SOLO TRAVEL IN GREECE
It is currently 11:28pm and I am sitting outside a 24/7 tea and coffee shop on the corner of the street beside my hotel on Mykonos. I am being brought cups of hot tea by the cute Greek server who is convincing me to go out on a date with him when he gets off work at 12 am. I am on google translate now trying to figure out how I can say “not gonna’ happen, my friend, I need sleep immediately” without sounding rude - and without cutting off my supply of delicious free tea. I’m exhausted today. Up since 5am and running around the island all day long trying to track down a warm sweater and a strong internet connection to complete my homework for online meditation school. We are currently on week four of our studies and I have just managed to stay on-top of homework and online assignments until this week.
I came back to Mykonos three days ago after traveling off the island and arriving at our next destination, a small Greek island three hours off the coast of Mykonos. Upon my arrival, I realized I had forgotten my laptop charger in last night’s AIR BNB on Mykonos. Stellar. Normally, wouldn’t be a big deal - can be quickly replaced - but I’m at a bit of a crossroad in my life where I am SO done giving my money to Apple. Literally giving sooo much money to apple every single year and sitting aloof while iPhone after iPhone (or charging cable after charging cable) mysteriously breaks or malfunctions. Not only am I VERY uninterested in spending another $70 on a laptop charger when I already own (er… have temporarily have misplaced) a perfectly good charger, I am also unable to locate a new charger on the island the girls and I had every intention of plopping ourselves down on for the next week to settle in and catch up on ... computer work. And so, I packed a quick overnight bag and re-embarked on a journey back to Mykonos. Said “see you tomorrow” to the girls as they dropped me at the port and climbed aboard the passenger ferry to bring me to Mykonos for the night.
“See you tomorrow” turned out to be like “see you in five days, I guess.”
According to more recent patterns in my life, events gravitate and move in the complete opposite direction as I plan for them to. I ended up arriving to Mykonos three hours late after a miserable ferry ride over stormy, choppy seas. I was generously offered a free accommodation through a friend of a friend on the island who also said they would be able to pick me up at the ferry port and bring me to their home late that evening. “Free bed to sleep in, not bad,” I thought. I quickly learned however, that it was in fact very, very bad. I spent one night (which felt like it lasted over 196 hours) at one of the most run down, dirty and dark “bedrooms” I’ve ever encountered. “Bedroom” is a word I use lightly. I wouldn’t even go as far as considering this space a “room” but for sake of story telling, I’ll leave it at that.
I slept a total of 45 minutes that night in-between scattered nightmares and brief panic attacks and was up at the crack of dawn ready to run and get the funk out of this space as soon as the sun peaked its face over the ocean’s horizon. I couldn’t help but notice that winds were especially strong that morning, as miscellaneous pieces of garbage and plastic bags literally flew at me and clung to my body while I ran. Damnit. Damnit. Damnit. I hoped there wasn’t a storm on its way. I listened to 528 hz frequencies while I ran and sent out those good, positive, affirmative vibrations for smooth sailing on my return boat to the girls (and our clean rental home) this afternoon.
After my run, I located my computer charger, changed out of my sweaty clothes without showering (because if I thought the “bedroom” was dirty, I couldn’t even fathom the idea of stepping barefoot into the bathroom’s shower) and walked 20 minutes into town with my overnight bag in hand, in search of a green juice and a hot cup of tea before my ferry. No surprise here, I just so happened to pass a ferry ticket booth that proudly displayed a large sign reading “ALL FERRIES CANCELED TODAY DUE TO WEATHER CONDITIONS.”
And so, my solo travels on Mykonos officially began.
Since then, I’ve spent three full days on Mykonos exploring the town, feeding all of the local cats, (literally spent the rest of my cash on cat food and flea collars before discovering that all ATMs on the island would be out of service for the next 20 hours) taking myself out to eat and desperately wishing I had packed warmer clothes. It is so so so cold here. “Very unusual weather for Greece” or so I’ve been told by every store and restaurant owner I’ve spoken to. Lovely, considering I came over here with one skirt, one tee shirt, a toothbrush and a dead laptop computer. The wind is whipping throughout the cobblestone alleyways of Mykonos and my recent diet has consisted primarily of “extra hot tea please!” with occasional food on the side. Once I knew I was staying another night, I quickly booked the cleanest, brightest and most comfortable looking AIR-BNB I could find (while staying within my 80€ budget) and have settled in quite nicely, working on the website, answering emails and carrying out other work projects throughout the day.
