Slippery Stones and Wet iPhones

 

So…as the title and my absence online may have led you to believe- my phone had an unfortunate surprise meeting with the Aegean not too long ago and – unsurprisingly -they did not hit it off.

While I was away however, the world did not stop turning and I was featured on Young and Undecided in their *awesome* Women Who Wander Series!
http://youngandundecided.com/2017/06/07/women-who-wander-just-go-with-it/

The Instagram gods also blessed me with two features!

Well hello, from the city of Athens! Shot by @carryonorbust #ThisisAthens #Cats

A post shared by This is Athens (@this_is_athens) on

Fear not, posts are on their way – over the next few weeks you can look forward to:

  • The Best Pizza in Greece
  • How to Scuba Dive Santorini
  • Anny’s Studio Review
  • City Circus Athens Review
  • It’s a Small World in The Circus (a rooftop surprise and true love)
  • Sisha Bars: what is this and why do I do it?
  • aaaand a couple more I haven’t figured out the titles for!

I will be updating my World Nomads review with my experience with this new claim, and writing a go to list for waterproof phone cases!!

 

Travel Happy – and Travel Waterproof!!

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Wednesdays are Hard  – 3 tiny ways to make it easier 

Sitting at the desk of my day job it is all I can do not to be staring out the window at the clouds. They aren’t even nice clouds. The sky is just blotted out with monochrome grey. I work 9-5 three days a week and Wednesdays are always the hardest for me. 

So I thought I would put together a quick post, some photos and some strategies to push through this midweek “meh”. 

1. Listen, and travel vicariously. 

I am lucky enough to have an office job where I am permitted to wear my headphones as I work. More often than not I am listening to a travelogue or podcast. It’s not travel, but it elicits the ghost of that anticipation, that excitement, and all those little frustrations we secretly love  💙

This one is my favourite – look out for a review soon 💙


2. Plan plan plan 

This can be in your head or sneakily on your lunch break. You don’t have to be hopping countries or continents to travel. I recently discovered a gorgeous bit of sand about an hours ride from me, you can all guess what I will be doing next sunny day 

Sarcastic Australian will always appear somewhere


3. Have a chat 

Start a conversation with someone, a friend you travelled with or a friend you *made* while travelling. There’s something magic about travel, people with lives so different from our own are often not encountered – but travel levels you. I’ve shared dorm rooms with a chemical engineer from Ethiopia, a taxi with a multi millionaire marketing guru from Seattle, and a sunbed umbrella with a professional stoner (her description not mine). If you don’t keep in contact with your travel friends, get on a forum, join a FB group, there are so many travel nuts willing to talk night and day about that thing we all chase 

So, these things might not cure your wanderlust; but they might just make your Wednesday Wanderlust more bearable. Happy travels! 

Well that was a long time…

Ok so maybe I’ve been away for a while!

I have spent the last two years travelling and experiencing life, and now it comes time once again to share those experiences with anyone who wants to listen [read]!

Since I last posted I have been to:

Greece
Italy
France
Sweden
Turkey
Greece again
France again
UK – living here!!
Greece again
Australia (does it count if you’re living somewhere and you visit home the way other people take yearly vacations?)
Sweden again
and coming up next – you guessed it – Greece!

So you can expect lots of post, pictures, and lists from these experiences – let me know if you think there is anything in particular I should address!

 

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The view from a tiny 2 seater plane, flown by a 19 year old (help me)

 

Spiridakos Yacht and Day Tour (Review)

This The type of experience to which I refer in my previous post <http://tinyurl.com/ltv9tcn> – a unique day out that is definitely worth paying extra for – and its really not that much!

Organised through my hostel a few days before, the transfer picked us up around 9:30am and drove us to the gorgeous port of Vylchada.

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From here we boarded our gorgeous catamaran “Caldera II” and set off past Red Beach and White Beach, thoroughly enjoying a glass of white wine as well as the incredible scenery.

