Working for it

Sunday, Oct. 3

Before starting this blog post, I had it written in my head. A major no-no for journalists, so I should have known better. I wanted to do something in honour of my little sister Kylie coming over, by herself, for a three-week visit.

I basically thought this entry should address the hardest part of travelling, which Matt and I feel is the initial task of leaving home. There’s never a convenient time to pick up and leave everything – there will always be a wedding, a birthday, a family event or a job offer. That was the most difficult aspect for us to swallow. The next was realizing that if we were going to do it, do it now. Beyond that, it’s the small things that nibble at your brain. Like, how many sweaters should I bring? Can I carry shampoo in my bag without it exploding? Are four pairs of shoes really enough? And, will my Visa work if I run out of money?

But once you’re across the world – you’re there. You form a new routine and get used to the different foods, clothes and religions. If you hate it, all you need to do is catch a flight home – it’s literally that easy. On the other hand, if you love it, you’ll be just fine. Your fight-or-flight instinct kicks in and you discover how independent you really are.

That’s what I wanted to base this post on. But following our recent ferry adventures, we wanted to broaden the scope of our claim. The hardest part of travelling is not just leaving home, it’s the getting there.

Travelling from Samos, to Athens, to Mykonos on Friday and Saturday was the roughest part of our trip so far. It paralleled our stress levels before we left Canada. On Friday, we killed time waiting for our 9:40 p.m. ferry, rarely leaving the hotel because of our food poisoning. The ferry didn’t end up arriving until 11 p.m., which was cutting into our layover time for our next boat.

After boarding, we were ushered to our area – an upper deck with a little bit of plexi glass to protect us from the wind. Using my pilates mat and towel as a mattress, we were squished between two metal life jacket containers, muddy footprints and cigarette butts. While I had my earplugs, Matt fell asleep to the sound of dogs fighting on the deck above us. And when the ticket-man came around at 3 a.m. to make sure we weren’t stow-aways, he kicked Matt awake to get our attention. We felt like the poor people on the Titanic.

(We also had a Dumb and Dumber moment. When I noticed that Matt was using his sandals and a water bottle as a pillow, I offered him a fleece jacket. I was wearing my jacket and his because I was sick, which is a perfectly good reason. He looked at me, obviously thankful, but dumbfounded. All he could think was “You’ve had a second pair the whole time!?”)

Somehow we lost another hour while travelling and pulled into the dock at 8:06 a.m. Our next ferry left at 8 a.m. We frantically sprinted off the boat into the middle of the port. We asked a random man where our ferry was – he pointed to the next one over and yelled, “Hurry! Run!” So we ran.

As soon as we made it onto the boat, the doors lifted. We barely had time to put our bags down and climb up the stairs until we had set sail. That was another five-hour journey. Lets just say, Matt and I have played enough X’s and O’s, eye spy and hangman in the past two days to satisfy Kelly Erickson’s Grade 2/3 class for the year.

When we arrived at our hostel, we ended up receiving an upgrade  because it’s low season. We have a tiny house which is the best place we’ve stayed yet. It is typically Greek – bright white concrete, a fire-engine red door with matching shutters, a view of the Mediterranean, a patio covered by grape vines and a front yard with a clothes line. There are two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom (in Greece the toilet paper goes in the garbage ­– a hard rule to remember at 7 a.m.).

But Matt and I didn’t hang around for too long thanks to our hunger pains. Neither of us had eaten properly for two days because of our food poisoning. So we asked the hostel owner how to get to the nearest supermarket. Our instructions: “Just ask the bus driver, he will stop for you.”

It sounded simple enough, and the bus driver even agreed. But he lied. We ended up in the town centre. It was packed with tourist shops, clothing stores and crepe and gyro stands. My frustration and anger had reached a boiling point. I couldn’t eat anything they were selling because it was all wheat or dairy based, I was hungry, I wanted to cry and was actually considering just leaving Greece altogether. Matt was equally as annoyed – especially when we asked a woman where the market was and she said we were too far and would have to take a taxi.

Feeling defeated, we left the town centre, heading for the bus station. That’s when we found a super market (calling this a super market is false advertising, it is really just a 7-11), and for the first time in weeks, we found frozen meat.

Eating dinner that night was the best experience of the past seven days – maybe even 14. We were sitting on our patio with a home cooked meal, a glass of red wine and a pint of Heineken. Somehow, the past 24 hours had been swept under a carpet, making everything that had taken us to that point, totally worth it.

The next morning we woke up at 4:45 a.m. so we could pick my sister up from the airport. Her flight was due to arrive at 6:35 a.m., so we had tons of time. We called the taxi company, but no one answered. We called a different number, but again, no answer. So we hoofed it to the airport, which took almost an hour. We appreciated the beauty of the walk – there were tons of stars and we could still see the sea – but we had no idea where we were going.

We arrived to find my sister sitting on the sidewalk, sending us an email asking if we were coming to get her. Apparently her flight was early. (It was the first time we’ve heard of anything in Greece arriving early ­– it even shocked the hostel owner.)

It was so disheartening. We were so excited to meet her at arrivals, take a photo of her looking haggard and for everyone to hug and cry. Kylie even had a shirt made that said “Greece Lightening” on the front and “Bibbidy Bopity” on the back (it’s a reference to Family Guy – Peter thinks he can speak Italian by repeatedly saying bibbidy bopity).

Anyway, that was the end of her 24-and-a-half-hour journey, which included a flight to London, an eight and a half hour lay-over, a flight to Athens, a three hour lay over, and an early flight to Mykonos.

While Kylie still shudders at the word layover, it only took a day of laying on the beach, a home cooked meal and a few card games to forget what happened the day before.

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