Monthly Archives: May 2013

Vis – the island of tranquility

From the catamaran, you already get the feeling that there is no such thing as high speed in this island. People walk in no rush at all, car drivers don’t even think about going over the speed limits, the water is calm and serene. Even the birds translate the tranquility of the island into their long and lazy singing.

View of the island from the catamaran

The hugs of the people who are meeting after the journey are long and sincere, with no time limit, with no reservations. People seem to have time for one another. They seem to appreciate their time together. No running, no rushing.

Early morning in Vis

On our arrival, we meet our host. Yes, she went to pick us up to take us to the house we booked for two nights. My friend and I prefer to stay in actual local houses whenever possible instead of big hotels. Of course, this depends on each person’s travelling style, but come on… how many times have you been picked up by your host to be taken to the place you booked over the internet with no added charges and with a big smile on their face? Exactly.

Komiza’s local woman

Komiza’s streets

Vis island is about 100 Kilometres from the Italian coast and has an average of 3,000 inhabitants. They work in agriculture, they fish, they make wine or they work in tourism. The island has magnificent beaches, 3 restaurants, a couple of bars, many boats and not many people. Ideal to relax.

Scenery of wars and disputes along he years, Vis started being populated by the Croatians in the 7th century. The island belonged, over the years, to Italy, Austria, France, England and Yugoslavia. In the years of socialist Yugoslavia, Vis became its army base because of its strategic position and Tito, the Yugoslavian leader, hid in the island with all his army for a long time. Vis only started to be inhabited again in 1989.

This isolation, however difficult it was for the inhabitants of the island, placed Vis amongst some of the favourite destinations of the entire Mediterranean when Croatia  became independent. Vis’ beautiful beaches, preserved nature, ecological agriculture and preserved traditional architecture bring more and more visitors to the island each year. It’s still considered a ‘best kept secret’, though, as many people are just not ready to take things slow – and, believe me, this is a requirement when you visit Vis.

On my first day on the island, I witnessed a magnificent sunset. The skies went orange, then red, then pink, until purple slowly took over and covered the entire sky, like a blanket. In a sacred silence I took pictures, looked at the many boats and appreciated the singing of the birds. My friend and I didn’t even speak much, as if breaking the silence would be like committing a sin. A sin against nature.

The most amazing sunset

On our second day, we ‘hired’ a tour guide and his taxi to explore the island for a few hours. Ideally we would have done this by foot, since the entire island is marked for trekking, but our short time didn’t allow us to do so. Our tour guide was a sweet and talkative local and my friend and I came to the conclusion that people in the island must get lonely sometimes – he wouldn’t stop talking, even for one full minute.

Having said that, he gave us a pretty god picture of what life is like in the island. He told us about the relations between people and how sometimes people just need to get out of the island or they might go insane (his own words!). I can only imagine, though. Think about being in one place that is quite remote for a long period of time. I’d probably go crazy too. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate peace and quiet, but all the time? Nah, thanks.

One of Vis’ beaches

The tour took us to the highest point of the island, called Hum. There, you’ll find a tiny church where you would only fit about 10 people, if that many. We also went to Komiza, an island of fishermen with shiny sea and weird stuff up on the walls.

Komiza’s walls – what IS that?

Tiny church


We visited the beaches (all with pebbles – no sand. Boo!)  and also stopped by a bar to appreciate the sea. Our guide, with his cheeks going slightly red and a big smile on his face, told us then that right there, at that bar, he met his wife, years ago. Sweet.

Where Harry met Sally (haha, where our guide met his wife)

Walking around Vis is the equivalent of stopping in time for a few hours or for a day or two. Everything slows down. The mind starts thinking slower, ideas find their slots within our usually hurried thinking, as if all that was necessary for this to happen was to get out of the rush of real life. Visiting Vis is like putting all the stress you may be going through inside a bottle and then letting the sea take it away, slowly. A luxury I certainly recommend.

* Pictures: Marilia Spindler

Categories: Croatia, Relaxation, Travel tips | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happiness, where the blooming hell are ya?

