I’m leaving for Croatia tonight. I’ve been yearning to go for nearly ten years. I almost moved to Croatia instead of New York. Back when I was 22 and trying to get lost so I could find myself sorta thing.

I am Croatian—on my Mom’s side. For years, Grandma kept in touch with her cousin, a nun, who lived in a monastery outside the capital city of Zagreb. From her letters, I learned where my great-grandfather was born. (And I’m going there on Wednesday!) If I tried, I could probably find living relatives in the northwest corner of the country. Maybe next time, because, really, what is there to say to a cousin four, five times removed by generations, countries, and religions? Are we honestly anymore related than an office colleague sitting next to me?

But this time I am going to the monastery to see if the nun is still there, alive. She’d be 86. Grandma hasn’t heard from her since the war. Her last letter arrived in 1992 and spoke of a new niece that she hadn’t met yet and incessant bombings.

From there, we’re driving to the Plitvice Lakes National Park. Where we’re staying in a B&B next to a waterfall that we are welcome to swim in. Next we’re heading to the treasured UNESCO town of Trogir and from there (via Split) the island of Hvar. Our friends, Alice and Dan, just returned from Croatia and recommended that for Hvar we pack with the intention of getting our pretentious on. Marvelous! And finally, Melinda and I are spending a week in Dubrovik. Where I am so excited to see the ancient city center built entirely of marble…and then simply sit on beaches, balconies, and boardwalks to stare at the Adriatic Sea.

It’s almost time. The car is coming at 8:45. The very first step on this spectacular itinerary that Melinda created for us, for me, to live an experience I’ve only dreamed about.

I’m almost finished stuffing the backpack that I haven’t used since the last time I actually trekked (vs. drove) around Europe. My new straw hat sits on top of it, tipped expectantly. I bought it for this trip, knowing I’d need a good one, from my friend Orlando’s shop, Worth & Worth. I left with my hatbox elated, because as he says, “Romance is always in the air whenever you purchase a new hat.”

I’m feeling it now, as well as the thrill, humility, and gratitude for all of the known and unknown people in my life who have contributed in the past or continue now to graciously help make me—me.