Category Archives: Montenegro

Go Do 2016 Video – My Overseas Adventure

On my last adventure in Italy 2014, I compiled all of the video footage I had taken and created my European Adventure video.

This time around, I took the same idea, but twisted it a bit. Last time I showed you all the things I did, but this time I wanted to let you see through my eyes. The things my eyes have seen, and my feet have touched, have left me scared, brokenhearted, lost, overwhelmed, hopeful, inspired, and speechless. Most importantly, it has left me wanting more, and wanting to share what I have experienced thus far with anyone who will listen.

As I have said many times before, my initial goal with this blog, was to simply keep my family updated in my major activities while abroad. Since then, my dream behind this blog has expanded. I love to write, I love to inspire, and I love to travel. So, why not put it all together. From my keyboard in 14 different countries, I have been able to not only keep my family updated, but also share my favourite stories with friends, fellow travelers, and internet enthusiasts.

I have a love for writing. However, I also have a love for videoing, especially my feet (They are my most photographic feature). I hope this video compilation will explain to those I met along my journey, as to why I was always staring at my feet.

Clearly, my dad had the same idea (where I obviously get my home videoing joy from). Thanks to him, and a behind the scenes friend, I was actually able to capture my homecoming from 3 different perspectives. Thank you to everything for your love and support.

Walk on,

You Armstrong Abroad (at home)

Saying Goodbye to Swanky

Have you ever said something, then wondered if you’ve ever said that exact thing before in your life? Well I’m moving to Japan tomorrow. There’s something brand new. But I have 3 weeks to tell you about before I catch that plane, so here we go.Well I am on my own once again.

After waking up at 4am to say goodbye to my mom and auntie, I grabbed a couple more hours of sleep before heading to the bus depot to catch the next bus back to Kotor, Montenegro. I fell so in love with the beautiful landscape that I wanted to explore some more of the town. Once I made it to Kotor I found myself an awesome hostel. Hostel Old Town, though in the low season, had such a great atmosphere. With only about ten people staying there at any time, we all ate dinner together and spent the evening at the hostel playing games and chatting with our new friends. The staff was so amazingly friendly and helpful. A few of us took the bus to a nearby town called Perast where we ran into a few others from the hostel who had rented a boat. They offered to drive us back. So we hopped on this tiny boat and enjoyed the scenery from a new viewpoint. Among this group was one of the coolest Japanese guys ever, who I will totally be staying in contact with when I make my way to Tokyo. That boat ride could have been the opening line of a joke: two Dutch, a polish girl, Spanish guy, Canadian girl, Australian guy, and a Japanese guy get on a boat…. 

 On my last day In Montenegro, I went for a much needed run up to the fortress. I found a hole in one of the walls and climbed through. On the other side I was able to do some pretty cool hiking and rock climbing. It’s so peaceful when you find a place all to your own, where you can’t see anyone and no one can see you, where you can just yell and no one will hear you, but it can be risky too. Later on I was told a story about a young girl who feel and broke her neck and when they called her parents in Australia, they didn’t even know where she was…. Be smart when you travel people. Make sure someone always knows where you are, no matter how hard you’re trying to run away from everyone.  

 People came and went pretty quickly and so me and my new Aussie friend Joe decided we would head to Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina together. No need for public transportation, we got in a car with two Montenegrins and they drove us 4 hours right to our hostel. Get to know people who have vehicles, or who have friends with vehicles, it always pays off. I got to see snow for the first time, as well as some beautiful scenery. We hit up Hostel Miran where we met an awesome man. Miran owns and runs the hostel himself. He is one of the nicest, most knowledgable guys I’ve met. If you are ever in Mostar, stay with him and take the tour. Joe and I did exactly that. We hopped into his car and he took us on a 7 hour, all day tour of Mostar and area. He not only lived through the war as a teenager, but also served his country when he was older. He took us to beautiful waterfalls, told us hilarious stories, shared lunch with us while we ripped around the countryside cranking Bosnian music, and then took us on a history lesson. We learned about the war and even walked through an active field of land mines. No words can describe how we felt after that day. Things so recent that they were actually happening in my lifetime and I had no idea. Crazy. After the tour, Joe and I found the abandoned sniper tower, hopped over the cement wall, and climbed inside. Amon many other damaged buildings remaining from the war, we also found the old concentration camp. I don’t have much else to say about Mostar, other than it was one of the best decisions of my journey.  

