Rachael is a 25 year old New Zealander who sacrificed her early 20’s to climb the career ladder, only to find herself out of job at the age of 24, when the politician she was spin-doctoring for retired. After putting off travel for weddings and jobs, she took this as a sign – if she didn’t do it now while manless, childless, financially uncommitted, fit, and healthy – she never would. But solo travel isn’t entirely natural for her; she still grapples with reading maps and mixing up left and right, so every day is an adventure! Please enjoy this week-in-the-life of Rachael in Greece!
Day One: Monday
5am: Alarm goes off in my six person dorm in Athens. Accidentally wake everyone up. I blame the plastic mattress covers for that.
6am: On the first metro to the outskirts of Athens to catch a bus to Meteora – home of the spectacular 14th century monasteries perched precariously on top of rock towers like this one.
6.30am: Get off the metro and commence a two kilometre walk with the entire contents of my life on my back (all 16kg of it) to get to the bus station.
6.40am: Dodgy greek man in a red convertible offers me a lift. I politely decline and he starts yelling at me.
7am: On the bus.
12pm: Arrive in Kastraki (village at the base of Meteora) dead on lunchtime. Haven’t eaten today. Insanely hot. Can’t find a place to stay in my price range.
12.30pm: Still no luck. About to have a cry.
12.31pm: A New Zealand/English couple I met in Athens drive past. They take pity on me, ply me with coffee, help me find a place to stay, stop at a bakery where I buy a cheese pie for lunch (cheese makes everything better), and drop me at the top of Meteora.
2pm: Bump into a Spanish guy on my bus from Athens while visiting the first monastery.
3pm: Bump into Spanish guy again at the second monastery.
4pm: Bump into Spanish guy again. Clearly the universe wants us to hang out for the rest of the afternoon. It’s nice to have company and to not have to take selfies for once.
7pm: Try Moussaka (a kind of Greek eggplant, tomato, mince, cheese, lasagne concoction) for the first time. Wash it down with an Alpha beer. In my happy place.
9pm: Crash for the night.
Day Two: Tuesday
11am: At the bus stop to get back to the top of Meteora.
11.45am: Bus still hasn’t come. Decide to walk.
12.30pm: Dripping with sweat I do the unthinkable – accept a ride from a stranger. In fairness, he is a very old Greek man and I could totally take him if it came down to it.
12.45pm: Run into Spanish guy again. Get his number and promise to have a beer with him when I eventually get to Spain.
8.30pm: Bed. All this travel is turning me into a nanna!
Day Three: Wednesday
7.50am: At the bus stop 10 minutes early.
8am: Bus drives straight past me. Next bus isn’t for four hours.
8.01am: Commence two kilometre walk with all of my gear to Monastraki (town where the main bus station out of Meteora is).
8.30am: Arrive at the bus station dripping with sweat. Discover I’ve just missed the bus to the port town of Volos, where I need to go to catch a ferry to the Greek island of Skiathos. Really annoyed as the timetable they gave me says it doesn’t leave for another hour.
8.31am: Have a bit of a cry.
12pm: Eat a cheese pie.
1pm: Catch the next bus.
5pm: Arrive in Volos to discover the cheapest accommodation is 30 Euro a night (well out of my backpackers’ budget). To add insult to injury, the only things it has going for it is that I can actually pronounce its name and it’s opposite the ferry terminal.
7pm: Decide to have a shower to wash away the day. Get out to discover the door is jammed and I’m locked in the bathroom.
7.30pm: Door magically opens after a bit of hysterical laughing/crying/kicking/punching the door.
8pm: Decide the only thing to rescue this day is a beer – or five.
10pm: Can’t shut my room’s ranch slider. Enlist the help of the Greek woman at reception with terrible BO to close it. I’m wide awake now.
Some ungodly hour: finally fall asleep.
Day Four: Thursday
8am: Day gets off to a good start when the lady at the cafe at the ferry terminal gives me a free apple and banana with my coffee.
12pm: Arrive on the cute looking Greek island of Skiathos (where large portions of the movie Mamma Mia was filmed).
1pm: Finally locate my hotel which I’ve pre-booked online. Where it says it is on the map and where it actually is aren’t quite the same thing.
1.01pm: Discover it’s locked and no-one’s home. Sit on the porch and optimistically hope they’ve just gone for lunch.
