Romance on the Road Part 3: I See Stars

Alright, brace yourselves people because the islands is where it starts to get REAL romantic, REAL fast. Our first day in Santorini was cute. We went to the beach, went to dinner and had a little alone time later where we went stargazing at the beach. But I REALLY want to get to the next day because the last eight hours of the next day were possibly THE MOST romantic hours of my entire twenty one years of living.

So, we were all at the beach when Dean went off with another girl we met at the hostel at around 4pm, leaving me and Jack alone.  We swam, we cuddled on one beach chair, and he even slowly removed my top to give me a back massage and re tied it without trying anything (which basically made me go insane).

We knew we wanted to catch the sunset in Oia that night as it is considered, perhaps, the most beautiful sunset in the world and around seven we realized we needed to get a move on, as Oia was on the other side of the island from where we were. We put some clothes on over our swimsuits and rented an ATV. The man at the rental shop asked us where we were going that night and when we told him, he gave a chuckle and said we couldn’t possibly make the sunset tonight. Challenge accepted.

We hopped on and RACED across the island. We didn’t have a map or wifi, we just used the street signs and intuition to cross the island. About halfway through our ride, we rounded a mountain and saw the sun start to set over the water. It was such a movie moment. I got goosebumps and threw my hands in the air and yelled. It was exciting, amazing, exhilarating…. there’s almost no words for that feeling in that moment. We finally got to our destination and ran up to the viewpoint. We had made it for the sunset with LITERALLY ten minutes to spare. We watched the orange sun dip below the pink sky and of course sealed the sunset with a kiss (I’m seriously not making this up folks).

After watching the sun disappear, Oia was bathed in a purple, gold glow in the twilight so I made Jack run around with me to take pictures using this magical lighting. My hair was a mess, we were still covered in salt and sweat from the beach but we were having the most fantastic time. Eventually the light got darker and we snuck out on to the top of one of those white churches (just google ‘greek island’ and I guarantee those churches pop up)  and watched the twilight turn to stars. We talked and kissed for a while and then decided to go and get dinner. We raced back across the island and sat in a seaside restaurant to eat and watch one of the last games of the EuroCup. We ordered a ton of food and ate like barbarians (I’m a savage eater, but Jack thought it was cute anyways). We made bets on the game and were just completely on a high from the sunset. After dinner we walked around and talked and sat (and may have fooled around…) on the beach (where there was a METEOR SHOWER) until about four in the morning before finally making it back to the hostel. How’s THAT for romantic?

The next morning we managed to get up relatively early and go get breakfast together before Dean woke. Once we all got together, we packed up and went down to the port to catch the ferry to Naxos. Now this is how I KNOW Jack was into me. Naxos is not a touristy island, like, AT ALL. I wanted to go because I had been to the touristy ones already, the only reason for Jack to go was… me. Regardless, we arrived in Naxos and we could tell our time was winding down.

Naxos didn’t have the same speed as Santorini so we lounged on the beach, watched some games, and ate a lot of food. After Naxos was where we parted ways. I was planning on meeting my family in Mykonos and the boys were headed to Vienna. At breakfast on our second day in Naxos, they were figuring out travel plans and they realized that they couldn’t stay another night in Naxos like they had originally planned. Logistically, to save both time and money, they had to leave that evening, on the last ferry back to Athens. I could see the wheels turn in Jack’s head, trying to think of a way to get around this issue, but there wasn’t one. Instead of another day, we only had a few hours. Dean knew what was going on so he made a solid effort to give me and Jack some alone time until the ferry left. We of course went to the beach, and played in the water and then decided to have a solid talk.

We talked for a LONG time because this was a big predicament. We both liked each other a lot but our travels were taking us separate ways and although we do live on the same continent, we don’t live near each other at all. What to do? Well, against all of my cynicism, and rules and whatever, we decided, right there, on the beach in Naxos, to give this (whatever “this” was) a try. We agreed to keep talking and to maybe meet up when we both got back home. This decision tore me in half. I wanted to be hopeful because I really liked Jack, but I also knew he had some things to take care of at home and how unlikely long distance relationships can be. We texted and FaceTimed throughout the remainder of our respective trips but then we both returned home.

Once we got home, my cynicism actually began to ebb away bit by bit. Jack has visited me twice now. We met in the middle the first time and he drove fifteen hours to Chicago to see me the second time and things just get better and better each time. We talk all day and make sure we FaceTime every night even for just a few minutes. It’s honestly unbearably cute and if I were looking at myself from the outside I’d probably VOMIT, but because I’m in it, I can’t help myself.

