On February 5, as I was taking care of last-minute preparations for my six-week trip to Bolivia, I got a call from my mother in Croatia with disturbing news – my father has cancer. My first instinct was to drop the project in Bolivia and hop on a plane to Zagreb to be with him. Yet everyone, including my father, convinced me to go and do my job as planned. So I went.
During the two weeks I spent in Bolivia, my father underwent serious surgery, seemed to be recovering for a couple of days and then lapsed into a coma from the complications. At the same time, I was a couple of continents away surrounded by some of the most beautiful, otherworldly, stirring landscapes on earth. Yet however much I was trying to enjoy my trip and be fully present, most of me was in Croatia on another journey, my father’s. So about ten days ago, I packed my bags in Potosi at 4070 meters of altitude, left the job on hold and traveled to Croatia for three days to hold my father’s hand.
My father is a big traveler. As one of Croatia’s most prominent, dare I say legendary sports journalists and newscasters, he has traveled the world far and wide reporting on various sports events (he covered each Winter Olympic Games from 1976 to 2002). There is no doubt where I got my travel bug. Every chance he had, my father brought the family along – my mom, brother and I. Instead of customary middle-class shopping trips to Italy or Austria, we tagged along on various adventures – from skiing in the Swiss Alps to visiting Disneyland in California (I was 15 then and thought this was the ultimate travel experience ever!). My father always taught me that one’s wisdom and experience come from the “pictures” gathered over a lifetime. He believed travel is the best way to collect these pictures.
As I write this, it’s been two weeks that my father is in intensive care, hooked up to machines, unconscious and unable to move. My father, whose spirit has always been sport, movement, action… My days revolve around the hospital visit every afternoon when I go and stand by him, caress his forehead and tell him stories. Often I recall our trips around the world. Maybe because he’s on a different kind of journey. This time, sadly, a journey I can’t join. This one, we all take alone.