I haven’t hated being alone these last few days. I’ve actually enjoyed it. I’ve been waking up each morning and going for quick runs (it’s too windy to be bothered to run outside of town and along the sea coast) before tucking myself into a comfy cafe for the day and sitting for 4,5,6 hour periods on my computer. When I feel my work for the day is done, I’ll head home to enjoy a my daily meditation and do some stretching or yoga while listening to a podcast in my room. I’ve honestly been loving the Oprah Winfrey podcast this week (is that embarrassing? I can’t tell anymore). I just listened to an older podcast by Yoga Girl where she interviewed Seal on her show, and really, really enjoyed it. I’ve also been devouring Plant Proof’s episodes as well. I’ll link these podcasts below. Just click on the image to listen to their available episodes.
MASTER-DATING ON MYKONOS
One night on Mykonos quickly turned to three and I fell into a comfortable daily routine walking the streets, treating myself to linen scarves and long sleeve shirts, drinking fresh juice (lucky for me, I literally carry my HydroFlask and HydroCup everywhere I go - including “one night” trips to Mykonos) and making friends with some of the locals working at my favorite little wifi cafe. I’ve been going out to lunch and dinner alone every night for the last three nights and have had fun with the social experience of it. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I’m young, or female, or maybe well-dressed (I use this term loosely, but Mykonos has inspired a bit of style in my life) and dining alone, but the servers at the Greek restaurants here cannot get over the fact that I am not waiting for my boyfriend to sit down next to me. Like they’ve never, ever for one second imagined that a young woman taking herself out to dinner could even be a possibility in this lifetime or the next. And it’s not only the servers who seem concerned of my solo-dining, I can’t help but feel like every other couple or family dining in the general area around me keeps looking back at me while they enjoy their meal - almost as if they’re “checking in” on the poor girl three tables to their right who has been by herself since they arrived 45 mins ago.
The first day I brought my journal to both lunch and dinner and worked on my “Morning Pages” (a daily practice of free-write journaling intended to dissolve any creative/energetic blocks as inspired by Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” - supposed to be done first thing in the morning, whoops) and couldn’t help but feel as though I was using the pages of the journal as a wall to hide behind in my solitude. So, I challenged to myself to one journal-free lunch and dinner the next day and took myself out to my favorite local taverna to feast on fresh cucumber and tomato salad, warm bread, cold olives and creamy fava spread. Lunch was comfortable and causal. A part of me enjoyed noticing the uncomfortable-ness of others around me (which sounds cruel, unintentionally) and then making the extra effort to be especially smiley and at peace while I ate. Looking up from my food, eating mindfully, putting my cutlery down for extended periods of time, smiling often and making direct eye contact with waiters and fellow diners who looked my way. I felt called to act as an example and show others that there is nothing wrong, and everything right, with taking yourself out to eat. Master-dating, if you will.
Since then, I’ve been fine dining solo with no journal or book at my side for the last three days. If I have the choice to eat lunch or dinner at a restaurant, or grab food to go and eat in my hotel room, I’ll choose to restaurant and ask for a “table for one please!” The timing of it all is quite divine, as one of my homework assignments for the last two weeks from my meditation teacher training has been “take yourself out on an artist’s date.” Which according to Julia Cameron, The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it. And so, I’ve been doing exactly that. “Three green juices today? Really?” And then I do it. “Walk back to the beach for sunset, even though you were just there 40 minutes ago?” and then do it. “Stay up until 11:30 working online and sipping hot tea at the local cafe because the music is good and the vibe is right - but you probably should be asleep by now?” And then do it.
IN THE POURING RAIN
The next morning, I woke up to the sound of the pouring rain and layered on the few pieces of clothing I had with me. It had only gotten progressively colder and windier on the island. No run today. I couldn’t be bothered to bare the cold skies without a long sleeve and decided a trip to get hot tea instead was more nourishing for the soul. With my Hydroflask and hot raspberry roobios in hand, I walked down to the sea taxi station and was greeted once again with the same “NO FERRY” sign. Faaaaack. Was I ever getting out of here!? I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that I was missing time spent on the island and at our cute airBNB with the girls. Another day on my own. Same outfit. Same pair of underwear. Same agenda. I walked back to my hotel, extended my stay yet another night and then walked the streets in search of something I hadn’t yet discovered. I stumbled across a small fruit and vegetable store that sold the juiciest medjool dates and raw nuts in bulk. I stocked up on cashews, Brazil nuts and medjool dates in small paper bags and headed back to grab my laptop for another work flow at my favorite tea joint.
I am excited to *secretly* share that I am in the early stages of starting a new company that will be officially released in January of 2019. Whoop Whoop! I’ve been building the website from scratch and working on collecting style inspiration and drawing out designs for the last few weeks. I spent a few hours working online, drinking peppermint tea and snacking on dates in between emails and google doc spreadsheets. I decided to mix things up at a new restaurant for my last night on Mykonos and then sort of regretted my decision when the food wasn’t so great. Oh well. Back to my WiFi cafe for a late night call with my assistant and some time spent catching up on meditation homework. And now here we are again, 11:28pm and being asked to “please come out for one drink when I’m off work” from the cute tea man. Without having the energy to try to put into words my level of current exhaustion, I said “sure, I will come out” and found myself walking into a crowded sea-side bar filled with Greeks and tourists who were breaking it down to some “apple bottom jeans” at 12:15 in the morning. Ahhh so this is what everyone has been doing while I sleep in my hotel room each night.
