After our magical adventure came to end, I had a little time to reflect back on some things I learned. I'm glad that I had a chance to learn them, but I also wish that I had known these things before I left! So, I'm going to share my new found knowledge with you for your next trip.. wherever and whenever it may be!
- It’s safest not to drink the water. Not because it’s ‘bad’ but because the mineral content is different than the U.S. If someone from another country came to the U.S. and drank the water, it could make them sick. America, we do not have magical perfect water.
- Unless you’re an expert on the location, those little audio tours could be a good idea. If you can get over the fact that it looks totally dorky, you’ll learn a load of interesting information that you would have not found out otherwise.
- Use Airbnb.com a website where people rent out an entire apartment or a private room of their home. Doing this saved us hundreds of dollars and we had more amenities than a typical hotel would offer.
- Pack light, some busses and subways don’t let people on with luggage.. and.. no one wants to lug around huge suitcases for 2 weeks! We used 3 backpacks. I wore one on my belly and one on my back.. and BHW wore the biggest one.
- A data plan on your cell phone is extremely useful, but expensive. If you want a cheaper but less inclusive option; buy a map and download viber/whatsapp/skype.
- Respect your elders, no matter what country you’re in.
- Write about your adventures. The details are usually the most interesting, but the easiest to forget.
- Wear proper shoes to the airport, you never know when you’ll have to run to your gate.
- Most places you’ll visit, there will be people there that know enough English to ‘get by’.. but be polite and at least learn a few key words in their language (hello, bye, thank you, please, sorry, excuse me, etc). Don’t expect the world to cater to you because you speak English.
- If you’re staying somewhere longer than a day or two, find a market and buy groceries, even if its just snack foods and microwave meals. It will save you so much money rather than having to go out 3 times a day and every other time that you’re hungry.
- Fly with Lufthansa when at all possible, free alcohol.
- Sitting on the wing seat in an airplane may be a smoother ride, but you'll probably miss out on some incredible views.
- A smile is universal.
- Always carry currency from the country you’re in, many places in the world aren’t so keen on using plastic, and don't ever expect anyone to take your American dollars, they're just like the water.. not magical.
- Make sure to try and see landmarks in the day and then again at night, both views are spectacular in their own ways.
- People seem to emphasize the ‘DELL’ in Philadelphia. If you say it the way Americans typically say it, you’ll get a confused look for a moment.
- When you say you’re from the United States people will pause, think, and say AMERICA! OBAMA!
- Check what time landmarks/monuments/museums close it could be as early as 3PM.. plan accordingly.
- No matter where you go and how well you planned, things will go wrong; all the road signs you need will be spray painted over, you will get the stomach flu, you will get lost in the mountains surrounded by sheep. But things will also go right; you will accidentally book a villa 20 minutes from a world class beach, you will experience new cultures, and you will come away feeling like a new person!
Thank you Crete, thank you for your wonderful mountains and your beautiful beaches. I will return, I promise.
- I would rent a car if I were you, the island is fairly small and the roads are manageable to navigate.. there also isn't much of a public transportation option. If you want to see the island's best, rent a car.
- And when you do rent a car, don't rent from an American company (Hertz, etc), they're WAY expensive. Find a local place, in the airport main lobby, and rent from there. It will be significantly cheaper and your car will be just as nice.
- If you're going to drive slowly, do so on the shoulder of the road. You know, that place on the road that you're supposed to avoid in America? The one where you pull over when you're caught speeding? Yeah, drive on that. It's basically another lane here in Crete.
- The island isn't too big and nothing seems too far, distance wise, but don't forget the entire island is cut in half west to east by huge mountains. Get ready for some hairpin turns and ear-popping altitudes.
- It's windy all the time.
- Eat fish, but make sure you know what fish you're ordering. You may end up with a plate full of tiny fish that you have to rip the heads off of.
- Yes, there really is only one main highway on the entire island.
