Reason #68239 why I love to travel: it always teaches me lessons and reveals things about myself that I didn’t know previously.
So with that, here’s what I’m taking away from my recent Eurotrip from summer 2019:
I’m A Better Driver Than I Thought
Though I’ve been a licensed driver for nearly two decades now, I actually haven’t spent much of that time driving. I used my car daily during my last two years of high school, then only during summer breaks from college. After that, I moved to NYC and then Sydney, where I no longer had a car at my disposal and only ever drove on the rare occasion where I rented a car.
As a result, my driving confidence is not super high. Still, I didn’t let that stop me from renting a car during my recent Eurotrip!
In total, I enjoyed 3.5 weeks behind the wheel and absolutely LOVED it! It gave me so much freedom to explore France and the Greek islands without having to rely on public transport, and I was able to see so much more than I would have without a car.
That said, driving through tiny French and Greek villages really tested me. With streets so narrow that one car could barely fit through, I found myself constantly having to reverse to allow oncoming cars to get by, and 12-point turning to get myself out of dead ends and driveways with almost no space to maneuver a vehicle. I even successfully parallel parked for the first time in my life! (they don’t test you on this skill where I’m from, as there’s rarely a need to parallel park in my hometown, so I never bothered learning).
With my confidence and enthusiasm for driving at an all-time high now, I’m absolutely determined to buy a car of my own in the near future. When and what kind, TBD.
I Attracted a Different Kind of Man
Before I left for Europe, I’d taken 6 months off from dating because 1). That shit’s exhausting, and 2). The guys I was meeting turned out to be lame and/or emotionally unavailable. I found myself getting so frustrated over it that I’m sure that energy repelled the kind of guys I actually wanted to be dating. Vicious cycle much?
Anyway, I reactivated Tinder while in Europe and ended up meeting 3 guys during my trip (2 off Tinder, 1 in person). NONE of them ghosted me (in fact, they all kept messaging me even after we parted ways), and ALL of them treated me like a freaking QUEEN. They paid for everything on our dates, they showered me with compliments, they took care of me.
Are European men just better at dating than Aussie and American men? Or has the work I’ve done on myself this past year or so enabled me to attract higher quality men? Either way, these guys gave me hope that there is someone out there for me, and I’ve got to trust that when the timing is right, I’ll find him.
Flying into Santorini.
It’s OK To Be A Cautious Drone Pilot
I’ve only had my drone for a few months now, and all along I’ve had this nagging feeling that maybe I’m a bit too much of a worry wart when it comes to flying the damn thing. I’d say at least half the time I’ve opted not to fly due to winds or too many people around.
While I definitely could stand to be more confident and comfortable while flying, I realized that my over-cautiousness is actually a good thing when my drone ran away from me in Crete. It just isn’t worth the stress to take a chance with it in windy conditions.
European Siesta Hours Are A Real Thing
We found out very early on in our Provençal cycling trip that the south of France takes its siesta time very seriously. The number of times we finally made it into town absolutely famished and hangry, only to find zero restaurants open in mid-afternoon or late in the evening… man, I swear I’ll never make that mistake again. Consider it a lesson learned several times over.
Greece Is Not Really For Singles
I’m rarely self conscious about traveling on my own, but man I’ll tell ya… Greece drew attention to my single status constantly. I’m sure they didn’t mean it, but I could tell that most of the waiters thought it strange that I was asking for a table for one. There were a couple of instances where they took ages to wait on me because they assumed I was waiting for another person to join me at my table. And in general, Greek starters are served in large portions that are meant to be shared at the table, which was frustrating when I just wanted a single portion for myself and had to waste the rest of it (I’m mostly talking about the dips, which are always served in a sizable bowl; the massive Greek salad I’d typically have boxed up to take home as leftovers).
Oh and those umbrellas and chairs at the beaches? You have to rent two chairs together with the umbrella, even if you only want one chair.
And sailing trips around the islands? Yeah, they are unofficially couples trips. I was the only solo person on my Milos boat trip (it was literally me and 8 couples), and on my Santorini sailing trip I would have been the only solo person had I not roped my new man-friend into joining me.
To be clear, I never felt bad about myself in any of these instances. I’ve been contentedly single for my entire life and love being on my own, and it’s never stopped me from traveling when and where I want to. But still… it was all a little annoying. In all my travels, I never felt like my solo status was spotlighted like it often was in Greece.
When you try to strike a flattering pose and end up LOLing instead.
Greek Hospitality Is Also A Real Thing
On my second day in Greece, I alighted the train in Kalabaka slightly frazzled and lugged my oversize suitcase into town, heading towards my accommodation to check in. As I turned the corner onto the street it was on, a man approached me and asked if I needed help. I muttered no thanks and trudged passed him to the hostel entrance… which was marked with a sign that said to check-in at the cafe next door. I turned around to find that same man standing in front of me, looking a little smug. Whoops! He was the owner. And I felt like a major ass for blowing past him.
