//Finding Independence in Greece

Finding Independence in Greece

Dimitra Milan in Santorini Greece

June 18th….

This trip has been life-changing, and has stretched me in more ways than I am even aware of. Some days, I felt as though I could do anything. Inspiration surged through me and I became extremely motivated! And I fell in love with everything. As I walked through the crowds of people in a beautiful city, I took in the smells and sounds of young Greeks speaking and laughing, and I was filled with such an appreciation for this country. The energy in their voices excited me, and I just wanted to soak it all up. I felt stronger, and like I became apart of this magical place. Other days, these same people seemed to be staring and judging me, the “Americaniki”. I barely understood their Greek, but I knew enough to know they were talking about us. I felt uncoordinated, confused, and feeling like I was always SO LOST! I thought, “I really have NO IDEA what I’m doing!!” and I wanted to curl up in bed and never leave the apartment. Every little stupid thing consumed me, and I felt scared and weak and boring. These days were the hardest to overcome, but eventually I got through it. It’s only culture shock, I told myself. I realized, I mustn’t care what people think or say about me. Your real strength lies in your weaknesses. I’ve realized my inner confidence is stronger than I thought, and when I learn to use it, I can get through anything. Just breathe…stay calm, and pray. This was my realization, and after each day passed I was filled with the sense of accomplishment.  

Why did I go and do all this? For months, I’ve been itching to leave my little desert. To go explore and do something on my own, outside my family. I guess I needed to find out what I was made of, I was craving an adventure. I was ready to test myself, I knew I would be put in uncomfortable situations and I expected to feel lost. But I needed this growth, and this experience. And it has really made my life richer. “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us…” What a true statement. We all get so comfortable in our own little bubbles, and everyday living. Traveling expands your world, your mind, and helps you find your place.

It exposes your weaknesses, making you stronger in the end. When everything around you is unfamiliar and all you have is yourself, you begin to understand who you truly are. In these moments, I began to feel the freedom and I felt weightless. And I was filled with this inner confidence. This earth God created for us, was meant to be explored and we are meant to love all it’s people.

That was an overall summary of my trip, although below I’ve written a much longer (it’s quite long, be prepared) and detailed version explaining it day by day. This next part is filled with all our stories and experiences, and frustrations.

The day I decided to write about the trip, was literally our last day in Greece and our most painful, aggravating day. I decided to write as a form of therapy, turning our frustrations into something humorous. And it worked, I instantly felt better. I hope you enjoy this.

(And if you’re a Greek and reading this, please realize this was written from the perspective of an American teenager. I hope you find this amusing, I’m not dissing your country….Greece has stolen my heart)❤️

Santorini Greece

So… the beginning of our trip started with 3 days in Athens. From the point of leaving home until we arrived in the Athens airport, it seemed as though we were bumbling along and whatever path we took, was blissfully easy. We laughed at every little scenario, and how it worked out in our favor, down to always getting the most friendly airport workers helping us. We constantly kept those words which were prayed over us, “This trip will be like walking on the yellow brick road, God has His favor over you,” close to our hearts. We were walking on the yellow brick road, sometimes LITERALLY. Our experience in Athens was filled with fun and memorable moments. I’ll never forget our first night there. After spending two days traveling, we finally sat down at a little restaurant (recommended by this incredibly kind crêpe guy), no tourists around, just Miranda & I. We took our first bites of Greek food (after a year of not having it), and I wanted to cry it was so good. I was transported by the flavors. I kept closing and opening my eyes, feeling like I was in a dream. I couldn’t believe I was there! My soul was so happy, I was home… We met some amazing friends, and saw breathtaking sites. We even met up with one of my Instagram followers, and he treated us to freddo-cappuccinos on a cafe rooftop overlooking the Acropolis (another moment which transported me, and I almost cried from being so overwhelmed with genuine happiness). That day was perfect. My mom always described quite a different experience in Athens, full of confusion and chaos and long hours spent being lost in the city with people that had spicy attitudes. I didn’t know what to say, I had better opinions about Athens. (HA, HA! So I thought. ….to be continued) I left Athens wanting more, and all throughout the trip, I longed to go back.

