Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Eurotrip Part 4 - The end of the trip of a lifetime

Home, bittersweet home. After 3 and a half months of traveling the world, I've returned home and it is a very strange feeling indeed. Towards the end of July, I was excited but extremely nervous to be leaving my job, the comforts of home and all of my friends behind to go and explore the world. That feeling of nervousnous was very quickly forgotten and reality of everyday life back home soon became a distant memory. Staying in rooms with 8 other people, having to catch a flight or bus on little or no sleep, figuring my way around foreign countries without speaking the language and meeting amazing people in every place I went soon became my new normal. There is a travel quote that says, "you will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place". This is basically exactly how I'm feeling after arriving home and I think it's going to take some time to get back to reality. However, I'm sure I have plenty of adventures still to come. In the meantime, here are a few stories from my last few weeks overseas. 

Of all of the places I visited throughout Europe, I have to say that Rome was probably my least favourite city as it's just so busy and so full of tourists (yes I know I was one of them). After arriving, I was incredibly happy I delayed my flight by a day and stayed in Budapest to go paintballing because after a couple of days, Rome was enough. That's not to say I had a terrible time. I explored the Colosseum and the Vatican and was reunited with my Canadian friend from Berlin, Brandon. 

As it turns out, I was lucky to even be let in to the Vatican. It was a hot day and I was wearing shorts and a singlet and arrived to see signs with crosses stating that anyone in my attire would not be let in. Having already purchased my ticket, I tried to make it look as though my legs were at least covered by tying my jacket around my waist. I was in luck and security let me through! I didn't know what to expect as I'm not religious nor am I a huge art fan but I was quite blown away by the Vatican and all of the artwork it holds along with the architecture of the buildings. Definitely something worth seeing.  
Brandon and I booked a day trip to the coast of Italy to climb Mt Vesuvias and explore the ruins of Pompeii. This was one of my favourite days! Climbing Vesuvius, an active volcano, was amazing and one of the best things I've done. We had about the most boring tour guide I've ever had for our Pompeii trip but it was still a great experience, and a little overwhelming, to see what remained of the city of Pompeii.

Florence & Venice 
      After a few days in Rome, the beautiful city of Florence was a nice change. I'll admit, the majority if my time in this city was spent eating food and drinking wine.. Hence why I loved it so much! But that's what Italy's all about right?


It was in Florence that I ran into Luke who I met briefly in Rome. Luke is a fellow Tasmanian and we discovered we had a lot of friends in common. We also discovered that we had a very similar background and reason behind our travels. Luke had also lost his little sister to cancer. We bonded over our pasts and immediately became great friends. Luke and I found a great Italian food market with fresh pasta and delicious wine. We took our American friend Max there (so we could visit a second time) and found it to be a great place to get trapped when a thunderstorm broke out that night. 

Whilst in Florence, I also did a day trip to Pisa and the beautiful Cinque Terra. This whole day turned out to be a little bit of a disaster with out trains being constantly delayed but we made the most of it and got to experience one of the prettiest places in Italy. At the end of the night, waiting for another delayed train, we decided to buy some red wine to split amongst a few of us in the group. So the night ended with us drinking red wine from McDonalds cups at the train station (classy I know!).



After Florence I spent a night in Venice which was another beautiful city. One night was enough as it was a nice place to visit and to see but other that than, there wasn't a terrible lot to do and it was extremely expensive. After a night in Venice, I set off to London! 


I arrived in London and was reunited with my friend Katy whom I met in Greece. Katy and her housemates were kind enough to let me stay for the 6 nights of my visit. I was so grateful to have a bit of a break from hostels and just relax for a few nights. 

My first day in London was one I'd been looking forward to for quite some time - the Harry Potter movie tour!!! Growing up, I was a huge fan of the Harry Potter books (not ashamed at all) and had read them all about 10 times. This was such a great day to see how the movies were made and also to see a lot of the sets and props including Privet Drive and Diagon Alley. Katy and I also tried Butterbeer which turned out to be awful. But the day itself was amazing and everything I'd hoped for since I was a young muggle dreaming that someday I'd get to go to Hogwarts.



