Vis à Vis

Blue is the color of Vis

Blue is the color of Vis

I just spent almost a week on the tiny island of Vis in the Adriatic Sea, bobbing off the mainland of Split, Croatia. On my last night there a local entrepreneur, restaurateur, waiter, guide, winemaker and all-around lovable man named Mario answered my question. "I was born on Vis, I will die on Vis. Vis is in my blood and I am in its soil." It made a great quote for a journalist. Mario is 30 something, and has lived and studied in Holland and Spain, Italy and a few other countries I can't recall.  But let me start at the beginning. On day one in Vis I wondered, why stay here? What do you do here? Why work three to four jobs to make ends meet?  By day six I had visited a family konoba where the sardines i'd seen on the fishing boat that morning were swimming in olive oil and capers in the afternoon. I had hiked totally alone to a beach where three friends swam, and sat talking on pebbles so white, they looked like silver coins of pirates left behind in the last century. I started one having coffee with a friend of a friend. By the end of the day, we'd  walked  the dirt path that was once a runway for the British army, and ate lemon cookies made by her mother prepared from the island's bounty. I picked Plavac grapes right off the vine in the island's verdant center, and was offered a shot of rakija (grappa) at 10 am (it's impolite to refuse so why not).  I bellied up with local travelers at another konoba whose owner decided not to cook that day, but served us wine and her homemade Hib---fig cake. I climbed to the top of Mt. Hum where I could see the mainland one direction and Italy the other.  I watched a small fire break out in a storage area of a home and watched local residents run to put it out, not waiting for the fire department. By day four I recognized people in the narrow streets and waved hello. It didn't take long to feel a small sense of belonging to this place, rich in history and simplicity, forgotten and forbidden to visitors for 50 years after WWII. It didn't take long to see that everyone here on an island of only 3000 residents is, in some way, a branch of the same family tree. It didn't take long to realize I could live without everything that, only six days earlier,  I would have said I needed---a big car, house, multiple changes of clothes, a flat iron for my hair, nail polish. By the week's end, the only thing I wanted was my family, and more time on Vis. What's important quickly comes to the surface.  Good food, family, friends, and a place to passionately love and truly feel at home.  Mario lives the life he chooses, not one chosen for him. So does everyone on Vis.  So when I asked Mario why he stays on Vis, I already knew what his answer would be. I just wanted to hear him say it. Maybe because so many people, including me, are afraid to live the life they love. Maybe because I could never answer the same question with such passion. Maybe because I don't know my own answer yet, and am still searching.

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Kimberley Lovato

Kimberley Lovato has written about travel, lifestyle and food for national and international publications and websites including National Geographic Traveler, Executive Travel, American Way, AFAR, Condé Nast Traveller (UK), Ryan Air, b.there, Easy Jet Traveller, leitesculinaria.com and frommers.com, among others. She is the author of a Michelin Guidebook on Brussels, where she lived for six years Her culinary travel book, Walnut Wine & Truffle Groves, about the Dordogne region of France, won the "Best Travel Book" nod in 2012 from the Society of American Travel Writers, as did her personal essay, "Lost and Liberated," which also appeared in Best Women's Travel Writing, Volume 8. When she's not plotting her next trip or her annual pilgrimage to France, she resides in San Francisco where she is a correspondent for BBC's Passport Blog, a student in Stanford University's Creative Writing Certificate program, and a brave mother of a teenaged girl.