Next, we headed to Crete. We bought tickets for an overnight ferry ride, which left 9pm and arrived 6am. We slept in a miniature room with a bunk bed and our own bathroom. It was definitely a different experience: sleeping on a swaying boat in a claustrophobic room with nothing to do, and using crappy wifi that costs 3 euro per hour to use it. Yeah… we dropped that and just read our books and drew, and thought about life. But to wake up in Crete, wow…what an exhilarating feeling. We were SO ready for this new adventure! At that point, (6:00 in the morning) after waking up to the voice of the attendant yelling in the loudspeaker that we must hurry and get off the boat, we had NO CLUE to where we would go or stay. So we got off the ferry, and we saw nothing. No taxis, no buses, no signs…and it’s 6am and in Greece, that’s the middle of the night. So we just walked, kinda aimlessly for awhile. This little boy came up to me and started yanking on my backpack, and saying something in Greek. I was freaked out and turned away quickly, but then I realized he was just informing me my water bottle had fallen out. Phew…that was close. Then we saw signs for a bus station, but I was starving. And I was getting hangry and anxious, and this is the point where I start to panic in life. Not having a mental plan, and being physically uncomfortable. Miranda took charge, and made me buy a pastry. After I ate some of it, I instantly felt better and I could think straight. We decided we’d go to Rethymno, and stay there a night to get situated and come up with a plan for the next week. We cautiously walked across the busy street without crosswalks, and found the bus station.

Right away I saw this very dark skinned, dark haired woman with piercing blue eyes. She was shockingly beautiful.

We went inside the station and bought “δύο εισιτήρια” (2 tickets, I liked practicing my Greek). Our tickets were for Bus 1 Rethymno 7:30am. Perfect! It was about 7am, we had 30 min to chill and wait to get on the bus, which was only going to be an hour ride. We saw signs for Bus 1, Bus 2, and so on…up to Bus 7. We sat right by the sign Bus 1, which clearly read “Rethymno 7:30”. We watched as the buses came and went. But ours wasn’t showing up, we waited and waited as it got closer to 7:30. So I started getting slightly worried, although I was used to Greeks being late for everything. At 7:29 I walked up to one of the officers standing there, and calmly ask about our Bus 1. He looked at us like we’re stupid, and started yelling at one of luggage guys on the far end. He yelled at us and said, “Hurry hurry! It’s leaving right now! Bus 7! Go!!” We ran with all our stuff in a panic all the way down to Bus 7, the luggage guy was very mad at us for not being on time. We frantically handed him our tickets and threw our backpacks in the belly of the bus. WOAH MAN! That was CLOSE! Typical experience in Greece, yup that’s how it’s done there. And you’re stupid if you don’t know this, come on and get with the program!

Ancient Corinth Ruins

Our first couple days in Crete, we were unsure and never had a concrete plan in mind, which put both of us in a state of constant anxiety. We both learned something about ourselves: having plans make us happy. Winging it was way out of our comfort zone. We decided to go back to Heraklion (where our ferry landed) and stay for a couple days. We had coffee with one of my relatives, who none of my family members including myself, ever met. That meeting was a kiss straight from heaven! I don’t what we would have done if it weren’t for my relatives. They hand wrote a map for us and a guide telling us all the best places to go in Crete. We mapped out each of our days there, and what we would do. That literally saved us.

From there, we were all set and had very optimistic moods. Every day after that was bright and sunny and warm, the clouds parted just for us! Every day was the perfect beach day. We left our cute Rethymnon apartment each morning and drove with freedom in our hearts, to the wonderful places waiting ahead of us. We spent our time driving through tiny green mountain villages (each one having a special personality), shopping for treasures, enjoying the traditional Cretan food (which included: sautéed snails, Antikristo/roasted lamb, fresh trout, heavenly cheesy butter, and homemade sausages, hiking up and down cliffs, exploring ancient castles, and turning golden under the Mediterranean sun.

