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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.
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!