“Eva, what is your website about?” Isn’t that obvious? I would say. Apparently it isn’t. The more I think of it, the more I realize that perhaps it’s hard to get indeed. To get what it’s ALL about. Because I don’t know neither. A personal blog, a life and adventure journal. Inspired by Via Dinarica, I started to explore. It’s shows a journey. The journey of me, following my path. Step by step. One step at the time. Sometimes I can hardly see the path, but that’s part of the process. The process called life.
I explore the Dinarides by hiking the Via Dinarica trails. I discover the Dinarides and experience the Balkans. I hike, I write. I walk, I talk. Thinking Feeling Writing. And I share what inspires me. A Life and Adventure Journal.
Where it all started
Despite the fact that usually places need to grow on me before they conquer my heart, I can actually mark the moment that I fell in love with the Dinarides. Don’t know the exact date, but the location I probably never forget. During the summer of 2015 I biked from Amsterdam to Montenegro via Bosnia and Herzegovina. One day I choose the road from Drvar to Livno instead of the road through the mountains. The easy road. The main road. Somewhere near Bosansko Grahovo I stopped.
Couldn’t believe that I was all on my own. Alone in that immense valley. Alone on that road. The main road. I stopped and stared. At the road. At the mountains. Those mountains. This is something different. The colors, the shapes. They looked easy to approach, not too high, not too steep, but there was something unpredictable about them.
Would there be an hiking trail up there? I wondered…
Guided by Curiosity
Back in Amsterdam I searched the internet for hiking trails. “Hiking in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, “Hiking the Balkans” etc. That’s how I found out about Via Dinarica, a brand new long distance hiking trail in the Balkans. Or a trail to be. At the same time I had a bit of a difficult time in Amsterdam. A strange kind of emptiness, an empty feeling slowly grew somewhere deep in me. It grew and grew and took me over. Writing was the only thing that felt good. For some reason I felt the urge to share my stories, so I started a blog. I used “Eva Dinarica” as a pseudonym. This blog turned into a project, my EVAdinarica Project.
I wrote stories about the “run up” towards my Via Dinarica hike and later about my Via Dinarica adventure itself while I was on the trail. These are personal stories mostly. But besides sharing my journey, I wanted to gain attention for this relatively unknown region, the Dinaric Alps. I wrote blog posts for other websites and after I finished hiking the Via Dinarica White Trail I wrote quite some articles about it.
Stories from the Heart
Stories from the heart are not always easy to take in. But they’re real. I don’t want to write without any emotions or feelings. I tried, but I don’t like it. I don’t want that and I probably suck at it. I’d rather have my stories read by a handful of people than loosing what the writing is about for me. It is a struggle though. A few months ago I wrote a blog post with tips & tricks to go on a low-budget pelgrimage (in Dutch). That single blog post got more views than I usually get in one month… What does that say?
Should I change my strategy?
No. Those numbers are nice, but they’re not what it’s all about. Every now and then a “tips & tricks” post is okay, but only if I have some real good tips and tricks to share.
When I was nominated for the Dutch Hiking Blog Award my first reaction was, huh? My blog? Secondly, I felt honored, then thankful. It took a while to actually say that I was proud, but I am. I’m proud. (I by the way won that award, yay!)
Straight to the Heart
Soon after that nomination I saw a Facebook message of someone I met while hiking Via Dinarica. This man followed my journey ever since. What he wrote was unbelievable. It’s poetic and incredibly kind. I’m not even sure if I dare to share it, but why not? Since he shared it on Facebook already…
“Eva writes a blog. Eva is our ambassador, writes about people, meetings, beauties… Eva writes about us. Eva is our mirror. Eva is a strong, persistent, consistent person. She has a goal. She has the friends. Eva is Nature and Nature is Eva. Complete symbiosis, a life in which there is no difference between Human being and Nature. Eva is a walker to her goal. With joy I read how she was nominated. That’s why I shared the link. And do not please anyone, I am begging you to read what everything Eva does, where and why. Only then, if you are convinced, open these links below and click Eva Smeele alias Eva Dinarica. She deserves this prize, and if she does not get it, she will be still walking alone, with her backpack and her thoughts. Because, Eva has her goal.”
