Chapter 14: World's Best Road Trip

Five dudes, one rental car, a fire Spotify playlist, and the Adriatic coast

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Some Thoughts

Make some friends abroad.

Rent a car.

Drive across foreign countries.


I’ve spent 14 hours in a car over the last three days, and I’ve never laughed so much in my life. Trains are efficient and planes are fast, but road trips hit different. Good tunes, good views, and good dudes. Road trips with the boys are undefeated.


Wednesday, October 6th

I woke up a little before 9, showered, and put Tanner’s bag in a locker in the lobby. He was arriving around noon, and I was headed to some Marriott Resort for breakfast. Why? Because an Italian girl named after the state I’m from said they have a good breakfast.

I didn’t realize how many steps it would take to get from my hostel to said resort.

The J.W. Marriott is two miles from the main island, and the resort has a private shuttle that runs every hour. I could either make the free shuttle or pay $30+ for a boat taxi. I needed to get to that shuttle. Unfortunately, the Marriott did a horrible job of showing its pick up location, and I missed the 10:30 boat. But I caught the 11:30 one.

When I pulled up at the resort, I was shook. This place was nice. The type of place where people with “F you” money stay. Rooftop restaurants, bars, and an infinity pool with a view of the city. I walked in the front door, and the girl at the front asked if I was checking in.

It was Georgia from the night before. She didn’t recognize me with a hat and mask on. I pulled down the mask and said, “I heard you guys have a good breakfast? If I’m late I imagine the restaurant upstairs has a killer lunch.”

She started tripping out, and her boss had no idea what was going on. Georgia gave me a tour of the place that ended at the rooftop restaurant. I may have been late for breakfast, but the meatballs I got for lunch were crème de la crème.

Around 12:15, Tanner called me and said he was at the hostel. I caught the next shuttle back to the main island, and we met at the center of town after lunch. It was good to see a Day One homie again. The best part of my trip has been traveling with him and Rylan (who is now back in Seattle, unfortunately), and we picked right back up where we left off.

We jumped on one of the island hoppers to Murano and Burano, a group of islands north of Venice. We caught each other up on everything we had done since then. I told him about Spain, Paris, and Switzerland, while he had visited London, Greece, and Turkey.

Cappadocia, Turkey is now a bucket list stop. Look up the hot air balloons there.

We headed back to the mainland, grabbed some pizza (number 9 of the trip), and went back to the hostel after the sun set. The hostel hosted a massive party every Wednesday and Saturday night, and the place was popping when we got back. It was cold and rainy, so 150 people where piled around the indoor bar.

We ran into our Japanese roommate at the party, and the dude was decked out in a whole kimono. Gotta respect a man who reps his culture.

We headed back to the room around 12:30, but one of our roommates was making some weird noises. This 40 year old dude in the bed across from me kept whimpering/moaning, then getting up and running to the restroom. He sounded like a dying animal, and I kept picturing myself getting attacked by my zombie roommate in the middle of the night. I’ve seen enough zombie movies and shows to know how patient zero acts, and this was him.

Thursday, October 7th

I woke up at 8:30, and our roommate was not a zombie. Jason and Mark were meeting us in Venice later, and we were planning to drive to Split, Croatia in the morning. Tanner and I decided to go check out San Marino during the day. Since there was no direct train line to San Marino, I grabbed the car a day early, and we headed that way around 10 AM.

You’ve probably never heard of San Marino. You need to change that.

San Marino is a tiny “country” in the middle of Italy. Its entire population is 38,000, and you can walk across the country in a few hours. The government is led by two captains regent (think presidents) that are elected every six months. A few more fun facts:

  • The country’s national football team is 1 - 174 & 7. The only win was over Liechtenstein (also 38,000 population) in 2004.

  • San Marino is the world’s longest-standing republic, being founded 1700 years ago.

  • The government of San Marino made Abraham Lincoln an honorary citizen.

  • San Marino remained neutral in WW1 when Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary. Italy thought San Marino would harbor enemy spies.

  • San Marino accidentally declared war on England during WWII.

  • Seemingly every other store in the city sold airsoft guns, knives, and archery equipment.

So we plugged “San Marino” into the GPS and got on the road.

Let me tell you something fellas, there is nothing better than a good road trip. It was Tanner, me, a manual Volkswagen T-Roc, and 200 miles of Italian countryside. Rural Italy is gorgeous, and we took our sweet time getting there. We even stopped at a beach along the way and scooped a soccer ball that someone had left in the sand.

