July 29 – August 12, 2019
I didn’t write about our travel for 3 months. As soon as we got together with family, I had no time or inspiration to be on social media, to reflect properly without taking time away from our tribe. We are quite fortunate to have a large, well connected and super social family, spread out throughout Denmark, Serbia and Bosnia. These last 3 months have been the most time I’ve spent in this part of the world, in continuity, for the past 28 years. I can say with certainty that this time has been the most precious part of our trip so far.
About 16 years ago, Pedja, newborn Nikola (who was 6 weeks old at the time) and I went to Denmark unexpectedly to spend 4 weeks straight with my parents. Before that blessed trip, I saw my parents only a handful of times in 11 years (due to the civil war at home, them ending up as refugees in Denmark, my sister and I being (poor) students in the US, no money, no time, etc.). We didn’t spend more than 7-10 days/per year together (if that), in continuity, in 11 years.
So, 16 years ago, I ended up spending those 4 “meant-to-be” weeks with my mom and dad. They got to meet my newborn baby and I got to be their “baby” for a bit during that trip. I remember all the love oozing from all the pores during those 4 weeks. They were instantaneously in love with Nikola, they spoiled us, Mom cooked the best meals, Dad babysat his first grandson, he was over the moon in love with Nikola. My favorite memory of those 4 weeks was laying around with my parents in their king size bed, with my baby on one side, mom and dad around us. I was a new (30yr old) mother and my parent’s child, all in one. All of these precious memories were cemented in my brain as a pure gift as my dad died suddenly at the young age of 55, just a short month after this trip. Heart attack took him in 7 minutes. I miss him each day.
All the details of how we ended up in Denmark for those 4 weeks, how we took a kid practically out of the NICU (6 weeks earlier) on a trip across the ocean (in December), how we got the money for this trip completely unexpectedly (from my previous employer), how both Pedja and I got visas (in a week, from Los Angeles) and Nina his first passport (within a couple of days), just to make it to Denmark for seemingly no particular reason for those 4 weeks. That trip was just “meant-to-be” and even though we didn’t know it at the time, there was a perfectly wonderful reason for us to be there for that long.
Back to the point
These past 3 months with all our family members here in Europe feel just as much of a gift as that trip to Denmark was almost 16 years ago. This was all ‘meant-to-be”.
Even though this whole Refresh journey is a lot more than 3 months with family, a lot of its design and our schedule is based on making it back to Europe for 2 summers straight. Instead of this being a true ‘Around the World Trip’ where we continue to go in full circle around the globe, we’ve planned to go as far as Japan on our West to East journey and then turn back around to spend the 2nd summer in Europe. For the past 3 months, we were with family at all times, either in Greece, Bosnia, Montenegro or Serbia. After leaving Africa, our next stop was 2 weeks in Greece with Pedja’s family.
I often enough get funny looks when I say that “I sincerely love our vacations with my in-laws” (Pedja’s parents, aunt and uncle, niece, cousin and his family). When I think of my favorite seaside memories, I always recall our family time in Greece, year after year. That’s our very best ‘all-inclusive vacation”. Pedja’s Mom and aunt cook the best food, kids are constantly entertained by others, everyone gets along great and we can fully relax, probably better than at any ‘5-star all-inclusive’ resort.
The idea of our vacations in Greece was born one year while Pedja, my cousin Violeta and I were swimming in Croatia (Okrug Gornji near Trogir) and were reflecting back on our previous 3 weeks of travel that, at the time, consisted mostly of going from family to family, constantly in a rush.
We concluded then that we were most relaxed while by the seaside and that we somehow had to combine family time and beach time. I remember bringing that up to my in-laws a week later but I don’t think they took my plan seriously. When it came time to plan that portion of our next year’s trip (it was in February or March), they still didn’t think we could make it happen. Here we are, years later, regular vacations in Greece have become our summer staple for everyone involved. We were lucky to start this tradition with extended attendance, immediately establishing this idea that the beach time is best when the whole family comes along. It is my most favorite time spent with Pedja’s family.
When in Greece, we pretty much do nothing. We were lucky this summer to get a recommendation from friends for a perfect new spot for our large family and we now have no additional desire for extra day trips while in Greece. There is no need for outside entertainment, promenades, crowds, dressing up, make up, music, etc. We didn’t venture far from our compound. We spent our days with repeat schedule of eating, swimming, cooking, shooting the breeze, sleeping.
Petra had a special guest that joined out large party. Her friend Aelyne (who actually lives in Seattle) came from France where she usually spends her summers with her grandparents. Aelyne enjoyed a week with our family even though she was stuck with all Serbian speakers (if you ask Maksim, he would say this applies to him too). It was such a delight to have the girls together, halfway around the world.
We did rent 2 boats one day to explore the island directly across from our place and that was as much of an action we could handle in those 2 weeks. Girls (and I) worked on our needle point, Pedja’s niece Katarina and grandpa Milan dove for big shells, grandpa Milan taught kids fishing, we celebrated Pedja’s 46th birthday, every night felt like some sort of a dinner celebration.
We had such a great time there that, before we left, we paid our deposit for the same apartments for 2 weeks next year, August of 2020. Greece is where we see the most relaxed version of each other. Before we blink, next August will be here and we’ll see another version of “Groundhog-kind-of-a-vacation” all over again.