A Date in Every Country: A Series
Location: Lake Bled, Slovenia
Time: 2 hours
Will see again? Probably not
Connected via: Tinder
After spending over a week hiking the Dolomites, which quickly became some of my favorite mountains, I met up again with my new friends (aka some GLT ladies). When we had first met, I mentioned that I was thinking about heading to Slovenia and they excitedly shared that they were headed there the following weekend and offered to have me join their roadtrip. Well that sounded perfect so off we went, driving from Vincenza to Ljubljana. I highly recommend roadtripping when traveling abroad. It’s become one of my favorite ways to travel and I simply love the freedom to pull over and explore whenever I want. I’ve also managed to find so many hidden gems by getting out of the city.
We managed to spend a few days exploring different parts of Slovenia from Ljubljana to Lake Bled and the Julian Alps. Slovenia has lots of outdoor adventure options so we went river-kayaking in the Soča Valley. This was hilarious and much harder than we anticipated but we had a blast as you can clearly see in the photos. My first time putting on a wetsuit and oh my goodness it was anything but glamorous. I won't even tell you about the nudist we nonchalantly passed as we floated down the river. Throughout my travels, I'm finding myself spending less and less time in cities and being pulled towards the small mountain towns. After my first river kayaking experience and an unintentional yet refreshing upside down dunk job, we set off for our next adventure.
I was quite excited as one of the other girls was also a hiker and we decided to hike the tallest mountain in Slovenia, Mount Triglav. The mountain isn't exactly small, standing at 9,396ft/2,684m tall. While standing at the mountain hut in the middle of the wilderness near the summit I received a message from a Slovenian journalist who also happens to be a member of GLT! She wanted to interview me as she was working on an article about the future of dating that was going to be posted that weekend. She thought my international dating would be an interesting perspective so we arranged to have a call as I had never been interviewed and had some questions. We connected the following day after I got back from the mountains and she requested 2 things - first, that I share some dating experiences for her current article and secondly to write a feature on me about my #adateineverycountry !! Not gonna lie, I was incredibly nervous but she was so kind in making sure all of my questions were answered and I felt comfortable. I agreed to meet her in Ljubljana the next day and she was thrilled to hear that I had already arranged a Slovenian date for my last night in Lake Bled. While excited about this unique opportunity, I was a bit sad to be leaving this picturesque town with its gorgeous views and charming lakeside cafes.
My date was soft spoken with a messy hair surfer look despite the fact he lived in the mountains. Our chat via Tinder was short but sweet with him asking me to meet him for a beer before I left town. Upon arriving to the pub where we met, he confessed that I was his very first Tinder date...EVER! I inquired how long he’d been on the app and he confessed it had been over a year but that he was shy and had never gotten the courage to actually meet up with someone. I was extremely honored to be his first Tinder date. I keenly remember how uncomfortable and hilarious my first Tinder date was and that was more than a few years ago.
I have to remind myself that other countries didn't start online dating as early as Americans did. It takes a bit of bravery to put yourself out there and meet up with a stranger from the internet. It's so normalized in the US with meetups between strangers being a common occurrence. Nowadays, these interactions often stem from Craigslist to Facebook marketplace on top of the many online dating platforms. Back in the day, meeting up with a stranger from online was considered a bit scandalous and dare I say, reckless.
Our conversation was slow yet easy as he was generous in answering my questions about dating in Slovenia. As he shared his experiences, I was not surprised to hear that it echoed so many other stories I had heard. He struggled with meeting people as he had gotten older. He confessed that when he was in his 20’s he would have walked across a bar to introduce himself to an attractive woman but the thought of doing that now terrified him. He said it was very challenging to meet people so he had downloaded Tinder but had not been confident enough to meet up with women so far. When I asked how Slovenian people in their 30’s were meeting, he shared that if they didn’t meet at work, most people were left with meeting people in an activity club ie hiking, biking etc. He himself was into biking but hadn’t met the girl of him dreams just yet. He said it was not normal for someone in their 30’s to just approach people at a restaurant, coffee shop or bar. He was an active individual but living in a smaller town had provided him fewer options.
He asked questions about my travels and I shared with him some stories and my most recent adventures kayaking and hiking in Slovenia. He was a bit surprised that we had chosen to hike Triglav, it's not exactly a standard tourist activity there.
If I'm honest, I think that's why it's even more appealing to go on a hike in every country. I like to surprise people and I absolutely love finding non-traditional activities in beautiful, far off places.
Not long into our date, I was sensing a friendship vibe. The conversation was easy and casual but lacking a romantic tone. I had made plans to go on a hike early the next morning before getting on a bus to meet the journalist. Two hours and 2 beers later, I mentioned needing to head back to my accommodation due to my early morning and he kindly offered to walk with me. I sensed that he was hoping the date would continue but that was not to be. We said goodbye and he rode off on his bike.
I had enjoyed our chat and sent him a quick text thanking him for the evening. I teased him saying I was glad I had not ruined his first ever Tinder date. I was surprised when he replied saying he was happy we met but he followed this with a “joke” about not getting laid. UGH. I must confess I was disappointed that he felt that was ok to say. I had mixed feelings about this. Shocked that he honestly had that expectation on his first ever online date but also realizing that with no actual experience he might have this false expectation based on his friends' experiences or whatever he had heard via media. Despite it not being the case, there are still so many people who assume all dating apps are simply for hooking up. I always try to share how normalized it has become in the American culture to meet your partner on these apps. Any app can be for hooking up but it is not the only use and I will loudly share this when given the chance. His comment was an unfortunate note to end on but I sensed he meant no harm based on our interaction where he had been nothing but polite and kind. The bold things people say when hiding behind their phones.