F.    The following day, Katy became a tour guide (a great one at that) and took me on a walking tour around the major sights of London - the London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace etc. We also bought tickets to see Once on West End which was a great show and had us both in tears by the end (typical girls). 



      Whilst in London, we also managed to catch up with our New Zealand friends who we also met in Greece - James, Christian and Michael who had a house party one of the nights I was there. Prior to the party we'd been laying on the couch watching the Harry Potter movies after our movie your.. But decided that seeing as I'm never in London, we should actually leave the house. 

      I had such a great time in London but after 6 nights, it was time to head to New York! 

      New York 
      New York was not in my original Europe plans but I decided that it was much cheaper and closer for me to visit from London than it was for Austrlaia so I booked to go and didn't regret it. 


      My first night, I met up with some of my clients from back home in Melbourne who were away as part of their Christmas party. We had a really nice dinner and then ventured to a fancy rooftop bar in which I got an incredible view of the city. Having been backpacking for several months, I only had one pair of shoes - my Converse sneakers. I was a little nervous I wouldn't get into a fancy bar in these but luckily, they didn't seem to notice my feet!

      Feeling quite jet lagged after the flight from London I had planned to sleep in the following morning but in true hostel form, had a room mate who set her alarm for 7am and didn't hear the alarm for about an hour. This happened 2 days in a row and lacking sleep, I asked to switch rooms but as it turned out, said roommate had to leave that day! 

      New York was a lot of fun with so much to do. My favourite part was definitely Broadway. As a singer, I love any sort of musical performance so to be able to see a couple of shows on Broadway was a dream come true. I was able to get cheap front row tickets to The Lion King which I had been wanting to see for years and also saw The Book of Mormon which was the funniest show I've ever seen. I also ate dinner in a restaurant in which the waiters all sing whilst you eat your meal as practice for them to try and make it to Broadway. 


       I saw a lot while in New York. I was staying in Brooklyn so it was a great contrast to see the trendy neighbourhood of Brooklyn compared to busy city of Manhattan. I also took a walk along the Brooklyn Bridge, saw the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building and took a visit to Ground Zero where I was a little alarmed to see that they were charging people to enter a museum. It didn't seem right that such a tragedy had been turned into a means to make money from tourists. I also met a local named Teddy who showed me around Central Park and invited me out with him and his friends. 


      After I'd seen a lot of New York, I decided to head to Canada a little earlier than I'd originally planned so I booked an overnight bus and arrived early Monday morning with my Canadian friend Steve waiting to pick me up. 

      Aaaah Canada - one of the best, but also one of the hardest parts of my trip. Meeting somebody I really liked from a continent halfway across the world was never going to be an easy goodbye. However, the time that I did spend there was a lot of fun and I wouldn't take it back. 

      I stayed with Steve and his family in the suburb of Burlington, about an hour away from Toronto. Burlington was a beautiful place that looked like it was out of a movie with big colorful autumn trees and perfect double story suburban houses. After almost a week here I decided I would love to live in a neighbourhood like this where all of the neighbour's are friends and all of the kids have grown up together. Steve's family were some of the nicest people I've ever met and were extremely welcoming in having me in their home.

      We spent a day in Toronto being tourist as visiting the CN Tower (114 stories high) and the aquarium.  

G.   Glass floor at the CN Tower



Ou. Our next day as tourist was spent at Niagara Falls which was somewhere I'd always wanted to visit. We got a great deal which included accommodation, dinner vouchers, laser tag, mini golf, a mirror maze, a haunted house and a whole heap of arcade game vouchers (my Guitar Hero and basketball skills have improved dramatically). Fair to say, we had a lot of fun. And of course, I got to see the Falls. We visited at day and night so I could see them lit up at night as well as see them clearly in the day time. The Falls were as beautiful as I imagined. Our Niagara getaway was one of my favourite parts of my entire trip. 


       I also got to meet a few of Steve's friends for Halloween in which we both wore our Oktoberfest costumes. I had been very excited for Halloween being it's not a huge event in Australia and was excited to see all of the pumpkins on everyone front porches throughout the week. Going to Canada, I was also hoping to see snow. On the day after Halloween I got my wish and it snowed first thing in the morning! 