Running through a field of flowers

One of my favorite and most memorable days in Crete, was our trip to Preveli. My parents were engaged in Crete over 20 years ago, and this place was one of the many they visited. Before my trip, my mom told me I couldn’t miss this place. So we had to go. It was completely breathtaking, a hidden tropical paradise, with the most gorgeous hike and views. It was quite the hike down (not to mention coming back up), it took Miranda and I about 25 minutes of winding our way down the cliff to the beach. With the sun beating down on our backs, we were beyond ready to jump in that water. The sand was almost black, which meant burnt feet. We ran across the hot sand and crossed a small channel of shallow water to get the beach. After dumping our stuff, we tore off our clothes and dove in. The sea was so refreshing, and restored our energy. After a couple hours of tanning on the black sand, we realized we were getting really sunburnt. I felt like a sundried tomato. So we packed our stuff and went over to the beach bar. We ordered frappés from the middle-aged Swedish waiter. While waiting for our coffees, he kept trying to make conversation with us. I kinda got the crepes from this guy, although Miranda on the other hand was being way too friendly. Next thing I know, he sat down at our table and was serving us “Raki” from a plastic water bottle. He said, “This is homemade, my own recipe. It’s very clean. Try some.” I felt nervous to drink it, and wondered if he put anything else in it. I decided I was being too paranoid. I took very small sips, and I felt it burn down my throat. My breath felt like fire, maybe I even lost my voice. Miranda drank hers down, kinda quickly. “OH MY GOD, we gotta get outta here!” I silently thought to myself. But Miranda must have sensed my coldness, and finally got the clue that I wanted to LEAVE. Maybe we were rude, but this old goat was definitely putting the moves. We left and decided to explore the tropical jungle that surrounded us. That was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. It didn’t even feel like Greece, it was the island from The Blue Lagoon! I fell in love. We must have explored the area for over an hour, doing little photoshoots and taking videos. The water was bright blueish green, and both sides of the river were overgrown by giant palm trees. It was gorgeous, and so worth it all.

Greece countryside

Each night after our daily adventures, we’d drive home to Rethymno. We had to pay to park our car in the same parking lot each night. How it works there: you enter the parking lot from a one way street, push a button which feeds you a ticket, you take that ticket and park. The next day when you want to leave again, you feed this machine in the middle of the parking lot, your ticket and it knows how much you need to pay. We payed an average of 7€ per night. Anyways, it was a Wednesday evening and after we already parked our car we saw a sign that says, “No parking from Wednesdays 12am – Thursdays 2pm STREET MARKET” Hmmm…is this for reals? I thought we should go ask the guy at the kiosk, many times things in Greece aren’t as they seem (spoken from experience). It would be a REAL pain to have to re-park somewhere else, I just wanted to make sure.

So we walked up to the kiosk, and there’s a young Greek guy working there, directing traffic with the confused German tourists. I asked him in English if we are allowed to park here all night. He looked at me, smiled and said yes. Then I pointed to the sign and asked if that’s not relevant. He says, ehh no. So I asked again, “Can we park here all night?” He looked very confused…and said no. Then I realized, he doesn’t know ANY English. So I tried again using my Greek, which came out something like “Theloume parko etho. Enthaxi?”. What’s the word for “park” in Greek??! I was really struggling. He laughed a little and said “Parko?” and then in Greek he asked me “Ti theleis?” (What do you want?). I was about ready to give up and walk away, but I decided to try google translate. And then he still couldn’t figure it out, and so I just said “Efharisto” (thank you) and walked away. He said “No, No! Wait.” He called his friend who knew English, and handed me the phone. I talked to this guy and I finally get answers.