During my time in Slovenia I had a moment of growth I wanted to share. For the first time ever, I turned around on a hike. I had never done this. My entire life I’ve sought to not be a quitter, to finish what I started. I grew up with all boys and quitting was something you simply did not do. My friend and I had set out to climb Mt. Triglav, the highest mountain in Slovenia. It was a 2 day hike that required sleeping at a mountain hut near the summit. Our plan was to hike up, sleep there then get up early to summit then hike all the way down. She had done this before but I clearly had not. We knew that you had to do a via ferrata to summit. (A via ferrata means "the iron way", in this case, sets of cables and metal that have been drilled into particularly steep sections allowing you to climb up with the use of your hands). Via ferratas can be quite dangerous and many require gear - a climbing belt, carabiners and a helmet. We were doing it without gear as I was unable to rent gear due to a holiday weekend. We had chatted with locals and people on the mountain to confirm our path was doable without gear.
We arrived at the hut early evening just in time to enjoy dinner. We headed outside to marvel over a gorgeous sunset with a bottle of wine to celebrate our great day and the incredible view. We crashed early as we were getting up at sunrise to start the summit climb the next day. The following morning, after enjoying the glorious sunrise, we set off on our summit bid. Just as we are getting to the cables, we met this kind girl who had stopped to rest. She was a bit scared and had decided to sit and wait as her friends had carried on. We chatted with her to make sure she was ok and asked if she wanted to join us as we were going slow or if she preferred to wait. She decided to stay there as we continued on and started the first challenging cable section.
It should be noted that just the week before, I had unfortunately discovered that my absolute favorite hiking boots were completely shot. Mind you, I had been using them since 2019 and this year alone I had done several hundred miles in them covering some crazy terrain. I had virtually no tread left and found myself slipping way more than usual. I was keenly aware of this and being super cautious. As the climb got steeper onto this heavily sloped boulder my boots were proving more and more dangerous. I was clinging to these cables with my bare hands all the while giving myself a mental pep talk - "I can do this. I don't quit. Slow and steady." While I’m not afraid of heights, this was simply not feeling safe. I had no safety gear while everyone near us had helmets and carabiners to clip in. On top of that, now I could not trust my boots. Any hiker knows that you need to be able to trust your gear or you're set up for failure. I was thinking how much I wanted to climb this mountain, how I had told people I would do it and therefore needed to summit just like I had said. The other part of me was thinking that one slip and I could twist an ankle (or worse) and there goes the next several weeks of hiking and traveling. I had big plans including many more mountains and was it worth it?
While I’m going back and forth in my head, a helicopter comes through the valley and we watch it land on the neighboring peak. We are informed it’s the 2nd rescue of an injured climber that weekend. UMM YEAH. After doing many mental gymnastics, I finally decided that it was simply not worth it. My pride might hurt but risking the rest of my trip just to complete this hike when my conditions were dangerous was simply not smart. My gut was saying stop and that’s what I did. I chatted with my friend who decided to continue on as she had way better shoes and had done this hike before. She was completely understanding of me deciding to turn around. I started to head down and ran into that girl again. She had apparently decided to come up the first cable section despite being scared and was pressuring herself to continue. I stopped to chat and sensed her hesitancy about continuing on. I felt the urge to share with her that it was ok to decide to turn around. I had just made that decision and wanted to remind her that it was ok to not finish. Her face showed her relief as I offered to climb down with her. We set off downhill with a new confidence that we were making the right decision. When in doubt, trust your gut and on this day, my gut was saying no.
Sometimes climbing down is just as hard or harder than climbing up. Throw in my short little legs and I spent plenty of time on my butt trying to reach the next step. If you see me on the trail, my toes are pointed as I'm reaching as far as my short little legs can go, brushing my foot back and forth just trying to find something solid to stand on. How my sole pair of Prana leggings don't have a hole in the butt is beyond me! They have been through hell and back and have survived any and all conditions. We arrived safely back at the hut and proceeded to enjoy a cup of tea and some chocolate. We shared a lovely conversation about how hard it can be to leave a situation where people expect one thing of you and you don't feel comfortable or safe continuing. We were both proud of ourselves for our decision and I wanted to share this with you all as so much of the time the world only sees the accomplishments and not the hard decisions to change course. I don't consider this a failure and I'm proud of my choice. So many times throughout this journey I have to remind myself of the following:
It’s ok to change your mind. It’s okay to not finish what you started. It’s ok to say no to your friends. It’s ok to not do what your original plan was. It’s your life and your intuition is to be trusted. Does it really matter if other people think less of you? The people who care about you will support your decision. Trust your gut and live the life you want.
Ok that’s my big speech. My friend summited safely and joined back up with me for the rest of the descent where our biggest concerns were the overly friendly cows. In the middle of the hike I briefly got service and attempted to order the exact same hiking boots to my family's house in Washington. I would do everything I could to get these to Norway in time for my next hike...alas this was not meant to be but that's another story. Thanks for reading yet another novel. Love to all and hope you beautiful humans are doing well.
Teaser: The rest of my time in Slovenia included battling an insane windstorm to get to my interview, meeting up with a lovely local GLT gal and going on one more date because why not?! After Slovenia comes Norway and WOWEEEE!
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