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Ash and I lived on long haul buses for a while and traveling by buses are in no way luxury travel. Buses are miserable; there’s no way of making a 10+ hour bus trip enjoyable. Unfortunately, there is very little one can do because they are what they are and when you’re trying to keep travel costs down. Buses are one of the cheaper options if not the cheapest, especially when it can get you to places that Ryanair might not be able to. Ash and I have had our fair share of bus rides and do what we can to cut down the number we have to take. Like the time that we coerced a total stranger to give us a ride to Kosovo.
Last October, Ash and I had just finished a bus journey from Dubrovnik, Croatia to Kotor, Montenegro. The trip was fairly uneventful and pretty comfortable as far as buses go. It was also a pretty short trip as it was only about four hours. At this point in time, we had been practically living on buses the last couple of months and were worn down (know that in Croatia the easiest way of getting around besides car is by bus).
Unfortunately, we only had a night in this fairytale walled city before we were back on a bus off to Kosovo. An early morning bus and a single night in a city are definitely not ideal, but we were going to make the best of it and find a bite to eat and maybe a drink or two.
We wandered the cobble streets when we just happened upon a little wine shop that offered tastings of local wine. We stayed true to form and decided that we should do a little tasting before dinner.
The wine store was cute, it had a bit of a rustic look with a bit of touristic flair. As we walked into the shop we saw a man short in stature wearing a black jacket, cap, and scarf flirting with the cute girl standing behind the bar in English.
We approached the bar and the girl gave us a warm greeting. As we asked for a tasting the man made a quick joke about the three of us being American and going through the rounds of small talk that is common among American travelers.
“Where you are from? What brings you out this way? How long you are traveling? When do you head back stateside?”
So on, and so forth.
His name was Jac without the k. Don’t ask me why because I really do not know. I never asked him.(Jac why don’t you have a k at the end of your name?) Anyway, he was on leave from the U.S. Army base in Germany.
For the past couple of weeks, he had been driving his Mini Cooper on a European tour before he was being relocated to Texas. He was a great guy and we found out that the next day all of us were heading off to Kosovo.
Ash and I finished up our glasses of wine and bid Jac a good night and headed out the door. As we walked down the street, Ash made an offhanded comment about wishing we were the kind of people forward enough to ask Jac for a ride to Kosovo.
I stopped and said well, let’s be those people and go back and ask. We turned around and went back to the wine bar to find Jac.
Jac was still at the bar when we walked back in, of course still flirting with that cute girl. I asked if I could ask a very forward question. He gave me the go ahead and I asked if he would have room in his car for two more people.
He was not opposed to giving us a ride but he told us that his car is a Mini Cooper and there might not have enough room in the car because he had been living in it for the last few weeks. He said we thought our stuff could fit then it wouldn’t be a problem.
We headed over to his car to check out how much room we would have for our two big backpacks. Ash observed the trunk and the back seat of the car for five seconds, looked at us and said that she could make it fit.
I’ll be honest that later Ashley said she was not sure if we could fit our bags into Jac’s car. She truly just did not want to take that early morning bus.
After the decision that we would now be driving companions we decided to head to a bar to celebrate this new companionship with few drinks.
Jac arrived at our AirBnB early in the morning. When he pulled up, I had very little faith that we could actually fit all of the luggage in this tiny car. Ash, like always, was determined and with a little rearranging and a lot of stuffing we got it to all fit.
Well, not everything fit back in. Jac gave up window washer fluid and donated it to a stranger by setting it on somebody’s car. After the trunk was forced closed, we all squeezed into the tiny car and sped off with our new friend Jac.
It’s not hard to admit that partaking in a road trip with a man you don’t know is a little strange. The trip started out with a lot of small talk, getting to know one another other and also to keep back the silence.
Things eventually became comfortable and a new friendship was truly born. Even though Ash’s sister keep texting her to make sure she was still alive and that Jac had not murdered us.
There is one sure way to know that the person you are driving with is legit and that is going through border control with each other. We crossed the border with all of us holding our breath. The passports were handed back to us and we all sighed with relief with a little laugh. Into Albania, we went as Kosovo was in our sites.
The road trip ended up being a lot of fun as we drove through the beautiful countryside of Montenegro and Albania. We had no real time table as we just we just needed to get to the city Pristina in Kosovo.
After getting to know Jac we realized that we traveled really well together. We were all about stopping off at random sites and exploring.
One of the coolest places we stop was in Albania at a castle that we saw on top of a hill. We said why not and decided to head on over and check it out.
Jac is one that does not usually follow the do not climb or enter signs. He explored every part of that castle even a couple of times going down dark holes to find out what was at the bottom and then popping up at another end of the place.
At the very top of the castle, there was a small place to get a bite to eat and a beer. So we grabbed a couple of cheap cold ones and refreshed ourselves before we got back on the road.
We decide to get back on the road and make our final push into Kosovo. As we were driving we realized that it was taking us a lot longer to get to our final destination and Jac was wondering if he could crash with us at my friends. I told him that should not be a problem.
At that point, we needed to get some food so we stopped at a gas station restaurant that I am pretty sure was filled with Albanian mafia.
We ate our meal quickly which may have included some overcooked goat and fries. That goat came back and haunted Jac later that evening but that will be another story.
We arrived in Kosovo, and after driving around the city for a while and some miscommunication with my good friend Tyler thanks to the fact that apparently, no one knows the street names in Pristina, we all ended up arriving safely to his brand new house.
Now the story with Jac does continue from here but that will have to wait for another time. That story deserves to be all on its own. Let us just say that involves some seedy nightclubs, gambling, dancing on tables and lots of Raki. Suffice to say this is the photo we took in Kosovo….
Since our trip with Jac, we have seen him a few more times. We hung out with him in Skopje, Macedonia, Sofia, Bulgaria, and he came and visited us here in California. Each story is as crazy as the next.
This is one of the many reasons why we like meeting other travelers on the road because they can turn out to be life long friends even if we are in different parts of the world.
I am sure that we will see Jac on the road one day again and who knows it might be us giving him a ride. Either way Jac’s act of human kindness and letting two random Californians jump into his car was unbelievable and I am glad that he said yes to my forward question.
It is these kind of stories that I always have loved reading about and am glad that I am able to have one of my own. Jac, if you actually read this, Ash and I want to thank you from the bottom of our heart for saving us from that bus ride. I know that night maybe was a little more than you bargained for but we sure did have fun. Remember Jac we will always have Kosovo no matter what happens.
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