Great Expectations: A Piece on Greece and Travelling Alone
By: Lauren Foster
Download offline-Google Maps - check.
Passport in my inside jacket pocket – at all times – check.
Water, chapstick, miniscule folded tourist map of Greece - check.
Flying from miserable, grey England to sunny, lively Athens was like a foggy dream, though the 5am flight and screaming baby suggested more nightmare than fairytale slumber. Nevertheless, I blast my carefully cultivated music playlist and used as much of my internet data as I could before I wouldn’t have the chance.
Sundress on, rucksack packed, water bottle in hand, phone switched off, eyes open.
This is how I took in Greece.
An only child, an international student, a lust for adventure and penchant for the independent, its only expected that I country-hop as much as I do. Lucky enough to have seen Russia and Norway, France, Spain, Italy, Chile, Ireland, the Netherlands, it’s the solo aspect of my travel that stumps people most often:
“Don’t you get lost?”
“Isn’t that difficult?”
“Don’t you get lonely?”
Yes, I certainly hope so. It’s the best way to see a city, in my opinion.
No, not particularly. Travelling alone is cheaper, simpler, more straight forward.
Yes, sometimes. Learning to be comfortable in your own silence is the most difficult part of solo travel, something a lot of people can’t do at home let alone abroad. I still struggle with it; I will always struggle with it. A necessary evil. Worth it.
“Koulouri, koulouri!” A street-vender cries, his tiny little cart a beacon of hope for the morning commuters rushing past. He deals his wares (wide, thin bagel-type things) like he was built for the job, slinging carbs to grateful customers left and right. I’m entranced, getting in line to see what the fuss is all about. Social confirmation is massive when traveling – do as the locals do, not as TripAdvisor commands.
I ask for 1 – there’s no variety here – and the vendor deftly plucks the €0.50 out of my palm and replaces it with a warm koulouri, wrapped in a simple napkin, and faces the waiting man behind me. Quickly stepping out of the way, I bite into the thin bagel, tasting exactly what you’d expect, and looked up to take in my surroundings.
McDonalds. Right in front of me. The neon red and yellow only slightly dimmed by the even brighter red H&M sign next door. I look to my left back at the tiny Greek man selling his koulourri to customers I presume he sees every day.
Mamma Mia. Shining white buildings with glimmering blue roofs. Loud men gossiping and calling out to each other across the street, long-time friends and new acquaintances. McDonalds. Nikes and IPhones as far as the eye can see.
Sometimes travelling alone is new, exciting, the pleasant drowning in a new culture.
Most often it’s both.
I sigh and start to walk.
Greece is waiting for me.