Sunday, August 11, 2019

greece 2k19

This past month, I took a trip to Greece and it ended up changing my life. 

Let’s rewind back to March when I initially planned this trip through a group travel company for “young professionals.” It was a travel company for people aged 25-40. I have always always always wanted to go to Greece and felt like it was a good time in my life to just do it. I also love having things to look forward to. Not to mention, I love meeting new people, so I figured what better way to meet people my age that like to travel than to go on vacation with them? 

Friday, July 12th, (after a 4 hour delay and 2 glasses of wine) I took off from the United States and landed the next morning in Athens, Greece. This was my first time overseas completely by myself. Landing in a foreign airport is always a little stressful, as the first language is not your own, but you typically figure things out by following the herd of other Americans. 

I had to somehow get myself from the airport to the ferry port to meet my group in another part of the city. I grabbed a cab and gave him the address. The first question I get asked sitting in the cab was, “Do you have husband?” I was jet lagged but smart enough to answer with, “No, but my parents are waiting for me at the ferry” (They weren’t…but when traveling alone, never act like you’re alone). The ride started off with a lot of questions about my love life, but ended up being one of the most insightful cab rides of my whole life. An early 50-something year old Greek man who left his long term wife thinking the grass was greener on the other side. Turns out, it wasn’t for him. He ended up missing the love of his life for flings that came and went out of his life. However, from this, he told me, “Fall in love with as many people as you can while you’re here on this earth, because love is the only thing that matters.” We had a long conversation about love and relationships, but we also talked about life… he told me, “The days are long, but the years are short…don’t let them pass you by.” It was like the best 45 minute car ride of my life.

I finally met up with my group in 90+ degree heat, and at this point mind you, I’m still in the same dress and makeup I put on over 18 hours ago. Can you say, woooooof. Any who, met the group and boarded the ferry like a herd of sheep with 100+ other people while sweat was literally dripping down my back. You leave your luggage in the bottom of the ferry totally free and open with everybody else’s with hopes that the people that get off before you don’t steal it. I’ve honestly never seen anything like it, it’s a total trust system. The 4 hour ferry from Athens to the island of Milos was long, but I got to know some of the people in my group pretty well. Fast forward those 4 hours later, we arrive in Milos and check into our hotel. 

I had dinner (paid for within my group travel price) with my “young professionals” group that night at a local family style restaurant on Milos. Now, this trip wasn’t overly expensive, but it wasn’t cheap either. It was a group of mainly girls (12-15) and 2 guys. At dinner, it was a group decision on what to order for wine—the group vote ended up being a sweet ass white wine (woof) when all I wanted after a 24 hour travel day with no sleep was a nice glass of cab. Following the wine at dinner, I quickly got a sense of the vibe, the conversation, what everyone was looking for out of the trip… and I immediately felt like I didn’t fit and knew I wouldn’t last 10 days doing this. 

So, without consulting anyone, I rebooked all of my plans, my hotels, my flights, my ferries, everything, to go off and explore Greece by myself. Obviously, I called my parents and filled them in so, God forbid, anything happened they knew where I was. My mom knows me so well, she knows I will do what I want regardless, but she said, “I trust you, Laura.” But, my dad being a dad was like “Ughhh, Laura….going off on your own…hmmm…I don’t know about this.” And I told him, I had never been more sure of anything in my life. And I meant it.

The next morning, I hired a private tour guide to show me around the island of Milos. Not only was he my age, but he was sooooo cute. It was just him and I, and we spent the whole day together—oh baby! Haha just kidding, kind of. Anyway, he was so incredibly knowledgeable of the whole island. He took me to the most amazing spots around the island— Cyclades, The Catacombs of Milos, Klima, Sarakiniko Beach (Magical—OMG!!), Plaka (a fisherman’s town where I insisted we had lunch together—greek salad for me, fresh calamari for him). There’s no other way to describe it than simply amazing. Not only did my tour guide show and tell me about the island, we talked so deeply about life and relationships. It was so refreshing and insightful. He taught me a different perspective on men and how they view women—it was not what I expected, but in a good way. He dropped me back off at my hotel and I hated to say goodbye to him. I actually had the hotel owner phone him to come back (after 3 glasses of rosé at lunch—so embarrassing!) just so I could tell him what an impact he had on my life that day. He kissed my cheek and asked me out for a drink, but I was leaving early the next morning. That day, that guy…it was truly one of the best days of my life. I still think about him from time to time.

The next morning I was off to Santorini— which would in turn, turn out to be one of my favorite places in the whole world — Wow! Santorini, truly a dream! I stayed at the Rocabella Santorini Hotel and Spa. I got a deal on TripAdvisor and literally lived the dream while I was there. It was a beautiful resort with first class service. It was truly amazing. I explored Santorini a bit the first day on my own and then lounged by the pool. The next day, I hired a private tour guide again and it was SO worth it. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Alone again with a male tour guide (living my parent’s, this one was a bit older—later 30’s, early 40’s. Once again, had one of the best days of my life with him. Santorini is one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegan Sea. It was devastated by a volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC, hence how it got it’s curved island shape. He brought me all around Santorini— however, we spent the most time in the city of Oía, Santorini. Oía is the picture everyone has in their heads when they think of Greece—the white buildings with bright blue, colorful doors. Truly amazing. I did a little shopping while we were there, as he patiently waited outside for me. 

