I finally got on the plane to go home. I sat down heavily, stared at the seat in front of me and promptly burst into tears. A man with a Southern drawl asked, “Ma’am, are you alright?” and a woman from Oakland gave me some tissues. Whether I liked it or not, I was going back to America.
Someday I will put into words just how irrevocably this journey has changed me. For now I’d simply like to impart a few things I learned along the way.
- Eat slowly. Devour and savor every single bite.
- Look first. Drink in the beauty and reflect on it for yourself. Then take the photos that will make everyone green with envy when you show them off.
- Don’t make not-getting-lost a priority.
- Don’t lose faith in humanity.
- Know when to have alone time.
- Get out of the hostel.
- If things go wrong (which they will) learn to love the chaos. It won’t ruin your trip if you don’t let it.
- Get a really long book that will be sure to grab your attention and make it last.
- Always hang your swim suit out to dry.
- Frebreeze, hand sanitizer, mint chapstick, eye drops, tide to go, superglue, a good watch.
- When in Rome… (or Paris, London, Madrid, Amsterdam, etc) DO.
- Cherish the Beautiful Little Moments.
- And always remember to breathe.
A compilation of photos from our European adventure, set to Walk The Moon’s “Anna Sun”.
(A Few) Things I Will Miss
- The Metro
- Wine that is cheaper than water
- Simple little surprises
- The Mediterranean
- Cobblestones and narrow, winding streets
- Flowered balconies
- Colorful houses with red tile roofs
The Australians…and the Irish and the Italians and the Spanish and Everyone.
- The food. All the food.
- Taking tour and learning while I’m vacationing
- Wandering around (having nowhere to go and all day to get there)
- The best sleep of my life (the kind that only comes from the beauty of utter exhaustion)
- Getting money back from key deposits at hostels
- Bars and clubs that are open passed 2am
- Wine. All the time.
- The fact that day drinking and drinking in public are both perfectly acceptable
- Suddenly realizing with a jolt of happiness that I am in a photograph.
- The sense of camaraderie and new friends from staying in hostels
- Being cell phone-less
Things I Missed About America
- No Smoking signs
- Coca-cola with ice
- Privacy and alone time
- My bed
- Free, home cooked meals
- The comfort of familiar places
- Movies and TV
- Getting to blast music while getting dressed
- Long showers
Things I Will Not Miss About Europe
- Overly forward European men (read: creepers)
- Living out of a smelly backpack
- Having to pay for water and bread at restaurants
- Having to pay for water anywhere
If Greece is having some issues right now, I didn’t see them. For locals and tourists alike, life on the Greek islands was all about hitting the beach, having a cocktail, dancing the night away and visiting with friends until the early morning… then again, maybe this was just another example of the beach lifestyle that I love so very much. But truly, the Greeks were some of the nicest people I met throughout the entire trip. Maybe they do have problems, they just chose not to focus on the bad stuff when there is a beautiful life to be lived.
Thank god Greece was our last stop. After almost 6 weeks of traveling through Europe I was more than a little burnt out. But in Mykonos and Santorini we didn’t have tour groups to rush to meet and we didn’t have endless museums and monuments to explore. Instead we slept in, spent hours on one of Santorini’s black sand beaches and did some shopping through Mykonos’ white washed alleyways.
In Mykonos we rented an ATV and romped around the island, feeling like total bad asses (no one else wears helmets MOM!). It helped that we named her after a TV spy, Nikkita. It was also really nice having an independent mode of transportation for once, something that was sorely missed among all the crowded metros and overpriced taxis.
In Santorini we visited Boutari, Europe’s oldest winery. On the tour we learned that Greek grapes must be grown in a circular shape to retain moisture and saw unopened bottles of wine that were older than us and cost thousands of dollars. I brought back a significantly less expensive bottle of wine that smelt and tasted like roses. THAT was an interesting trip through US customs and security.
Before heading home we spent two quick nights in Athens and London. Then, before I even saw it coming, it was all over.
We left Cinque Terre at four in the morning. Half way through our train ride to Marseilles (to catch a flight to Madrid) we decided to stop at a beach in Southern France and lie out for a bit. That’s my kind of travelling.
At the airport in Marseilles we put on our party clothes. It was a Saturday night and we knew that the second we got off that plane we’d be hitting the town. Madrid is notorious for its late night party scene. It did not disappoint. In fact, rather than getting a cab or walking back to the hostel after a night of drinking and dancing, we just waited until the metro opened up again at 6 am. It seemed like this was the norm. And there were still people waiting in line at the club.
The next day we went to Madrid’s famous El Rastro flea market, which was awesome. I almost made it through without spending money! But then I did. And it was worth it. After, we went to El Prado Museum. At this point something funny happened. Christina and I were so utterly sleep deprived that we dissolved into ridiculous giggles at just about everything. In our altered state of mind we though many of the statues looked like white chocolate. We decided it was time for a nap.
That night we took it easy and just visited a couple bars. We found one that will probably be included in my list of best bars ever. Before letting us in the bouncer got really excited and said, “One…Two…Three……. PLAYA!!” He swung open the door and all of a sudden we were on the beach. The entire floor was covered in sand, the ceiling was made of tents and there were palm trees all along the walls. No Shoes was mandatory.
Cinque Terre was not in the itinerary. But it has easily become one of my favorite places and the spontaneous decision to go there was one of the best throughout the entire trip.
We got off the train, sprinted down a tunnel and jogged up a hill with our 30 pound backpacks to make it to the hostel before the office closed. Drenched in sweat, we then continued to climb stair case after stair case throughout the small village of Riomaggiore before we finally got to our room. It was all worth it. The second I saw the flowered patio and view of the ocean that was our front yard I forgot all about the exhaustion. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry so I did a little of both.
Immediately after putting our stuff down we went to the beach (I use the term ‘beach’ very loosely here). It was in this part of the Mediterranean that I saw a jellyfish for the first time and promptly refused to get back in the water. After we got dinner from a small cafe on Riomaggiore’s main street. I couldn’t stop smiling at just about everything. No, not just about. I could’t stop smiling at everything.
Cinque Terre is made up of 5 colorful little villages. You can spend a day hiking between them but we only did about 3/5 of that hike. Again and again I felt like I was going to pass out from the exertion until we’d get to the top of another small peak and the view would wipe all thought from my mind. The first leg of the trip, the Via dell’Amore, is apparently for lovers. But honestly I felt like I was in a horror movie. The path is cut directly into the cliff and between that, the fog and the fact that the ocean was just short, deadly drop away, I was just waiting for a monster to pop out. It was awesome.
Cinque Terre was another one of those places that I felt utterly happy and at ease. I can’t wait to go back.