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Exodus part IV: Visit Croatia & Montenegro. COVID travel

From Budva to Skadar lake. Montenegro

Exile Day 11

Four more days left in my forced exile before I can be allowed back in the US. If you ask me, these COVID regulations make zero sense, but I now love being on this trip and would rather keep going. I got used to it.

Becici Beach
Dolce Vita, Becici Beach

The only thing that worries me are my credit card bills. Fifteen days of forced vacation outside of Italy before being able to go back to NY can be pretty damn expensive. I have been doing my best to limit the damage, but it’s not easy. Also, a Spartan life is not what I love or want.

I have been pretty good so far: Almost zero shopping, mostly sleeping in Airbnbs.

montenegro
Skadar Lake with Sidro tours

Let’s put it this way: I could have done a much worse damage to my bank account.

I wake up early and the hotel owner takes me to his beach spot on Becici Beach: Dolce Vita. He drives a motorbike and I follow him with my car. I have some fresh sweezed juice and then I am up and running again.

Montenegro, Skadar Lake
Skadar Lake

Skadar Lake

I drive to Skadar Lake National park. I get to an eco tourism retreat, but it’s the wrong part of the lake. Someone redirects me to Rijeca Crnojevica. After another hour-drive, I take a boat tour to a particular area of the lake called Amazon for its vegetation. A paradise for birdwatchers. Very beautiful nature.

Skadar Lake

Shared between Montenegro and Albania, this lake is a national park in Montenegro. 

montenegro
Amazing nature in Montenegro

Podgorica

I drive to Podgorica to see my ex neighbor friend Sanja. We meet at Elit Restoran Bar for a delicious strawberry cake. My intention is to stay a half hour and then drive to another national park before heading back to Croatia. Instead, I decide to stay at my friend’s place and we have dinner at the same restaurant (Elit) with local live music. 

Porto MOntenegro
Porto Montenegro Yacth Club

Porto Montenegro: The Yacht Club

In the morning we decide to drive to Porto Montenegro and spend the day at the Yacht Club

The swimming pool is very beautiful and right on the sea. Super posh clientele.

We have some food by the pool. Before leaving, we go to a café in the nice harbor for some iced tea and cakes. I am already half way to Dubrovnik, but I feel bad leaving my friend there and letting her take a cab home. I feel tired though. Probably, spending too much time in my car doesn’t help either.

PMYC
Pool at the Yacht Club

I drive back to Podgorica and decide to leave in the morning. Another 3-hour drive. 

Back to Dubrovnik. Super sick

Exile Day 12

My stomach keeps bothering me the whole night. I wake up early, get ready to leave and am not even able to eat breakfast. Trust me, it’s a big deal for me.

montenegro
PMYC

I feel a bit nauseous. Buying a burek would seem a good idea, but my stomach says no. I stop in front of the pekara (bakery), almost get in the place, but nausea takes over. I get back in the car and focus on not vomiting and not looking sick when I have to pass the border. During a pandemic, any sign of sickness can alarm the border police and they could refuse my entrance to Croatia.

I have to stop at a gas station and I do throw up. My stomach is going crazy, my belly too. What is happening to me? Is this COVID? Is this exhaustion? When I caught the virus last year, it all started with stomach problems.

I get to pass the border with no issues and I’m back in Croatia. I feel a little bit of relief.

Dubrovnik: Stairs
Dubrovnik: Stairs

I go to Avis to drop my Audi A3 off. They ask me to wait and I’m unable to stand. I first sit on a chair. Then other clients get in the office and I have to move. I bend over my trolley, not feeling well. I ask if I can leave again and again. They tell me to wait. I’m dreaming of a bed where I can lay down. 

Carrying my suitcases: Hard task

I get out of the office and bend over my luggage. I try to stand. It’s hard. I go back in the office and then out again. When the Avis employee comes to finally give me the documents I’m not well at all. He asks me what is wrong and I don’t have an answer. I really think I have COVID again. I am not even able to talk much. He runs away, a bit scared.