After a swimming stop we rounded into the Caldera, and into the famous hot springs where the crew started to prepare our lunch. The small bay we pulled into to have lunch was gorgeous, and was made all the more enjoyable by the incredible lunch put on by the crew.

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After a second swim we laid back on the nets at the front of the catamaran and enjoyed the cruise back to the port.

The small group size on the tour, the incredible crew, and quality food made the experience easily one of the best in my time on Santorini. There are two options, Day Time and Sunset Cruise, both five hours long.

Check out Spiridakos Santorini, jump on a tour, or create your own day – just contact them and ask!
http://www.santorini-yachts.com

And now for many photographs of the day:

 

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Day tours, convenient or a waste of cash?

To complete my trilogy on tours, I will now spend a few hundred words on the use and abuse of day tours.
I am currently in Santorini, Greece, and have recently felt acutely aware of the rip off nature of some of the tours available.

An Oia sunset tour provided by one of the spruikers in Fira; a bus to Oia, dinner in a restaurant (not included) and a bus back. For thirty-five euros. Consider this, the local bus from Fira to Oia is 2.20 each way (2.80 after midnight). You are paying thirty euros and change for the ability to eat dinner at a table full of strangers… Sure in the highest of high season when reservations are harder to get this may feel like it is worth the payment, but when I asked which restaurant the seller replied with ‘ it changes, sometimes one place sometimes another’.

Yes this may be the dodgiest of examples, and there are definitely sunset tours worth splurging on – the catamaran option seems to be the coolest, I am yet to try it – but the fact remains that you can see the sunset from anywhere in Oia, and in fact anywhere that side of the Island for buttloads less – you know, free?

On the flip side day tours can be immensely useful to travelers. If you have limited time in a place, or are completely unaware of how to access a place of interest then a day tour can be handy. Most recently a friend of mine provided an excellent example of the perfect use of day tour. Those times when you’re travelling when you are so completely worn out and tired but don’t want to miss the place you’re visiting and you just want someone to come to your hotel, show you the thing, and take you back to your hotel. She had been sick for a few days and just plain didn’t want to deal with finding the right bus[es], walking the two kilometers to and from the site, and standing in line for tickets in the middle of Turkish summer, so a day tour was booked and thoroughly enjoyed.

Or like me, in Vietnam, I found a tour provided by a company called XO Tours. This was a unique experience I wouldn’t have been able to access otherwise. A motorbike picks you up, and takes you to a variety of street food vendors in different parts of the city. It was incredible and I would probably do it again to be honest. This added value to my travel and therefore was more than worth the money.

So, a few hundred words later, the conclusion can be made that day tours are useful tools. However, they should be used sparingly and only when the situation calls for it (no point using a drill when a hammer will do the job just fine). Just spend five minutes making sure you’re not paying double, or triple, or more, for little or no added value.

European Trip – Should I take an organised tour, or jump in independently?

Organised tours are a popular option for many people, as many people believe that it is their only option. But there is contention about the type of travel promoted by tour companies. You will find evangelists (and some aggressive ones at that) on either side of this discussion – those indie travellers who think all organised tours are useless money making schemes designed to part 18 year olds from their daddy’s money, and those who think that the whole ‘independent travel thing’ is too hard, too scary, or simply overwhelming. But ignore those guys, this is about what YOU want from YOUR holiday.

Bus Tours et al.

Are you under 30(ish)?

Are you looking to get as much as possible in to the time you have?

Do you like busses?

Pros:

  1. Organisation, you don’t have to worry about anything. I mean anything. These bus tours take you to your hotel/hostel/campsite and tell you when dinner is, where the bar is, and what time you have to be up in the morning.
  2. You get a lot in.  Seriously, a lot. If you just want to say you’ve seen Europe, this is the tour option for you. It would be difficult, and expensive, to see everything that you see on one of these bus tours while doing it yourself.
  3. You are guaranteed to meet people, usually from your own country. The companies that are easily accessible to westerners are aimed directly at westerners – you’ll get Aussies, Kiwis, Brits, Americans, and Canadians. Occasionally you will find a European or other nationality in there somewhere – we had a Swedish couple, and a girl from South Africa.

