The night was fast approaching, the city was calm and the summer breeze from the Aegean sea blew in full speed. It was our first night in Santorini, the blue hues on the pool lights appeared from a distance while I laid quietly on the sunbed of my hostel. I was half-way through my book “Go Set A Watchman”, the sequel to “To Kill A Mockingbird” when a gleaming ball of light captivated me. I squinted my eyes, analyzing the orb figure tucked in between the low rise buildings. “Oh la, la! It’s the Strawberry Moon!” I exclaimed with excitement. Though no one was there to hear me squeal like a little girl. I scurried back to my room and grabbed my camera to snap the fleeting moment. The auto setting just produced a small dot. I changed it to manual, but I could not get the ISO right. For a moment, all I could think was that no one is going to believe me when I tell them how majestic this looks. What the magic my eyes witnessed could not be translated to the lenses of my device. I decided to tuck my camera underneath my towel and once again sat on the edge of the chair. A few breaths in and I drowned myself in imagination. As the moon slowly rose to take its place in the sky, I dreamt of a Greek goddess ascending back to Olympus.
This was no ten-year Odyssey like Homers, but it was an epic that brought about new friendships and memories that I will carry deeply as I venture into new heights. Somehow three strangers from various parts of the globe found their way to each other and set sail to the Greek Islands (except with a car and not a yacht). We hiked up into steep mountains, laid on rocky red sand, discovered the remnants of Atlantis, chased sunsets and devoured the Mediterranean meals. Like Homer, we faced the unknown and was sometimes thrown into chaos (but nothing we couldn’t handle), but those are the stories that make the journey meaningful. The most beautiful part of seeing the world is being around people of different cultures with different perspectives but with the same love for life.
“Take it easy with me, please / Touch me gently / Like a summer evening breeze / Take your time, make it slow / Andante, Andante / Just let the feeling Grow”.
We arrived and the sun was at its peak. My eyes started to well up due to my photophobia and my skin turned bronze but we were eager to get that postcard photo of Oia’s sultry sunset. The crowd came in, the sitting dock felt cramped but we took our spot two hours before. The guy next to me had his phone out, streaming the Worldcup semi-finals and I asked if I could check the score. Time slowed down, my sweat started to roll down, hair on a bun but the conversations with these football enthusiasts entertained my friends and I. Cue in a Mamma Mia soundtrack “Take your time, make it slow / Andante, Andante / Just let the feeling Grow”. The sky turned into sheets of orange, green and a hint purple. Snap 1, 2, 3 and then maybe 20 more and I had to pinch myself, I made it to Santorini and wow this world is absolutely beautiful.
The last year tested my independence. I was far from the comforts of traveling with my family and often taking a chance on adventures with acquaintances. But trip after trip, I learned to stop apologizing for who I am and for who I am not. I was always the one who adjusts for people because it was easier for my ego. But sometimes that can be detrimental to oneself. And for the first time in a long time or maybe even never, I felt at ease in knowing I am more than happy with where I stand. It wasn’t a eureka moment or anything negative that happened, it was simply allowing myself to enjoy the things I am truly passionate about, say no whenever moments felt uncomfortable and loudly saying yes to adventure. And when I did that, my odyssey in Greece became the perfect adventure to start off my summer.
TIPS FOR YOUR FIRST GREEK ISLAND ADVENTURE!
I was shocked to learn how affordable Mykonos and Santorini can be. I always had it on my travel bucket list but I figured it would take a few more years before I would plan just cause it seemed costly. Hold and behold, the accommodations, car rental, and food fit perfectly on my tight budget. I even got to shop for some of their local goods. If anything, it was only the flight that cost the most because the Greek Islands are a tourist destination.
If you’re traveling independently (without a tour group), you should either rent an ATV, a motorbike or a car. Public transportations within the island are not the most convenient and way overpriced. The car rental was 30 euros a day, perfect if you’re planning to split it with two or more people. Also, most of the touristic spots have free parking spaces. Be mindful, this was prior to peak season. I loved chasing the sunsets every night, having our very own carpool karaoke with the windows down and the smell of summer breeze.
I m a sucker for Greek food. Anything with Tzakitzi sauce is heaven. The Baklava was perfection. The Feta and Haloumi cheeses were my staples. And that Greek honey and olive oil were divine. I had to bring home a few to stash up in my own cupboard.
If you’re in Oia, waiting for the famous Santorini sunset, check out Atlantis bookshop. It was my favorite place to splurge in. They have a vast selection of both vintage and new books for a reasonable price. I always try to get one with a local author or one with a significant story. Think philosophy or mythology maybe even sports if you’re into the history of Olympics.