      

As I have to keep moving, I said another goodbye to Miran and Joe and headed to Split, Croatia. I walked into my hostel, said hello, pulled out my passport and next thing I hear is a voice from the kitchen saying “Canadian?!”. Finally! I met some other Canadians! Of course an Aussie was in the mix as well, but Thomas from Toronto and John from Halifax became my first Canadian companions. Split was a blast, but these guys made it even better. My time there was short and consisted mostly of walking around and laughing at the boys.   
My plan was to head to Zagreb after Split to start working at a hostel there, but the guys convinced me to come with them to Ljubljana, Slovenia. As much as I wanted to kill them both on multiple occasions, and they the same for me I’m sure, we had a blast together. So, I thought why not add another country to my list. Seven hours later we arrived in Ljubljana. Ya, try and pronounce that. We set up camp at a cute hostel called Zeppelin and toured around the city. Our Aussie friend prepared a huge meal for the whole hostel and it was so nice to be able to sit down all together and have a proper meal. Castle upon castle, when will it end Europe? I’m all about views and landscapes, so I’m not even mad about having to hike up to every castle in every town I visit. My thighs and lungs are also thanking me. Yay exercise.  

   
Finally I left the Canadians (even though I’m sure they were so sad to see my go…). I made it to the station to got my ticket to go back to Croatia. And here is where my day goes downhill. After buying my ticket, I realized I purchased a train ticket and not a bus ticket. I went back and the lady, who clearly already hated my face, and she firmly said “no returns”. A man in line, who could clearly tell I was upset and confused, asked me what was wrong and I told him (as I was tearing up). He wished me goodluck and pointed me in the direction of the bus ticket office. I needed to take the next bus to get to Zagreb before dark. I went to get a bus ticket and was told it would be an EXTRA 12€. Sorry, but I’m country my pennies everyday, I can’t afford ANOTHER ticket when I just paid 9€. The same man from the train station came running in and tapped me on the shoulder. He said he spoke with the woman at the train station and they would give me my money back. He took me by the arm back to the station where, after much convincing, they gave me my money back! It’s people like this that make me so thankful everyday. I don’t know your name sir, but I’m forever thankful for your help! So I ran back to the bus station as my bus was supposed to leave in 2 minutes ( keep in mind I have my whole life strapped to my back as I’m doing all this back and forth). Just my luck, they don’t take cards, or Kuna (Croatian currency), but only Euros, which of course I don’t have. They told me to try my luck buying it from the bus driver himself who might take Kuna instead. She wished me goodluck and pointed me in the right direction. After MUCH convincing and even a bit of begging, the driver let me buy a ticket in Kuna. And so, AMEN, I’m on my way back to Zagreb. 

 

I have now spent two weeks working at The Swanky Mint Hostel in Zagreb, Croatia. I’ve always wanted to be behind the works in a hostel, as I’ve stayed in so many, I felt I wanted to be on the other side for once. Also, if you know me at all, you know I hate being bored and I love working. Needless to say, after a month of just wandering, I needed some purpose, and working was such a good way to get some structure back in my days before I head to Japan where I’ll probably be working like a dog. The Swanky Mint is such a cool place to stay and they recently won best hostel in Croatia, so of course we had a grand party to celebrate. The staff is like a little family and they welcomed me with open arms. I hate to say goodbye to them so soon because I feel we were just getting things started here. Although Croatia is now checked off my list, I would definitely visit again, especially my Swanky family. Zagreb has completely exceeded my expectations, probably because I had no idea what to expect, but it is big enough there is always something to do, but small enough that it is comfortable. 