No, we could not park there, there is a street market tomorrow being held in that parking lot. We had to move our car somewhere else, he suggested the port. Ok! FINALLY. So then I said ‘thank you’ and walk away briskly to the car. As we were halfway down the parking lot, the guy was yelling at us to come back and he was holding his phone up in the air. I thought, oh no there’s a problem. So I hurried back and he gave me the phone. “Yes?” I said. “So, how long are you here for?” said his friend on the phone. Oh gosh….. “Umm, we leave soon actually!” and he continued, “well my friend here wants to know if you want to go with him for coffees or drinks?” and I answered, “Well you know, he doesn’t speak any English, we can’t communicate.” He laughed, “Yes, I know this….but what do you say?”. I was having a real hard time coming up with words. “Ummm… I don’t know, I’ll talk to him in person. I’ll tell him myself…..Ok bye!” and I hung up the phone. I couldn’t talk to him myself. So I told Miranda, “Tell him we’re leaving soon, sorry.” And she did, and then we walked away really quickly to the car. Poor guy.

And from that point on, that night went kinda south… Poor Miranda began to unravel into the full effects of culture shock. It was just one little annoying thing after another. We began to leave the parking lot, but we had to first feed the machine our ticket. We got to the exit, and Miranda seemed to have “misplaced” it. She told me she JUST had it. We looked everywhere: the floor, our purses, all the small little compartments, the ceiling, annnnnd nothing. There was a line starting to form behind us, of impatient Germans honking their horns. We searched for probably 6 min, and now the just-got-dumped-parking-lot-guy had to help us. I told him in Greek “Then exei esiteria” (she doesn’t have the ticket) and gave him my best sorrowful face, and he understood, and decided to let us go through anyways. Man, we are so pathetic.

Then we had to drive to the port. My GPS (google maps) had too many opinions, and kept changing her mind in which way was the faster route. Rethymno has many streets, many of which are one way streets, with uneven cobble stones. On our way to port, we saw the perfect parking spot!! It was right there close to where we were staying, (the port is a much farther walk to get back to our apartment). Only if you were an expert parallel parker, you could do this. Miranda was a little too inexperienced, let’s just say…. I got out of the car, to help “direct” her. I tried explaining to her first how to parallel park, but you know when stress is built up and there’s a whole party of Greeks eating dinner across the street staring at you and smirking, you can’t quite think straight. The pressure was on, and she was overly confident in her (lack of) skills. So the car went in slanted, the edge was about to hit the giant van in front of us. I yelled at her to stop! and try again. With each try, we got more and more pinned between those two cars, until I was out of “directions”. Then Miranda scraped the bumper of the van in front, but all in slow motion. I saw the van lift a little off the ground. We are both SO FREAKING EMBARRASSED. Miranda just said, “I can’t. I just can’t, I can’t do this.” I was so full of frustration. I got in the car, after hearing the Greeks around us laughing. Why couldn’t one of them be the hero and help the damsels in distress? We managed to get unstuck and drove away.

Lesson learned: Drive away from your problems.

Metsovo breakfast

Long story, made short…. it literally took us 2 HOURS to get to the port, and according to google maps it should have taken us 10 min. Yeah. Why did this happen to us?? I can’t find a good enough answer. We must be doofuses.

When we finally reached the port and after we gracefully parked the car into the wide parking space, Miranda got up and I noticed a little white thing on her seat. Yes, the parking ticket. SHE WAS SITTING ON IT. We flopped ourselves onto the car and started crying/laughing.

Every day after, were allowed to park in the original parking lot. But we had to use it with caution, we avoided eye contact with the “parking lot guy” (which we learned worked there every single night right when we needed to park the car). By the time we had to leave Crete, we were parking lot experts and learned our way around the city pretty well. Next time, we will be prepared.

