Growing up, I was always that kid who desperately sought attention and reassurance from other individuals. I would often create these stories in my mind that people inherently did not like me even when I was reassured otherwise. As a result, this fear created a strong dependency on the few people I trusted, but resulted in a loss of independence. As I became older, the fear of everyone disliking me began to diminish and I realized that I could not ask my friends and loved ones to be there with me at every step of the way holding my hand. It was time to find the independence I had lost and to learn to do things I enjoyed on my own. And so, this is where the story of Greece begins…
The story begins in June 2016. I was in the final term of my undergraduate degree, and only had two online summer school courses to complete in order to graduate. To say I was stressed is the understatement of the year. The final year of my undergraduate degree was a tough one as I often found myself spending hours sitting in a carrel desk reading scholarly articles and making notes until my hands went numb. It was a stressful time, and despite knowing the end was near it could not come soon enough. By June, I was fed up and due to the nature of my last two courses being online I made a choice for my sanity to leave the country in hopes of finding some sense of peace. With joy in my heart, I began to ask around to see which one of my friends would accompany me on my next adventure. However, the more people I asked, the more rejections I received. You see, when you plan on leaving for a trip no more then two weeks away, not many people are actually able to jump on board with you. And so I was faced with two options: scrap the idea or go alone.
At this point I had already done the research for this trip and made an excel spreadsheet detailing the cost of this excursion including tour prices, food, flight costs, and accommodations for my first and last two nights. Despite having made the spontaneous decision to go to London a few years ago with classmates, this was different. My trip to London was the result of a study abroad experience, and I was given a month prior to the trip to get to know my classmates in my home country. We spent countless hours together after class planning our time in London, and so I got the chance to know them. On the other hand, I knew no one prior to my trip and I would be all alone during two stopovers and three plane rides to my first destination: Mykonos,Greece.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, it was time to be independent and after slowly learning to become a more independent person, this was like my final test. It was like going into the final boss battle of a videogame, and I was going in with guns blazing. So on June 16, 2016, I kissed my parents goodbye and boarded my first plane out of three to the United States.
Now I’m going to admit, the journey to Mykonos was not an overall pleasant one. After being “randomly selected” for a security scan in the States, having my bag aggressively searched in Athens on my way to Mykonos, having my contact lense solution thrown out despite it being travel sized, and being told at the departure gate in Athens I would have to pay for the amount of luggage I was bringing onto the plane to Mykonos, I was about to call it quits. While the security inspection in the States was actually quite simple and only required I stand in a scanner for about five seconds, it was the treatment in Athens that made me want to call it quits. While I understand that a girl of small stature like myself travelling alone may raise suspicions it was frustrating that my first solo adventure had gone off to such a rough start. Now, please note that while my experience in the Athen’s airport was terrible it is not an accurate depiction of how Greek people are at all. In fact, despite having my bag aggressively searched, acceptable contents being tossed out, and being told I would be charged for my extra luggage it was another Greek employee at the airport who helped console me and sorted all my issues, resulting in my luggage being stowed on the plane at no extra cost. It is this simple act of kindness and reassurance that I remember one and half years later that reestablished the tone of my trip to be one of positivity.
Once I arrived in Mykonos, I was determined to shake the rocky start of my trip and was greeted at the airport by my ride to the beach hostel by one of the workers. Upon meeting him, the anger began to dissolve as he began to cheerfully ask about my travels and what I was planning on doing during my time in Mykonos. He was absolutely precious, and it reminded me again that basing my trip solely on the experience at the airport was unfair to the people of Greece and people like him and the lady at the airport served as better representations of the people as a whole. As I checked into cabin, I was thankful for the moment of reprieve and began to read a book by Mindy Kaling. It was the night before my tour and if I was going to enjoy my tour, I needed this moment to feel sorry for myself and the rough journey I had along this way. After reading Kaling’s books, I realized it was time to pen a few words of my own. As I wrote furiously into my travel journal and the fan whirred above me, each word penned into my journal released my pent up frustration and anger and was replaced with a sense of peace. The girl who thought she could never do anything this bold on her own had made it, and no way in hell was she about to give up now. And so after a quick shower, it was time for this traveller to go to bed. Tomorrow would be a better day, and goddamn I would make sure of it.
