Theroux’s Road Trip // Our Balkan Road Trip // Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik's old port

Zaton and Dubrovnik: August 23-26

Yesterday, September 1st, we arrived in Trogir, Croatia. Not far from Split. It has a small and beautifully walled old town, not unlike Dubrovnik or Kotor, but with a bit more elbow room from other humans. There is a large fortress at one end of the island that was built in 1420 by the Venetians who once ruled the area. The beaches are not as gorgeous as some others we’ve had in Croatia, but as storms roll in today it doesn’t seem like we’ll be getting much use of them anyway.

This morning, while still in bed, I read The Saturday Essay in the Wall Street Journal. Today’s is written by Paul Theroux entitled “The Romance of the American Road Trip”. Theroux’s travels have spanned the globe with some real red blooded adventure. You can hear him reflecting on all the want that took him to the far reaches of Africa more than once to fuel his writings. Only then to see so much adventure that can be had in America.

He opens with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda’s discussion that led them to hop in a car and head straight for the deep south in a secondhand 1918 Marmon Speedster in search of biscuits and peaches. Two novice drivers and a 1,200 mile journey that would eventually take them through many breakdowns and crashes long before quality roads could be counted upon, and certainly no interstate highway system.

Theroux successfully romanticizes the American road trip, while also reminiscing his own more worldly trips. But one great reason for staying back in the U.S.? You are then able to avoid the displeasures of TSA, encounters with which he equates to his dealings with security forces in the former U.S.S.R. In his mind, there is too much to offer:

“Nowhere else in the world (though Canada is a contender) is it possible to drive 3,000 miles—the distance from Boston to Los Angeles—and be certain that you will encounter no roadblocks or obstructions; that you will always find a place to stay and somewhere to eat; and that you will be privileged to observe a river the equal of the Ganges or the Yangtze, mountains as great as the Himalayas, a desert as dramatic as any in Africa or Asia, and fertile fields and pastures of grazing animals unmatched in the world.”

I completely agree and look forward to one day being able to make some trip like the Fitzgeralds’. I’d also say that you don’t have to be American to do any of that, fly on over, rent a vehicle, and go to it. America is huge, take your time and soak it in. That’s exactly what we’ve been trying to do with Europe. We’ve only taken two flights on this trip so far, which is often times more economical than trains, sadly.

The Balkans is also a prime road trip destination. Train infrastructure doesn’t exist or isn’t great, and unless you want to only go from city to city, I recommend renting a car. We’ll have had our black Opel Astra for 34 days when we return it in Ljubljana, only to move all our bags into another car some friends are renting for two more weeks of exploring and road tripping. Then we take a bus to Venice for a night before a flight to Morocco.

Note: WSJ has a paywall. Try Googling the full title of the article to circumvent.

Below are some of the few pictures I liked from our couple of hours in Dubrovnik. If traveling differently than we are now there are ways to cushion yourself from the hoards of people within the town walls. But, with Game of Thrones and now Star Wars making the city into some theme park attraction, it seems to Shell and me that they’ll need to start charging admission to control the headcount in any given hour. As you might imagine, we got in and got out. It is a stunningly beautiful place, deserving of the attention it has received. That said, a similar experience can be had in Kotor or Trogir. We stayed in a sleepy beach village called Zaton. We loved it, partly due to our lovely and warm Airbnb host who we felt like we really got to know. Also because the landscape was conducive to stress-free running paths and frequent dips in the ocean. A cheap and short bus ride away from Dubrovnik.

Thanks for reading

Dubrovnik’s old port
The city is littered with staircases – each with their own beauty. It was difficult to capture given only one lens choice
On our drive past Dubrovnik from Montenegro, we were headed to Zaton beach


By Daniel Hatke

The author was born and raised in Indiana. After graduating from Purdue University he worked in the asset management industry in New York City. He holds an MBA from Columbia Business School with concentrations in finance and entrepreneurship. Currently, he is fueling his curiosities through taking time off for extended travel and experiences in Europe and Asia, as chronicled here.