Our next adventure was Santorini! It’s always been my dream to go here, and one day for a honeymoon. We took a high speed boat from Crete, and we got there in 2 1/2 hours. To my complete amazement, this boat was full of loud obnoxious Americans. I mean, literally everyone in this boat was American. Miranda and I experienced a little embarrassment for our own culture. “I want a cheese pie! How much is it in euros? …Yeah, I’m from New Jersey. Thats America, a long ways from here!”. …My gosh. As we get closer to Santorini, I can start to see the island. It’s different from anything I’ve ever seen, this whole island is basically a volcanic rock and all the cities are built on its cliffs. It looks so dramatic. I overheard this teenage girl behind us asking her dad, “Oh my god, is that snow on the mountains?”. “Oh hunny, I think the climate here is too hot for snow. I’m not sure what that is, maybe rock formations?”….Yes, this conversation really did happen.

Santorini was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. Words cannot describe those sunsets. The whole place is overwhelmingly romantic, and Miranda and I decided we could only fully enjoy this place if we had a boyfriend. Period.

After Santorini, we took a ferry back to the mainland, arriving in Piraeus. This was now the halfway point in our trip. By this time, we were somewhat flowing with the system. We knew how things worked, and we got comfortable with traveling. Even though I’ve been to Greece several times during my life, (I even lived there for 6 months as a 5 year old) this experience was completely different and unpredictable. There were so many first times on this trip.

Dimitra Milan in Arachova

Basically in our last 10 days, we did a giant road trip all around Greece. From the Piraeus port in Athens we drove to Corinth, then to Parga, then Ioanina, Metsovo, Thessaloniki, Chalkidiki, Larisa, Arachova, and back down to Athens.

We were in Corinth for one night, and saw the ancient Corinthian ruins. That was spectacular, my favorite were the seven pillars still standing from the Temple Of Apollo.
Our drive to Parga was so very long, took us over 4 hours. We arrived quite hangry, so we ate some “ok” food at the nearest taverna. Also at that point, we had no reservations planned. We were completely winging it, and worse case scenario we thought we could always sleep in the car. This cute beach town had everything, including the PERFECT beach. Parga looked like it came straight out of a fairytale. Only downside, this place was swarming with other tourists. Even if we wanted to swim at the beach, there wasn’t space. After we ate, we started thinking about where to stay. I was kinda panicking. I’m not sure why I am this way, but I hate not knowing what’s coming. I was getting so nervous, and indecisive and wondering where would we park the car?! For some reason, we drove around to nearby beaches and stayed at this one beach for 4 hours. It was a good choice. All the stress vanished, and I thought “don’t worry, be happy.” At around 8pm, we started heading back to Parga. We would find something, and it would be perfect. I forced myself to be optimistic. Sure enough, we found a parking lot with a super kind parking lot guy. He gave us all sorts of suggestions on where to eat and his favorite beaches, and it turned out he was good friends with a lady who owned a hotel. The hotel was very cheap, and directly across the street from this parking lot. It was perfect. I would go back in a heartbeat, I highly recommend visiting Parga.

Santorini

Ioanina is the Silver City, known for its unique silver jewelry. There’s a huge lake, where the silver is cultivated. I take Greek lessons online every week, and Ioanina is where my teacher lives. So we met up with her, it was so cool to see her in person! She showed us around, and we even met her family. Next we drove to Metsovo, which was only an hour from Ioanina. This little mountain village is so adorable, and my family and I go here almost every time we come to Greece. We always stay at this same hotel (I know, so adventurous right?), because we love the owners and they cook us an incredible homemade breakfast in the morning. That’s pretty much the whole reason I went to Metsovo, for that specific breakfast. The owners wife wakes up super early and bakes bread, makes her own butter, jams, honey, orange juice, and eggs from their own chickens. Also, they make amazing frappés. It was a heavenly breakfast.

