I’m back from Greece! And let me tell you, ten days was absolutely NOT enough time. So much to see and do, we were always moving at a quick pace. From Zakynthos Island and ocean fun, to the mountain town of Arahova exploring the ruins of Delphi. Then to Athens learning about immigrations issues and exploring the Parthenon atop the Acropolis. Ending our trip in Nafplio, we had a free evening exploring the first capital of Greece.
There were so many incredible things we did, even in the short days we spent at each location. I was lucky enough to experience some of the most incredible views in Greece, and meet some amazing people. Our first guides, Polyna and Arsen, were so down to earth and humble. They showed us the beauty of Zakynthos and taught us many things about the environment of the island. From Arahova to Nafplio, we had the pleasure of adventuring with Ioanna as our guide. She pushed us with some tough hikes/climbs, and shared some in-depth details about the history of the places we visited.
Let’s start with Zakynthos. I won’t ramble on about everything, just a quick list of what we did. We roomed in cozy “bungalows” for two nights while on the island. Our first day started with a visit to a locally owned winery, followed by a trip to an olive oil factory. Then we spent two hours relaxing by the Ionian Sea and ended the night with a Greek celebration. On the second day we did a short morning hike through some olive groves, then spent the majority of the day on a boat; we saw turtles, explored some underwater caves, and caught some evening sun rays on Turtle Island.
Our next adventure took us to Arahova. From the ocean to the mountains in less than one day! We explored the ruins of Delphi, and enjoyed dinner in town. The next day was comprised of a hike to a goat shepherd’s house, where we were treated to some fresh bread, goat cheese, and wine! The trek back down from the hike was much tougher than I expected, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing about the amazing views we got to see from our trail. At the bottom, we were treated to another meal, spit-roasted lamb, with lots of other dishes and of course, more wine. The rest of our evening was free to explore town.
From Arahova, we moved on quickly to Athens! Upon arriving in the early afternoon we explored some of the ruins in the city and then headed to dinner. The next day started with a meeting with the International Office of Migration, learning about the massive amounts of immigrants entering Greece, as well as a little bit about the human trafficking issues. After a heavy morning, we climbed up the the ruins of the Parthenon! Our stay in Athens was short, but jam-packed, and after a evening of drinks with Ioanna and some of my other classmates, we got ready for our next day departure to Nafplio.
Nafplio was GORGEOUS. A small town, full of history. We had the option to climb up 999 steps to the top of Palamidi Castle and I had to jump on the opportunity. The view was well worth it. We spent a single night in Nafplio, so most of our evening was spent enjoying the town’s little shops, and the same thing the next morning. Leaving Greece was difficult, but this little town on the coast was the perfect end to an indescribable trip.
I am still in shock that I had the opportunity to visit such a beautiful country, and learn about more than just where the best tourist spots are. And to think this was a mandatory trip, for course credit?! I feel so lucky to have met Polyna, Arsen, and Ioanna. All incredible individuals who offer so much of themselves to the world. I truly appreciate everything that these kind souls did for us, and hope to visit them again in the future so I can soak up more of their knowledge and beauty.
Being surrounded by beautiful views, and even more beautiful people (inside and out), led me to doing quite a bit of reflecting. While traveling on the bus from town to town, or relaxing in my room after a long day of adventure, I took time to look inward.
On our second night in Zakynthos, I thought a lot about what might be stopping me from getting the best experience out of everything. I realized that I had always been the only thing stopping me from being outgoing, or from fully enjoying every moment. I thought to myself, “Don’t let yourself be the wall that you cannot get past.” I know I must be open to everything, willing to let things affect me in ways I can’t put into words, and stop being afraid of change. While concept isn’t new to the world, it took me some time to finally figure it out for myself!
I’ve also come to realize how wonderful it is to be disconnected from the world of technology. While I enjoy sharing my travels via Instagram and Facebook, I feel so much more in the moment when I leave my phone behind and truly open my eyes to what is around me. I saw just how often my generation uses cell phones to capture pictures, and how desperate we are for any spot of wifi to connect with our parents and friends from home. I’ll do my best to continue capturing photos, but rather than taking hundreds, a few will suffice and I can enjoy the moment without technology interrupting.
Although a bit long, I’ll end my post with this: relationships are everything. And I’m not talking about romantic ones! Meeting people, engaging in meaningful conversations, indulging in late nights with laughter and new friends to create lasting connections around the world is priceless. I am so thankful for my time in Greece, and our wonderful guides who we grew close to in a short amount of time. After getting to know Polyna, Arsen, and Ioanna, they all truly meant it when they asked us students to return any time for future visits (maybe with families of our own!).
I can’t wait to make more connections as I start my first week of school, and look forward to the rest of my time studying in Italy!
Until next time, grazie per leggendo! xx