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My Big Fat Greek Trip (plus a few hitchhiking countries)

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Travel Updates: My Big Fat Greek Trip. GRRRLTRAVELER  in Santorini

 How scary is the unknown to you?  Not having a schedule, not having a firm grasp of where you might be staying, not having a set itinerary?…  Welcome to my life.

While I’m not a steadfast planner, I much like structure.  I like knowing where I’m going, where I’m staying and what I’ll be doing. To a degree, I like to be well-planned, so I can welcome flexibility into my schedule at my leisure.

A lot of folks think that because I’m GRRRLTRAVELER, my personality is very GRRR. Maybe I’m punky, brave or rebellious. I’m actually none of those things. While I have a mischievous streak and have a bit of a fighting nature,  I’m actually a gal with a lot of fears and my GRRR is something I eventually find when I face them.

When I really want something (i.e. to take a trip) and I’m pushed to the point, where I need to step outside my comfort zone... it isn’t easy. I feel like I’m standing on a ledge faced between a) a certain death and b) a death that has a possibility of survival if I fight to make it work.  When faced with those odds, I choose survival.  Hence, that’s when the GRRR arrives.

The one thing my freelance life constantly tries to teach me is that life isn’t always neat and organized. The organics of life is very messy and within that, there I find there’s an intrinsic order to the system that isn’t found by way of logic, but through intuition. From moment to moment, I feel I’m continually stepping into the abyss… the unknown.  There are many surprises around the corner to make sure there are fun adventures ahead (let’s just hope no bucking broncos) and somewhere on the ride, I’m both, tired and yet, beginning to flow with this element of suspense and improvisation.

Perhaps that is what is called the ‘traveler’s spirit’ .

My Big Fat Greek Trip (plus some hitchhiking countries)

Yes, much of my travel has grown to be a surprise  to me, as I juggle my freelance schedule and a budget with flight searches for the lowest costing airlines ticket!

Inevitably, hitchhiking destinations arrive soon after.  No, it’s not where I have my thumb out on a long stretch of road, while looking for a ride. It generally has to do with travel’s imperfections (I prefer to call it ‘serendipity’), where a last-minute event occurs to disrupt my plans or at least, tweak them a bit. All of a sudden, I’m slammed into a random country I didn’t plan on and thus, must make the best of it.

There is yet another thing I experience called “traveler’s flexibility” (aka changing one’s mind), where I plan to go one way, but meet others and decide to hop on the caravan and change my directions mid stream. Hey, it happens, especially with solo travelers (so always book extra time into your travels)!

How do I do all this? Probably not well. But it’s better than nothing at all, so I’ll take any imperfect start and gamble on myself to make it better through improvisation.

My Fall 2014 travel schedule

This is my first trip to Eastern Europe and Greece and Turkey are two countries which have been on my bucketlist for some time.  Last year I actually felt as if traveling to these two countries might be possible, even if I didn’t know how I’d be actualizing it. Call it traveler’s intuition. Today, here I am, writing this post from Santorini, Greece.

So here it is…my travel roadmap!

New York, U.S.

When I last visited New York about three weeks ago, I had an audition with the Travel Channel.

Read 40 Things to Do in New York City

As I left, I had an uncanny feeling I’d return to the city sooner than expected. In no time flat, a cancelled Luthansa flight, rerouted me back into a 10 hour layover in New York. What can you do in 10 hours? Seeing as the airport and N.Y.C. subway link with Manhattan, there’s a lot that can be done in that time.  I dropped my bags at JFK Airport’s left luggage, paid $6 and was off to the city to relive my favorite coffee experience, do errands with my bank, shop at B&H Photo and drop by Queens’ Little India for samosas and a Bollywood magazine.

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Athens, Greece

Upon arriving into Athens a day later than planned, I immediately hit Acropolis hill and the Parthenon, right off the airport train.  Historical, cosmopolitan-ish, Athens is a city in flux, economic and political unrest and enroute to a hopeful future.

I love traveling with a purpose and the excuse behind this trip is to attend TBEX a conference for travel bloggers (and there will be parties!). Beginnings always feel a bit bumpy as I find my bearings with a new city and juggling a conference I’ve never been to, where I know few people is another thing entirely.  I’ll be sharing an AirBnB flat with couple bloggers, Hai and Jessica of Notes of Nomads.

Here, I want to go on a Greek food tour, bask in the Athenian city of Greek Gods, see the Parthenon up close and drink ouzo.  Oppah! Who wants to join me?

parthenon, acropolis, greece sights, things to see in greece

Parthenon on Acropolis Hilll

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Meteora, Greece

The first time I saw Meteora was this past January in a photo. My heart stood still. It was a place I had to visit before I died.

Well, perhaps heaven is calling, because who knew I’d be seeing it this year!  Meteora with its impressive rock formations, monasteries are certainly worth a trip if you’re in Greece. I’ll be a guest of Visit Meteora, so I’ll get to take a half day tour with them and stay at Alsos House, a cozy guesthouse in the old town of Kalampaka, where my room view opens to one of these formidable rocks.

meteora, visit meteora

Visit Meteora

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Santorini, Greece

A trip to Greece, Santorini is a definite must. It’s not merely a bucket list but has been one of my travel dreams.  My first year of college I was an aspiring architecture student and the first slide presentation I fell in love with was of Santorini. I even made a reconstructed model of it for a project!  Okay, that project didn’t get me an “A”, but the notion of Blue domed church roofs and pristine white plaster flats perched along a cliff side struck a wildly romantic impression. I’ll be visiting Oia and Fira, without knowing the difference. I’m looking forward to red sand beaches and wine.