We arrived at San Marino three hours later. This country consists of a castle on a hill and the surrounding city. The views from the castle are insane, and we were pumped to see Italy from the top of the tower. However, we arrived to a monsoon where we couldn’t see more than five feet in front of us.

Here’s the view we expected:

Here’s the view we got.

We did eat some incredible food for a ridiculously low price. We also tried to walk in the Parliament Building to meet with government officials, but the security guard didn’t speak English and wouldn’t let us in. We left around 4:30 to head back to the hostel.

Tanner parked the car a few blocks from the hostel, and we met up with Jason and Mark inside. For the new readers, Jason is a Hong Kong native living in Nebraska, and we met in Krakow, Poland. Mark is a Canadian guy that Jason met in Greece, and they traveled to Italy together. All four of us headed to a nearby pizza place, and we got heckled by some local pickpocket on the way there. Considering 3/4 of us were 6’3+ and the fourth played football in Canada, coming after us was a bold move. We got him to screw off pretty quickly.

After dinner, we went back to the crib and caught some Z’s. We had an eight hour drive ahead the next day.

Friday, October 8th

We got up at 8, ate breakfast in the hostel, and left for Croatia around 9. It was supposed to be a 7 hour drive. 8 hours with stops for food and fuel. We made it to Split around 7:45 PM. We definitely took the scenic route to our destination.

After two hours driving through Italy, we crossed the border into Slovenia, aka the home of Luka Doncic. Slovenia and Italy have an open border, because they’re both in the Schengen region. After an hour in Slovenia, we hit the Croatia border. We had to wait in line and show our passports and vax cards to the border agent before continuing.

In America, I’d be terrified to joke with the border police. In Slovenia, our guy was hilarious. He asked if we had guns in the car since we were Americans, and I said that I thought we left them at home, but who knows.

He thought Jason had a Chinese passport at first, and he asked for Jason’s residency card. Jason said, “Bro I’m from Hong Kong.” The border guy laughed and started dissing on China hard. All my homies hate authoritarian regimes.

30 minutes after crossing the border, the road opened up to a beautiful view of the Adriatic Sea and a coastal town. We pulled off on the shoulder for some photos. Jason was the resident photographer. His phone took sick pics, his drone took sicker pics, and his camera took the sickest pics.

We grabbed lunch at a nearby restaurant, and the boys ate some bacon & cream infused burgers. 10/10 grub. Croatians know their way around a kitchen. When we got back on the road, Tanner took over as driver. He and I are the only two who can drive stick, so we planned on switching off all week.

The map had us going down the coast and arriving around 6. We saw another route that would get us there at 4:45. The map was wrong.

On the quicker route, we hit three different road closures. So we kept traveling further and further into the Croatian mountains. At first I was a bit annoyed, but then I realized there was no point in being in a hurry. This detour ended up being the best part of the trip.


Because of the views.

An hour into the detour, we found ourselves driving around the crest of the mountains. The views were ridiculous. You could see for 100 miles. Rivers, lakes, rolling hills, and a setting sun. We pulled off the road again to take in the scene, and the wind was so strong it almost blew us off the mountain.

Here’s two pro tips for any aspiring travelers: The journey is the destination, and who you’re with is much more important than where you’re going.

I’d rather be lost with this group in rural Croatia than be found anywhere else. We had a blast.

We got to Split at 7:45 and met our Airbnb host. Renting an Airbnb was a boss move, and the apartment was awesome. 5 beds and a couch, walking distance from downtown, and cheaper than a hostel. Talk about a deal. We grabbed some food and picked up some beers (2 LITER BEERS. LIKE A 2 LITER OF SPRITE, BUT BEER. INCREDIBLE INVENTION).

Collin, amigo number 5, met us back at the hostel. You might recall that Collin was with us in Budapest. After we parted ways, he had spent a couple of weeks in the Czech Republic.

Collin met some guys in Prague and lived with them in the Czech countryside for a while. He shot a lot of archery and got asked to join a band while living out there. Interesting couple of weeks for our friend.

All five of us headed to Charlie’s Bar, a backpacker’s favorite, at 10:30. The bars in Split all close at midnight because of CoViD rEsTrIcTiOnS (COVID can only get you sick after midnight, ya know?), and we headed to the pier afterwards. There was some debauchery on the pier around 2 AM. Some highlights.

  • “Hijacking” a massive pirate ship that was docked.

  • Collin jumping from boat to boat across the pier like a leapfrog.

  • Tanner and I jumping in the Adriatic Sea, only to discover that the water was 2 feet deep.

We went back to the apartment around three and passed out.

That’s all for today. Stay tuned to hear about the rest of our road trip!


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