Travel TopOfBlogs Past and future wanderings of a travel bug . . .: April 2010

Monday, April 5, 2010

My (travel) story...and why I want to keep traveling!

I have spent countless hours in my life examining maps, reading travel books (and phrase books) and daydreaming about the places I would one day go. Travel has changed me. I am not the same person I was before I embarked upon the trips of the last two and half years.

I was fortunate in my early years to have traveled throughout a lot of Canada and the United States but I had never gone overseas until I finally traveled to Europe in 2007. I had wanted to go sooner but put it off because I was paying off loans from school and had no one to go with. I had entertained planning trips with friends in the past but it never seemed to work out. So finally I decided to just do it--I went on my own and planned a trip lasting nearly a month. Needless to say I loved every second of it--I had certainly been bitten by the bug. And there was no turning back.

Not long after returning home I decided I wanted to find a way to keep "living the dream" if you will. So applied for a job with a European tour operator. I figured I had nothing to lose--the worst that would happen is nothing. To my great surprise only a couple of days later I received an email asking me to call to arrange an interview. So I thought about it again, other than the cost of the trip I really had nothing to lose. I made the most of it and had a little reunion with a couple of my university friends when I arrived in London--if this was the end of the road, the trip was not wasted as we had a great time! Two interviews in two days and I was back on a flight home. Exhausting but exhilarating at the same time. After being home for about about a week I got a letter--in a big envelope. Anyone who has ever applied to university learned this rule--a small envelope meant bad news and a big envelope means . . .you got in! This rule rang true in this case as well. I had been offered a coveted place on one of the tour companies training trips! I could hardly believe it! This was a chance to travel, meet new people and earn enough of a living to keep the bills paid--a true chance of a lifetime!

In the weeks that followed I quit my job, gave up the apartment I had lived in for nearly five years, said goodbye to my roommate and my friends and parked my car. At my going away party I sprained my ankle, or so I thought... I had my eyes on the prize and pushed through the pain to get my apartment cleaned and get on my way. Not much later I had arrived in London, late, sans luggage and with a very bruised ankle.

The training trip was strenuous, right from the get go. We were tested at every turn. In nine weeks we would hit the major European destinations the company traveled to and learn as much as we possibly could about each place--we had to be able to speak about each country's history, culture and other special topics about places, events and people of note. And that was only the beginning. This was work and I expected no less. People dropped like flies and I hung on like my life depended on it. It really felt like it did. But after nearly seven weeks on the road, a really nasty stomach bug I picked up somewhere in Eastern Europe, and a still sore ankle I couldn't keep up and was not allowed to continue. I was devastated when I was given the news. I cried all the way to to the airport the next morning as I made my way back to London. And in my fog I managed to drop my very heavy suitcase on my foot--the same foot that had the bad ankle! It was only two days later when the pain in my foot got so bad I went to A&E (that's Accident & Emergency for those who are not familiar). After looking at the X-ray the doctor looked at me quizzically as he pointed to my ankle and asked me if I was sure that it didn't hurt there--I told him "not anymore". I had broken my ankle all those weeks ago and my stubbornness had led me to not see a doctor lest my dream be shattered--my own stubbornness had very likely cost me my chance.

Despite everything, two years down the road I don't regret the experience. I saw places I never thought I would see in my life, met incredible people, and learned all about Europe--and I would never pass up the opportunity to go back. I've only been inspired to see more of the world. So until then, I will live vicariously through others, share my experiences through my blog and continue to daydream again about the places I'll go until the next trip! And of course enter a few travel contests as well. Like The Best Travel Job Ever! This could be my second chance to see more, do more and share it with anyone willing to listen! Namely YOU! So please give us your votes! And where will I go next? Only time will tell! How far will I go to live my dreams? As far as I have to!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Day in Athens

Ok, so I promised to tell you how I spent the day in Athens. So here it is.

Anyone who has traveled to Greece will understand when I use the term "Greek Time". For those of you that are unfamiliar with this, the concept of "Greek Time" is this: things kind of run at their own pace in Greece . . .time tables are often rough guides for when transportation arrives and leaves. The pace is very relaxed. Meals are often much later than most North Americans are used to--and as a result if you are the type to want to start your day with a hearty breakfast you may have difficulty in finding much more than coffee or tea and bread. Sometimes you may find some cheese and olives and even some Greek style yogurt with honey on offer. For me, not being a big eater in the morning worked out well and I started my first day in Athens with a coffee and bread with jam and cheese overlooking the Acropolis from my hotel's rooftop garden. The Hotel Adonis has a great location in the Plaka (Athen's old town) at the foot of the Acropolis. The hotel is simple but excellently located and fairly priced. I found it listed in Lonely Planet. I also stayed in the Hotel Hermes, which is just blocks away and much more upscale.

After breakfast I wandered through the Plaka, map safely tucked away in a small bag. In time I found myself at the very foot of the path leading up to the ruins of the Acropolis--it was a Sunday morning in November and my lucky day--free admission. It was cool outside but still warm enough to make the trek up without a jacket. Though there were many other things I wanted to see that day I was in no hurry. I had waited years to see this place and would savor the trip up. I was not disappointed. The path was relatively empty on the way up but there were others enjoying the view from the top. The ruins are formidable, and it is difficult to comprehend the skill it would have taken to build this place. Seeing the Theatre of Dionysus was a highlight for me as well. In university I studied both classics and drama. I directed a production of Aristophanes' Lysistrata in my 4th year and it was amazing to see a place where this same play might have once been performed. This was an amazing start to an amazing trip--I did make a couple of mistakes however. I forgot to bring two things--water and spare batteries for my camera! There is a small stand near the visitors facilities that had water available but it seemed overpriced and I did not find batteries until I returned to the plaka! As a result I did miss out on some great photo ops.

I spent the remainder of my day doing a number of things, visiting the Archaeological Museuem (also free entry that day!), wandering through the ancient agora, taking the Metro, watching the changing of the guard at Syntagma Square, enjoying the flora and fauna of the nearby gardens, checking out the wares of the shops in the plaka and enjoying a freshly made spanakopita for a light lunch. Other things to do if you find yourself in Athens--well, there are loads of museums, including the new Acropolis museum which has opened since my last visit, there is some great shopping including the flea market in the Monastiraki area, and just enjoying the food on offer. There is so much more I could tell you but I will save it for another post on another day! If you are inspired and want to visit but have questions please feel free to post or email me! Happy traveling!
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