The Next Day
Soo…remember how I said I was determined to make the next day better, well let’s just say the gods took it upon themselves to challenge me. The next day, I woke up bright and early with a smile on my face. It was the first day of my tour and it was time to head to the port where our sailboat would be departing from. The beach hostel I stayed at provided free transport every couple of hours to the port where my sailboat would be departing from and so rather than paying from transportation, I opted to take the shuttle to the port two hours prior to the arrival of the sailboat I was scheduled to get on. Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret, where the sailboats dock and where the ferries dock are on opposite sides of a very large port. If you are ever planning on going on a sailboat excursion, it may benefit you to ask your tour operating group about this prior to your travels. As the time of departure creeped closer, I began to keep a lookout for my sailboat. Thirty minutes before. Twenty minutes before. Fifteen minutes before. Finally, at ten minutes before my departure time I decided it was time to take action into my own hands in ask one of the ladies at the port for help. After trying to explain to her that I was waiting for a sailboat, she explained in with the little English she knew that the sailboats were docked on the other side of the port and pointed far into the distance at what I could now see was the boat I was supposed to be boarding looking like a mere speck in the distance. After inquiring about how long it would take to get to the other side walking she broke the news: twenty minutes at least. Now, during this time I wasn’t a fully seasoned travel veteran and had one full sized luggage, a carry on, and a backpack. To make matters worse, the streets were a mix of cobblestone and pavement and I now had to run with all these luggages to the other side of the port in an attempt to catch my sailboat. With the sun beating down against my skin and sweat dripping from every pore of my body, I ran as fast I could, my luggages bouncing aggressively behind me and my arms aching from the motion of pulling my overly packed luggages. At last, I arrived on the other side of the port and found a few more travellers looking equally confused. After confirming that they were part of the same tour group, we managed to locate our sailboat and were finally able to start our adventure. We were also informed once we arrived that the check in time was from 2-3 pm, and that I did not have to run like a gazelle being chased like a cheetah. To add salt to the injury, my tourmates also told me that a water taxi ran from one side of the port to the other for the cost of two Euros. Therefore, that run….. totally unnecessary! At that moment all I could do was laugh at my misadventures so far, and was grateful that I finally made it to my destination.
Now up to this point, I had never been on a boat for longer than a few hours let alone more than a week and I was a bit shocked about what it meant to live on a sailboat. For starters, the word “shower” was entirely different from my definition. As I soon discovered, the “shower” in the sailboat was nothing but a mere shower hose in the bathroom with a drain in the center of the bathroom. Meaning when you showered, everything from the sink to the toilet got wet in the process. Furthermore, the drain was a slow one and so in order to avoid five inches of water on the bathroom floor, it was best to keep your shower short. Afterall, the next person needing to use the toilet would have to stand in five inches of your shower water if you didn’t. If this shock was not enough, I was also told I would be sharing the room with a tourmate which was definitely not conveyed beforehand. Despite these shocks, and trust me when I say I was shocked I was fortunate enough to have such a great, chill bunk buddy and quickly got over the fact I would be showering with a glorified hose for a week. After settling in and having moussaka for lunch served by our ship crew, it was time to start our tour of Mykonos.
As we walked around Mykonos, I finally let myself truly relax. I was settled in for the long haul and so I allowed myself to embrace the sun beating down on my skin and admired the white painted houses of Greece. I’ve often wondered why the houses in most of the Cyclades are painted white, and as I learned it originally started off as means to reflect the harsh summer sun. Although this is simply a vestige of its past, and houses today in Greece do not necessarily require the white colour to reflect the sun, the standard of white houses has remained and new houses by law are required to be painted white; with some exceptions. And so, I appreciated the stark white walls and walked down the cobblestone streets taking it all in. As we walked through Mykonos, small vendors and shops selling souvenirs and crafts from Mykonos lined the streets. The winding cobblestone paths were mesmerizing and it was the kind of place that if you got lost, it would be something you would simply accept and slowly peruse through each store until you have found your way out. As we walked along Mykonos, our guide informed us that apparently there are 365 churches in Mykonos, one for every day of the year. As he did so, we passed by several churches and witnessed a bride taking her wedding photos in a nearby church. As we continued our tour, we stopped in Little Venice; a small group of restaurants and shops sitting precariously at the edge of the sea. This cluster of shops and restaurants screams romance, and you can almost picture young and old couple alike drinking a glass of wine, holding hands while the waves crash against the stone walls around them.
After our stroll in Little Venice, our tour finished off with one of Mykonos most famous landmarks: The Windmills. Mykonos’ windmills date back to the 16th century where they were once used to grind grain. Although they are no longer operational, they serve as a reminder of Mykonos history. Upon reaching the top of the hill, the view is spectacular and one could see the entire island around them. After a short moment to capture photos, the officially tour of Mykonos was over and we returned to our boat to get ready for the night ahead. Afterall, Mykonos is known for its crazy beach party atmosphere and it was time to see if it lived up to the hype.
After returning to our sailboat and getting ready for the night ahead, it was time to start this boat party. As part of our tour package, we were given free Ouzo shots to get the party started. After many Ouzo shots, we were ready for a night out on the town. Next stop: Paradise Club. The club is located directly on the beach front and after dancing in the club, one could carry this party out on the sand. The experience was interesting to say the least and it is a very popular spot for tourists. After dancing the night away it was time to catch a bus back to the docks. The only problem: the last bus left long time ago. And so, after about an hour of waiting for a cab we managed to hail one and go back to our boat. It had been a hell of a day, and despite the hiccups I knew I had made the right decision to embark on the trip alone. The next day in Paros would only validate this; I needed this trip and it couldn’t have come at a better moment in time.