Zagreb, Croatia

I got a piece of an authentic, real cultural experience while attending a basketball match in the historical Drazen Petrovic Basketball Hall in Zagreb. I was obviously enthralled with the action of the game; and in typical fashion coaching from the sideline in my head. More importantly, the ceaseless cheering from the home crowd fans captivated me. I slyly took some videos and sent them to my friend (a Split native) to translate what they were saying. Their natural zeal for the game and the intensity of their cheering excited me. But then — in heavily accented English — I was aggressively told by a nearby group of fans to: put my phone away! Whoa! While it took me aback at first, I couldn’t help but appreciate the dedication of the local supporters for their home team; and also appreciate the commitment to living in the moment. This brings me to my next point.

I find myself becoming more and more at peace with the detachment of what’s going on in everyday life. That was part of the “fantasy” of this trip. Leaving material objects behind and absorbing what was occurring in the moment. Living your best life isn’t doing what seems cool to people or rockin’ the latest clothes or posting pictures from cool places; it’s executing your purpose. It’s spreading love and doing what you’ve been called to do. Maybe it’s traveling? Maybe it’s being at home? Despite the post you see, just be content with what you’re becoming and what you’re doing.

There’s No Place Like Home?

Amid the missed modes of transportation, and lack of sleep, I can still easily say this was a truly thrilling and sensational out-of-body-like experience. But I won’t fail to acknowledge some realizations I came to. Of course for myself, but also for my beloved home country.

First off, many people often inquire how I seemingly adjust to many places so comfortably; well first, if I got my headphones, as well as some good wine and scenery, trust me, I can pretty much vibe anywhere. But I digress, I make it a point specifically, to seek out the connectedness of us all. Although we don’t speak the same language, we communicate out of love, in our shared passions and struggles. When a song comes on, a movie comes out, a sport, etc., it seems like we understand each other seamlessly even with a language barrier. Doesn’t that tie us in closer? Man, I can tell u that my favorite part of every leg of my journey, was pulling up to the basketball courts and playing with the locals; there is a common drive of competition. The language becomes an afterthought, but the love remains all the same.

Equally important, even our struggles transcend international borders and cultural differences as well. A lot of the issues you think you face in solitude, hit home — in so many homes, actually. Many individuals face family drama, grief over death, or even varying mental health battles — struggles that all wear us down. What really helped drive this home for me was the Ukrainian refugees I met along the way. Some were literal families, but on one occasion, I connected with a young professional just like myself. The only difference between him staying in Berlin for a short time versus me, was that he literally woke up to a missile outside his house one day.

God bless the Ukrainian people, but to the original point: don’t let the media sound bites, or what you see scrolling through your feed dictate your perception of all the other countries on this globe. There’s infinite diversity in the world. Culture upon culture. Dialects upon dialects. Identities intertwined. The divisiveness sewn among us, seems like a literal attack on our human makeup and natural connectedness.

Consequently, the more I’ve been abroad, the more I am completely turned off by the American workaholic culture, over-the-top consumerism, sensational politics, and patent racism among so many other topics. Now don’t be mistaken: no country is perfect and every place shares similar challenges on different landscapes and will continue to do. America holds a special place in my heart. I love being an American; but I recognize more and more that our American way of living is not the “know all, be all.”

It’s funny — whenever I get back to the states, many of my close associates are always like “well there’s no place like the US!” But listen “bro,” there’s also no place like Ljubljana, or no place like Zagreb as well. God willing I make it to the rest of the world but people live in so many different ways, and maybe somewhere else fits better for you? That’s a legitimate possibility. There may be a fit for you elsewhere in the world, I don’t know — sometimes you just gotta pack your stuff and figure it out.

Moreover, as Americans, we need to come to the realization that we can learn from the rest of the world. Trust me: it really does not matter how big or small the country is. Every country has its “phoenix story,” where out of the ugliness and tragedy, it rises anew. The greatest minds and generational heroes emerge to create something great. Every country has its dark past, it’s just a matter of the particular ways to address and rectify it. History and human nature operate in themes and rhythms, so if you’re naive to it, the repercussions of genocide, generational displacement, and a multitude of disparities will persist. And as Americans, I do feel like we’re so naive to so many critical world events. We’ve been blessed yet cursed, with our geographical isolation. It has also been historically reported that on average, a fewer percentage of Americans hold passports in comparison to many other citizens in advanced countries on this globe. It sickens me to hear Americans generalize smaller countries; especially when they have no prior knowledge to that country!

Mark Twain once said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

The Fantasy Doesn’t Have to End

I only write this blog as a visceral reaction to my experiences of throwing my belongings in a backpack and simply departing. But as seen during my travels and reflections: backpacking is a mere symbolic achievement. Our holidays and paid time off are more than just vacation time. It is an intentional time to enhance ourselves, redefine our perspectives, and acquire a deeper sense of purpose during our lives. Realistically, it looks different for everyone. But I do hope my own experiences spark someone to be creative as they find their place in this world.

In my opinion, all our lives correlate to a hero’s arc in a way; we undergo journeys, celebrations, thresholds, and pitfalls in order to achieve a higher transformation. My backpacking exploits were yet another pivotal piece on my path.

One’s deeper sense of spiritual, physical, and mental enhancement could be calling you this weekend, or during your next paid time off. Take the calling in stride and embrace the adventure. Maybe it’s a local city in your own home country? A day trip? A new cafe, park, or museum for an hour? There are so many untapped pockets of this world that our worthy of our desires, and it’s calling you to stop being so restricted; to break from the norm, and commit to a new path of self – discovery. The perception of your enhanced adventure doesn’t have to be for anyone else as well; just for you, your mind, and overall joy. We only get one chance at this short life, so it’s imperative we make the most of it.

In this link to part one, read about Jakobi’s beginning of the travel experience…

Written by: Jakobi Bonner

 Jakobi picture
Jakobi is a professional basketball player and freelance writer from Orlando, Florida. He also has played for teams in London, England, and Montenegro. While playing, he created his own blog, aiming to give honest, relevant, and holistic self-growth reflections based on common events and personal experiences. In addition to this, he authored a thesis rooted in original research evaluating inadequate ethical leadership and historical discrimination affecting black artists in the American music industry. Besides playing basketball, he loves to read, check out museums, DJ, explore new environments, and of course, give back to the community — he recently started his own basketball camp in Orlando, aiming to empower the youth in his local community.

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