Dimitra Milan in Crete

From there, we drove to Thessaloniki and stayed with my relatives. We met up with one of my Instagram followers (who’s name is also Dimitra) and her sister. They recommended this place called the Candy Bar. They specialize in sweet drinks, a 100 different kinds of hot chocolate, and unique cocktails with crazy flavors like bubblegum with dry ice. I got a spicy mango drink, that had Tabasco in it. Everything in this place was so delicious, but I especially loved the people I was with. Right away we just clicked, and we spent hours talking and discussing. I’m so glad to have met them, and hopefully we see each other soon!

Then we spent 3 1/2 days camping in Chalkidiki….on the beach. This trip was planned very last minute. I don’t how this happened, it had to be a blessing straight from God, but we got the very last camper at this resort. We called two hours before we would arrive there, and reserved it. Every camping place in Sarti was booked, we got the very last thing available. We were so grateful, and this place was surprisingly fancy! I could have easily spent a couple weeks there camping on the beach. It was luxury camping, or “glamping”. Our little trailer was right on the beach, we could walk 10 steps and we would be touching the sand. It was pretty quiet and peaceful, except for the crazy frogs which chirped all night long. But that was kinda cool. We spent the next 3 days (our last beach days) lying in the sun, drinking frappés, reading inspirational books, and making art. I managed to finish the entire book “How To Steal Like An Artist” in one sitting (one of the best books I’ve ever read). This was heaven. I couldn’t be any more happier. As I watched the glorious sun fall off the horizon, I imagined myself in its place. I was melting with it, slowly painting the sky a rich deep red. Then it would be a dark blue, and everything turned quiet and sleepy. Do you ever feel like you’re in the exact place you’re meant to be, like you completely belong to these memories you were meant to create? I felt so perfect and complete, like I was in a story.

Reluctantly, we had to leave our beach paradise and make our way back down to Athens. Our trip was almost over. We drove to Larisa, and stayed with some close friends. I absolutely love that family, they might as well be our family. My mom has stayed friends with Voula since high school, when they studied in Greece together.

Move Me, original ink drawing by Dimitra Milan

Then we drove to Arachova, which took us over 5 hours (mainly because we kept stopping for pictures, partly because cows blocked our way). That car ride was the BEST road trip ever. We drove up these huge mountains, and I can’t even count how many times our jaws dropped. We saw the most beautiful pines and dark lush forests. As we got higher, the beauty increased. The views were breathtaking. After we finally arrived in Arachova, (it wasn’t easy, we got lost many times in the narrow windy one-way streets because of our stupid google maps) it started pouring rain. And lightening. The sky was violent. After we parked we took shelter at this restaurant and decided to eat there. We had the whole place to ourselves. We dined on a delicious dinner of rooster pasta, stuffed cabbage, smoky cheese from the village, horta, and red wine. After asking around and searching in the rain for a place to stay, we finally found this little hotel up this narrow street. We definitely had to re-park the car. The weather calmed down, and stopped raining (little did I know, it was only the quiet before the storm). It took us awhile, but Miranda managed to parallel park on a one-way uphill street. Go Miranda!! Just as we park and started organizing our things inside the car, I felt this slight rumbling and a strong wind started blasting our way, causing the car to move a little. We were still in the car as I saw a dark gray cloud looming above us. Rain poured sideways down the mountain, almost immediately a river was gushing down the street! I had a brief moment of extreme anxiety, “should we go or should we stay?”….Miranda insisted and begged that we should leave, but I couldn’t move. I got out my camera and started filming this, which made it laughable. We were caught in the middle of a downpour, rushing rivers, hail, thunder and lightening. And there we sat helplessly in our little car, wondering when we could escape. We contemplated for about 15 minutes what we should do, and hoped it would calm down. It seemed endless. Miranda thought I was being a baby, but it was DANGEROUS outside and I was wearing really nice shoes… She forced me out, it was a “now or never” kind of moment. We grabbed our backpacks and small suitcase and purses and sweaters and our other junk, and ran towards the hotel. I prayed we wouldn’t get struck by lightening. I crossed two rivers, soaking my entire feet up to my pant legs. The suitcase got soaked, there was no point in trying not to get it wet. Our stay in Arachova was short, we had to leave the next day for Athens. Then we were leaving the country…