Last night I went to bed earlier than usual, as I have had a busy couple of weeks and have been very tired. Tired ‘to have my eyes closing when I’m on the sofa’ tired. But then I woke up, feeling completely awake and uneasy. I couldn’t find a comfortable position, I couldn’t get back to sleep. Because I went to bed early, I wasn’t tired anymore, as this was about 6 in the morning. So I just stayed there, lying in bed, thinking about how I didn’t want to sleep, but how I didn’t feel like getting up either.

Why are there days like this? Am I the only one? I’m not depressed or sad or anything like that – as far as I know!  – and, still, some days, I just can’t get going. I then picked up my phone and went on the internet. I typed in ‘happiness’ and found some excellend stuff that calmed my spirits. And so I decided to share it with you.

Apparently, there are 4 mistakes we make when we are pursuing happiness. 4, that’s it. And here they are:

1. Let it flow.

When we are thinking about happiness and trying to establish if we are happy, we end up comparing current experiences to past ones. We don’t notice when we do this, exactly, but this alone blocks a happy moment. The minute you start making comparisons, you shift from experiencing mode to evaluating mode. Think of the days when you are enjoying your work so much that when you look again it’s 5pm. Think of the holidays in the sunshine that go so quickly. Think of being immersed in a book that you are really enjoying. Think of savouring  some nice food. Think of having great sex. Think of ice cream, think of a good movie, think of admiring the sunset, think of cold beer when you are really really thirsty.Yes, you’re in the zone. You’re so immersed in the task that you lose track of time and the outside world. This is happiness.

2. Get real.

The second thing that we do that makes us dodge happiness is to overestimate the emotional impact of positive life events. We think that a major promotion, a new partner, a new house or a new car will make us happier, overlooking the fact that we’ll adapt to the new circumstances. Each time something changes for the better in our lives, we get happy… and so we should. However, that something won’t change our lives forever. We will get used to things again and will probably question again if we should be pursuing something or someone else that will bring us happiness. So I guess it’s not about the what, but more about the how.

3. It’s everywhere.

Happiness is an individual state, so we tend to look for it in ourselves. However, in a recent study, the greater the value people placed on happiness, the more lonely they felt every day for the next two weeks. I think the clue here is to get involved with other people, to let them be in our lives and let us be in theirs too. I’m guilty of this myself. Lately, I have found that I like my own company and I like being at home, so I don’t do much socialising. I’m lazy for it, that’s the honest truth. In fact, I’m just like my dad. He is not a person to do much small talk and I’m the same. If it won’t be meaningful, I’d rather read a book, thanks. I don’t do it on purpose, though, I guess I have just learned how to say no when I want to. However, it doesn’t look like this is the right approach. We need contact to be happy. We need to interact. Hermits like me can only get depressed, so I’ll have to sart being really careful and getting my bum off the sofa and out the door. Soon.

4. Mild is fine, thanks very much.

The fourth and last mistake we make is to look for intense happiness. When we want to be happy, we look for strong positive emotions like joy, elation, enthusiasm, and excitement. Research shows, however, that this isn’t the best path to happiness. Apparently, happiness is driven by the frequency, not the intensity, of positive emotions. When we aim for intense positive emotions, we evaluate our experiences against a higher standard, which makes it easier to be disappointed, since an intense positive experience can only lead us to frame ordinary experiences as less positive. So, this one is a given, right? Again, it’s the little things. Receiving a smile from a stranger on the street, finding parking space on a busy road, being driven somewhere by your mum whilst having a nice chat, achieving something before the microwave pings (ha! I knew you’d identify with this one!), lying on the grass on a sunny day. That’s it. No mater how small, happiness is in everything. And if we think about it, there are many more small opportunities that can bring us happiness than massive ones. So mild happiness can become ‘big time’ happiness. If you give it a chance.

So, overall, I think that if we change our actions, and not our circumstances, we have a much better chance to let happiness be in our lives. And then, we probably won’t even notice it, as it will be part of our day, every day, every minute of it.

By the way, I did get up. I also went to work, went to a shop and returned an item that I no longer wanted, came back home, made my dinner and I’m now about to watch a movie with my partner Lee, so I guess the day went fairly well after all. Sometimes all you need is to just get up and get out, without thinking too much.

By the way (2), the source for this post is here.


Categories: Happiness | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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