After Oía, we took off for a wine tasting at a family owned and operated well known Greek winery— Hatzidakis Winery. The winery is literally in an underground cave with stainless steel tanks, oak barrels, the whole unique shabang. My tour guide was a level 3 sommelier (he humbly told me when we got to the winery, like NBD) so he did the wine tasting with me (then spit it out into a bucket b/c he was my driver lol). I love learning about wine in general, but because it was just him and I, I was able to learn sooooo much from him! I ended up buying one white and one red to take home with me. After we left the winery (him sober, me kinda really buzzed), we went to the “black beaches” of Santorini, also known as the Perissa Beach—all black sand and black pebbles—one of the longest and most famous beaches in Santorini. Also lined with bars after bars, aka party vibes. 

One night in Santorini, I was having dinner at the restaurant in my hotel. There were 4 other guys about my age that came in and sat at the table next to me. They were kind of looking at me and I was kind of looking at them…and by chance, our waitress was trying to set us up to meet each other-Haha! Long story short, we ended up going out together in Santorini that night to some high end night club. They ordered bottle service and the rest was history. The boys were such gentleman, all born and raised in NYC and now work on Wall Street. I was totally taking a chance going out in a foreign country with a ratio of 4 guys to 1 girl (every dad’s worst nightmare), but it ended up being one of the best nights of my life. Sometimes you just have to trust your instinct and go for it. 

The next morning (hungover AF, mind you), I boarded a ferry in Santorini that took me back to Athens and I spent my last few nights there. I stayed at the King George hotel which I also got a deal on thanks to Travelocity. I’m the queen of finding luxe for less—a secret talent of mine. The hotel is also known for their rooftop restaurant, Tudor Hall, that overlooks the stunningly famous Acropolis. I think I had the best meal of my whole trip here. It was the perfect ending to my trip. 

I ended my trip earlier than expected due to changing plans and spending way more $$ than intended, but it was soooooo worth it. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I will never ever regret money spent on travel.

Greece is BY FAR my favorite place I’ve ever visited. It totally knocked Italy off my #1 spot. 

My favorite things about Greece:

—The weather! It’s hot AF in the summer, but the blue skies and sunshine are so worth it. 

—The food! OMG I literally ate a Greek salad everyday—to die for. Aside from that, everything was so so fresh, especially the seafood. Not to mention, the olives, capers, and tomatoes are all grown locally and out of this world. 

—The people! Greek people are a different kind of breed. I’ve been to a few different countries in Europe, and personally, I found Greek people to be the friendliest, most appreciative, helpful, and happiest. Not to mention, they’re total romantics—OMG! I got asked out 3 times while I was in Greece (totally flattering) and all of them were so sincere, sweet, and complimentary…but I obviously knew and kept in mind I was an American girl by herself, like helloooo common sense.  

—The vibe! It’s hard to describe, but the vibe in Greece (at least the summer vibe) was so fresh and fun. 

What I learned from this trip: 

—I know exactly who I am and I don’t f*ck around or waste my time (or feel bad about it). 
-Case in point ditching my group travel. 

—Everyone, including myself, is truly looking for the same thing out of life: true love.

—Don’t try to be classy and spit olive pits into your napkin. You look like a buffoon, Laura.  Use your hands and take them out of your mouth and put them on your plate. 

—Traveling solo, you can be whoever the f*ck you want. Nobody knows where you’re from, what your background is, what your situation is…they know you for you in that moment. Liberating AF!

—You're young and free and it feels f*cking amazing. 

—You learn what you like and what you don’t like. Hence, me ditching my “young professionals” travel group. I wouldn’t have known that that wasn’t for me, had I not tried it. You live and you learn. 

—You make friends WAY faster overseas than you would at home. I don’t know if it’s the vibe, or being out of your normal element, but everyone wants to be friends when they’re traveling. 

—You don’t need to pack as much as you think you do. 
Side note: I say this now, but will probably overpack again on my next trip. 

—You don’t need another glass of wine, but you won’t regret it…because you’re in f*cking Greece! 

—Street smarts, baby. I kind of have a “baby face,” that can come across as very friendly (which I am), but when you’re in another country alone, there’s no time for mixed signals. Honestly, I walked around like a bad ass bitch, not because I think I’m cool—I’m definitely not (lol), but because I didn’t want to be a target for someone to take advantage of me. I hate to sound cold, but shit does happen to people, and you have to think that way and protect yourself the best you can. 

Lastly, the most important and meaningful takeaway from this trip:

—Problems at home don’t seem so big anymore because there’s a whole other world out there. Never forget that, Laura. 

If you made it through this long blog, WOW good for you, the real MVP. Honestly, I could have kept going with details. It was the TIME OF MY LIFE. I honestly came home feeling like a completely different person. 

 Also—if you read this, book a trip to Greece, ASAP.

Keep on keepin’ on—
XX, Laura 

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