Dimitra and Miranda in Preveli, Crete

So remember when I said “to be continued”? Here it is. We were almost to the Pireaus port driving along the freeway, (the outskirts of Athens) when we noticed our car was dangerously low on gas. We had to stop and fill up, but we were on our way to return the car (and I guess in Greece you return them empty) so we couldn’t fill up too much. About 5€ was all we needed. As we drove in towards the city, it got more and more congested and this slight chaos was all around us. I felt it buzzing. I remembered my mother’s words… “Athens + Americans = confusion & chaos”. Nope, I wasn’t going to let that haunt me. I punched in google maps the nearest gas station, and helped Miranda get off the freeway. Bad decision. All of a sudden the lanes disappeared, only cars swerving in a pack like a car racing video game. Were there no rules?! Where did these people learn to drive? We missed our turn by a long shot, and kept circling back down these one-way streets. I felt like we were only spiraling. I tried not to panic, Miranda needed me to be strong. I found another gas station, but our turn came up too fast and Miranda was in the wrong lane. I shouted, “wait you’re suppose to turn left, now!” …..”Wait are you sure Dimitra, okayyyy!” ….”No! No NOOO! MIRANDA YOU CANT DO THAT!” Thank goodness, we didn’t crash anyone. She did an illegal U-turn making up her own rules, but apparently only Greeks can do that. Cars honked at us angrily, one guy stuck his fist out the window and gave a nasty “F-you”. Miranda was clearly about to have a mental breakdown, but that wouldn’t help anything. I told her everything was going to be ok and we would laugh about all this one day. That seemed to help a little. Thank God we found a gas station, and bought our 2 liters of gas. Eventually we returned the car, and a heaviness lifted from our shoulders. Driving in Athens is a big No-No, just don’t even try it. You don’t wanna do that to yourself, trust me.

We got a taxi to our apartment in the city (or so we thought). Our place was more in a neighborhood, completely foreign to us and not the Athens we remembered. There were no restaurants or cafes or shops nearby, only dirty apartments and dirty windy streets. We lounged around the apartment for a few hours, and I started feeling like I couldn’t go outside. I don’t know why I felt so afraid. All I wanted was someone to just bring us pizza, and we could stay in bed and watch movies. The great city frightened me, I didn’t know how to do anything, everything was unfamiliar. I dreaded walking out that door. I didn’t feel like fighting off the flirty guys, finding the hidden gem of a restaurant, dodging cars, ignoring the Africans trying to sell us good-luck bracelets, taking the right metro, or trying our best not to get lost. I just didn’t feel like it. But we went out anyway. Whether we liked or not, our bodies growled at us to feed them. It was our last night, we had to try to make it fun.

We left our place, and followed my google maps to the nearest metro station. We payed for our tickets, and got on. I overheard some people who were asking for directions to Monastiraki, which was also where we wanted to go. We followed them. Outside the metro, it was packed with people. The place was again unfamiliar, and not the Monastiraki I remembered. We walked a ways before we found the Main Street where everything was happening. There were lots of drunks, and people desperately trying to sell us stuff. I found that if I could stay close behind some Greeks, no one would bother us. We walked briskly, like we were headed somewhere. But in reality, we had no idea where we were going. We were just starving, and I didn’t care anymore where we ate. I gave up trying to find the perfect restaurant. We found a souvlaki place, called All That Jatz. Haha…creative name. We ordered everything but souvlaki, we’ve had enough of it and nothing would beat the souvlaki in Larisa. They have the BEST.

