Life in a Treehouse

Submission for Travel writing scholarship 2018 in Argentina, with ( 

The floor made of sand creaked rhythmically under my feet. Ocean breeze flowed through the invisible walls, surrounded by the island’s lush jungle paths. Giggling, they were building secret spaces among the comfy cushions, ignoring my presence. I was marveling at the world that was unfolding before my eyes. I’ve been dreaming of this place for more than two years. Arriving felt like remembering everything I knew and somehow forgot.

„Miss, what are you looking for?“ „The treehouse,”

I replied to the voice behind the mangoes. “Oh, it’s just there”,

Mon said, pointing at the sign “Welcome home.” Home it became, with Mon’s delicious massaman curry, its remote location, misty mountains and travelers from all walks of life. The Earth was singing. Or was it my five-year-old heart?

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Living in a Treehouse

Living in a tree house

I’m not sure if I should tell this story. What if it never happened? Did I really find such a place, I wonder now, months later?
I will put the words on paper. It’s up to you whether you believe me or not, when even I doubt myself.


Years before….

As I sat with my laptop, sipping a cup of tea and browsing through travel websites, resisting tomorrow’s going to work, I found them on Workaway. I shook the head in disbelief and promised myself that one day I will get there – the south of Thailand, on a paradise beach surrounded by dirt jungle paths.

More than two years after, mini van left me in the muddy street. The rain that held back all day cascaded down. The roosters curiously followed my steps to a new home.

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Unexpected adventures lead to amazing places

Unexpected adventures lead to amazing places
I don’t like when someone is trying to sell the story that traveling is free. It’s not. I was busting my ass to be able to buy a one-way ticket to Southeast Asia. It’s even harder when you come from the Balkans where one often has to work twice as much from someone from the more developed country, for the same income. Did that stop me from doing it? No. I spent two and a half years of working  while studying and doing my master’s in journalism, only to embark on an adventure. Was it hard? Yes. Was it worth it? Hell yeah.


You never lose by giving your time 

People do volunteering jobs to make a positive difference in the world, to see other realities, save money and to make a change in the world. Yes, you give your time and don’t receive money but you never loose. With volunteering you can only gain.

Because I wanted to save money during the trip itself, I decided to volunteer in exchange for bed and if I was lucky – food. You choose a country, a job and voila, your resume is enriched for a new experience!

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“I will find you”

I will find you

I don’t remember the exact moment when I find it.
Thai people walked in silence around the temple and I sobbed like a baby. They stared at me. I stared at the big golden Buddha in Nakhon Pathom. So after two and a half years of waiting I came to Thailand to cry? In front of the Buddha?! What happened to me?!
I felt oceans of sadness pouring out. There I was. Finally traveling. Finally doing things my way yet I cried and cried, wondering what launches an avalanche of strange feelings inside me.


I started walking. I glanced at the monk who stood silently next to me in orange robe. When the last tear dried I felt a frightening void. But footsteps became lighter. Breathing became slower and all of a sudden I could feel myself.
What changed?


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Life in a paradise (Koh Phangan)

Life in a paradise

White powdery sand. Ocean breeze and palm leaf swaying in a tropical sun, whispering shhhhhhh! It was a place my eyes have never seen before. A paradise. Time didn’t matter, mornings were for sleeping and nights for wildness. 

“Come, I will introduce to the island life” – said Edi, my American friend whom I met in Bangkok when we were both at the beginning of our journeys.

So I came.

An unexpected home base

In a place where I least expected a homely atmosphere began to grow in me. Not only that I got an island home beneath the starry sky, but I learned how to drive a scooter. I swam among the fishes in turquoise water. I ate dozen of mangoes, met real hippies and practiced yoga. After a week I could recognize smiling faces on the streets. I adopted an island cat and gave her Croatian name.

Welcome to Koh Phangan sign

Situated in the Southern Gulf of Thailand, Koh Phangan is part of the group of islands that make up the Samui Archipelagos. Tourists have started to discover the island in the 1980’s. It is close to Koh Samui and Koh Tao. It’s a home to 20 temples and only one KFC.

Edi barely got me off his couch… Finally I left after one month, seduced by the lure of this magical tropical paradise.