I have been trying to get back into running, as I haven’t been on an actual structured run since December (not proud), but with the beautiful scenery in the city here, I’ve been able to hop right back into things. Who knew Croatia could have more hills than Italy…. I’ll probably just get use to running hills and then I’ll return to flat Saskatchewan. Aside from running, ive been trying to walk around the city and explore. I went to the Museum of Broken Relationships; not your typical museum. It is a collection of items donated from people around the world along with a story specific to the item that tells a story of their broken relationship. I know what you’re thinking, how depressing, but it was actually amazing. A mix of sad, weird, crazy, hilarious, and heartwarming stories about love in all its forms, I left feeling really good, surprisingly. Warning: don’t go if you’ve just gotten out of a relationship….  

 

I met a wonderful American girl (yes! I finallllllly met another girl, AND she was super awesome) and we decided to go to Plitvice Lakes together on my day off. We were told the lakes were closed for construction and we both cried on the inside and a little bit on the outside. This is why we came to Croatia. So, we went anyways. On our to hour drive with a random family from Hong Kong, we also met an Australian girl (seriously, girl power, finally) and the three of us girls had an unforgettable day together. Because of off season and construction, basically nobody was at the park. We spent a half hour at the giant waterfall completely alone, taking so many pictures and not having anyone else in them. Something that rarely happens. On our walk back on the path, they had (magically) opened the remaining paths for us to go into the park! We were so excited. Oh man. It was so breathtaking. I am forever happy that Elena convinced me to go in the first place. What a day.  

    
   
  Though my Croatian is less than something to brag about, I’m pretty proud of myself for picking up anything at all. What a weird language. I can say hello, good day, thank you, beer, chicken, milk, coffee (obviously all the necessities). I must confess that my favourite word is kikiriki… Which in Italian is the noise a rooster makes… But in Croatian, it means peanut. What a language. I am now attempting to learn Japanese, which is even more ridiculous, so this should be fun. 

Finally, it is Valentine’s Day. Although I am not in Italy for the In Love festivals, or the chocolate festivals, I have found myself a chocolate and coffee festival in Zagreb (my two favourite things). My final shift of work is over and I am all packed and ready for the next 48 hours of pure hysteria. I am also totally unprepared to give up my addiction to Burek (cheese wrapped in phyllo), don’t try and take away sweets from me yet. I more or less have absolutely no idea what is to come. All I know is I’m not going to sleep tonight, and I’m going to cry in at least one airport and two train stations in the next two days out of pure frustration and being overwhelmed.    

Here is my Valentines send off: to everyone at home who has followed me on my journey so far, thank you for the encouragement. For everyone only beginning to follow me, I apologize in advance for anything to come. To my friends and family at home, I miss you and love you all every single day I am away from you. And to my special Valentine, may you eat loads of chocolate and cuddle with your dog knowing I’m eating dinner alone and only have a neck pillow to cuddle with tonight. Goodbye Europe. See you all in the future, 15 time zones in the future to be exact.

Love, your sappy Armstrong Abroad

Rosa and Zelda visit Estelle

I’m sorry, sorry, sorry! I am alive, I swear to you this. Okay, it’s been a long time. I have been busy. But, do you know why? My Momma and Auntie came to visit me! Okay, but woh, let’s back things up. After Naples and Rome on my last blog, I returned to Florence and took a new class at the school: two kids from Korea learning both English and Italian. They were such a treat and such a good learning experience for me before I head off to Japan. I got to see the little boy I babysat take his first steps and got to be around as he started to talk, such a proud momma moment. That’s one of the best things about working with babies. You get to be a part of all of their firsts and you feel such pride when they accomplish things, as if they were your own. We had a traditional Christmas dinner before everyone left to go home, and so the goodbyes started.  