I’m unsure how to conclude this story, perhaps because there is no clear conclusion. This whole story is so unlikely and so romantic I had to stop many times while it was happening and check that I was awake, that I wasn’t a character in some cheesy chick flick. But it did happen, I actually met someone amazing in the most romantic of ways and we are continuing the relationship on home soil. It’s insane, ridiculous, and heartwarming all at once. I have no advice for replicating this experience, so my only tips are to be open to all kinds of people, especially when traveling. But also be selfish. Once you really start feeling yourself and only worrying about making yourself happy, all kinds of things open up. *WINKY FACE*

Romance on the Road Part 2: Hot and Heavy

The next morning, I had planned on going to the beach very early to beat the crowds. However, the clouds got the best of me and I packed up after about an hour to head back to the hostel. On the way back, I saw Jack and his friend. I told them the beach had failed me and that I was going to Monaco for the day instead. OF COURSE, it turns out that was their plan as well. Two other guys from the hostel were also planning on going so all five of us headed to Monaco. The rest of the day was spent in Monaco, and then at the beach before the nightly festivities (read: free wine) took place.

Throughout this whole time, Jack and I acted like normal hostel friends. At this point, I figured it would be a one night thing that was fun, but that’s all it was so there was no reason to make it weird. However, that night, he invited me up to his room and we spent hours on the stairs talking and then dancing because he of course knows how to swing dance (I feel like guys who can dance are universal kryptonite for girls…) and then we cuddled all night (in a SWELTERING ROOM, I might add. Their AC was broken and between the 100 degree weather and body heat, it was the bad kind of sweaty night…).

The next day was spent chatting with Jack and his friend (we’ll call him Dean* as he was pretty cool too), as well as others. When nighttime rolled around, a large group of us went to watch the game in the fanzone and then went to the beach at night. Jack then invited me to his room a second time. However, this time we had a huge talk on the balcony in the hall before going to bed. There were some heavy topics that needed to be discussed at that point, but some feelings definitely arose. Cuddles ensued. The next morning Jack and Dean left. I walked with them to the train station and hugged them goodbye and by lunch, they were gone.

I was vaguely introspective for the rest of my time in France, but soon enough I was off to Spain. I definitely tried my best in Spain to regain my selfish ways and as my new friend Raquelle* could tell you, some of those Spanish nights were not my proudest moments when it came to guys…HOWEVER, Jack and I were still texting a bit and within a few days of my departure to Spain he told me he and Dean were going to meet me in Greece when I flew there after Ibiza. This was unprecedented. This guy was actually gonna adapt his trip and FOLLOW ME to Greece. That’s either hella stalkerish or hella romantic and I’d rather go with the latter…

A few days later, I landed in Greece and met them straightaway. We spent that night touring around Athens and then I took them to my apartment where they met my grandmother. (SO CUTE). The next day, we had decided to meet in the morning for a full day of touring Athens and when I turned up at their hostel, Jack came downstairs to greet me and suggested we go across the street to a cafe while we waited for Dean to wake up. I think Jack just wanted some alone time with me and we had a great chat at the coffee shop but it was a little difficult to figure out how to act after all the romance of France. When Dean joined us, we spent the day drinking coffees and walking around the city.

We planned to go to Santorini the next morning early, so I invited them to stay with me that night. Jack definitely wanted more alone time with me so he suggested going up to the balcony. We went up there and started talking just about the trip and normal things, but the tension was palpable. I don’t think either one of us knew exactly where the other stood since we had been acting like normal friends since meeting two nights ago in Athens. Then, up there on the balcony, looking out over the night lights of Athens, he put his arms around me. Objectively, a small gesture, but the fact that he did it and the fact that I accepted it, defined our relationship as definitely something more than friends in that moment.  We proceeded to talk (and kiss, of course) until the wee hours of the morning when I finally had to pack up my stuff (into one purse, check out my previous article) and we were off to the islands!

Check back soon for the EPIC conclusion….

Romance on the Road Part 1: Drink the Wine

I may have mentioned that I experienced some romance on my trip this year…Is there anything more cliche than summer romance? NOPE.  And unfortunately, although I possess an above average abhorrence for cliches, I, myself, have fallen prey to this particular one. This was the one thing everyone wanted to know about so here is the story of my travel romance.

Let’s start at the beginning. I left for Europe DETERMINED to have a good time. I wasn’t going to think about exes, school, my new job, my future, NOTHING but having fun mattered. So when I started traipsing around Europe, I had many flirty encounters and some good conversations with a few guys but  as we were all travelers it was all harmless fun since we all change locations every couple of days. And then I got to Nice. I should’ve known France was trouble… apparently romance seeps out of the very PORES of that country….