      The rest of the time we spent relaxing. Steve's family had a hot tub at their house which was great when it was so cold outside! Then came the time I had to say goodbye to my favourite Canadian and I was embarrassingly quite upset when he dropped me off at the airport. 
      After Steve dropped me off, things only got worse. As I'd taken a bus instead of catching my original flight from New York, the airline had canceled my return flight and it was going to cost me $300 to book another flight. So I was stranded in Buffalo, not really sure what to do. Eventually I managed to find an 8 hour train for $100 so I took this option. 

       I spent 2 more nights in New York. I was able to catch up with another friend from Greece, Kara who arrived the day before I had to leave. Kara and I explored the shops of 5th Avenue, picked out our engagement rings at Tiffanys (yes we're both single and pathetic.. get in line boys) and took a walk around Central Park.


       I also caught up with Teddy again who took me to a really cool restaurant where we got to eat in the wine cellar. 

      The following day I got up at 5.30am to catch my flight back to London before heading to Paris the following day. I wasn't having much luck with airports because I turned up to find they'd overbooked my flight by 50 people. They couldn't fit me on the flight but booked me a flight directly to Paris later that night and gave me a $700 flight voucher.. So at least I won't have to pay for flights for my next holiday! I'm thinking maybe a white Christmas somewhere next year.

      I was quite exhausted by the time I arrived in Paris and spent most of the first day sleeping. I did get up to go and see Notre Dame later in the afternoon and that night my friend Cyril who I was staying with for a couple of nights showed me the sights of Paris at night time.



      The following day, I relived my child hood and went to Disneyland. 

The next day I went to stay with an old work friend, Ollie and his girlfriend Lauren for my last couple of nights in Paris. During this time, they showed me some more of the sights of Paris including Sacre Coeur, a wall that had "I Love You" painted in every language and a delicious creperie where I had a Nutella and banana crepe. 


       I also visited the Louvre and I went to a show at the Moulin Rouge. I was very happy to find that I was seated at the front row table at the Moulin Rouge. My little sister had always wanted to see a show at the Moulin Rouge so I'd promised myself I'd go, no matter what the cost. I think my sister was definitely with me that night as I got picked to go up on stage as part of one of the acts and had to pretend to be a ventriloquists dummie. My sister would have loved to see the look of horror on my face when I got called up on stage!



After a final breakfast consisting of fresh croissants, I said goodbye to Ollie and Lauren and made my way to the airport for my flight home. After 20 hours of flying, I arrived safe and sound in Melbourne and was met by my good friends Kristy and Shannon at the airport. 

      The best parts 
       I still can't quite believe that my trip is over and as I've mentioned before, the best part about it was definitely the people I met along the way. It was absolutely the trip of a lifetime and I did everything I'd wanted to do (in saying that, I've also found so many other places to add to my bucket list). These are some of the highlights of the past 4 months (in no particular order). 

      1. Paintballing, beer biking and open mic night in Budapest 
      2. Sziget Festival
      3. Niagara Falls getaway
3.   4. Seeing The Lion King and The Book of Mormon on Broadway
4.   5. Moulin Rouge - the show and getting pulled up on stage
6.   6. Spending a week on a yacht in Croatia
      7. Oktoberfest
7.   8. Scootering and quad biking around the Greek Islands
9.   9. Escape room in Prague
10. 10. Italy day trips - climbing Mt Vesuvius and visiting Pompeii plus seeing Cinque Terra
11. 11. Zip lining in Portugal
13. 12. Skinny dipping in Portugal (it was a first for me... Sorry guys)
15. 13. Harry Potter tour in London 
16. 14. Cycling around Lake Como 
15. 15. Tomorrowland

      Thanks for reading everyone. Cannot wait for my next adventure!!

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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Eurotrip Part 3 - The Final Countdown Begins

Oh how time flies when you're hopping between countries and having the time if your life. I'm not even sure where to start with this post, it's been so long! I cannot believe two and a half months have already passed and that I'll be going home in less than a month. I never want it to end! But at the same time, it'll be nice not to share a room with 8 other people for a change. 

As I start writing this post, I'm sitting enjoying a glass of wine by the Grand Canal in Venice, watching the gondolas go by. Life could definitely be worse. Since my last post on the Greek Islands, I've visited quite a number of places so I'll try to skip all of the boring details and just write about the best (and worst) stories of the past couple of months. 