My new task is carrying my two suitcases plus one bag 300 meters to get to the airport terminal, take the COVID test I need to be allowed on a plane and finally get to my Airbnb. Arduous task at this point.

I make it more than halfway, but then I start having trouble breathing. “OMG, I really got COVID again,” I think to myself, while I start seeing all dark. I leave one luggage and pass out on a bench while vomiting on my arm. I look like a drug addict and I don’t even drink alcohol. Let alone use drugs. I am embarrassed. “Hopefully nobody sees me,” I keep thinking. I gather some force and carry the luggage inside the airport terminal. 

dubrovnik
Hotel Argentina

I have to use the restroom again. A policeman scolds me while I’m seated on a chair in the airport, trying to find the force to stand up and get to the COVID test area. I have no mask. He says he could fine me. I’m trying to breathe. I put a mask on. Another obstacle.

I am not anti-vax but I can’t stand masks.

COVID pre-flight testjfk, us customs,

I get to the COVID testing area and am not able to stand while waiting to get tested. I sit on a pole on the floor.

They look at me with apprehension. At this point, I am sure to have contracted the virus and am playing in my mind the possible scenarios. “Will I stay in Croatia while sick? How can I go back to Italy or the US? More importantly, when will I be allowed to enter one of these countries? Was my exile useless?”

Well, no. Traveling is never useless: That’s where my most unforgettable life experiences come from. Visiting the world is one of my reasons of life.

I get the test and finally order an Uber. After getting to destination, I find out I have to walk lot of stairs before getting to the apartment. I slide the big luggage down the stairs. And up. A last effort and I’m in the apartment. The host talks to me but all I can dream of is being in bed.

I have a fever. After sleeping for a few hours, I force myself out of bed to go get some medicines and rice. I haven’t eaten all day, extremely rare for me.

I’m back in bed by 10 P.M. and stay there until 2:30 P.M. of the following day. Exhausted.

“What a waste,” my wanderlust mind shouts. I keep it quiet and try to relax.

dubrovnik

Last day in Dubrovnik

Exile Day 13

This is my last day in Croatia. Half of it is gone. I book my girl’s favorite restaurant –Victoria– in the Hotel Argentina and go there at 8 P.M.. Good food, but I am forcing myself to eat. For sure my most expensive dinner in town.

I take very nice sunset pics with the view. I don’t look sick, but I’m still feeling weak. 

My Croatian friend shows me a pathway to get the sea from the hotel Argentina. Amazingly romantic atmosphere and falling stars.

croatia
Lopud

Will the let me in the US?

Exile Day 14

After a last croissant in Dubrovnik, I have to go to the airport to try to come back to the US.

Will they let me in? Did they close to Croatia, Bosnia or Montenegro in the meantime? Was going to Bosnia and Montenegro a mistake?

A lot of doubts in my mind. 

Let me hop on this direct flight from Dubrovnik to NY and see what happens.

I have a whole row and lay down most of the flight. Thanks Delta Airlines.

My stomach is better but definitely not ok. 

JFK

I get to JFK and there’s no line at customs. An Asian American border policeman finds out I cover basketball. He is passionate about the NBA. We end up talking about my interviews and the NBA finals.

I tell him the US put me in exile and I wasn’t able to stay in Italy long. He asks me if the COVID situation in Italy is still very bad. “Not at all,” I answer. “But the US is closed to the Schengen area for no real reason. For sure, it’s not based on COVID numbers. It’s all political,” I add.

He can send me back and deny my access to the country. Instead, he apologizes. “I hope they will open up soon,” he says. How long are you staying here?”

“I have to work now, but if they open I want to leave as soon as possible. Maybe in September, maybe earlier”. 

New York, I’m back. For now. 

Exile Part 1

Exile Part 2

Exile Part 3

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