been to Croatia?” “No, not yet, but I’d love to go anytime soon.” answered without much thinking. He said with eyes that were as if he was there, “I love Hvar Island. Very small Island in Croatia. People go there for partying but it was different to me.” “How different” I became curious. “Well, I was devastated with a series of failure on my business. At first, I didn’t want to go with my friends. But, isolation from the island was in fact a turning point to me to broaden my eyes.” I still did not understand. He continued. “I stayed in the island for another 4days after my friend returned to Stockholm. At the time, I met local people who were genuinely happy about their life. Beautiful Adriatic Sea also helped. I think sunny weather also helped local people have a positive mindset.”
At the very time I met the guy, I did not fully grasp what he meant. But, the island of Hvar was attractive enough for me to squeeze the plan into my entire trip to Eastern Europe. The reason what the guy said resonated me was I still wasn’t fully sure my decision to study and direction to the life was correct. My mind was pretty chaotic and sometimes I couldn’t control how my thought goes.
Hvar Island is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes away from Split, one of the city in Croatia. After drowsy ferry ride caused from a motion sickness tablet, we arrived at the port around noon. The sun was too strong to open my eyes. As the Swedish guy said, there were many people who seemed they were there for party. Our hotel was located on top of the mountain, and we also had to take 15mins bus to get there.
In the centre of Hvar Island, the iconic St. Stephen’s Cathedral was standing. As many ancient architecture in Spilt, the Cathedral preserved a beautiful Gothic Roman Catholic style. I couldn’t imagine this Cathedral under rainy weather as the building was shining beautifully with the sun.
I and my friend got lost on the way to the hotel. Since we didn’t have a local SIM card, we ended up hitchhiking. It was fun getting lost in a local street with no tourists and local people curiously stared at us. We got a ride on a big truck, and gave my thank you message in Croatian to the driver. The old local guy gave us smile back, and waved his hand wishing us a safe trip.
After unpacking our suitcase, I told my friend “I don’t want to go out for partying. But, just want to be relaxing at the beach and having a good meal.” My friend confidently responded to me “Sure. We can just appreciate the ambience.” without hesitation.
The beach in the island was fantastic. The ocean was glittering from the sunshine, and water was pristine. That was my first time I saw a picturesque beach so-called white sand and green water featured in a magazine. I had water phobia partly because of my bad eyesight, and hardly went to beaches. My eyes were genetically weak, and had to wear thick glasses and contact lenses as a child. What is more, every time I go on a plane, ‘what if I dropped into the water, and died because I cannot see anything in the water.’ But, that worrying had gone as I had ICL (Implantable Contact Lens) just before I headed to Croatia.
After playing in the water like a child, I and my friend were laying on the beach with a short of breath. Wiping out water from his body, my friend said “This place is amazing. It is so funny you chose to come here because of the guy you hardly know mentioned?” I just smiled. My friend was also in the kind of same situation as mine. He was ill and had to stay home for a year. He had to finish university, which was a bit late for his age. Furthermore, he often said he didn’t have anything he want to do. I was the opposite. I sprinted toward the future, and had unlimited number of things I wanted to do. But, I still don’t know how to describe the feelings I had 7 years ago. I remember the feelings but cannot describe it. ‘Lost’ may be the closest one, but not quite the same. Those feelings are left undefined, but it is okay as it is.
The word ‘Quarter-life-crisis’ did not exist 7 years ago. It may have been around, but I didn’t know then. According to the age range, I am still within those who may have ‘quarter-life-crisis’. At the time, everything was bleak, but I still feel the similar way now but different from those at my early 20s. Whether or not this is something psychiatrist or people out there call ‘quarter-life-crisis’, I personally think feelings I have had are usual phase of life. The society has become and will be becoming more complex, and people will encounter different situations our parents did not go through. My partner sometimes said I had an extended childhood. It could be right. It could be wrong. Thinking about own life can be a great deal burden, but it is our human being’s homework as long as we live in the world.
For me, Hvar Island is all about calm sunset and incredibly serene beach having reflecting the past, which I don’t usually have. Looking at the sunset, I used to think ‘This Adriatic Sea will meet another ocean from another continent.’ My stay in Hvar was quiet and reflective moment. I will visit there again with my vivid memory of early 20s.