 I thought I was going to be alone for the holiday, but it just so happens that I wasn’t. By chance, I was introduced to Brad, originally from America, who reached out and invited me to a Christmas dinner for everyone who basically had nowhere else to go/was not going back home for the holidays. I had been so sick before Christmas that I could barely eat anything for Christmas dinner anyways, but it was so nice to get out of the house and meet some people. Once you know a few people, you start meeting their friends, and then their friends’ friends, and soon you have a circle of people who all know you and somehow all know each other. It is a wonderful thing to feel a part of a group. I thoroughly enjoyed my holidays in Florence, even though I didn’t get to go to Germany (the original plan). I basically owe it all to Brad, so thanks Brad!

 
 New Years was a blast and a ridiculous experience. I rang in the new year with 3 new friends in Piazza Della Signoria with about 500 other crazy people setting off bomb-like explosions while a proper orchestra played in the background. Apparently this is totally normal and it eventually became funny, but we decided to head inside when everyone in the piazza started throwing their empty glass bottles into the crowds to smash them. Only 165 people went to hospital….  
 Over the holidays, I also found three different skating rinks in the city. And you better believe I went to all three of them! I felt so in my element. Sometimes you just need a little piece of home every once in a while to make you feel okay again about being away from it all. My companions were all learning to skate, so this was pretty fun. California, Missouri, and England… Might I add that watching Jack skate was like watching Bambi take his first steps. Painfully beautiful.  

  I also participated in my last FirenzeCorre and it was a blast. Everyone was wearing Santa hats and I made my own personal goal of finishing with the top runners and being the first woman across the finish line. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you just put your mind to it, and knowing this was my last run made me work that much harder. I did it! And I’m not ashamed to say that I was super proud of myself. First woman to cross the finish line after 9km and finished with the pace makers at the very front of the group. I will sure miss this. 

 
Finally it was time to move out of my place, move into a new place, and head to the airport to pick up my family! I’m so lucky to have a family that supports me in whatever I choose to do and wherever I choose to do it, but not only do they support me, they also fly halfway around the world to come visit me. I’m such a lucky girl. It’s always fun to watch people go through a bit of culture shock, but it’s hard to resist shoving this new culture I have come to know and love, down their throats immediately as they step off the plane. 

We spent 8 nights in Florence and I was able to take them to different markets, take a field trip to my school to meet all of my babies, take a ride on the glittering carousel in Piazza Della Republica, and even trek through the pouring rain up to Piazzale Michaelangelo. One of the main cultural struggles they faced was in the kitchen. Why doesn’t everyone own a toaster, a microwave, a dryer for goodness sake? We went for coffee every day and got on a bit of a schedule with our coffee breaks: frequent and indulgent. They also learned how to make coffee on the stove top, how to make toast without a toaster, how to live without a microwave, how to work a laundromat, and how to layer clothing because the heating systems suck. It was fun for me to be able to live the “tourist lifestyle” for a bit, while still getting to show off my language and ‘Italy’ skills on the daily.  

 We climbed the tower in Piazza Della Signoria, took in the Cascine outdoor market and purchased matching sweaters, went to the parade for Epiphany, and finally went to apperativo at Kitsch with my work friends to say my final goodbyes (tears were shed by many, but mostly by Mom). I even tried to take them to have the most epic gelato of their lives (read my page about suggestions for Italy to find out what it’s called) but it was closed that day. We managed to find some gelato just fine (I mean it is still Italy), however they never did get to taste La Dolce Vita. We indulged in GustaPizza and cheap wine. Mom accidently played knock knock ginger on the neighbours and we proceeded to run out of the building and drink our wine in the street. On one random night, mom also decided to inform us she was writing a ‘memoir’ (her name for notes about our journey) we decided we needed fake names, and so I introduce you to Zelda (Auntie Corinne), Estelle (myself) and Magenta/Rosa (Mom goes by either). These stuck for the remainder of the trip. 

