Why I’ll Keep Going Back to Greece

Greece is everything you have ever imagined, and more. When Haley and I visited Greece two years ago, we fell in love, and knew we had to go back. So when I started travel planning for 2019, I originally intended to JUST go to Greece for two weeks. I thought maybe I would pop up to Albania for a few days.

Next thing I knew, I had booked a series of round the world flights and I quit my job for 4.5 months. This is how I always end up going on such long trips, BUT no regrets cause it worked out pretty well.

Greece has endless islands to explore, a stunning mainland beyond anything I could picture, and possibly my favorite food in the world. We sailed the Saronic Islands in 2017, and the Ionian Islands in 2019, and I literally think you could do a different 2 week sailing trip every summer and still see different islands every time.

Our trip this time around started on an amazing note, at one of my new favourite hostels, Sunrock Corfu. This place is family run, and all the children are there helping out and working, and love to chat with guests. The drinks are wonderful, the nearby beaches perfect and not too far away, AND for 25 Euros, you get breakfast AND dinner included. The family dinners were so nice, with everyone gathering at night to indulge in some home-cooked Greek food and swap travel stories. I would die for that salad, and although some meals were better than others, I left happy every night.

The view from the terrace

Hostel dogs!!!!

As for getting there, I probably wouldn’t recommend what we did. We thought we’d save some time/money with an overnight bus from Athens – usually we sleep pretty well, so we didn’t think it would be a problem. However, you are only on the bus for like a 4 hour stretch and then you have to get off, walk on to a ferry, then do the reverse. I am honestly unsure how long the ferry takes because I passed out on the ferry chairs, sleeping so deeply that when I woke up I had no idea where I was and once I figured it out, thought that I had just been left on the ferry by everyone else.

Just go during the day, it will be much more pleasant. However, when you get to Corfu port it is quite easy to get to the hostel. Ideally, you would rent a car, but we didn’t want to drive so we scheduled the hostel to come pick us up. They charge 10 Eur – not for the car, per person, which is pretty reasonable. When we came back we opted for the bus, and the instructions on the website are really clear. However, the walk to/from the bus stop to the hostel is VERY steep and uncomfortable with big bags, so one time we hitch-hiked it, and that went fine!

Finally, for the boat! We spent another 6 nights of bliss, excessive binge drinking, and swimming in an unbelievably clear sea with Medsailors. Just like last time, it’s hard to write about this – I didn’t really take note of the names of each island, because it didn’t really matter.

We discussed which route in Greece we preferred (this was the Ionian, we did the Saronic two years ago) and it’s a hard tossup. There were many more people on the Saronic route, probably eight boats, versus the three boats we were travelling with this time. The islands/towns that we visited themselves, however, I much preferred this time. The towns were more scenic, with stunning views around every corner, and every swimming spot we stopped at was surrounded by sea caves and towering white cliffs. The water was clearer almost everywhere we went, and we saw fewer tourists. However, do I think you can have a BAD time on either of these routes? Nope!

Our skipper’s name was Charlie, and he was absolutely hilarious, as all the skippers seem to be. We bonded with almost everyone on all three of the boats, including the lead skipper – who just so happened to be the same lead skipper we had on the Saronic route! Highlights of the route were as follows:

This one town with really cool views

We went to this lovely little martini bar overlooking the ocean and watched the sunset. This was probably the most touristy island we visited, but it was gorgeous. Iggy Beach

Hey I remember the name of this one!! Medsailors has a private beach where they organize a bonfire, watersports (for an extra charge) and it was so much fun! We even made them give us the aux cord, which I’m sure they regretted. We had a blast and it was so cool to have it all to ourselves.

Spending time with Haley

Haley is one of my favourite travel buddies ever and we have so much fun together, even though we often hate eachother’s guts and make no secret of it!! I love spending so much time with her on these boat trips, specifically in our floating donuts that we purchased to avoid having to tread water. Solo travel is great, but I was thrilled to be reunited with my lil buddy.

Best of 2019

Every year, I write these massive recap posts with my favorite highlights of the year, even when I have been terrible about blogging for the rest of the year. I’ve done 2016, 2017, and 2018, and now it is time to recap the best of 2019 – one of the craziest years of my life. I am never quite sure if these are interesting to anyone else, but I look back at them SO much myself, so here you go!!