HITTING THE TOWN
Twelve fifteen quickly turned into three fifteen and I had managed to check out three bars with my new local friend. I was quite impressed by the stylish interior decor of many of the local beach bars and even more impressed by the fact that I couldn’t get to the bathroom without passing half a dozen 65+ adults pushing past me to order drinks at the bar. Jesus. I hope I have this much energy in fourty years.
One more late night stop at the grocery store to buy cat food for my three favorite kittens (some people buy snacks on the way home from the bar, I buy non dairy milk and kitten kibble) and I was finally home in bed with any early alarm set to catch the ferry out tomorrow morning. I had to be on this ferry. Had to had to had to. Tomorrow’s ferry would be the only ferry of the day that could bring me back to the island with the girls just in time for one night together before we fly out of Greece to Morocco the next morning. Everyone had told me the winds were expected to die down and ferry boats would 100% be running the next day. And lucky for me, when I woke up the next morning, they were. I packed up my small bag and then opened the door to discover it was dumping buckets outside. Fuck. I really need a raincoat. Or a weather proof bag. With hopes of protecting my laptop computer, I threw my various small bags and laptop into one larger brown paper bag and used my body as barrier to protect my belongings.
The rains were wild. It must’ve been pouring for hours while I slept. I made it off the stairs of my hotel balcony and quickly discovered that all roads in Mykonos are built on a slant, leading down to ocean. My hotel just so happened to be placed smack in the middle between the bottom of the hill where the land met the ocean, and the top of the hill, where the taxi stand I needed to walk to was. I’ve never experienced anything like this before, and attempting to describe the severity of it over text won’t do the situation any justice, but try to envision narrow, cobblestone walkways flooded in two feet of rushing brown water, collecting garbage and dirt and stones as it land-slides past you. And then try to imagine being in open toed sandals. Damnit. It was so unpleasant.
There was no way around it other than to walk through it, up hill, with my makeshift brown bag suitcase soaking wet in my hands. My the time I made it the taxi stand I was absolutely drenched. I said a final farewell to my greek friends, grabbed a green juice to go and was on my way, only to quickly lift up my soaking wet brown bag and have it tear from the bottom, spilling all of my already-damp belongings on the soaking wet floor. Lovely.
Apparently, Mykonos has strict rules that only 40 taxi cabs will be permitted on the island at once, and apparently, that morning I was the 41st person desperate for a cab. I waited and waited and waited. Anxiously looking at my iPhone for the time and constantly reminding myself to “stay calm. you’ll get there just in time.” When 30 minutes had passed and no cab arrived, I hopped on the next local bus and prayed that it would get me there soon enough. I was told to avoid the local bus, as it had to do an airport drop off before it arrived to the port, and it often make it to the port later than the schedule stated. Trust. Trust. Trust. “Everything always works out in my favor” I repeated to myself again and again and again while the local bus drove slowly through crowded streets on its way to the airport. I had three minutes until the ferry was supposed to leave when I told myself to stop.looking.at.the.time. You’ll get there soon enough.
No big surprise here - the bus pulls into the massive port parking lot as I witness my Hellenic Ferry boat reverse away from the dock and out to sea. This could not be happening. I was that girl that shoved about two dozen pedestrians to the side and legitimately sprinted towards the massive 500 ton ferry boat screaming “waaaait!!” at the top of my lungs while waving both hands in the air. They didn’t wait. Incase you were wondering.
Long story short, becaUse I am starting to get sick of my own voice, I ended up sorting out my sh*t and taking a FEW MUCH NEEded deep breathes before strategizing and deciding i would BUY A TICKET ON the next ferry over to athens. I was totally overwhelmed and entirely EXHAUSTED.