 With our time in Italy we also managed to go and visit Cinque Terre and Rome. Cinque Terre is, as many of you know, is my favourite place in the world. Unfortunately it was a cold and rainy day and the water level was so high we didn’t get to go down on the rocks or visit the hidden beaches. Weather aside, it is still a beautiful place and I’m glad we got to go back. If you read my blog last time I traveled, you know that on our way home from Cinque Terre we had to train hop to avoid the ticket control as we didn’t have tickets… Well this time we made absolute SURE we had return tickets ahead of time… Unfortunately, Jody forgot to validate them. After about 20 minutes of panic (between me and mom), a nice man told me I could go find the train staff and have them initial my ticket instead as validation. Thank you sweet man, and let this be a lesson to everyone. Validate your damn tickets if that’s the only thing you learn in Italy! Rome was very quick. We hit all the major attractions and then spent some time relaxing in our comfy, warm bedroom packing for our flight to Croatia.  

    
 Alas, we all got to check another country off on our world map: Croatia. The land of new tourism, no? We got there and it’s truly possible we were the only three non Croatian people in Dubrovnik. Pouring rain, we walked 300-and-some steps with our luggage to our flat. Our flat… Let me paint a picture for you of the next 5 days. Cold, windy, and rainy, no heat in our house, three women huddled around the hot plate in the kitchen. Oh, and did I mention that the toilet was IN the shower? Like literally IN the shower. As it was the off season, we were more or less the only people in the city, but we still managed to keep ourselves occupied. Walking the city walls was beautiful and we lucked out with a clear and sunny day. Although the cable car was closed, we managed to find really cheap alcohol, so that occupied some time. We learned quickly that we didn’t have a bottle opener and managed to open a few caps and a cork with a spoon and a knife. Who says we wouldn’t survive in the wilderness. After several days of boiling coffee on the stove and then straining it with toilet paper (not joking), we stumbled upon a coffee shop… And it had heat!! We considered sleeping there.  We spent our five days mostly drinking coffee, playing cards, drinking cider in every flavour we could find (even one that tasted like perfume), and just enjoying being together. On the last day (of course it was sunny and warm) we headed towards Kotor, Montenegro to hit another country

     

  
When we arrived, literally the first thing we found was a coffee shop! How marvellous. When we finally made it to our flat, we fell in love. Heat, a shower and separate toilet, real beds, and a full kitchen! We called the owner immediately to tell him we would be staying an extra night. We spent 3 nights in beautiful weather along the harbour, climbing to the top of the fortress, and eating multiple times a day at our favourite cafe, Mamma Mia’s. We tried all different types of food and I even tried liquor made from lemon leaves, which was absolutely terrible, but I did it. We even acquired a dog. I know what you’re thinking, “Jody, you hate dogs”. This is still true, but Boo was something else to me. We found this homeless dog, or rather he found us, who followed us around for the rest of our time in the city, waiting for us outside of any shops or restaurants, and chasing away all of the pigeons, cats, and drunk people in the streets. Safe to say he is my favourite dog. I named him Boo and he broke my heart as he walked with us to the bus station only to sit in front of the bus until we drove away.
   
  
Unfortunately family couldn’t stay forever and it was time to return to Dubrovnik so Rosa And Zelda could catch their flight back to Canada. Time we spend travelling and seeing the world together is some of my favourite memories with my family. It wasn’t travelling with my family at all, it was travelling with friends. We gossiped, we joked, we drank and ate together, and we shared new experiences. I will forever be thankful they were able to come and help break up my time away from home.  

    
   
And so, I continue on my own now. And since they left its already been over a week. Again I apologize this is so late, but as you can see, I’ve been on the move. Since then I’ve country hopped 5 times…. But that’s to come in my next blog.
I’ve also put up the final updates on my Bucket List page for Italy, so check it out. I’ll be posting another blog soon just to keep things actually up to date before I head to Japan and things get stressful and crazy again. 
As a side note: Remember when you’re travelling that there are down days. You can’t have a life changing day everyday. On those days where you feel like you can’t get up and go on, that’s when you meet the people who are going to have the biggest influence on your life. This is how it’s been for me lately anyways. And those people, they know who they are. Even if you can’t find a way to tell them, and even if you never ever see them again, they know how they helped you in that moment. 
Much love as always,

Your Armstrong Abroad