In 2018, I moved home to Nova Scotia. At the very end of the year, I met a boy – and I can’t make that a highlight because it technically happened in 2018 but it was definitely one of the most important parts of my year. However, I also went on a 4.5 month trip so I have a LOT of travel highlights. I could make this a list of 50 things, but for everyone’s sake I will try to condense slightly. These are in chronological order, and a strange number of them are specifically about hostels. Also, I  made this cool map of my round the world trip so for reference – here is my route!

map

Continuing to explore Nova Scotia

100% the best part of having a boyfriend has been having someone to drag on weekend trips with me – especially someone who can drive. A side perk is that we also have a blast together on these weekend trips! In February we stayed at the most charming little farm Airbnb in rural Nova Scotia and despite the freezing temperatures it was so cozy in the cabin with a woodstove. This is where we decided we were officially dating, so it will always have such cute little memories for me 🙂

We also went to my cottage for his birthday weekend right before I left on my trip, which holds a few more mixed emotions..but I LOVE my family cottage and I loved showing it to him.

When I got back, I dragged him on another weekend trip to make sure he still liked me! We drove up to Cape Breton and stayed in a YURT which I have been wanting to do ever since I learned what a yurt was. We hiked, got hit by a car at a gas station (super fun), and I even had a few driving lessons. It was lovely and a great way to end summer.

Biking around the North Shore of Oahu

The beginning of my trip was REALLY fricking hard, and I wrote about it here, but one evening was where I remembered how much I loved travel and almost cried because I was so happy. When my friends and I biked back from an evening of drinking on Sunset Beach, it was pitch black and we kept going down the wrong path and one of our bikes didn’t work, and it was absolutely pouring down. I couldn’t stop laughing, and I knew that everything was going to be okay.

Snorkelling in the Gilis, Indonesia

During my 3 nights on Gili Trawangan, I didn’t do much except eat and drink. One day, however, I went out on a full-day snorkelling tour for the crazy good price of $10!! It certainly wasn’t the best snorkelling tour I’ve ever been on – the boat was old, lunch wasn’t included, and every single boat went to the same spots at the same time, but….$10. I jumped off the top of the boat, got stung by jellyfish, made amazing new friends and started to fall completely in love with this corner of the world and its amazingly affordable adventures.

Hearing the Dalai Lama Speak

I already wrote about this in my Best of India post. It wasn’t a perfect day, and it ended with some severe illness, BUT I saw the real life Dalai Lama in person and heard him speak and I will never forget it!

Wandering off the Beaten Path in Sikkim, India

Sikkim left the best impression of India, and made me yearn to explore the areas nearby – Bhutan, Tibet, Nepal.

I felt like a really intrepid explorer, wandering through a place that had very little written about it on the internet, and entering a province where you needed a permit. This was a bit of a hindrance, because as a solo traveler you need other foreigners to travel the most beautiful areas with, but it was still worth every long Jeep ride and I met a few really amazing people.

Exploring Athens with my parents

Athens is one of my favorite cities in the world, and I LOVE when I get to meet up with my parents on my travels. I flew to Athens, so thrilled to be leaving India, and so excited to be reunited with my parents in the beautiful Airbnb they booked. We had a great time exploring in the heat, eating yummy food and I’m sure they were glad to see me alive!!

My precious backpacker parents!!!!!

Exploring the Greek Islands by Yacht (again)

Honestly, the best thing in the world is living on a yacht. My hair is always full of salt, the beers are never cold, and trying to sleep in a tiny unventilated cabin is a challenge, but man, it is blissful. Add that to the fact that I was reunited with my best little travel buddy Haley, and I get a bit teary when I think about this week.

The islands and sea caves that we moored at were breathtaking and I really couldn’t process that I was there – but that might have been the hangover. Time seemed to slow down and speed up simultaneously, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Hiking in Albania from Theth to Valbona

In the remote northern mountains of Albania, we took one of the most scenic ferry rides in the world and then stayed at a warm and cozy homestay where meals were served lovingly by the matriarch, teaching our new friends cribbage and falling asleep to the sound of pounding rain on the peaks. The next day, we hiked for almost 12 hours through a mountain pass, the views getting more beautiful every second. We passed locals who waved gleefully, including one particular character who was dressed in a full suit and seemingly just doing this hike with no effort while we panted up every incline. The summit was freezing cold and the patches of sun were burning hot, and we snapped at eachother as we got more and more tired, but even our crankiness couldn’t mar our awe. At the end of the hike, we sat at the first restaurant we saw and ordered beers and french fries, and both of them were the most amazing things we had ever tasted. We managed to lug ourselves to a guesthouse, checked into the first room they showed us, and slept for hours and hours after a delectable 7 course dinner. In the morning, a worker introduced us to FOUR PUPPIES and bought us coffee before we headed off back to the nearest city, blissful and relaxed despite our aching muscles.

