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Hiking and Kayaking in Montenegro

Updated: Feb 5, 2022

Welcome to the first official montevinoblog post! Before I go into today’s blog, you are probably wondering “what am I reading and what is the purpose of this.” The purpose is simple, I have a few passions in life, three of which are wine, cooking, and traveling (can read about the purpose in more detail here). I decided to write about these passions and share my thoughts and experiences around these topics. I will be writing and sharing through two mediums, 1) this blog (every Wednesday) and 2) the montevinoblog Instagram (3 times a week). The blog and Instagram posts will range quite a bit, but in general you can expect stories about my travels, tons of wine topics (some of which may make you a smarter shopper and drinker), anything food related, and maybe even all three combined. One thing that you can guarantee is that each post will strive to educate, engage, and entertain regardless of the medium and topic. Feel free to interact and engage with me through the blog or IG! In the meantime, I appreciate your time and your willingness to come along for the ride.


 

It was the summer of 2019 and I was two and a half weeks into a 35 day European vacation on the coast of the Adriatic Sea in a small scenic city named Kotor, Montenegro. Montenegro is a country located in southeastern Europe with Bosnia and Herzegovina to the North, Serbia and Kosovo to the East, Albania to the South, and the beautiful Adriatic Sea to the West.



It was July 7th and I had a 3 mile hike in the morning followed by a kayaking water tour later that afternoon. I vividly remember wanting to back out of the day because we had just drove several hours on a windy and hilly road from Bosnia and Herzegovina (my favorite country from this trip, so it will get its own blog) the previous day and I was physically and mentally exhausted. After some freshly brewed pour over coffee and a light breakfast from the local downtown area my exhaustion started to wane and my outlook on the day seemed a bit more optimistic. What started as a morning in which room service and TV seemed so ideal turned into one of my all-time favorite travel days.


Before I get into the details of the day, I think it’s important to address what traveling means to me. Traveling can mean a lot of things. It can be a vacation in every sense of the word, it can be a way to unplug and recharge from the day-to-day rigors of life, it can be a long weekend, it can be a week at home with no work, or it can be whatever you want it to be. For me, I like to travel for leisure and perspective. Perspective on what life, people, culture, food, wine, religion, and traditions are like outside of the world I live in. On the surface, perspective can simply be a point of view or attitude towards something particular; however, can you truly formulate a point of view or attitude towards something you’ve never experienced? As you can read in the “About” section of this blog, traveling truly allowed me to start thinking and dreaming bigger. This blog and Instagram are my attempt at doing both, so in return I challenge you to think about what you are passionate about and ask yourself how you can start to think and dream bigger.


Montenegro was the fourth stop (country) on my European vacation and the first one with a true body of water, which in the middle of the scorching summer was certainly long overdue. The day was always going to be a physical one with the morning hike and then an afternoon Kayak, so as I was having my morning coffee I was already thinking about the food and wine to follow later that evening. The hike was purely stair based and started at the base level of the downtown area about half a mile from where I was staying. The trail was circular and windy and served as the architectural compliment to the body of water that it ran parallel to. The Bay of Kotor is a winding bay in Kotor that feeds into the Adriatic Sea and would be the body of water in which I would later Kayak across.






The hike itself was early enough in the morning to tame the summer heat but even then, the steep and rocky stairs took its toll. Nevertheless, making it to the top of the hike provided me with one of the most serene and breathtaking views I have ever experienced. The sun was barely making its way above the peak of the surrounding mountains creating a contrast of light across the bay.

The water was bright and glistening, fighting off the morning dew and ramping up for the mid-morning heat. 3 miles below me were the dull orange roofs of the local houses in the downtown area in which I was staying. I remember standing on top of a rock at the peak of the hike with my arms spread wide so grateful that I had gotten my ass out of bed.



The best part, this hike was free and open to anyone. What was the catch? Well, nothing really, at the top of the hike there were a ton of trash cans collecting water bottles, coffee cups, and left-over wrappers from people’s morning pastries. All the locals asked was that on your way down you brought a full trash bag with you to throw in the dumpster at the bottom of the hike. A simple exchange for a captivating morning view.



At this point in the day, I am wide awake, hungry, and a starting to get a bit anxious for the upcoming kayak excursion. Open water is one of those things where I am comfortable until I am not, and that switch can happen at any given point. I may catch some flak for this take, but in my opinion, you haven’t truly traveled until you’ve done something that genuinely makes you uncomfortable. Trying a new food, meeting up with strangers, exploring the city on your own, or in this case kayaking for the very first time across the Bay of Kotor in a dual kayak with a stranger. Was I going to drown, no probably not; however, navigating the open water in the tight quarters of a dual kayak while communicating with a partner (stranger) is surely an open invitation for anxiety. Nevertheless, my point stands: seeking discomfort may be intimidating but I promise you it is worth it in the end.


We had to lock up all electronic devices in a water sealed buoy because there was no guarantee we wouldn’t capsize (LOL), so I snapped the only two pictures of my kayaking journey.



The sunset inspired color of the kayaks rested up the on the Bay of Kotor served as the perfect focal point for the now bright and sunny mountains. My brave and equally anxious kayak partner, Hanna, was a Danish engineer who had been to over 60 different countries in her 35 years of life. Hannah was shy, a bit tall, and had bright blonde hair. As we started to receive instructions from our guide (who looked like he practically lived on the water) I realized that this was going to be a communication exercise in the open water, and I had what appeared to be one of the shyest people in the group. Keyword “appeared”, the second we got into the kayak her whole personality changed. She started offering up suggestions as to how we should navigate and that I should dictate how we steer because I was in the front. My anxiety quickly shifted to adrenaline and all the worries and fears I had were immediately supplanted by a smooth and fluid kayaking motion. Our confidence started to increase and after five minutes I felt like Hanna and I were a couple more kayak excursions away from trying out for the Montenegro Olympic team. Exaggeration aside, the kayaking excursion ended up being extremely relaxing and such a nice way to round out the mid-afternoon sun. We made a couple stops at some local beaches throughout our journey and eventually made our way back to the shore of the bay in which we started. This was one of my favorite travel days because it was so unexpected. Yes, I knew I was going to hike and kayak the day before, but I didn’t account for the breathtaking views, the ironic relaxation that came from a physically packed day, and bonding with a stranger on a kayak in the Bay of Kotor.


Leisure and perspective - July 7th, 2019 was jam packed with both and it reminded me why I enjoy traveling so much. Hiking a local mountain at sunrise and kayaking with a stranger may not fit in with your ideal version of vacation or may not fit your model of seeking discomfort, but that is why vacation can truly be whatever you want it to be. Next time you step out of the house for a weekend trip or extended vacation I challenge you to do one thing that you wouldn’t normally do. One thing that momentarily makes you uncomfortable.


Feel free to comment below and let me know some of your favorite travel memories or things that you have done that made you feel uncomfortable!

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