Do you remember that moment when you knew that you were meant to travel? Do you still think about those times, where you could barely keep yourself together, yet you were elated to be in that exact situation because you felt so close to yourself? Finally.
You just got it-things started clicking because you decided that it was time to learn. The first real journey is usually the toughest, but it’s also the one that keeps you coming back for more, just like that brutal first backpacking trip, where you and/or your group believed in hiking way longer than anyone is in shape for, but you did it anyway because you were dying for the abuse, for the beauty, and for the wake up call.
For me, this was Crete, Greece in 1992. This was back when I owned a terrible camera and people were still getting rolls of film developed so most of my shots from this trip are in a now-yellowed picture album. My, how things have changed.
Even though that trip is still very tangible to me, just like the picture album, I can’t seem to be able to write about it. I’ve been trying and it just isn’t happening because it always turns into a cliché’ piece where I talk about how it was this wake of discovery, and how I figured out who I was and what I wanted. That is what it was, but somehow, I can’t turn it into its story-even though there are many there. The reality is that most travelers have those stories. We have them because for many, discovery of true self happens alone in the woods, or when we are down and out in some strange town in a foreign country. But, how do you convey it to others? Further, is that even necessary?
I don’t want my story to be just like everyone else’s story, yet when I listen to others, it is amazing how familiar it all is; this must be why talking about travel, and even more so, writing about travel is so difficult. You don’t want to sound like someone needing validation or like a young soul who is overly excited about something that your audience figured out 10 years ago. You don’t want it to be this self-absorbed lecture or a direct instruction unit either, but then it evolves into one or the other. Instead of a story, it becomes a contrived version that steals the beauty away of whatever it is you’re trying to say. So instead, we don’t delve into the details very often and we admire those writers like Jack Kerouac and John Steinbeck, just to name a couple, who manage to make travel writing not about any of that, and rather, about the lessons. About the story.
Rather than write about the epicness of my trip to Greece, I’m giving it this tribute. I’m putting it out there for all of us who have that one place, that one journey, during a specific chapter of our lives, that turned us on our heels, and made us go another direction. Forever. To all of our stories out there.
Here is to the ferry ride from Athens, and getting off on the wrong side of the island. Here is to that leading to riding a bus across Crete, chickens and all.
To the Greeks dealing with my total disorientation, on all levels
Here is to learning to speak Greek.
To working in the black market
Here is to the nude beaches, and how they were always just full of old, naked men, and not the ones you want to look at either. Here is to me enjoying it anyway because of the total freedom that a nude beach brings you.
To my house in Kato Episkopi (the first picture)
Here is to running out of money, and learning about what being hungry is like. What fear is like too.
To getting robbed while hitch hiking
To the hostel in Sitia that became my home, full of many nationalities, all men. Here is to that-learning about the male, on all levels-the good, the beautiful, the bad, and the very, very bad.
And from that, here is to loving Albanians, Iranians, Yugoslavians, Scottish, and on and on.
To the several hostel raids, and learning what the word country really means. Without a passport, you are nothing.
Here is to being able to go to a bar, buy a large swill beer for pennies, and get a tray of food with it-for free. How I miss the drachma!
Here is to hitch hiking around the island, sleeping in olive groves, and dancing around fires during rakki (the “moonshine” of Greece back then) fests.
To free hospital care, to the beautiful, beautiful Greeks and their glorious food, and to the coast line
To learning about what hard labor means.
There’s more and more and more and it could probably rest next to your more and more. We all have those journeys, and to the people who don’t, you’re probably still looking for the one that means something for you, at a time when you need it.
To the time where I was introduced to myself. Travel, meet me. Me, this is travel.
To all of us and our journeys in life.
Thanks for reading, sharing, commenting, and liking! Credit for photos goes to Joe Phillips.