I sometimes think that people travel in order to get the messages they are supposed to get, through things they see and people they meet only once in their lives. It is up to you to notice the message or not.
The messages can range from clearly important ones to not so obvious ones. Perhaps the message I got in Dubrovnik does not sound life-changing, but it changed my travel experience in Croatia for the better.
We were waiting for the hotel's porter in front of the Pile gate when we arrived in Dubrovnik, when a smiling Asian man saluted to us in English, "Good afternoon." He asked if we were from Japan, we said yes, and he said he was from South Korea. He was a social solo traveler, which is hard to be for many people. He asked us to take a photo for him, and we did. That was it then.
Three days later, when we were waiting for a bus to the airport near the Croce gate, someone walked toward us with a smile. It was the Korean guy. We met for the second time. We didn't ask his name, so let's call him Mr. K. We were heading for Zagreb and Mr. K was going home after traveling from Zagreb through to Dubrovnik. We told him that we would stay in Zagreb and visit Plitvice National Park on a day trip. Then Mr. K insisted, "Please, stay overnight in Plitvice." He explained he had spent two nights there and loved it. He gave us tips on hotels and walking courses. OK, I appreciated his advice, but we already booked a hotel in Zagreb, so I wasn't really sure if we should change the plan.
When the bus arrived at the Dubrovnik airport, we wished each other a safe trip and walked in different directions. But when we got on the airplane, we heard,
"Oh, we meet for the third time!!"
It was Mr. K. His seat was right next to ours. Out of dozens of seats, what a chance is that.
When we disembarked in Zagreb, Mr. K said again, "Please, stay in Plitvice!"
This time I realized we were meant to change our plan and stay overnight in Plitvice.
Plitvice is two and a half hours of bus ride from Zagreb. We left Zagreb in the morning. By the time we started walking, the national park was full of people, despite that it was not the peak season. There were so many tour groups we sometimes encountered human traffic jam. The waterfalls could not impress us enough because of the crowd.
We spent a night in Hotel Jezero and started walking again when the park opened at 8:30am the next morning. We were the first visitors and had the park all to ourselves for quite a long time. We enjoyed listening to the streams and birds, watching clear blue-emerald waters, and inhaling clean air. We were able to appreciate Plitvice at its best. What a fortune is that, to fully appreciate the beauty of a place that you may visit only once in your whole life.
Mr. K was right. Next time I will take over his message and say to someone traveling in the area,
"Please, stay overnight in Plitvice!"