Here goes..

Most places that I'd loved up until this point were largely to do with the people I was with at the time. In Barcelona, I did meet some great people but I also fell in love with the city. It's such a beautiful place with amazing architecture, great food, a beach.. What more could you want! I loved Barcelona so much that I forfeited flights I'd already booked to Ibiza to stay longer. Plus Ibiza is supposed to be crazy expensive and didn't really sound like my type of place. 

In one of my typical travel fail moments, I booked a flight in the middle of the night and arrived in Barcelona at a ridiculous time of about 4.30am. I also forgot to save the address to the hostel in my maps. Luckily in the directions, they described the hostel as being next to "Topshop".. So some young girls I asked for directions were able to point me in the right way. Not having booked accommodation for the night, I slept on the hostel couches.

This was the first city I'd visited where (for a couple of days at least) there were no other Australians in my room. Us Aussies tend to be everywhere! Instead, I was lucky enough to meet a couple of lovely Israeli girls, Shay and Leanne. It was incredibly interesting to talk to these girls about their country and such an eye opener to hear that having to take refuge in a bomb shelter several times a day was completely normal to them. They also had to do a compulsory 2 years in the army after finishing school. Their culture was completely foreign to me and really made me appreciate just being able to feel safe in my home country. 

I explored the city of Barcelona on a bicycle with a group of Welshmen who were hilarious. I couldn't understand a word they said when they spoke amongst each other but it was a great day nonetheless. They were the first people of my trip to notice the scars in my stomach and ask me about them.. I also think they had the best response when I told them about my surgery in which they asked me "did you start making and selling crystal meth to pay for your treatment? Are you the real Heisenberg" (Breaking Bad reference for anyone who hasn't see the show). At this point, I knew they must be ok.

Cycling Barcelona with the Welshmen

I made a good friend in Barcelona - a French Canadian girl by the name of Shawn who is studying in Barcelona for the next few months. She has an extremely cool job and helps with camera work during the filming of movies (a little bit jealous). It was great to find a friend to hit up the beach with and we also discovered the BEST tapas in Barcelona by chance when getting completely lost.

Shawn and I

Tapas, tapas, tapas!

After 6 nights, I said goodbye to the city of Barcelona and took a bus to Madrid where I would catch a train the Portugal the following night.

Lisbon and Lagos
I arrived in Lisbon early morning after taking a night train and arrived at the hostel at the same time as a girl who was soon to become one of the best friends I'd make in this trip- Gina from Nebraska. Gina and I hit it off straight away and ended up spending the next few days together in both Lisbon and Lagos - we did a walking tour, we discovered some delicious cheese sandwiches (just cheese, yes), we had some delicious food cooked by "Mama" the lovely owner of the hostel, we climbed a mountain in Sintra to explore a castle and went zip lining through the trees, we did the worst pub crawl of our lives (walking at least half an hour between pubs), we lazed on the beach, drank some cocktails and for the first time in my life, went skinny dipping to celebrate our last day in Portugal together with a little craziness. Basically, we had an action packed few days in Portugal and had a lot of fun in the process. Just to clarify, the skinny dipping was on a deserted beach.. But when the waves started sweeping away our belongings, I looked up to see about 10 elderly people on the cliff watching down at us chasing after our things whilst trying to put our clothes back on.

Gina and I 

Castle in Sintra

Zip lining!

Beautiful Lagos

After Lagos, I took a bus back to Lisbon and flew back to Barcelona to then take an early flight to Munich for Oktoberfest. This was not my best travel day. I arrived at the airport and dropped my phone which stopped working completely. I then took a 25 euro taxi to my "airport" hotel and had to do the same thing the following morning back to the airport. The next few days would be the most expensive.. But some of the best days I've had so far this trip.

I arrived in Munich and went straight to the Apple store to try and get my phone fixed. Little did I know, the iPhone 6 happened to be released on the same day and hundreds of people were lining up outside the store. The chance of getting my phone fixed was minimal but somehow I did the impossible and convinced the staff that the fixing of my phone was of upmost importance and they performed a miracle and fixed it for me (at a cost of 150 euro of course). I then purchased my outfit for Oktoberfest and made my way to the campground.

