Okay so, Greece. Oh, sweet Greece. I had so much hope for you. I dreamt of your beaches, and striking sceneries. I read Lonely Planet front to back TWICE. I googled, and encyclopedia’d (ok, maybe I didn’t encyclopedia). And then… I met you. You, with your historical brick-lined streets; you, with your breath taking views of vibrant white houses and mythological ruins; you, with seafood so fresh it’s still kicking.
But also…You, with your over-flown markets selling tourist trapping gadgets and gizmo; you, with body crushing crowded metros; you with your unspoken “don’t wear shorts if you’re a woman” rule. Why didn’t I follow that rule? And lastly: you, the emptier of poor college student’s wallets.
My best friend, Alejandra, and I went to Greece in March of 2011… one of my very first solo trips as an adult. (Me at 19 thought, FINALLY). We met in Paris, spent a couple blissful days/nights sipping coffee and drinking wine by the Eiffel Tower. We thought long and hard about the best way to actually get to Greece from Paris – should we take a train to Italy and then hop on a ferry (we were looking at Greekferries)? Should we fly? Should we… I can’t remember anymore, but we had a few options. We decided to fly, which was a great idea until Ale got her wallet stolen. I took the largest suitcase known to man, which was a classic rookie mistake. My Samsonite suitcase ended up broken by the end of the trip because I dragged it through so many subways and cobble stone streets. Do not over-pack, ladies! We went to Mykonos at the wrong, I’m emphasizing WRONG, time of year. Party, party island Mykonos, was not so into partying when the weather sucked and the water was too cold to swim in. We went to the beach once, and it pored on us. In the end, we ended up spending a fortune on a return flight to Paris five days before we were supposed to. We skipped Santorini, which was truly a shame… but I learned my first set of extremely valuable lessons about traveling:
What I learned from my 1st trip as a “Big Girl”
- Appreciate the tip system in the US. It’s not a rule in Greece, and although this may be very convenient at times, tips truly do correlate with customer service.
- At the same time, appreciate and embrace new customs (which should go without say, but you know…). After dinner in Greece it’s common to take a shot of Ouzu, a popular aperitif. I was reluctant to try it, but it was awesome!
- DO NOT OVER PACK. I can’t say it enough. For my next trip, I’m literally taking a backpack. The straightener stays behind (okay, maybe not the straightener).
- Choose the right location: Greece may have some breathtaking Mediterranean views, but once you’ve seen one island you’ve seen them all. Our trip would have been way better at a different time of year, if we had more $$ and if we went with more people. Know how to choose your location depending on what point of your life you’re in and who you’re going with. This one is hard because sometimes you don’t really know what’s best until you get there, but reading travel blogs really helps!
- Don’t think so much: arriving home at 4:00am when you have to leave to catch your ferry at 5:00am may not be a good idea, but it’s worth it. Plus, it’ll make a great story (ask me about this one ;))
- MEET PEOPLE. Talk to everyone. Within reason, of course. We don’t want to get ourselves in any sticky situations, but some of the most fun we had was when we met random people and hung with them for a night.
- Confidence is key. As two women traveling together, or even if you’re a solo female traveler, BE CONFIDENT. There’s nothing in this world that screams vulnerable more than looking uncomfortable, unsure or scared. Traveling alone? Own it, girl.
- Do research on the economy. I truly believe that our trip to Greece would have not been such an epic fail if we had taken into account that they were in a major economic downfall. In fact, we probably wouldn’t have gone to Greece at all. We’re intelligent girls, for the most part, and although we were aware of their situation we didn’t put it together with, ‘Hey! maybe it’s not the best time to visit.’
- Hostels are the way to go! I am so, so happy that we stayed in a hostel. There are certain places where maybe this lesson doesn’t apply, but I will always try to find a hostel whether I’m traveling with friends or on my own. It’s by far the best way to meet fellow travelers, and they just get it. Plus, if you’re going to Greece you DEFINITELY want to stay at Athenstyle. They have the coolest roof top bar and you can watch the Acropolis light up at night, piece by piece. So worth it.
- Nail salons are not the same overseas. Obviously, this is relative and situational. However, every time I’ve gone to get my nails done in another country, it’s been a less than… appealing experience. I mean, rude doesn’t even begin to cover it. Maybe the real lesson should be, don’t get your nails done when you’re traveling. Go out and see things!
There were a lot of pros and cons to our trip to Greece, but my final verdict is that it would have been far more enjoyabe if we had more cash to spend.
Fortunately, there was something about this trip to Greece that made it extra special. We may have been pickpocketed at the airport, scared to find a place to eat for fear of being jumped (as warned by the cab driving who took a look at the neighborhood our hotel was located in), and hollered at by nomads on side streets. What made this trip unforgettable no matter what was that I got to experience it with my best friend. My sister (from another Mr.)! My partner in crime, even if she’s a million miles away; we’ll catch up to each other at some point, I promise. Ultimately, we enjoyed ourselves and we got to see some really amazing places that not everyone is fortunate to have the opportunity to see. Greece has its charms, and I absolutely suggest you go, just make sure you’re ready to dish out some dough. (Hey, that rhymed!)