I'm teaching another travel writing class for Catapult, starting Feb 29

Back to the roots in Croatia

It’s been five days since I arrived to my homeland. It is not a holiday; yet another time, I’m doing a guidebook update. I’ve worked on a few Croatia guides before and each one led me to rediscover the beauty of my native land. But today was a particularly strange experience.

One of the areas I have to research is Zagorje, a rural region northwest of Zagreb. So today I drove out to look at the picturesque villages, hilly landscapes and medieval castles I’ve seen a thousand times – yet to see them with the eyes of a first-time visitor. Wow, was it challenging! I had to work hard to separate myself from these views I remember ever since I was a child. To look at it all with fresh eyes and be able to tell it as it is – that is the task ahead of me.

As I sat in the countryside house where several generations of my family grew up, listening to birdsong and taking in the views of the hills across the way, a string of questions ran through my mind. Can one be objective as a travel writer when describing the place of their childhood? When a place is so deeply rooted in your earliest memories, can you disengage sufficiently to give an unbiased opinion? Can you strip off layers of personal history and start anew, right here and right now, taking in a particular view, eating a particular food…?

What do you think?

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