So after all of the lovely pictures, spectacular views, shopping and amazing food, what happens if that isn’t the experience every day? Or better yet, what do you do when problems arise? The first thing you do is prepare yourself with the understanding that shit happens. You just flew halfway around the world to another continent, that doesn’t happen without a hitch here or there. If you are one of those people expecting a picture perfect travel experience, my advice to you is stay home and watch the travel channel. But since my passion is inspiring people to get out of their comfort zone and see the world, I have provided some tips and suggestions to preserve your sanity.
- Make sure you purchase travel insurance, this should be a non negotiable, period. Travel insurance covers flight delays, lost luggage, food, changed plans, and if you have a medical emergency you don’t have to stress about if they accept Blue Cross in Delphi.
- We had a direct flight from Atlanta to Athens on Air France. If your first leg is cancelled, you will have your entire trip rerouted and you probably will not be leaving until the next day, leave the airport, go home or get a hotel and call the carrier. It is a lot less frustrating than trying to get assistance with 400 other frustrated passengers fighting for hotel and free food vouchers. Travel insurance will reimburse these costs, so grab an Uber, call the family and try again tomorrow. Delta has a call back option, it works, they call you back. Usually they can reroute your trip easily, be flexible, the goal is to get to your destination. We had to fly to JFK versus the direct out of Atlanta, no worries, we still got on a flight.
- Pack light, the hassle of delays and trip changes bring the hassle of waiting to get your bags. For some reason the international baggage area is very poorly manned. Hundreds of bags were being sent down the shoot but those passengers were in the service line at the terminal trying to change flights. Bags were everywhere and it became a dangerous situation trying to get them with other bags pilling up and falling. If you only travel with carry on luggage you don’t have this added stress. If possible use a backpack for additional space. I have created a science of packing 2 weeks worth of clothes in a carry on. Now if you are like me and you bring an empty suitcase for food(most important) and gifts, you can pack a large duffel bag, they fold up beautifully in a carry on.
- Wine is free on international flights, don’t drink it all, and to be honest, try not to drink alcohol at all when flying especially long distances. It increases the symptoms associated with jet lag. Remember as soon as you land you will most likely be going directly to a site or on a walking tour, do you really want to show up partially drunk?
- When your itinerary changes because of flight delays just roll with it, the guides know what you must see and make accommodations for you to pick up when you arrive and hit the ground running. Yes I was upset that I missed my day cruise, but the guide told us that The Acropolis is a must, glad she made that decision. This just ensures that I go back for another visit because I saw myself, sunglasses on, cursing around Greece. So roll with the changes, see them as altered adventures.
- Make sure you have all medication, lotion, contacts, bug spray, deodorant, hair gel, mouthwash and anything else you need to survive. You will most likely NOT find the exact same brands traveling. Toothpaste is usually universal, I’ve seen Colgate everywhere. Black girls, you know we cant just use random shampoo and conditioner, and don’t even think about finding ECO gel, make sure you prepare in advance to keep your edges laid. I would recommend braids if you love them, one less thing to worry about while traveling. Greece does however have excellent olive oil based skincare, I went home with a suitcase full of homemade soaps and lotions.
- Listen to the water warnings, if they say it is good to drink, it is good for everything. If they say don’t use it for anything but washing hands and showering LISTEN!
- Street food is safe and also delicious, please try anything you see anywhere that looks or smells good. If you get sick, feel sick or experience any discomfort, alert your guide, they will make sure that you receive medical care ASAP so that you can enjoy the remainder of your trip.
- Expect that you will have a few periods of being unnerved , this is normal when traveling, it could be language, customs, or the people on your trip who are behaving inappropriately. Please do not let them ruin your trip. I have a tendency to get really annoyed with people who don’t follow personal space norms, or anywhere people are openly naked for what I believe is no reason. I had to learn that in different places that’s the norm. Now I just roll with it and laugh at the thoughts rolling through my head in the moment.
- Beware of pickpockets especially at sites full of tourists. Most people are so focused on getting the perfect shot they are oblivious to their surroundings, perfect opportunity to lose your wallet or worse, cell phone. No other crime was a concern, I felt very safe in Greece, even at night. I also always the women at the hotel if it is safe to roam, locals are always your best resource, especially other women. Yes people said be aware of Romani, but all I saw was beautiful children who chased us and laughed as all children do anywhere.
- Yes your stomach will need a few days to readjust, I would suggest eating additional fruits and vegetables. Also avoid excessive dairy and drink extra water. If ever, you are told to refrain from eating certain fruits and vegetables, LISTEN! Its nothing worse than having an upset stomach in places where restroom stops are few and far between. Keep anti diarrhea pills in your bag at all times, they can be life savers. Keep a few extra packs of wipes in your backpack, just in case life gets interesting on the road
- Expect to see a few stray animals, cats especially. Yes you will see them at all sites, inside a restaurant roaming, or under your table looking for scraps. If you choose to feed them fine, if not ignore them and they will move on. Please do not cause a scene or curse at the animals. For one, they can’t curse back, and one cat or a dog here and there shouldn’t be that big of an issue unless you are allergic to animals. Let your guide know, they will communicate with the owner and make sure animals are not in your area.
- Plan to be annoyed with life and food when you get home. Yes I tried to eat Greek salad every day for two weeks, but I was pissed the feta wasn’t good. I even went to a restaurant for a Gyro, nope, not the same. I contemplated quitting my job even thought I was off for the summer and going back, but then I would be broke in Greece and that wouldn’t work. It took me about two full weeks to accept that life has to go back to normal.
Things happen, the key is being as prepared as possible by handling things on the front end. Do a little research about where you are going, pack lightly, have your essential toiletries, and roll with flight changes. If you don’t remember anything else from this post please remember to BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE! Protect your trip, and most importantly protect yourself.
Blessings with a few random shots, until next time, embrace being Un-Nerved in Greece~Ny