VACCINATED TRAVEL

The Joy of Not Seeing a Starbucks — Not One!

Hello from Montenegro

Julio Vincent Gambuto
5 min readApr 28, 2021

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Photo by Jakub Dziubak on Unsplash

There is little I — nor any of us — could have predicted about 2021. Had you told me at the height of the pandemic that my first plane trip post-vaccine would be to one of Europe’s smallest countries, Montenegro, I would have thought you mad. After a year solo in my New York apartment, working from my dining room table, talking to my lamp (“Larry”), and trying to keep insanity at bay by reading, watching Netflix, and pondering the state of our nation and the world, I boarded a plane last week to the former Yugoslavia. I just re-read that sentence and laughed. Life is nothing if not funny. The full story is best saved for another time (I will write it; I promise), but suffice it to say I came on a personal matter: love.

Late fall, I met a Montenegrin guy who was visiting New York City. The odd chaos of the pandemic brought him within 100 feet of me (a dating app told me so), and we met up for a masked hello. What followed was two months of dinner dates and contact-free Seamless; hibernating together from a dark, cold, and strangely quiet city; and a snowy pre-Christmas drive to the airport, as he returned home to take an unexpected job in his hometown. When we left each other at JFK, bags in his hand and Zipcar keys in mine, we decided to “see what happens.”

Well, hello from Montenegro. What happened was four months of daily video chatting on WhatsApp (wifi is truly world-changing) and a really cheap flight to one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. He got me through the hellish winter; I got him through a rocky return home. We thought it was well worth exploring. Plus, the pandemic has deleted my “give a fuck” button. So here I am, having coffee on the Adriatic. I won’t post pictures. I know how obnoxious that is — as was that last sentence — but for those who care to follow my post-vaccine travelogue here on Medium, here is what I have learned so far, my friends: everyone here is thin and beautiful; they walk everywhere; and there is at least one country in the world that doesn’t have a Starbucks. For real, not one.

What a true joy — in fact, a total fucking pleasure — to walk overseas streets and see so few American brands. Yes, there are some. The coastal city, Tivat…

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Julio Vincent Gambuto

Author of “Please Unsubscribe, Thanks!” from Avid Reader Press at Simon & Schuster // Speaking at SXSW in March // juliovincent.com