He was not the only one. I got emails and messages from people congratulating ánd thanking me. All because somewhere two years ago I decided to write about my Via Dinarica journey. Wow. That really really means a lot. Stories FROM the heart, straight TO the heart. That’s what it’s all about, right?
Capture the Moment vs Looking Back
With my stories I try to capture the moment. I like this kind of writing the most and let’s be honest, it’s the easiest for me. Those stories just pop up, they form themselves. Funny situations, interesting conversations, epic experiences, random thoughts. It’s like writing in my diary, I don’t have to think, I just match words with feelings and thoughts to describe the situation.
There are different ways to tell a story though. On the trail, I write those “capture the moment” or “hiking tales” kind of stories. I have to write them then, otherwise they disappear. Off the trail, I like to create blog posts where I sort of summarize a part of the adventure. Or photo essays where I look back on where I’ve been and what I’ve done.
Recently I started to make videos as well, call it vlogs if you like. Turns out that while in a city, this seems to fit a bit better than writing blogs. I would like to do both, but for now it’s a weekly vlog (in Dutch) and I think that’s just fine. I simply can’t do it all at the same time. In a way those videos capture the moment as well. It’s different form, but I really like experimenting with it.
Back to the Balkans
After hiking the Via Dinarica White Trail, it didn’t feel done. I wasn’t done. The region, the people, the mountains and even the trail, there was so much more to see and explore. To experience. I stayed a bit longer. Traveled up and down between Zagreb and Sarajevo, but there was a point I had to make a decision what to do next. Another year. I needed another year. That was last year.
Last year I walked from Amsterdam back to the Balkans. Once I got back, I knew I would stay. So here I am. I’m in Zagreb, following a language course and preparing my next adventure. Today it’s rainy, but I like it. Good reason to stay in. All the blue skies make it hard to get the writing done. Problems, problems.
What’s my mission?
Create to inspire? Explore to inspire? I see myself as someone who opens doors. There are many different doors. I’d like to open some and I’d like to look what’s behind. I don’t have THE answers and I probably never will have. What’s behind it for me, what’s in it for me is probably different than what you’ll find. That’s why I won’t tell how you should do this and that, but I show you what I do. I share my journey in a personal way. Maybe you can relate to that, maybe not. It’s all alright.
Explore to inspire.
Right now I’m exploring the Dinarides. I explore the Dinarides by hiking the Via Dinarica. I discover the Dinarides and experience the Balkans. I hike, I write. I walk, I talk. Thinking Feeling Writing. And I share what inspires me.
Two years ago
I just had a look at what I wrote about my mission two years ago. Turns out I’m pretty consistent in what I want and in not knowing where it will lead me to.
“It’s not just a trail and it’s not just a project. The Via Dinarica inspired me to move, to make a change, to keep on going. It’s not about the finish line, it’s the journey that counts. My ‘Dinarica’ journey started on the 8th of November when I opened my diary and started writing again. “Brainstorm. Walking the trail. Alone. Summer 2016. Blog. Share & Inspire. Connecting Naturally. What’s my mission? What do I want? And why? How am I going to do this? Promote – Vision – Via Dinarica – Passion – the Balkans. Authenticity. Who am I?” I don’t know the destination and I can hardly see the path. But I’m getting there, I’ll find the courage to explore and to enjoy. Want to follow along?
Walking the Via Dinarica from Albania to Slovenia to discover and promote the western Balkans and it’s wilderness. (check!)
Inspire people, spreading the word by blogging and using social media. (hmmm yeah, check!)
Share my story. (check!)
Feel ultimately connected, wearing my Vibram Five Fingers shoes. (still growing here, but check!)
Why? Because I fell in love with the Balkans, I’m inspired by Via Dinarica and I’m always up for a new adventure.”
What it’s all about
Feeling free? Feeling connected? Connectedness? Or simple wanderlust?
The fascination. The curiosity. A different world. Nature, culture, people. Identity.
I observe, I learn.
I walk, I talk.
I hike, I write.
One step at the time.
What about you?
Take a second to find out more here