As I waited for the next ferry, I sat underneath the rain shelter with a few hundred other soaking wet humans. My cell phone died and I discovered an ongoing twitch had managed to make itself feel at home in my left eye. I sat in a frog-squat with my filthy clothes in between my legs and wrote this entry in my journal;
“Time and time again traveling reminds me that I am here to learn the lessons. Every obstacle I face is a new opportunity for me to reveal my most patient and present self. ‘This is all part of the growth’ I remind myself multiple times a day. The missed ferry boats, the canceled accommodations, the janky public transport and the never, ever buying flight insurance for your airplane ticket, even though you rarely ever make your flight, (because ‘trust’). How fortunate I am to personally experience this new level of learning. This photo was taken one week ago and feels so so foreign. Here I am bathed, fed and well rested after spending the last two nights in a swanky airBNB that the girls and I splurged on. I used conditioner in my hair this day and had clean clothing. So much of it. Ahh the luxuries. Since this photo was snapped on the hills of Santorini, I have strayed away from my traveling companions and managed to get myself very stuck on a separate island for the last four days while heavy rain and high winds prevent me from leaving. I’ve managed to spend a night in THE most unpleasant accommodation of my life (the literal lawn chair I slept on in the Philippines a few months ago coming in close second) and screw up travel plan, after travel plan after travel plan. I have hand-washed the only pair of underwear I have with me in various hotel bathrooms, ran through insane down-pouring rain with my belongings crammed inside a soaking wet paper bag (the bag ripped from the bottom, if you were curious) and seem to currently be dealing with an ongoing twitch in my left eye that I just can’t shake. ‘This is all part of the growth’ I remind myself multiple times a day. How fortunate I am to be personally experiencing this new level of learning. #GrattitudeAlways #EvenWhenItSucks #EvenWhenYourUnderwearIsStillDamp”
SHOPPING FOR GROCERIES IN A STRANGER’S FRIDGE + MOMENTS OF GRATITUDE
The ferry arrived within the hour and I said a quick “thank you universe” prayer in my head as I walked aboard. That night, alone at the Airbnb (which very much so reminded me of an old Greek woman’s apartment from 1960) I laced up my shoes and headed out for a much needed meal. Jon and Jill, the owners of the air BNB, recommended a local restaurant down the street that was affordable and easy to find by foot. Ideal. I was low on money and without a rental car.
By the time I made it to the tavern, it was very dark and very windy. I spent the entire walk visualizing a large bowl of cucumber tomato salad and with a massive plate of hot spaghetti to go with it. I was ravenous. And in need of some warming food STAT.
I sat down at this funky hole in the wall tavern (I was the only customer in the entire restaurant) and scoped out the menu. Pasta. Pasta. Pasta. Pasta. I sang hopefully in my head. This is one of those moments where I really wish I had my cell phone with me, because I would have been able to take a photo of this menu to show you all how f*cked up it was. If I can recall correctly .. which I believe I can.. it read something like this ...
- Fried Cheese
- Fried Cheese balls
- Mini Fried Cheese balls
- Feta Cheese
- Feta Cheese Salad
- Spinach Feta Pie
- Mini Spinach Feta Pie
- Kid Lamb with Lemon
- Kid Lamb with Garlic
- Kid Lamb with Cheese
- Pork Loin with Lemon
- Pork Loin with Cheese
- Pork Loin with Lemon
I honestly couldn’t tell you who was more hurt in this moment. Me or the kid Lamb. “Uhhh can I please order the feta cheese salad with no feta?” I asked the waiter timidly. To which he replied in broken english “Sorry. We out of salad tonight. No more.” Great. “Do you have any spaghetti or pasta?” To which he replied “No.”
And I was on my way. I must’ve walked one mile down a small residential area before spotting a brightly lit building in the distance. There was hope! Maybe it was a grocery store. Maybe it was a restaurant. Maybe it was a vegan restaurant. And alas, I arrived to the brightly lit building only to discover it was a ... pet shop. Open until 12 midnight. Was this a sign or something? Was I going to have to choose between fasting or eating cat nip for dinner? I walked inside timidly and asked the man behind the counter if there were any grocery stores or food shops in the area. He told me yes, there was a grocery store about 500m away. Then he told me it closed two hours ago. Fantastic. “Oh wait! There is a tavern down the ways bit. They serve meat.” Yeah, I know, and mini fried cheese balls too. “Is there anywhere I can buy some fruit or veggies?” He took a moment to think and then told me to follow him through the door in the back of the store. I soon discovered he lived in a small home in the back. He told me that his wife had just gone grocery shopping today and I could take anything I want. Out of their family fridge? I couldn’t possibly do that. He insisted that she always bought more than enough and their fruit and veggies usually ended up going rancid by the end of the week. So I snapped a head of lettuce, some apples, a tomato and RIPE AVOCADO and then tried to pay the friendly store owner for ….essentially saving my life. He refused to take my money, which was so so generous, but I managed to slide a 10 euro note on the kitchen table before he walked out. Avocados aren’t cheap here. I know this better than anyone.
That night, on my walk home, while devouring all three of the apples I snagged from the fridge, I took a few moments to remind myself how...surprisingly pleasant my day had turned out. I was tired, smelt of public ferry boat transportation, not at all on the right island I was “supposed” to be on, without one single bag or suitcase and walking on the side of a unfamiliar highway in the middle of the night. But I felt so calm. And really safe. And so so so grateful to be headed home, to a clean, poorly decorated apartment with fresh veggies in hand. I was good. I’ve got this.
This week unfolded the way it did to show me exactly what it was I needed to learn.
I am always in the right place at the right time.
Even when I am not.