I was a little nervous getting to a campground on my own but met a girl named Annie fairly soon after arriving who was also traveling alone. The atmosphere at the campsite that night was nothing I could have imagined. It made me extremely excited for what the actual festival would entail. That night Annie and I met James who introduced us to his group of friends and they embraced us as part of their group for the following couple of days.

The first day we woke at 5am to leave by 6.30am just to get in line to get into the halls and get a table. They let us in at about 9am and we then had to wait until 12pm for he beers to start being poured. After this, the atmosphere was absolutely crazy. I cannot even explain how amazing this day was. The beer was great (coming from a non beer drinker), people were standing on tables skulling 1 litre steins, everyone was in costume, we had a great waitress and by the afternoon, the beer hall was just full of having an insanely good time. This was easily one of the best weekends of my life. The second day was hard to follow the first but ended up being equally as enjoyable. This is something I think everyone has to experience to understand. 

View from the Ferris wheel 

The following day I took a bus to Prague and arrived so exhausted I went straight to bed. 

Prague is another of my favourite places to date.. Mostly because of the people I met there. Prague marked the start of the group that would then on be referred to as "The Commonwealth". The Commonwealth included members from New Zealand, Canada and of course, Australia. Being completely wrecked after Oktoberfest, I had to have a couple of quiet nights but the nights I did go out with The Commonwealth were so much fun that I ended up booking flights after I left to meet up with the guys again in Budapest. It was in Prague I learnt to play the infamous drinking game "Flip Cup" and also discovered that I had quite a talent for playing this game. I also learnt more drinking games in the hostel bar called "The Rave Cave" than any other place.

Prague was not just about partying.. I also completed my first ever escape room. For those of you who don't know, an escape room is basically a room full of clues that you have to solve in an hour in order to escape. I completed the game with a Canadian by the name of Steve and in our case, we had to solve our clues to stop a bomb (pretend of course) from detonating within the hour. We thought we were terrible at the game as we had to keep asking for help and realized we couldn't remember anything from high school like how to read a map or what Roman numerals stood for. However, we found out at the end, there are usually groups of at least 4 people trying to solve the clues and we'd picked the hardest room so as it turns out, we were much smarter than we thought. Steve and I had a great day and little did I know at the time, this would soon turn into a classic case of girl meets boy; girl and boy get along extremely well; boy lives in Canada; girl books flights to go and visit boy in Canada. But prior to this, there was still Berlin and Amsterdam to explore!

The John Lennon wall, Prague

Steve and I escaping our bomb room

Berlin and Amsterdam
I found Berlin to be a strange city. It's a huge city but so quiet in terms of it's inhabitants. I did a couple of tours in Berlin that included a lot if the war history. It was actually quite upsetting to see a concentration camp and hear a lot of the stories from the past. I visited the Jewish memorial museum which included a lot of letters to families along with the history. I found myself not being able to read any of these letters because, although under completely different circumstances, I know what it's like to receive a letter from my mother who I was never going to see again. At that point, I decided I'd seen enough of the war history. 

On a lighter note, I did go on a really fun pub crawl which took us on an unusual route and to places that wouldn't usually be included on a pub crawl. These included a bar that Rammstein used to own (very gothic and strange), an absinthe bar and an outdoor club. This was really cool and I made a few good friends including Brandon who I would later meet up with again in Rome. 

The Berlin Wall

After Berlin I headed to the beautiful city of Amsterdam. It truly is beautiful. I know it tends to be well known for another reason entirely but going on a walking tour and hiring a bike to ride around the city, I found Amsterdam to be one of the prettiest places I'm yet to visit. Once again I made the mistake of arriving at a ridiculous time of 5am; this time on a night bus. The bus driver seemed to drop us off in the middle of nowhere and pointed us in the direction to the train station. It took 2 hours to find my hostel but I made it eventually and ended up meeting a great group of people on my walking tour. Id also made a couple of fellow Aussie friends in Berlin who happened to be staying in Amsterdam also so I met up with them for a night out and a nice dinner. The thing I'm finding with traveling recently is that I keep running into people I've already met. It makes traveling alone so much easier as I never tend to actually be alone.


