I had nothing but pure enjoyment on my study abroad trip. I saw places that I had only ever dreamed of seeing. The memories that were made will not soon be forgotten, and the learning experiences will continue with me where ever I go. It is hard to believe another trip of adventures has come and gone. I learned about places and cultures, but above that, I learned about life and myself.
To think that I have been on two study abroad trips and visited ten countries all together makes me appreciate the beauty and reward of dreaming. I have dreamt of traveling to far-away places for as long as I can remember. Traveling is the best gift I could have been given. It opens the door to many opportunities and is truly my favorite form of education.
While this trip was mostly down to business, we could not go all eighteen days without some fun. It does not take much to tickle me, and with the added slap-happiness, I could start laughing at the drop of a hat. From our bill misunderstanding at the Hard Rock Café in Venice to the escapade of trying to save a dead jellyfish, we laughed until there we had tears running down our cheeks just from day one. The night I got stuck in the shower took the prize for the most memorable night. Thank goodness for frosted glass and my roommate who came to my rescue. Hours went by before we could compose ourselves.
The fun continued all the way to the top of Mount Vesuvius. As I have expressed before, mountain climbing is not my highest skill, yet I was looking forward to adding an active volcano to my climbing resume. It was a gorgeous day, and I am happy I made the journey up. Climbing Mount Vesuvius was far easier than my previous climb. I even climbed in sandals, so if that says anything about the terrain, it was quite possible to persevere through, though, I would have benefitted from wearing tennis shoes. It is so satisfying to conquer something like climbing a mountain.
The fun did not stop there. A day at a pebble beach at Clovina brought us together for what our tour directors called a second breakfast, a relaxing few hours on the beach, and a later lunch. I welcomed the slower-paced days like these. I liked when the entire group of travelers could be together because it gave us a chance to share stories and catch up from where we last saw each other. While some took advantage of being by the water, I sat on the rocks and listened to the waves.
It makes me happy to look through my photos and reminisce about what was captured. Being gone for almost three weeks seemed like it flew by; I could have stayed for three months. I have only covered a small fraction of what I experienced and the fun times keep on rolling beyond the few stories I have shared. As for now, I have to put a closing seal on my latest travel adventure. Until next time, I will keep on dreaming of my future classroom destinations. It is only a matter of time until I give in to the hopes and dreams of my heart of wanderlust.
©Inquisitive Perspectives 2017
The last day on the cruise had a full day’s schedule for us. The plan was to go to Crete and Santorini. Both islands were nothing short of spectacular, but Crete superseded any expectation I may have had. When I say Crete was my favorite and the prettiest island I visited, I do not want it to seem like the others were not worth the time, because they absolutely were. Crete left me feeling different, and I just do not know how to explain the sensation.
I initially had my doubts about the excursion I had signed up for during the morning stay on Crete. One of our tour directors had talked it up as being the best experiences the cruise offered. I kept thinking what did I just sign up for? I do not drink, and this excursion was about going to a private winery. Going into this, I told myself surely there will be more to this day than sitting around a table and watching people sample wines. I was in for an awakening that day and proven wrong about my preconceived ideas.
The bus dropped us off at the bottom of the driveway. As we gathered at the opening of the property, I could already see the character that had been preserved for generations. An older gentleman greeted us with open arms and welcomed us to his family’s winery. The morning sun’s dazzling rays made the hillside sparkle. And with that, an overflowing sensation of peace came over me.
The man held my undivided attention as he spoke. He was a thoughtful storyteller in his native tongue. His love for family came through as he spoke highly of his late father. The term agape love was how he described the way people should love and be loved by. Derived from the ancient Greek language, agape love means “the highest form of love [and] charity” and “the love of God for man and man for God.” This day on Crete just happened to be a Sunday. As the message of love and humbleness was being spoken before me, I could also hear a countryside Greek Orthodox church off into the distance holding a service. It felt as though we had been to church and been refreshed with a reminder of how we should treat, respect, and love others.
He invited us into the family home that has since been converted into the winery. Inside, we sat down for light morning refreshments and traditional Greek dancing. During some of the songs, we were invited to join in on the fun. It was great fun dancing with the dancers and other travelers. I was far from being swift on my feet, but no one really cared. The memories far outweigh my coordination, or lack thereof.
Sadly, our stay at the winery on the countryside of Crete had to come to an end. I enjoyed seeing a different lifestyle and meeting such a humble man with a profound life story. Those are the treasured moments that will forever stay in my heart. I could have stayed and talked to that man for hours. I could tell he had such wisdom and life lessons to share. People with a kind and humble heart like his are special and hard to come by these days.
I was going to make good use of the remaining time I had back on the cruise before disembarking the next day. Between Crete and Santorini, there were a few hours, so I decided to splurge on getting my first massage. It was well worth it, and it helped me procrastinate packing. I was having too much fun to hurry along the fate of leaving. After my massage came the time to venture out to Santorini. A cable car took us to the town, we stopped for frozen Greek yogurt and took some photos. We saw what we wanted to see, and decided to cut the stay a tad short to come back to the ship to finish packing before dinner. It was bittersweet having our last dinner on the cruise. To put a final topper on the entire experience, I saw the last Cirque show after dinner. I feel like I did it all on the cruise and enjoyed every minute of island and ship life.
