Monday, 25 October 2021
Gillie Sutherland Gillie Sutherland

Ever Upwards As I Get the Excelsior Buzz in Dubrovnik

Written by  Dec 13, 2020

My love affair with Dubrovnik continues, although not without a little lover’s tiff recently….

It had been perhaps the toughest two weeks I had spent here, since coming to Croatia in February. I literally breezed through the first lockdown earlier in the year, still excited to be here, and enjoying the outdoor lifestyle, swimming in the sea, and spending evenings dancing on the terrace with my good friend.

Back then, I had no idea I still wouldn’t have flown back to the UK come December, and that I would find myself here in the second lockdown still not having managed to get back. For the first time, I was looking into the feasibility of either returning to the UK for a while or escaping to enjoy some winter sun in Bali.

It had been almost a week since I’d swam in the sea, thanks to the Jugo wind and some fairly inclement weather. I was cold, it felt damp, dark far too early, and the thought of spending the winter here left me feeling a lot less upbeat than usual.

When the power went down in Molunat, and I found myself without heat or WiFi, I was at my limit.

Then I was invited to spend the evening in the five-star Hotel Excelsior to celebrate a birthday, it was a no-brainer. Spa, dinner, cosy piano bar, upbeat company, and a big bed overlooking the Old Town, this was a no-brainer.

I packed a bag, got in my car and drove through the rain to arrive to the warmest of welcomes, the cosiest of places, and I knew I had done the right thing.

Immediately I felt better, and as I lay in the bath, warming my bones, I wondered why the word Excelsior felt so familiar. It felt like I was meant to be here this evening, and that this was going to be some kind of turning-point for me.

Then I remembered. It was from one of my favourite films, Silver Linings Playbook. The main character, Pat, played brilliantly by Bradley Cooper, struggled with his mental health, and was recovering from a serious breakdown and trying to get back on his feet.

His mantra was “Excelsior”, and it was his chosen philosophy for keeping him on track.

In his own words:

“Excelsior. Excelsior. It means, you know what I’m gonna do….. I’m going to take all this negativity and use it as fuel and I’m going to find a silver lining”.

The word Excelsior actually means “ever upward”, and it was also used by Stan Lee, creator of Marvel comic characters such as Spiderman and the Hulk. He used the word to sign off his columns to thwart his competition, but it was also a motto he lived by. It was his nature – creating, striving, ever upward.

As I start to reflect on what we might need to get us through these times, I decide that it wouldn’t be a bad thing to channel a bit of our inner superhero. For me, Pat in Silver Linings Playbook is my kind of superhero, for he came back from the depths of despair and went on to find new meaning in his life, including love and even a new passion in dancing.

I’m reminded that it’s all part of the Hero’s Journey that we all go through, as written about by Jospeh Campbell, that’s used in most comic books, movies and books.

There’s the “call to adventure”, the “threshold”, we even go down into “the abyss” before “the transformation”, the “revelation”, and finally, the hero emerges triumphant.

In other words, there is always the darkness before dawn, and that feels like exactly where we are at the moment. It’s tough now, but we have to keep going, we have to work through it, and it will be worth it in the end.

So instead of wallowing in my winter misery, I decided to channel my inner superhero, and (maybe with more trips to the spa), I’m going to remind myself of Pat and this one word that can change our whole perspective.


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Gillie Sutherland grew up in the north of England, before settling in Devon, but has now swapped her UK address for one on the Adriatic in the very south of Croatia, in Molunat. A professional Wellness Consultant she now runs retreats and online courses from her Konavle base. She also writes a weekly column for the Devon newspaper, The Express and Echo.

To find out more about Gillie go to

The Voice of Dubrovnik


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