I decided to combine my third and fourth week into one post because my third week was spent in the forever beautiful Mykonos, Greece and my fourth week was spent preparing for the reason I am here: my teaching job! It has been a hectic few weeks, but I have really enjoyed my time traveling and also being a homebody. I’ve learned that balance is key even while abroad and it’s okay to take a break from trying to see everything by spending time at home. Also, you may be wondering why I titled my blog the way I did, but you’ll soon find out!
Back in July, I saw a post on a Facebook page asking for people who would be interested in staying at this absolutely breathtaking villa overlooking the Aegean Sea for 5 days – and, of course, I would be insane to not say yes to that! Although I didn’t know what else I would be doing during my first month here, my heart was set on making this vacation the most enjoyable and relaxing “vacation from my vacation” possible.
There wasn’t a part of the island that isn’t absolutely breathtaking. From the natural topography to the buildings to the kindness of the people to the weather, it was so easy to take in the beautiful surroundings and feel at home even though it was all completely new. Our AirBNB was definitely the nicest place I had ever stayed in – all white, modern, and it had a lived in vibe that made it feel like home (plus the pool overlooking the sea wasn’t too bad either). Getting there at the end of September was awesome because it was the end of the tourist season (lower costs but still lots of people there) and the weather was perfection all day and everyday.
However, there were a few bumps in the road – metaphorically and actually. Driving was absolutely insane there and I drove the whole time. People honk nonstop for no reason and ATVs and scooters own the road (because most of the time the roads are old or are just dirt). Usually the roads turn into sidewalks towards town and many times I had to back down driveways in order to let buses through on those tiny roads. However, I am quite sure I’m a much better driver after dealing with the lack of rules of the road there!
Additionally, if the bumps in the roads could be a metaphor for the bumps on my face and all over my body, well…it would be a good fit! On the second day, I fell on some sort of plant in the ocean and ended up having a really painful allergic reaction that turned into a bruise, then a blood blister, and then a big and very itchy scab. During less blustery days and nights, we would have a mosquito infestation in our house while we slept – and they particularly liked the feast on my face, hands and feet. At the end of the trip, I had approximately 150 bug bites in total with about 45 of them being on my face, and the rest on my legs, hands, and the remaining allergic reaction spot. However, I refused to let these things ruin my plans for this trip and decided that I would handle things once I got back to Madrid!
We spent the week mostly on the beaches, trying Greek food, shopping, dancing at the beach clubs and just enjoying each other’s company and soaking it all in. My most favorite part of the trip was spending half of the last day on a boat tour watching the sunset! It was the most incredible travel experience I ever had because I had never been on a true sail boat and I was able to experience it all in Greece! Most of the girls I was with came with me on the tour so we had the whole boat to ourselves plus the crew sailing us around. We had wine and beer and the company was nice enough to throw in a few bottles of prosecco as well! There were two stops where we were able to snorkel and see fish, plants and even ancient Greek steps and pottery used on one of the islands. The water was so clear and blue and it led to some really memorable GoPro pictures and videos! While we were sailing, the crew also prepared an amazing dinner of lamb, chicken, feta cheese, salad, grilled veggies and pita and we were able to enjoy it while watching the sunset. I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect end to a vacation and would glad get on a sailboat again, especially in Mykonos.
Although I had opportunities to travel this past week, I felt that it was better for me to be a homebody and just relax, recover and prepare for the upcoming week. My skin was so itchy from the bug bites and getting the more-judgemental-than-usual stares from the Madrileños was difficult to handle well. So, I made my apartment feel like home and made Chicken Noodle Soup, my favorite fall-time recipe, which made me feel warm, comfortable and relaxed. After a few days of being a homebody with a few walks around Retiro Park, I went with a few friends on a hike around San Lorenzo de El Escorial (which was my first real hike)! It is a beautiful town outside of the city center of Madrid and the views from the outside of the town were absolutely stunning. We hiked about 9 miles and, of course, right at the almost end of our hike, I fell, scraped my knee and ruined my favorite pair of leggings. However, the tinto de verano and tapas before the bus ride back made it all better! Having the hike was a great way to cap off this month of exploration and put me in the mode to start my teaching journey.
After these past two weeks, I have broadened my horizons, tried new things I never had the opportunity to before and made lasting friendships and memories. My best advice during your travels is to always leave a piece of yourself at each place you go – and no, please don’t fall and scrape your knee, get eaten alive by mosquitos or have an allergic reaction. I mean always leave a mark on everywhere you go and leave a corresponding mark on your heart. Share. Explore. Laugh. And don’t be afraid to get messy, because sometimes it leads to the best memories!
Adios until next week!
-Stephanie in Spain