Budapest - Part 2. Commonwealth Reunited 
After 3 nights in Amsterdam, I caught a bus to Brussels to catch a cheap flight to Budapest and reunite with The Commonwealth. This has probably been my biggest failed attempt at travel planning yet. I arrived at the Brussels bus station realizing I had no idea how to get to the airport and couldn't find wifi anywhere (not even in the Starbucks I bough a coffee from for this sole reason). After an hour, I found the train to the airport, bought a ticket and almost boarded the train until I noticed at the last minute that my flight was in fact, from a completely different airport. I asked at an information desk who were not even 100% sure where I had to go but went for the best guess (which luckily turned out to be correct). As it happened, the airport id booked was actually almost 2 hours away from Brussels. Seriously this is a warning to everyone to never let me plan any sort of travel for you!

Eventually I made it to Budapest to be reunited with The Commonwealth crew and just in time for the Sparty. To explain, a Sparty is basically a giant party in a pool/spa. I wish I had photos to explain further as it's nothing like anything else but nobody was willing to risk taking their phones or cameras. After a couple of hours, things started getting a little too crazy at the Sparty and I witnessed some things in the pool I never needed to witness and felt as though I needed to shower for days. So I left. 

The next few days were probably the most fun days I've had in Europe yet.  We hired a Beer Bike which basically involves cycling around the city whilst drinking a lot of beer. I felt terribly sorry for the hostel receptionist who had to book extra night for each of us at the hostel which we chose to organise right after the beer biking. One of my fellow commonwealthers, Josh (a kiwi) and I later participated in an open mic night and got the crowd all singing along to some Britney Spears. I also witnessed a Jäger train which involved a lot of jäger bombs being tipped over wit a domino effect. I also got to spend time with my favorite Canadian, Steve, during which time I decided to go and visit him for a few days whilst in New York and booked my flights. 

I was supposed to leave Budapest after 3 nights but ended up extending my night to tick something off my bucket list that I've always wanted to do - paint balling. I didn't care how much it cost me to change my flight, I was going paint balling regardless. And I was so happy I did. We had SO much fun and I even got a couple if battle scar bruises in the process. Well and truly worth it. 

The Commonwealth! Beer biking

Josh and I singing some Britney

Paint balling 

After 3 nights out in Budapest, we were all pretty exhausted after paint balling and decided to spend a quiet night in with a movie. The movie of choice was Finding Nemo. The following morning I had to get up early and say goodbye to Commonwealth friends to catch a flight to Rome. 

I think this is enough typing for one day. I look forward to writing my next post on Italy, London, New York, Canada and Paris soon.. Although I really hope the time goes slowly because it's almost coming to an end! 

As always, thanks for reading!
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Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Eurotrip Part 2 - The Greek Islands

Hello from Santorini! The Greek Islands have marked my first couple of weeks of travelling alone so I thought I'd share some of my stories and adventures as a solo traveler so far. 

In all fairness, I have very rarely been alone as I've been lucky enough to find it very easy to make friends in all of my hostels and have managed to meet some great people along the way. 

My first stop on my Greek Island adventure was the lovely Island of Mykonos. The first mistake I made as part of this stop was booking a 6am flight from Milan. This meant I had to be awake at 2.30am to catch a taxi to the bus stop and then take a 1 hour bus to the airport to be able to check in on time for my flight. Being in holiday mode, it's very rare that I'm able to fall asleep before midnight so I think it would be an overstatement to say I managed about 2 hours sleep that night. I fell asleep instantly when I sat down on the plane. 

I realised whilst waiting at Milan airport that I hadn't organised a transfer to my latest hostel. In a desperate attempt to have them pick me up, I sent an email at about 5.30am. Sure enough, I arrived at Mykonos airport with nobody to pick me up and tried my hand at using the pay phones to call the hostel to come and get me as apparently it was only a 5 minute drive away. Of course, the pay phones would not accept any of my credit cards which was the only method of payment. 