Throughout the rest of the day and still after returning home, I think about the man who told his compelling life story with tears in his eyes. It made me realize how precious the people we cross paths with are, and what kind of an impact they leave. The Cretan way is to welcome travelers out of the goodness of your heart, expecting nothing in return. He certainly did that. Traveling brings messages of hope and goodness from dear people, and those words will ring through my mind and heart for as long as I live. We came as strangers but left as family.
©Inquisitive Perspectives 2017
I know there is only so much daylight in a day, and the mantra of carpe diem should forever live on, but our second day on the cruise was an exception. This day on the cruise gave us a free morning to ourselves, and we needed it. We took advantage of this time to make up for our early-morning wake-up calls. Lucky for us, the lunch buffet was our ticket to looking lively for the day. We perked up when someone mentioned it was time for lunch and that we could continue to work on our tans afterward, so if that is what it took to get us moving, then so be it.
Our leisure day was the perfect cruise experience and exactly what I would have expected it to be like. So, the day went on. The ship sailed to the Isle of Patmos. Having studied the book of Revelation, I had been looking forward to seeing where John was imprisoned while he wrote it. The cruise offered an excursion to see the cave and the monastery, but we figured we would skip that and make our own tour. Our way involved taking a taxi. What an experience that was. I said that the lines and speed limits were merely suggestions, but my friend gave a better assessment that they were just street decorations. That speedy ride made up for the slow start to the day we had.
The time spent on the Isle of Patmos quickly came to an end. It seemed surreal to be standing on the same ground where John sat and wrote. As I sat and waited for the charters to take us back to the ship, I stared off into the sunset and thought about what it must have been like for John to have been exiled to an island and given the divine inspiration to write Revelation. It had to take such discipline and dedication to write like that in the condition John found himself in for that time.
Back on the boat, we gathered for dinner. I always looked forward to this time because it was time to reconnect with other travelers and hear their stories. Just because we all had the same set itinerary, did not mean every single person had the exact experience or perspectives. Dinner time, for me, was synonymous with story time. This specific dinner was especially fun. We joined some golden travelers, and they showed us the royal cruise experience. I think we tried everything on the menu. Being in good company makes any meal ten times better.
Each night after dinner there was an entertainment show in the Muse’s Lounge on the ship. There were Cirque shows, but the Greek Night theme shown through the day all the way to the evening entertainment. A famous Greek musician played the night away. I enjoyed the music. I may not have understood every word of the songs, but it did not matter. All of the fun lies in being in the moment. Hearing foreign melodies make my heart sing with happiness.
I feel like our casual day, historical afternoon, and fun-filled evening gave only a sampling of what Greece could offer. I had fallen in love each day for the people, culture, and experience. There is still so much to discover and experience, but that is the beautiful thing about traveling; it keeps the soul searching for more.
©Inquisitive Perspectives 2017
The day to set sail on Celestyal Cruise’s Greek Isle tour had arrived. As much as I was looking forward to being on my first cruise, I was apprehensive because of my problem with motion sickness. Good news: I did not get sick. In all of the excitement of boarding and making our way to the lunch buffets and top deck, we had a quick reality check during a life boat drill. One hopes never to need to know what to do or where to go, but I could sleep better at night knowing the procedure. With the drill behind us, the fun could officially begin.
I had no idea what to expect on this cruise. I was just along for the ride, literally. This was the vacation from the vacation in a way. Days went by, and I only saw people from our group at designated meeting times. It also helped that my roommate and I were two decks above the rest of our group and in the same hallway as our professors and golden travelers, as I like to call them.
After hitting the lunch buffet, my top priority was to head to the top deck to get a golden, Greek tan. I put on my ruffly, red bathing suit, sat a white, floppy hat atop my head, and oiled up. Life was made. So much so that I drifted into dreamland during Greek music hour and woke up to Americano music hour. Who knew I could multitask while sleeping? I could have gotten used to cruise life.
The ship came into our first port for the cruise. The first stop was the island of Mykonos. The island was hopping with tourists, but it did not take away from its picturesque views. I do not have adequate words to describe it. The pure white buildings with bright blue roofs were simply gorgeous. The windmills stood so tall in the sunlight shining on them. Out in the water from the coast were sailboats. What an image that was. I have said it before, and I will say it again: the peace of being on an island is undeniably present. Mykonos had views that belonged on a canvas.
We journeyed back to the ported ship around sunset. I will stop and stare at any setting sun, anytime and anywhere. As I sat on a bench waiting to go to the boat, I thought about how amazing it is to have the same sun rising and setting over the entire world, yet it looks different and continues to amaze me. It makes me want to chase the travel bug forever and forget the compass.