But, let’s go from the beginning.

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Lessons learned in Asia

Lessons learned in Asia

“We’d never seen anything as green as these rice paddies. It was not just the paddies themselves: the surrounding vegetation – foliage so dense the trees lost track of whose leaves were whose – was a rainbow coalition of one color: green. There was an infinity of greens, rendered all the greener by splashes of red hibiscus and the herons floating past, so white and big it seemed as if sheets hung out to dry had suddenly taken wing. All other colors – even purple and black – were shades of green. Light and shade were degrees of green. Greenness, here, was less a color than a colonising impulse. Everything was either already green – like a snake, bright as a blade of grass, sidling across the footpath – or in the process of becoming so. Statues of the Buddha were mossy, furred with green.”
– Geoff Dyer, Yoga for people who can’t be bothered to do it


I bought a one way ticket and chose Asia as my first stop for numerous reasons. The most important one was that I knew it was going to be different than anything before. So I picked up my backpacks and with traveling to Asia, I’ve chosen freedom. That freedom has taught me many lessons so far.

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After one month in Thailand

After one month in Thailand

When people ask how many Southeast Asian countries have I seen in one month, they can’t believe when I say – one! And it’s Thailand. I travel slowly. Time is on my side and I’m not rushing anywhere.

I was two weeks in Bangkok. I should be in the Guinness Book of Record, right? But I lived there with the American-Thai married couple, who brought me into the “Thai” world. Living in a totally non tourist street, they showed me where to eat, what to eat (coconut pancakes, my love), I didn’t know what double pricing is and I learned how to navigate through city and manage the money in local currency. I was prepared for all possible scams. It was a perfect start.

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14 Baht Adventure

14 baht adventure

Standing at the Hua Lamphong train station early in the morning, covered in sweat and tired of the night drive from Chiang Mai, we just wanted to escape the big city. Steff told Jazz and me about the place outside of Bangkok where you can get Sak Yant aka bamboo tattoo from a monk. The city’s name: Nakhom Pathom. 1,30 hour ride. 3rd class. 14 baht ticket fare.

“Let’s have an adventure! Let’s go where tourists don’t go! ” -Steff was excited.

We looked at each other and got on a local train. Not that we had anything else in mind so let’s  have an adventure for 14 baht.

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Smoothie Lady of Chiang Mai

Smoothie Lady

“What do you want to have today?” – my “smoothie lady” asked me every day while already pulling my favorite fruits from the refrigerator.

“You choose! I trust you” – I’d tell her and be delighted every time.

“Let’s start with passionate fruit, your favorite”.

“Sit and smile”

Because of this woman, Jirawan Chaidoungkaew, and her magical smoothies, I will remember Chiang Mai. Visiting her fruit stand in front of her home became my favorite routine while staying in the city.

I stumble upon it accidentally, when leaving the Thai massage salon run by the former female prisoners just across the street. I needed refreshment and saw the sign “Sit and smile”, as well as the names of the fruits I’ve never heard of or even tasted before, like passionate fruit and dragon fruit.

Not that I was just buying refreshing and healthy smoothies for 30 Baht, but  I was always greeted with a smile and no money can buy the feeling of being  truly welcomed.

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Night train to Chiang Mai

Night train to Chiang Mai

– Hi, I am Fred. I’m Canadian.

His shirt was green as our bed curtains in a night train to Chiang Mai.
– Hi, I am Ivana and I am from Croatia. Do you know where that is?
– Oh, I know. I’ve never been in Eastern Europe though – Fred said.

Stranger in the night

After two weeks in Bangkok, it was time to leave. The Road called me. And the Road knows. When the boat started moving, my heart started blossoming. I was waiting for some kind of excitement but all I could acknowledge was calmness. Bangkok wasn’t the place that could silence my longing for what never quiets – the wanderlust. Will Chiang Mai succeed in this game of taming, I asked myself.

“I love to travel – Fred started talking. – But I won’t be able to sleep. Trains, buses, planes.. I never sleep”.

His movements were slow. Gracious. I could see that his eyes have seen more than he remembers, whilst his skin was touched by the places I can still only dream of.

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