- You have to work to see Crete's most prized possessions. There are no easy ways to see Samaria Gorge or their world class beaches. It will involve dangerous drives and exhausting hikes, both of which are completely worth it.
- Don't order dessert, you get one for free at the end of the meal anyways, complete with a drink called ouzo. Don't drink the ouzo unless you're ready to grow hair on your chest.
- The tourists flock from April-September and when you go outside of these times, you will likely be the only person in any establishment you go into.
As our time in Athens came to an end, I decided to write a little post about some things I learned, in particular, while in Athens.
- There is more to the City than The Acropolis. We planned a lot of our trip using Trip Advisor Itineraries. Don't forget to check out Vouligmeni Lake and Mount Lycabettus.
- The Parthenon and The Acropolis are two totally different things. Saying they're the same is like saying the Empire State Building is New York City.
- And while we're on the topic of The Acropolis, don't wear flip flops. You'll slip and slide everywhere and look dumb, you also can't go barefoot, just trust me.
- Nothing is too far via the subway.
- If you're going to get sick, don't do it on a Saturday, most pharmacies are closed.
- People are nice and proud of their city. They want you to see the best of it and will give the tips to do so.
- The water is hard, don't forget lotion.
- If someone gives you a rose and says it's free, it's not.
- The place is riddled with graffiti, but not with trash.
Now, I won't say I'm 'well-traveled' but I have gone on quite a few trips, many out of the country. Those of you who have known me for years, know that I was, at one point in my life, quite materialistic. Since meeting BHW (the husband), I've learned to live with quite a bit less. No worries, I still own upwards of 30 pairs of Converse, it's my guilty pleasure. I just thought I'd share a few things I've learned over the years of traveling and lugging my things here, there, and everywhere.
- Don't you dare spend $30 in the airport on a coffee, magazine, and a snack for the plane. I mean, seriously! You haven't even begun your trip and you're already indulging in the first things you see! Save your money for something special; Get a hearty meal in you before you head to the airport, buy your snacks at the grocery store, and bring a book that will last you more than the 10 minutes that Cosmopolitan will.
- Call your parents/loved ones before you leave, and during the trip. Trust me, they're probably worried sick about you. Hoping you remembered clean underwear and your toothbrush. Let them worry (it's their nature!) but also let them know you've got it under control (hopefully!).
- You can wear 1 pair of pants for a solid 5 days before anyone notices. No need to pack 2,396 outfits for the 8 day trip you're on. Pack things that can match with the other things your packing. Think solids and simple patterns. I normally pack one comfy pair of pants and a pair of jeans, a few shirts, a cardigan or sweater, a pair of sturdy walking shoes, sandals (if you're going somewhere warm), a rain coat, and a dressy outfit for the occasional nice dinner out. It's also important to check out if the places you're staying have access to a washer and dryer, that could significantly lighten your load! Just pack half of what you normally would, wash it all halfway through the trip, and when you wear it the second time around.. make sure to mix up the outfits a little! No one wants to be caught wearing the same outfit in pictures!
- Pack a change of clothes on your carry-on. Anyone remember this post from my Eurotrip?! Yeah, please don't let that happen to you, PLEASE.
- Bring cash. Not everywhere you go will have the ability to process your credit/debit card. And from my experience, the best places to go to are the ones that are cash only!
- Take pictures, with you in it! I take pictures all day every day. It's my way to document the crazy, or not so crazy, life I live. One thing I realized is how little pictures I have of me.. or my husband for that matter! I have beautiful pictures of places and things, but none with us in it. Who cares if you look like a 'tourist', these are once in a lifetime moments! And don't be embarrassed to ask someone to take your picture, everyone does it and many people are willing to help you capture a special moment! Don't forget to say 'cheese!'
At our wedding we had the guests vote on where they thought we should go for our honeymoon, and they voted Greece! So, 11 months later, we are finally making the journey! Turkey and Greece, here we come!