Really, just all of Albania

The above anecdote pretty accurately sums up our time in Albania. It was one of the most amazing places I have ever been. Every single local we met went out of their way to befriend us and help us and give us countless free beers and shots of raki. The hostels were never more than 10 Euros a night and they were some of the most beautiful boutique hostels I have ever seen. The food is incredible, the beer is less than a Euro, the scenery changes as you travel the country from top to bottom but it is unfailingly beautiful. I can’t wait to share more about my new favourite country, but go now, before everyone else discovers it – as long as you are comfortable with a little bit of chaos any time you try to get anywhere!

I was this happy the whole time I was in Albania

Paradise at the Grove Hostel in Montenegro

There are some hostels that just feel like home. When we arrived at the Grove, we knew this was going to be one of them. We had just endured a very long journey from northern Albania on a very intense hangover, and it was a million degrees. We arrived to a family dinner and a free beer, before we were each given our OWN DOUBLE BED in a dorm. For 10 Euros, you get this bed, you get access to family dinners (5 Eur a night for absolutely incredible food), 1 Eur beers, and get this – the hostel staff rounds up a group to drive off for an activity every day. We went to a beautiful local beach, and I wish we had stayed longer to experience more of the surroundings. As it was, we didn’t need to leave except to walk up to nearby Stari Bar for an iced coffee or groceries. If I ever open a hostel, I want it to be just like this one.

I have three photos from Montenegro. Here is one.

Celebrating my Best Friend’s Birthday in Serbia

Haley and I had been travelling together for about a month before we got to Belgrade, arriving just in time for her 25th birthday. Basically I can sum up our time in Belgrade with the following:

  1. We got tattoos from a guy who….didn’t speak very good English
  2. We bought the cheapest bottle of vodka in the store, which we literally had to open with a knife because it didn’t have a CAP
  3. There was no cap, so we drank all of the vodka (sharing some, of course, with our new friends) and had a truly ridiculous night out.

….this is the only photo I have from Belgrade. And possibly the worst photo of myself ever. So I am putting it on the internet.

10/10, Serbia rocks.

Returning to Cheers Hostel

I stayed at Cheers Hostel in Istanbul four years ago and I literally have not shut up about it since. I dragged Haley here and she was immediately sold when she heard about the golden retriever. The hostel owner remembered me and my sister, asked how she was doing, and was thrilled to hear she was getting married in the fall. The view from the bar upstairs was even more stunning than I remembered, and the rooms just as cozy. And of course, Zaman the dog is still a sweet pure angel from heaven.

I did have a very different time here – we went out a LOT. It was our last 3 nights together and again, we immediately made some amazing friends.

Pretending I Lived in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv was my first intro to the real Middle East, after a few days in Istanbul. I stayed at Hostel Florentine, and I had a few nights before my friends arrived to join me for our Middle Eastern leg. I was exhausted from our last night in Istanbul, where I literally went from a nightclub to the airport (that’s another story) and I really thought I was going to get a good night’s sleep in Tel Aviv. However, I forced myself to socialize so I headed up to the communal rooftop. I inserted myself into a group of chatting travelers, we started playing drinking games, and the next thing I knew we had a little family. This hostel was another place where you immediately feel at home, and if Israel wasn’t so expensive I would have loved indulging in all of the nearby restaurants and bars – I mean I still loved it, but I also had a pang every time I handed over my shekels.

Tel Aviv’s beach is amazing, and I love how open Israelis are – random groups of friends would come over us to chat, and not in a weird hitting-on-us way, they literally just wanted to chat. I knew I would like Tel Aviv, and what do you know – I was right.

A New Best Friend in Egypt

On my G Adventures tour in Egypt, I got paired with a roommate who I immediately disliked. I have no idea why, because 5 minutes into the next day we were giggling in the souks and buying eachother friendship necklaces. We had an absolute blast ditching our tour to do activities on our own to save money, finding the nearest pool and grabbing a beer, gossiping on the overnight train from Cairo to Luxor (I love overnight trains SO MUCH), jumping off the top of our traditional felucca boat into the Nile, and having Instagram photoshoots at every temple we visited. Andrea was so there for me during a week that I was very emotionally overwrought, and I am so thankful that we were roomed together!