Absolutely exhausted and walking into the hottest temperature I've encountered yet, I went and asked a bus driver how to get to Paraga Beach who responded that there was no bus because it had already left. I was left with my final option - getting a taxi. This proved to be almost an impossible task as, with all due respect to Italians, they do not understand how to 'line up'. Person after person pushed in front of me until after about an hour, on the verge of tears and at the end of my tether, I desperately yelled at a cab driver to 'PLEASE TAKE ME!!!!!!!'.. and so, 15 euros later for a 5 minute drive, I made it to my hostel at Paraga Beach. Fair to say, I spent the remainder of the day asleep on the beach. 

After getting some sleep and feeling like a normal human being again, my next mission was to make some friends and not spend the next 3 days completely alone. The first person I met in my room was an Italian by the name of Marko who couldn't speak a lot of English and basically sat and stared at me as I organised my bag, making me feel quite uncomfortable. Then I met 3 of my other roommates (and soon to be friends, whether they liked it or not), New Zealanders living in London - James, Christian and Michael. Explaining that I was traveling alone, they kindly invited me to join them for drinks. Ignoring the fact that this was likely a sympathy invite, I took them up on the offer and successfully made my first friends as a solo traveler. 

The following day, my Kiwi friends had plans to explore the island on scooters they'd hired the previous day. Never having ridden a scooter myself, I opted for a quad bike which I figured would be much easier and safer to ride. We visited about 10 different places which had all sold out of quad bikes for the day (strange considering there were often plenty of them parked there...) so the only option was to ride on the back of one of the boy's scooters (don't worry Dad.. they were safe drivers and I wore a helmet.. and I made it out alive). So we spent the day exploring all of the less populated areas of the island - climbing over rocks and haystacks along the way.

 That night we decided to check out one of the most 'popular' clubs on the island at Paradise Beach. Much to our disgrace, we paid a 30 Euro entrance fee and walked in to an empty club where the cheapest beers were 9 Euro and there was a DJ we'd never heard of playing to a practically empty crowd. Fair to say, we didn't stay long. The following day was spent exploring Mykonos Town, relaxing by the pool and later followed by a much more successful night out in the town with no cover charges. The next day we all embarked on a 4 hour ferry ride to Ios where I said goodbye to the Kiwis who were staying at a different hostel. 

Mykonos Town

A lot of people had told me previously that Ios, the party island, is full of other Australians. They weren't lying.. we were everywhere! Even a lot of the restaurants and bars were run by Australians. I must admit, I felt a little more at home than in Mykonos. 

On my bus ride to my next hostel, Francesco's (would recommend anyone staying in Ios to stay here), I sat next to another solo traveler, Katy from England and later on met 2 other English girls, Bex and Mia and another Australian, Kara. We all instantly became friends and had our own little group for the next couple of days. 

During the day at Ios, everyone tends to go drinking at Far Out Beach Club, then retreat back to the hostel for a nap and/or more drinking, then head to the clubs later that night (which were conveniently located just around the corner from our hostel). I managed to follow this structure for exactly one day and after that, could barely look at a drop of alcohol for 2 days. I decided I'm probably not cut out for the party island lifestyle. 

Luckily on our second night, the other girls were happy to go out for a nice dinner and a few of us had a very early night. Katy and I ventured out via bus the following day to Maganari (could be wrong on the spelling) Beach which we'd been told by others, was the most beautiful beach they'd ever seen. We arrived to a horribly windy day and tried to brave laying on the sand but were in pain from all of the sand that was blown into us by the harsh wind. We retreated for some lunch and luckily noticed there was an area over a small hill that was much less windy. We were worried we'd have to spend 5 hours waiting for the next bus home sitting uncomfortably in the wind and stinging sand. Over the small hill, I also ran into my New Zealand friends again. 

My fourth and final night in Ios, I attempted one last night out. Katy and I went out for a nice Thai dinner and later received an invite from our Kiwi friends to dinner at the exact restaurant we'd just been to, to celebrate James' birthday. So we went back for the second time that night and ordered dessert followed by beer pong at Lost Boys bar (just to brag.. I got 5 beer pong balls in, in a row.. nothing short of a miracle for someone so uncoordinated). We finished the night at a nice little live music bar by the name of Circus and I convinced the musicians to let me get up on stage and sing a song with them. I made sure to embarrass James with a Happy Birthday shout out. 

That concluded my stay in Ios and I caught the ferry the following morning for what I hoped to be a few very relaxing days in Santorini. 