This guy went on to share with me everything I could possibly want to know about where to go, how to get there, and where to eat around Meteora. And on my last morning, when I realized I’d lost my locker key about 10 minutes before I had to leave to catch my train back to Athens, he scrambled to look for a duplicate key and when unsuccessful, he cut the lock off so I could retrieve my valuables and make my train. I told him to keep the change when I paid for my stay at the very end, as a thank you for his efforts, and he outright refused.
This hostel owner was by no means the exception – I went on to experience Greek hospitality in so many forms over the next month of my travels. From free desserts and spirits after most dinners, to being given my money back for a boat trip I’d gotten sick on (I never would have dreamed of asking for a refund, but the owner refused my payment), to having gifts left for me in my hotel room, the Greeks impressed me on a daily basis with their generosity.
My Seasickness Is A Problem
My childhood was dotted with numerous motion sickness episodes: there was the time I threw up 10x on a field trip to Ellis Island, the time I got sick on the ferry to Block Island and we had to turn our day trip into an overnighter because I could. not. get back onto another boat in my state, the time my entire family got seasick on a whale watching trip in Provincetown… I could honestly go on for hours here.
I grew out of my motion sickness a bit once I got older, but it still sporadically strikes. I’ve noticed it occurring with more frequency in the last couple of years though, namely when I’m on boat trips (see: this snorkeling trip and this diving trip). And after my nausea on both of my Greek island sailing trips, I’m starting to suspect that my motion sickness is partly mental. Like maybe I’m setting myself up for failure because I have these recent episodes in the back of my mind, priming myself to experience them once again.
I don’t know, is that really how it works? I’m starting to think so, especially in instances where the water is super calm and there’s nothing that should be triggering seasickness.
Sunset in Kefalonia, Greece.
… But Illness Is A Mindset
Not just motion sickness, but ANY sickness is at least part mental. This is something I’ve long believed, but it really hit home when I came down with bronchitis in Santorini. At the end of my time on the island, I’d acquired a nasty cough that got worse when I made it to Milos, and culminated with me nearly choking on the beach and having to drive myself to the island clinic.
Instead of throwing myself a pity party, I hit every single beach and village I’d planned to and they were all just as magical as I’d imagined them to be… even with me periodically hacking up phlegm and disturbing the peace with my persistent cough. I didn’t let my sickness stand in the way of loving the hell out of every single day I spent on that island – in fact, I hardly even remember I was sick when I reminisce on my time there. Milos was easily one of the highlights of my entire Eurotrip.
Damn You, Inner Critic!
As an enneagram 1 and recovering perfectionist, I have a very strong inner critic that keeps me in line and constantly striving to do and be better. It’s something I’ve been working on over the past few years, because I’d much rather be kind to myself than beat myself up whenever I’m not living up to my own impossible standards.
The cycling trip I did in Provence was a friendly reminder that my inner critic is very much still active. Every day while on my bike, my mind would default to being somewhere in outer space as I contentedly carried on with my two-wheeled meditation… only to be jolted back to reality whenever I was laboring uphill or through wind, or realized that I was lagging behind Jojo and Tom. In these instances I’d start up with the negative self talk, which included things like “hurry the f up, you’re going too slow” and “they must be so annoyed at you for slowing them down”. Sometimes they would stop and wait for me to catch up to them, and when I did I’d arrive needlessly exasperated and grumpy, just because I was annoyed at myself for making them wait.
But then here’s the part that proves how far I’ve come: I’d catch myself and flush the self-criticism out by repeating “you’re a QUEEN and you’re doing the best you can” in my head. Before long, I’d find myself spacing out and enjoying the ride once again.
Oh, and of course my friends didn’t mind waiting for me at all (really, I was never more than a minute or two behind at any point).
Progress, not perfection, Lindsay!
I Need More Off Days
I’ve long known that I travel best when I schedule in some “off days” where I allow myself to chill and not feel obligated to sightsee and do all the things. These days I also need to factor in “work days”, as I work online (and thankfully can do so whenever and wherever I please).
Each trip I take is an experiment in finding the right balance. I think planning 10 days in Budapest mid-trip to catch up on work and stay still for awhile was exactly what I needed – in fact, I probably could have used another stint like this to break up my 9 weeks of travel. I found myself feeling quite burnt out after a couple weeks in Greece – like I needed another break to reset, but couldn’t let myself take more days off because of all the things I wanted to see. Because when you’re on an island that you likely will never return to, and there are all these mindblowingly gorgeous beaches beckoning, YOU GO TO THE BEACH. And then you go to ANOTHER beach. And then all of your skin starts flaking off because it’s OD’d on sun and salt water. And if you’re honest with yourself, all you really want to do is stay inside in the aircon bingeing on The Hills New Beginnings (yep, this is how I spent my final days in Athens).
I think for the next trip, I’d like to do 2 weeks on, 1 week off – i.e. give myself 2 weeks to really enjoy a destination (maybe with a couple of rest days thrown in), and then follow it with a 1 week break… and repeat.