So how did I meet this guy? WELL, I arrived in Nice in the early afternoon and decided to go shopping. I was a little cranky from the bus ride and needed a new purse anyway (but actually, mine broke on me in Genoa…), so when I finally sat down to eat at this kebab place, I was famished. About twenty minutes after I sit down and start eating, these two guys walk up. I heard them speaking English but as I was on the phone with a friend and inhaling my dinner, I didn’t engage until they sat down and commented on what I was eating. At that time, my kebab was all over my face, so I obviously was able to assure them that it was good. They didn’t seem like tools (like so many groups of guys can be) so, I tried to keep the conversation going after they opened it up. After covering most of the small talk points, we figured out we were all staying at the same hostel that runs a promotion every night for free wine (FREE FUCKING WINE), so we agreed to meet up for free wine night a little later and I left the restaurant.

Turns out free wine night was the PLACE TO BE. So TONS of people at the hostel were down there and the two guys and I ended up in a huge conversation with a bunch of other people.  We all had a quite a few drinks and I was definitely a little tipsy. Eventually, the more talkative of the two guys before, we’ll call him Jack*, asked to use my restroom because my room was on the first floor and his was on the fifth. Me, being the skeptic, assumed this was a move to get me alone, but I liked him enough by then that I agreed. We went to my room and he used the restroom and then noticed that the window in my room opened onto a small balcony and then onto the roof. So of course he insisted that we go out to sit on the roof, and then we talked. We sat up there for close to an hour and just talked…but not like that superficial bullshit small talk, we really spoke on where we were in life as well as other deeper topics. That conversation is honestly probably where things started to shift a little bit for me because up until that point, all the interactions I had with guys were friendly, flirty, or just fun, but nothing that almost felt… meaningful.

We soon realized that we should rejoin our hostel friends downstairs, but when we returned, they had all left. We shrugged and figured they had gone to the Fanzone (a setup for soccer fans to watch the games of the EuroCup on huge screens) and decided to walk down there. Nope. Fanzone was completely empty. Alone again, the tension started to rise, so we continued our conversation on a walk down to the beach. We walked along the beach and discussed so many things I can’t even remember all of them! We just walked and talked until we came to a small cove where we sat and looked for stars. It was a cloudy night so we ended up spotting more planes masquerading as stars than actual stars. But we had gotten closer and closer and the tension was starting to become difficult to ignore. So right around this point Jack pulls such a cheesy move: he says ‘if I find another real star, I get a kiss’. Lo and behold, he found another star and I can’t say I was mad to give him that kiss.

I can honestly say it only gets better from here so keep your eyes out for my next installment!

Sex on the Beach

No, I’m not talking about the sinfully delicious cocktail, I’m talking about honest to goodness beach BANGING. The whole concept has a passionate, romantic connotation, and after this summer, I definitely have a few opinions to share.

First off, the prettier the beach, the more careful you MUST be. Pretty beaches traditionally come with GORGEOUS, soft, powdery sand. And that sand WILL get everywhere, and I do mean EVERYWHERE. So think about that for a second…Most of my experiences with this occurred on rocky beaches or beaches with grittier sand that wasn’t as sticky.  However, if you really start to get hot and heavy on the powder, find a nice big beach towel to lay down on, or don’t say I didn’t warn you…think SANDPAPER. DOWN THERE.

Second, I recommend girl on top for any beach shenanigans. My reasoning for this is very simple. Female sex organs are internal, which means sand and other things can literally get INSIDE us. Whereas men have their sex organs outside of their body and don’t harbor the same risk. Girls, if you’re on top, you’re farther away from the sand, which means you’re more likely to escape that sandpaper feeling I was referring to…

Third, unless you own your own private island (in which case, INVITE ME), chances are, your beach sex will be taking place in a tourist destination which means avoiding other beach goers as well as the authorities. And THINK OF THE CHILDREN. To combat this, one, obviously go under the cover of darkness, preferably between the hours of 2 and 4am to have best chance of privacy. And SECOND, wear a dress. You can just pretend you’re cuddling or play fighting if you get caught on top of one another but everything is still hidden under the dress.

Ok, lastly, sex on the beach can be difficult to pull off due to the aforementioned. But honestly, what cancels all of that out, is the spontaneity aspect. The idea that you’re with someone and you have to have them, RIGHT there, RIGHT now, on the sand. Honestly, as long as you don’t get caught by the police, the other stuff doesn’t really matter, and it’s pretty fucking hot. 10/10 highly recommend.