2pm: Still no-one home. Stomach gets the better of me, so I walk back into town, order the biggest beer I can find and a gyros (where the meat appears to be pure pork crackling) and drown my sorrows in alcohol and pig fat – then a nutella crape.
3pm: Head back to hotel. Still no-one home. Go find someone who speaks English at bakery down the road. Calls are made.
3.15pm: Some woman called Olga comes and gets me. She’s a friend of the hoteliers and informs me he’s not on the island. Helpful. She takes me to her hotel instead.
3.30pm: Crawl into the fetal position, toe spoon my own ankle and have a nap.
6pm: Wake up, go for a stroll around the promenade and discover for myself why Lonely Planet doesn’t recommend visiting Skiathos outside of summer.
7pm: Greek taverna dinner of lasagne, complete with frozen centre.
8pm: Commence the painful process of getting the wifi password off a Greek woman who speaks no English.
9pm: Finally crack the password but discover wifi is so weak I may well have not bothered.
9.30pm: Decide to leave Skiathos tomorrow but learn the first ferry isn’t until 7.45pm.
Day Five: Friday
7am: Go for a run, release some happy-feeling endorphins.
10am: Bus to Little Banana Beach for the day where I was intending to tick off another one of my best friend’s OE challenges for me – sunbath nude. Conditions are perfect. I have the beach to myself.
But as I’m about to strip off two five-year-old girls arrive with their mums. Can’t bring myself to do it.
3pm: Two nude prunes arrive. I take that as my exit cue.
6pm: Starting to feel like Tom Hanks in Survivor here (iPad would be my Wilson).
7.45pm: Happily catch the ferry out of Skiathos.
10.30pm: Arrive at the Volos bus station and am told there is no overnight bus despite what their timetable says. Devastated to learn the first bus is not until 4.45am. Have a bit of a cry.
10.31pm: Decide to sleep at the bus station but told I can only sleep outside.
11pm: Bus station closes for the night. Discover it’s just me and a few homeless guys left. Don’t feel safe. Commence trek back to the crappy hotel where I stayed the last time I got stranded in Volos.
11.15pm: Same lady with bad BO at reception won’t discount room from 30 Euro, even though I’m only going to be in it for four hours.
Day Six: Saturday
4am: Wake up, get dressed and walk back to the bus station.
4.45am: Bus back to Athens.
10am: Begrudgingly book a very expensive organized tour of Delphi and Olympia, as clearly solo travel in mainland Greece doesn’t agree with me! Gets pricier once they slap me with the dreaded single supplement.
1pm: Decline offer from the only other girl in my dorm room to join her in tagging Athens.
6pm: Decide to have a 2 Euro gyros for dinner. Inherit a Scottish girl from my backpacker’s for the journey.
6.30pm: Scottish girl almost hysterical when I get us slightly lost.
Day Seven: Sunday
8am: Get on tour bus. Heart sinks. It’s like a golden oldies tour and the only other people around my age are newlyweds.
8.15am: Discover the tour is bilingual. Everything the guide says sentence for sentence is in English, then in French.
8.30am: iPod comes out.
12pm: Driven to a crappy taverna in the middle of nowhere, which looks like it hasn’t seen a lick of paint or a customer since the 1970’s. Out of sheer hunger, spend 10 Euro to eat a re-heated, dehydrated-looking piece of meat, accompanied with flaccid salad and stale bread.
1pm: ‘Coincidental’ unpublicized stop at a Greek vase factory.
2pm: Make friends with an Australian woman on my bus, who accurately sums up our tour guide by likening her to a Greek version of Judge Judy. She’s downright rude and even asked when we lost the American woman – “where’s the fat lady?”
2.30pm: Wander off from Judge Judy’s hour-long bilingual rant at Olympia. Take photos of angry whistle people who seem to appear out of nowhere whenever you stand too close to a ruin.
3pm: Run the 162-metre female track at Olympia in my jandals (New Zealand word for flip flops) and get the equally cheesy photo to remember it by.
6pm: Arrive at palatial accommodation compared to what I’m used to.
7.30pm: Dinner with the golden oldies.
After continuing her solo adventures across Italy and France, Rachael is currently dossing in London catching her breath after five months of backpacking, and enjoying being around English-speakers for the first time this year. She has a job freelance reporting for the Olympics and after that she plans on heading to Spain to throw tomatoes at people! Follow Rachael’s adventures at Today I Ate A Baguette.