Completely exhausted from Ios, I was hoping for some nice relaxing days in Santorini and I haven't been disappointed. I spent the first afternoon exploring Fira and ordering a ridiculously expensive Greek Salad then ventured back to my room and met a few of my roommates - Liam, Hannah and Tayla. After 5 minutes, we all became friends and decided to cook dinner together. That night was spent jamming on the hostel guitar (Liam happened to be an amazing singer and guitarist) and playing card games with a few other hostel guests. Couldn't have hoped for a better first night!

Tayla, another Kiwi, was also a solo traveler so we decided to hire quad bikes together the following day and explore the island. So began what I like to call 'The Adventures of Kate and Tayla'. Lucky for both of us, we got along really well and became travel best friends basically straight away. We discussed how funny/awesome it is that overseas you can meet someone and become friends instantly, whereas that doesn't tend to happen back home. We spent the day riding our quad around the island, exploring beaches and amazing views. We stopped for a quick bite to eat and I ordered 'fried fish portions'.. which were actually WHOLE fried fish.. just very small fish and were almost impossible to eat. Tayla then broke her sunglasses which kicked off a series of funny moments to follow over the course of the next couple of days. 

Later that night, we planned on buying some wine, cheese and biscuits and driving up to Oia to see the famous sunset (very romantic). We were running a little late and raced the sun to try and get there in time (cautiously and safely of course). We arrived just in the nick of time to find the sun setting behind a giant cloud and didn't see a sunset at all. Not to despair, we instead visited Oia and took in the sights of the beautiful town at night time. 

The following day I'd booked a tour that included walking over a volcano, swimming in some hot springs and once again visiting the sunset in Oia with dinner on board the boat. We had until 12pm to return our quad, so Tayla and I went for a little ride before I had to go. That morning I'd been nominated for the latest social media trend and fundraising activity - the ice bucket challenge. Tayla and I went to a restaurant on a beach close by to our hostel and asked a lovely Greek man for a bag of ice.. It took him a little while to understand what we meant and when he did, he figured we were having a party and was very concerned we wouldn't make it to the freezer in time. Not wanting to confuse him even more, I decided against asking to borrow a bucket and did more of an "ice bag" challenge. My nomination was at least complete though improvised. 

We dropped the quad off and I departed for my tour. Little did I know, the boat that was holding the tour was called Afroditi and was nicknamed "The Love Boat". I was the only solo traveler on the tour amongst a sea of couples, families and elderly people. It was the first day I felt out of place and didn't make any friends but I had to look at the humour in it and made the most of my romantic day by myself. A friend back home who hosts a radio show even decided to create a segment based upon my situation about "when you've felt out of place".

I returned to the hostel and had one more night butchering some songs on guitar and drinking some red wine with Tayla before she left for Ios today. 

All of the great people I've met and managing to make some good friends whilst traveling alone

Finding an English friend who has agreed to do the Harry Potter tour with me (thanks Katy!) 

The beautiful scenery of each of the Greek Islands

Exploring the islands on scooter/quad bikes

Relaxing time on the beach, reading my book (the Kurt Cobain biography is a great read)

Jamming sessions and card games in Santorini

Completing my ice bucket challenge on a beach in Santorini with passers by looking at me very strangely 

A beautiful sunset from Francesco's on my last night in Ios

Fails and Funny Moments
Booking a flight at 6am and having to be up at 2.30am

Trying to get to my hostel from Mykonos airport

Paying 30 Euro entry fee to a terrible club

Paying 4 Euro for a gyros, losing my receipt and having to pay again to get my food because the bartender "couldn't remember me"

Ordering nachos in Mykonos that were basically an entire bowl of cheese

My attempt at driving a scooter (it didn't last long and I remained uninjured.. As did the scooter)

Going to the "most beautiful beach" in Ios on the windiest day possible

Tayla and I racing against time to make a sunset that didn't happen

Slipping down stairs at Oia (typical)

Anyway, that's about all for now. I'm enjoying some alone time in possibly the most beautiful hostel I've ever stayed at. I fly out to Athens tomorrow, followed by Barcelona in a few days. Thanks for reading and I hope to have some more stories to share soon!
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