I chose to go to the gym alone that afternoon. I walked in, without expectation, not sure how I would be received. I walked out with a new friend and an incredible offer to spend summer in a beach side city in the south of Albania. I was meant to be leaving on a bus at 6am yesterday morning, but I am still here. In a new airbnb rental in Tirana; closer to better food and a pretty ballin’ gym. This gym includes a grotto of sorts with a pool, huge stone hot-tup, steam rooms, sauna, and other Mediterranean relaxation options.

The airbnb we were previously staying in had expired, so it was off to a new one. On arrival, I inquired about the whereabouts of the closest gym. The new host was kind enough to actually walk with me and show me. I love airbnb.

The gym was not what I expected. I have been to many gyms in undeveloped countries but this was no undeveloped gym. I had in mind some beat up old room with worn out equipment. That was not the case. The weight area was average, but when I was shown through the sliding glass doors into the grotto area at the rear of the facility; that’s what blew my mind. Lounge chairs, saunas, a huge pool, warmth and humidity in an otherwise cold European November, what more could you ask for? All this for less than $5.

It has been some time since I was at the gym. I sustained a back injury during crossfit a few months back (I would never recommend crossfit to anyone) and since haven’t done much heavy lifting, slowly falling out of shape. I used to go to the gym in every new city I found; it was fun and made for a little adventure of sorts. This has been non-existent these days, but after the trip yesterday, I have new motivation. I felt great after the workout, and will continue this old but now new trend.

Travel in my mind is about many things; health and wellness being a big part. If you travel long-term your health is important, and I intend to write more about staying healthy while travelling in the future.

While at the gym I met another man from Ottawa, Canada where I’m originally from. He had moved to Ottawa at age 18 from Albania and after going to the same college as I did he returned to Albania 10 years later. We got to talking and I mentioned that I had just spent some time in Saranda. He then went on to tell me he had recently bought a second summer home there, and offered it to me at no charge, any time I’d like, for as long as I’d like.

Had I left as planned that morning on the bus to Kosovo this never would have happened. But who knows what I missed by not going? Travel is like a choose-your-own-ending story (remember those?). Every decision you make, from as small as the location in a city in which to sleep, will ultimately affect the rest of your trip/life.

I never thought I would walk into a random gym in Tirana and walk out with an offer from a stranger to use his summer beach house in Saranda next season. Which is amazing simply because I love Southern Albania. These random acts of Albanian kindness are starting to no longer surprise me. Everyday it is something else that makes me like this place even more. Today will be the gym in a couple of hours, and then beers and wings with my new buddy. I’m curious about the transition he faced from moving to Ottawa from Albania… then, after 10 years abroad, returning to his home city. This will make for interesting conversation.



One Response

  1. karen

    Great Blog, We have just booked for a week to go to Albania at the end of January, I was looking for some honest reviews on the country and you have done that..Thanks 🙂