I had originally planned to enjoy a solo honeymoon on this island in a hostel or camping, but now I’ll be joining twenty-something travelers, Raphael (Journey of Wonders) and Jessica (Curiosity Travels) to share an apartment suite in Oia and road trip the island.  Of course, as an infamous honeymoon destination, I wonder if I’ll meet my Dimitris here?

(BTW- As I write this, it’s all falling together!)

Sometimes I feel we make unconscious promises to ourselves with places we’ll see. I have no doubt my memories of Santorini will survive long after death.

santorini, greek islands, aegean islands, cycladic islands

Santorini: The Cycladic Islands

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London, United Kingdom

When I threw my London city map in my bag, I thought it was wishful thinking.

I didn’t really think I’d do a last-minute dig to London for the World Travel Market. While I’m not  happy to cut my Turkey trip shorter ( and to slice Ephesus and Pamukkale out of my itinerary. Booooo… okay, okay.), this is a gargantuan conference for the travel industry. Blame the contagious enthusiasm of other travel bloggers and wanting to connect more with the travel industry.

Wish me luck as I hop aboard the London underground tube, while hob-nobbing at conference booths and trying to work the British pound into my budget. I hear a hostel alone goes for $40/night!  Even as I write, accommodations are already in the works as I try to find a cheap solution. Hope I have time to get out to do some sightseeing of the London eye, at least!

If I had pre-trip fears about traveling to Japan, the UK pound terrifies me more.

London underground tube, london metro

Taking the London Underground Metro Photo Creative Commons by Tom Page, Nov 2006

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Cappadocia, Turkey

I’m squealing with excitement over Cappadocia. I’m going, I’m going , I’m going!!!

I’ve planned a balloon ride with Voyager Balloons and I’ll be organizing a stay at a boutique cave hotel! (fingers crossed) I can’t wait to do a bit of hiking, see a whirling dervish performance and visit the underground tunnels.

Cappadocia, Turkey

Amazing photo of Cappadocia by Journey of Wonders‘s Raphael Alexander Zoren

Istanbul, Turkey

Everyone I speak to tells me Istanbul is absolutely the place to be. With the Hagia Sofia, spice markets, Turkish coffee, hammam baths and mosques, I know they have to be right. It’s like the Paris of the Middle East.

I know I told myself one of my mistakes is to plan my budget by an air dry of ideas based around how cheap I can get it down to. Sad to say, things haven’t changed much with me. Sorry, I tried. The simple reason is that I never know how much I’ll spend in a place. I just know that a few good habits is that I don’t shop, don’t eat at fine dining restaurant and I don’t go to bars or clubs. This whistles a budget considerably, leaving you with transportation, entrance fees to sights and museums and accommodations. Food with me is s give and take. Sometimes I have it to partake in; often, vegetarian choices are a juggle to find.

istanbul

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul  Photo licensed under Creative Commons by Babak Gholizadeh

 

Frankfurt, Germany

Have you ever chosen the longest way home?

For me, Frankfurt is just that. When it comes to cheap tickets and inevitable layovers, why fight it, when it’s easier to go the longest layover and turn it into an extra vacation.

When booking layovers, not only am I picky about the city and airport I want to spend it in, but I occasionally also choose a longer one over the shorter. . It’s been some time since I’ve been to Germany and I miss it.  While Frankfurt airport is a kinda lame airport, I don’t mind the city much. The last time I was there, I explored it with a German friend, but exploring a place on your own is a different story.  What can you do in a 10 hour layover in Frankfurt? Guess we’ll see…

Curious about any of these countries or how I plan to travel them? Let me know in the comments below.

6 Comments

  1. Ooo you stayed with Raphael! hahaha how small the travel blogging world can be sometimes. I did an interview with him for my website earlier this year.

    Those trips looked amazing! and Im still kicking myself for not going to TBEX in Greece (I DREAM of enjoying Greece). Ah well, perhaps next year.

    Enjoy the rest of your trips! love following the pics on Instagram

  2. David says:

    That is one heck of an itinerary … wish that I was living that schedule!

  3. Greek surely looks tempting and your photos have sparked interest in me to sover someday soon… Thanks for lovely write up. Love the way you narrate your story 🙂

    • Christine Kaaloa says:

      @Shreya & Rituraj: Thanks for dropping by! Greece definitely is a photogenic place for sure! 😉

  4. Sarah says:

    What an amazing whirlwind of a trip! Thanks for sharing—especially about Meteora, Greece. IN-CREDIBLE. As for me, I do prefer order, a trip itinerary, just so that I know I won’t miss something to see or do. If I can do without reservations for accommodations, I’ll go that route since it’ll leave me the option to go someplace else if I want to. All part of the fun!

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