One Last Hurrah in Dublin

I arrived in Dublin sick, tired from several long layovers and redeye flights, and to be honest, I was excited to get home. I had one last night at a hostel before I went back to my family, my dog, my home and the boy I was pretty sure I was in love with. I could have just slept for 16 hours, but I decided I needed to have one last big night: and thus I did. As had become so natural to me after 4.5 months, I met a friend in the common area and Hannah and I teamed up for the hostel pub crawl and headed over as it started to rain. We drank many Guinnesses (I don’t even like Guinnesses), did many free shots, and stumbled home around 5AM – I had to be up at 8AM for a VERY important flight. I made it, passed out for the duration, and disembarked in Halifax to power-walk through the airport and cry in my parents’ arms.

The one photo I took in Dublin. LOL.

My Sister’s Wedding

My older sister Anna got married in October!!!! She lives in Winnipeg, but the wedding was at a beautiful oceanside resort near Halifax. It was literally the perfect day, and I cried a LOT, especially at my parents’ speeches. It was amazing to meet my new brother-in-law’s entire family and we had a lovely few days of celebrations.

My wonderful family!!!

Coming Home

I never would have thought that moving back to Nova Scotia would feel like this much of a highlight, but I am so happy to be back. I returned to a promotion, so I now run my very own travel agency. I also returned to the previously discussed boy, and at the beginning of December I moved into his house. We have a Christmas tree, a chore schedule, and I have never felt so domestic, or so happy.

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

I felt ALL the feelings this year, saw some of the most iconic places in the world and literally circumnavigated the globe. But the biggest lesson that I learned is how to be happy in one place. However, that doesn’t mean I’ll stop travelling…very much the opposite! In the next 6 months I have a work trip to Southeast Asia, and I’m introducing my boyfriend to the backpacker life with 2 weeks in Peru. I can’t wait to see what 2020 holds.

Sailing the Greek Islands with MedSailors

To be honest, I was very apprehensive before I embarked on my first real tour experience, sailing the Greek islands with Medsailors. A university friend, Haley, and I wanted to explore some more off the beaten path islands, and we found this trip that seemed to tick all of the boxes.

But I’m so used to travelling solo: what if I hated everyone on our boat?! Worse, what if I hated travelling with Haley and it ruined our friendship?? What if the water scared me (long-held phobia of deep water here) and I couldn’t even enjoy the trip? What if I got seasick?

All of my fears were totally unfounded. Sure, the trip wasn’t perfect, but I was worried about the wrong things.

Off on our adventure!

I should have worried that I’d finally fall in love with the ocean and develop a totally misguided desire to get my sailing certification.

I should have worried about the cute British boy I’d meet, because what is ever going to beat a summer romance aboard a yacht in the Greek islands??

I should have worried about how quickly I’d want to sign up for a trip with MedSailors next summer in one of their other destinations (Italy, Croatia, Turkey, the Caribbean).

And most of all, I should have worried about how on earth I was going to write a blog post, because I took a grand total of two photos during our week on the boat. My phone died on the first day and I just never picked it back up – leading to the most relaxing week of all time.

Not a photo from this part of the trip. Still like it.

I may write another post with more logistical details and like, helpful information, but for my own sake I just wanted to document the highlights of the trip….and there were a lot.

Will this be interesting for anyone but me? Maybe not!!

Highlights of a Week Sailing Greece

  • Waking up in the morning and jumping directly into the ocean, feeling 0% of my customary terror despite the unknown depth of the water. The hangovers on this trip would have been approximately 10,000% worse if we didn’t have the ocean to cure our ails.
  • The endless naps in endless locations on our yacht, feeling the September sun beating down on me as I dozed. There is literally no better feeling. Did everyone on my boat make fun of me for napping so much? Yes. Still worth it.

  • Sitting on the back of an ATV as we circumnavigated the island of Spetses, feeling the hot wind and staring at the islands in the distance: drenched in heat-haze, I wondered what they were called and if they were all this beautiful.
  • Watching the moon rise while moored in the harbor at Epidavros, unable to remember if I had ever actually watched the moon for this long before.

  • The club we went to in Agistri on the last night of the trip: it had this slow strobe goin’ on that just made you feel like the greatest dancer on earth, and everybody on all ten boats was the best of friends at this point: it’ll be hard for any future partying to top this wild night.
  • Sitting on our boat late one evening, missing a group event to talk about horoscopes and analyze eachothers’ innermost feelings. Turns out I need to date an earth sign, someone who will ground me. Who knew!!
  • Playing drinking games late into the night with our boat and the British boys we had met, watching the stars and laughing with these people from all around the world who we already had an amazing amount of inside jokes with.