Cons:

    1. Lack of independence. I’m an adult, don’t tell me when to eat breakfast. I don’t want to go to THIS monument I want to go to THAT monument. Naturally, you can always separate from the tour and do your own thing. But not having organised anything yourself, you aren’t versed in the ways of the Italian train system, or maybe Berlin seems a bit daunting alone (especially when you’ve spent two weeks being told when to eat breakfast).
  • My tour counted a night in Vienna. We were there for maybe 15 hours. Overnight. We got in after sunset, did a bus tour in the dark, had dinner, slept, and had hostel breakfast. Then we got on the bus. I do not count myself as having gone to Vienna. With so much to see in a very short time, it can feel very rushed.
  • Because you are in a big group of westerners, you tend to stick with them. This can wind up with you sitting in a bar in Poland with nobody but your group in it. I don’t know about you but if I’m going to be flying all the way to Europe – I’d like to spend at least some of my time with Europeans.
  • The price. These tours are showing you these places through AT BEST one middle man, sometimes two middle men. Three groups of people need to make money off of you – the service (hotel, museum, etc), your guide/driver/porter, and the tour company. This means there are three profit margins to take into account instead of just the service. Tours are usually around $150/$200 a day. Sometimes you find a tour for $90-$100 a day and those are few and far between. Independently, Europe can generally be done for as little as $75 a day (in my experience, and other people I know have spent much less). Remember – you’re not paying for the places, you’re paying for the convenience.

My Experience: I came into my bus tour by accident – my plans in Turkey had fallen through and, as a first time solo traveller, I didn’t know how to get from Athens to Amsterdam over the two weeks left before my flight home. This tour was perfectly timed, and only required a short hop to Italy to start. I came off of ten days independent travel in Greece and from the get go I was not a fan of the heavily organised structure. I don’t like being told what to do at the best of times, let alone when I’m being told to get on a coach for an 8 hour drive, when actually I would rather have liked to have stayed in Venice, instead of going to Austria just then. I feel like I haven’t actually been to a lot of places my tour visited, read above comment on Vienna. On my tour there were 52 people including myself, I will admit now that I cannot remember all of their names, and I’m reasonably sure there were a few that I didn’t say in single word to in 18 days.

Conclusion:

Bus tours are ok, if you are a confident young person who is looking for the group experience – you are guaranteed to meet people, you see Europe, and you have some awesome stories to tell back home, (This one time, in the Czech Republic…).

But the idea that Europe is too hard to navigate, or that it’s scary, or that it’s unsafe – is at most flat out wrong, and at least contentious. Western Europe is very accommodating to tourism, almost everything has an English translation, there are several tourist points in big cities, and people in tourist spots are used to helping befuddled foreigners. Central Europe I would say in much the same, especially in the north. Eastern Europe you may begin to run into a few problems, language barriers, and transport systems not optimised for previously mentioned befuddled foreigners.

As for safety (I’ll be talking more about this in a post soon), you know what? The world is dangerous. THE WHOLE WORLD. Which essentially means you’re no safer out in the world than you are at home. Conversely, you’re no more at risk out there in the world than you are at home. I have felt safer walking around in developing countries, as a female, alone, at night, than I have walking around alone in the day in some parts of my home city. The same rules apply for all big cities – use your head.

The most important thing is that you choose the option that’s right for you. If you are as independent as I am, an organised tour may induce high blood pressure and rage spasms. But if you are looking for the quintessential twenty-something European holiday experience then go for your life, sign up to a Contiki, Busabout, TopDeck, etcetera etcetera! You’ll have a great time, but remember – it is not your only option. There are enough resources on line for you to jump into Europe feet first, have a whale of a time, and get to brag about how you did it all yourself

In this post I have spoken purely about tours in Europe. While these points do apply to most group tours, I will be writing a separate post on tours in developing countries, countries with more challenges, and why a tour might be the answer to your third world problems.

So, What are your opinions on group tours in Europe?