Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Two Weeks in Greece


I want to write something about my recent trip – 2 weeks visiting Athens, sailing around the Cyclades, and recovering in Santorini – but I think I'm maybe either still a bit jet lagged or just overwhelmed by the number of things I could write about. I'll give it a try anyway :)

I never considered myself a big traveler or someone who listed "seeing the world" among her top life goals. Travel is scary. There are so many things that can go wrong when you go far from home, and leaving Clyde always makes me teary (though I'm pretty sure the only thing he misses when he stays with my parents is his couch). 

In recent years, though, somehow my husband Michael and I have gotten in a pattern of taking a big trip once a year. First it was Hawaii for our honeymoon, a vacation that seemed in some way almost not meant for us – we weren't the kind of people who honeymooned in Hawaii. That's like a movie. It was so much work to plan a trip of that magnitude. So far away! Such a time change! You had to rent a car! 

But the two weeks we spent on the Big Island were wonderful, not just because we were swept away in just-married-bliss, but because we were immersed in this different environment, this different way of living. We woke to watch the sunrise on the beach each morning, we hiked through volcanoes, we didn't check our email (we didn't even bring our COMPUTERS), we spent our days reading piles of books and visiting unfamiliar places. It was an adventure. When I got home I felt a little jarred, wondering which Haley was the real Haley – the one from vacation or the one who was responsible and went to work each day. They seemed like two different people. 

The next year we went one step further and went to a different country – it wasn't too crazy, just the Bahamas where they still spoke English and took American money. But we still got a stamp on our passports and spent time in an environment even more different than home. 

And now this year, we somehow ended up going not just to Greece, but on a Greek sailing trip. Where we lived on a boat. For 8 days. Who are we?

Our boat, chartered through GAdventures.com

My junior year of college, I did a study abroad program over the summer in Chambéry, France. It was simultaneously terrifying – I think I was only able to follow through because my best friend did the same program with me – and awesome. Greece was a lot less terrifying, but I feel the same way I did when I got back from France – that this was one of the greatest things I've ever done. It confirms my belief that the things we do in life that are hard or complicated or put us out of our comfort zone are the things that end up impacting us in the best ways. I know it's kind of cliché and obvious to say, but world travel is life changing, guys. It affects your perspective and makes all the things you worried about back home seem kind of silly.

In the middle of a hike from Imervogli to Oia, Santorini

While on my trip, I saw such a wide mix of people – vacationing families from all over the world, taxi drivers who must drive tourists to the same locations over and over and over again, fishermen who have to navigate their fishing boats through the fancy yachts in harbor just to get out to sea to get their catch for the day. Thin, ragged homeless people on the streets in Athens, begging for change next to ancient ruins and looking somehow absent, probably imagining themselves anywhere but there. Happy, joking harbor masters who helped us sandwich our boat in spaces that didn't seem big enough to fit a boat.

A fisherman's catch on Paros

Then there were the French tour guides, who I lurked behind as they explained different monuments and ruins because I was so happy to hear real French again. Resigned and beleaguered chefs in brightly printed hats who followed the restaurant owner around with plates of raw fish for customers to appraise. A bride on her father's arm at the head of a wedding processional, led through the streets of Santorini by guitar players and followed by a long stream of her wedding guests.

And our skipper, whose 20+ years of sailing and love for the sea came out every time he explained a wind pattern to us or demonstrated how a sail worked, and who went ashore every night to call his wife and young son he hadn't seen in four months.

Does anyone know where we are?

Greece is a country that lives and dies on tourism – at least the parts we saw – and while you're there you can't help but notice both the good and the bad, and think about the Greece that lives behind the smiling shopkeeper trying to sell you jewelry. I loved the places we stayed and felt so alive the entire time, bombarded by new sights and experiences. But I also couldn't help but feel a little strange as the hotel staff delivered my fancy breakfast to our room in Santorini, knowing that the country as a whole was going through some rough times and yet here I was with more croissants than I could ever possibly eat.

I saw such a wide mix of people and so many beautiful and not-so-beautiful things, and while I have almost 1500 photos to sort through, I feel like I have even more pictures in my head. And those are better than actual pictures, because they carry with them the memory of the breeze and the sun and the salt water. There's one of our Croatian skipper Niko standing at the stern, brow furrowed, trying to judge the best way to anchor the boat for the night as the eight of us stood around helplessly. There's the Milky Way stretching through the night sky as we lay on our backs on deck watching for shooting stars. There's how I felt leaning over the table to let a Greek restaurant owner pinch my cheeks – silly and foolish and yet somehow pretty in a 1950's housewife kind of way. There's sitting in the winery we stumbled upon and looking over at my husband to think he looks the happiest he's looked in a long time. And, one of the best parts of taking a trip far from home, there's the moment we landed again on American soil, and I got some good old American chicken nuggets and iced tea.

Michael and I in Santorini. Picture stolen from our friend Caroline.

So, it was an amazing, three-dimensional, exciting trip, and it's a bit of an adjustment to go back to normal life, now. When you finish a vacation like that, do you just put the memories on a mental shelf (and the photos in a Flickr album) and get back on with things? What other choice do you have? I find myself wanting to find ways to hold on to it or DO something with it, but at some point (if it hasn't happened already), people are going to get tired of my pictures and stories and tell me to shove my fancy European vacation. My tan, which was a bit of a miracle for someone who religiously uses SPF 50+, is already fading. Vacation Haley and Real Life Haley must somehow merge together and keep on keepin' on.

And so now it's back to business. Back to life in Indiana, back to work, and back to Olive & Clyde – where it's time to start getting ready for Christmas. Where has the year gone???

P.S. If you ordered any cards while I was "out of the country" (ho ho, so fancy!), you can thank my mom, Tammy, for taking care of it. I'm not sure many people have parents willing to not only watch their dog for two weeks (who doesn't always behave when he's away from home) but also take care of their small business while they're gone. Thanks, Mom!! 

1 comment:

  1. Haley,

    You should add "travel writer" to your resume.

    Very entertaining