Wander Alone

Long time, no see. I haven’t written in QUITE awhile and that is due to the fact that in the last couple months, I graduated university, got a pretty insane first job, and just spent the last seven weeks backpacking by myself through Southern Europe. On said trip I hit Athens, Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Rome, Lake Garda, Genoa, Nice, Barcelona, Ibiza, Santorini, Naxos, Mykonos, and Agistri. I booked everything by myself and I traveled completely alone from place to place.

When I first told some of my friends I planned on going alone, they looked at me with incredulity. “You’re going ALONE?” They would ask almost in hushed tones, “Aren’t you scared?” And even now when I tell people what I just did, they are impressed that I would embark on such a trip all by myself. Honestly what I’ve found, is that people have two major hang ups about going on trips alone. 1.) Security and 2.) Companionship.

Security is an understandable concern. I was a lone female traveler and there are of course crime and shady characters to watch out for. But honestly, you’re probably not that much safer from pickpockets and such with friends than without. And as long as you’ve got a reasonable degree of street smarts, you’ll probably be fine, especially in Europe. Which brings us to our next concern, the much bigger concern: Companionship.

At our core, humans aren’t really meant to be alone. We like being around other people because we want someone to share our experiences with so we can be sure someone understands us. This was the hardest fear for me to overcome as well. Right before I left, I had an anxiety-ridden conversation with my mom in which I relayed my reservations to her. I had started freaking out that I had just signed myself up for seven weeks of pure loneliness. However, as soon as I got started, all those fears quickly dissipated.

The thing about traveling alone is that you get to be COMPLETELY selfish. I quickly learned that I could get up when I wanted, see what I wanted, eat what I wanted and meet/not meet the people I wanted. I didn’t have to drag my travel companion out of bed, or worry about their food proclivities or even worry about a girlfriend at the club. I didn’t have to worry about compromising with family,  and I most certainly did not have to worry about staying on track with a tour group. I got to do WHATEVER I wanted, WHENEVER I wanted, and HOW I wanted. That may sound horrifically indulgent to some, but that’s because not many of us get periods of time in our lives where we get to be this selfish. That’s the price we pay for companionship. There’s always someone else to worry about, therefore we can usually never focus solely on our own desires.

Now, just because I was selfish almost to the point of hedonism doesn’t mean I was alone. Oh no no no, in every city I met new people–Finnish, Canadian, Australian,French, English, Italian, ALL SORTS! Aside from my first day, there wasn’t a twenty-four hour period in which I didn’t meet at least one person and hang out with them in some capacity. In Dubrovnik, I partied with a tour group filled with Aussies and then kayaked all of the next day with a girl from Finland. I met a friend in Italy and met up with friends of said Italian friend when I got to Barcelona. I encountered a string of Canadians from Genoa to Nice and actually had the most romantic night of my entire life in Santorini.

Because you are constantly seeing new things and meeting new people, the companionship problem solves itself. You meet people who are in the city for the exact same reason as you and you can make plans together or plans to meet up later. Either way, the option to have people to share your travels with creates itself. The onus is on you to create the opportunity for people to meet you and to facilitate compelling conversation.

In short, I got an average of four hours of sleep per night, saw sights in the morning, lived at beaches in the afternoons, drank a lot of wine and beer…and liquor, gorged myself on carbs and ice cream, and had more than my fair share of flirtatious encounters in every city. I saw some of the most beautiful places and got to meet different and interesting people every night, and I loved EVERY SECOND OF IT.

The thing with traveling alone is that it basically is the ultimate test in putting yourself out there. You have to check your insecurities at the door and you have to overcome obstacles all by yourself. But because you’re all alone, there’s also no one to judge you if you do screw it up. Sure there’s tons of people you’ll interact with everyday, but the beauty is that YOU NEVER HAVE TO SEE THOSE PEOPLE AGAIN. Most of the time, you just gotta swallow your pride and go for it. I didn’t have data/wifi so you bet I was lost all the time. I bought the wrong kind of ticket at least three times, and sometimes my transport was simply on strike. To make friends is even more humbling. Twice, I faked not knowing where I was going so I could ask fellow tourists for directions and ultimately infiltrate their group. I met two people in France while savagely devouring a kebab and later accidentally dining and dashing. I desperately begged one of my roommates in Ibiza to save me from another roommate and when all else failed, I simply would spend a little time wandering alone.

I honestly learned a lot on this trip and thought I would break down any tips I picked up into more posts, so if you are curious as to how I fit seven weeks of stuff in a backpack, or how I didn’t get sick, or even tips on travel boredom, be on lookout for those articles in the coming weeks.