The last week in Croatia was an amazing experience. I was able to re-connect with a young man with who I had made an acquaintance and potential business partnership in London a few years ago by the name of Mario Tuksa. He was passionate and had just started his own travel company and we chatted not only in the scheduled slot for our meeting, but when I had an open slot, he returned and we chatted some more. It was more a conversation about life and passion for what you are and do and also being true to yourself. As with all potential business partnerships, I never promise business, but if the right client at the right time comes around, we will give it a shot and I have done with others.
I was lucky to stay in contact and when I attended another event in Los Angeles, his first time in the US, we connected again, and this time introduced him to one of my closest colleagues. I knew if the opportunity made itself available, we would do business and when my recent conference took place in Dubrovnik, I knew and related this to my colleague that was also attending, I wanted Mario to arrange the post conference educational experience. This would be the real test as to this point, I had not been able to work with him and my colleague concurred.
This approach of giving a potential partner the opportunity to showcase their passion, especially for an American client is something I had done in Norway, Argentina and other places. They also had the opportunity to arrange some client experiences before I actually experienced the possibilities in person, but I had a good feeling they were a good fit and I was not disappointed. Mario, not only had me to critique him, but others and he shined, not only with the initial itinerary presentation, but curveballs were given throughout the time together, like my zipline experience, which was added in the day before I did it or having another colleague join us in Istria and coordination of his plan, as well as the issues, that always seem to arise, the scheduling of the Covid test, and he shined. Knowing the difficulty of such a venture, he proved himself time and time again, even when the issue was not his fault. We were together for 5 days in the same vehicle. We laughed, chatted about a myriad number of topics. His English is excellent and his understanding of the American traveler is awesome. He has earned my respect and would not hesitate to hire him. All I can say is hvala!!!
As always, I am interested in your thoughts, comments, questions and adding to the discourse is always appreciated be in on the site itself or on Facebook, Twitter or wherever you read this. Thank you for your support of this small business and it is truly appreciated!!!
Dubrovnik, meetings, wine, oysters and a little Ston
This weekend has come and gone when I arrived into Dubrovnik and the meat of the business portion of this adventure to Croatia. My travels are not done here, but returning to Dubrovnik has been awe inspiring, both in the experience of walking the old town, including the walls which are about 2 ½ kilometers and taking the cable car to the top, but also meeting many locals, both in the restaurants and in the wonderful meetings I had both scheduled and impromptu with suppliers from throughout Croatia. Life as I know it seems to slowly be returning to normal.
A conversation with a local.
I have been back on the continent now about 4 days and it has truly been amazing. I knew I had to get back and now that I am here, definitely not disappointed. It was the right decision. The adrenaline rush is still there and the excitement. Seeing the places like Hvar today and now Korcula have made it truly real. Krka National Park was awe inspiring and tomorrow, another adventure, but what has made this return more special are the people and today is no exception.
I have been with colleagues and enjoyed some walking tours, but once away from the walking tours, and wandering on my own with a friend here and there, found a little wine shop that opened just last year. While I have not been enjoying as much wine lately, I thought it would be nice to stop in and talk with a local in his shop and his name is Mark, maybe even Marko as this is Korcula and the legend or history of Marko Polo being born on this island. I also know a bit of history of the Zinfandel grape as I have written in the past. It did not originate in Italy (Primitivo), but in Croatia and is known I believe as the Dingac varietal, among other names.
Mark proceeded to tell us about the varietals here in this region of south Dalmatia and specifically Korcula and the connection to America and Gringic, and the Zinfandel grape being transported to California. He shared with us his passion for the wine and I was thrilled to have found this little wine shop where not only did he tell the stories, tasted a little wine as well. We spent about an hour chatting about the wines and life in general and to me, that is the best and most amazing part of travel, meeting the locals and getting to know them which closes the gaps in the differences and extends the similarities. There were even wines that after being aged in oak were put in the water to age some more.
Of course, we bought a couple of bottles and he even offered us a Grappa complimentary. Thank you Mark for your hospitality and that of Wine Corner Korcula, so the Wandering Puffin recommends highly that you make a stop in here to meet this wonderful small business owner and try and buy some of his local wines. It is worth the stop and a very short walk from the pier.
A few days ago, my world opened up again and I was off to wander it as I once had, but it is different for sure. It has been 15 long months and the adrenaline was flowing and I could not hold it back. I was on my way, on a plane, going through the security and customs processes and the border checks. What used to be mundane was now new. Covid is not gone and it is still in the realm of the process as you have to have the proof of vaccine or proof of the negative Covid test. I had had both which was necessary as I had to show documents and reason for travel. I am glad I did as I had to do it in Minneapolis, Atlanta and when I arrived into Frankfurt. Of course, the mandatory entry into the country of Croatia where I am now. If I had not had the proper documentation, I could have been turned around.
Yes, I am here now and so it has been amazing, even though I had been here before. The first time back in 2003 when I thought it was very much a hidden gem and I was not disappointed when I arrived into Split, seeing the town from a new perspective and then on the MS Rhapsody, a brand new ship/boat/yacht, whatever the designation. It has 19 cabins and the people on board are wonderful and real and that is truly something I missed. We have been to Trogir and Sibernik and the highlight was going to Krka National Park and its amazing waterfalls. Some things new and some things old, but truly everything new and a whole new perspective. I was truly a kid in a candy store. I was in my happy place.
I still can’t believe I am here as I sit here on the “balcony” of my cabin and count my lucky stars to be able to be traveling again and yes, it may not have happened. I look forward to continuing to share my experiences via Facebook and other social media and working on GoPro videos for everyone to be shared. Travel is the true educator and when you can’t do it, a major part of life is eliminated and for me, as an educator, truly was missed like a long lost friend. It has been a welcome return to see friends and colleagues again in person, not just zoom meetings and yes, the mask is required on the flights and in certain indoor venues which is fine with me. I look forward to meeting new friends along this journey back in Europe which just started when I arrived on the continent on the 4th of June, 15 months to the day when I left Frankfurt, March 4, 2020.
All I can say is that the Wandering Puffin has spread his wings again and excited to share the world with you. As always, I am interested in your thoughts, comments, questions and adding to the discourse is always appreciated be in on the site itself or on Facebook, Twitter or wherever you read this. Thank you for your support of this small business and it is truly appreciated!!!
Weathering the Storm with the Wandering Puffin