Anyways, we felt so much better after we ate. It’s amazing what food can do to you! We decided to be boring and head back home to our apartment, it was kinda late anyways. Who knows how long it would take us get back. Apparently, a lonnnng time. After we got off the metro, it started pouring rain. Each rain drop fell heavier and heavier. My google maps decided not to work, and we we’re basically stuck knowing we were in the general vicinity of the apartment. We kept stopping by this one abandoned apartment building because it had the most cover. We circled and circled and circled, and it felt like we would never find it. We kept finding ourselves stopping by the same building each time, but one time the door was open and we heard a low humming and voices inside. I completely freaked out and almost screamed. I could see our end, I imagined crazy things happening to us, like druggy guys dragging us into their dark lair and never seeing sunlight again. All this while, the rain kept on pouring and we became soaked. We had no umbrellas or jackets, and I was wearing high heels. Eventually, every inch of us was wet. There was no point in trying to stay out of the rain, so we fully embraced it. Each loop around the neighborhood, caused me more anxiety. I had a breakdown. My spirit gave up all hopes and I almost lost my mind. I was no help at all. It was Miranda’s turn to be the strong one. I was her helpless baby, but she stayed steadfast in finding our way. Miraculously we found it together. And you know what? It was DIRECTLY ACROSS THE CREEPY BUILDING. I was so freaking mad. Miranda thought it was funny. I never felt so stupid in my life. I was so done with Athens, I wanted this all over.

Dimitra Milan in Rethymno, Crete

The next day, I felt better. We had a fresh start, it was a new day. But the sky was cloudy and threatened to rain again. Our flight was at 3, so we needed to be at the airport at 1. We were going to check out at noon, and catch a taxi to the airport. It was all planned, and we had a luxurious morning to relax and sleep in. At 10am, we get a knock at the door. I cautiously opened it, and there was a man there asking us to leave the apartment because someone else had booked it. I was confused, we told the guy we were checking out at noon! Apparently the message didn’t get across. I told him we couldn’t, we weren’t ready. He said we had 45 min to clear out before the cleaners came. OH MY GOD…we hurried and managed to pack everything. We had nowhere to go. We stepped outside and it started raining. I just couldn’t do this again. I was reliving the moments of the night before. We had such sour moods, I feel bad for anyone who crossed our path. I found a cute looking cafe in my google maps, so we followed the directions there. All on foot, with all our stuff. And only to find it was closed. Of course, it was Sunday morning and Greeks like to take as many days off as possible. So we were hungry (more like hangry), our backs were hurting, we were soaked from the rain, and again lost without a plan. Miranda was just steaming, I could feel her anger as I looked into her eyes. I prayed for something. We found a place that looked like a cafe, and it was open!

As we got closer, I saw the only customers were old Greek men playing backgammon and drinking coffee. This wasn’t giving me any hope. I didn’t see any food, and I wasn’t getting the friendly customer service feeling either. I was too exhausted mentally to give a care, and I know we must have looked completely pathetic. Two lost American teenagers wandering the streets with all their belongings. I could feel this waitress judging me with her cold heart. I asked if she had any food, she handed me a menu. It was all small plates, we were at a tapas place for old men. We threw our stuff down, and I wanted to cry. Miranda and I stared blankly into each others eyes. We ordered freddo-cappuccinos, cucumber and tomatoes, and stuffed grape leaves. They arrived on miniature plates, in miniature portions. We ate every last bite, convincing ourselves it was enough. I felt all the eyes in the room staring at us, “Amercanikis”, eating our strange breakfast at 11am. We had two hours before we needed to leave for the airport. That’s when inspiration struck me.

I had the sudden urge to write, write down everything from our trip. As I let the words flow, I could feel my heart growing lighter. I suddenly felt stronger, bolder, and so confident in myself. There’s a certain power that comes with knowledge, this was my personal experience. No one can ever take that away. This was just the thing I needed to do, to turn my day around. In those moments, I realized I was a girl without a country. When I’m home, I’m not completely American and I don’t exactly fit in. And when I’m in Greece, I don’t exactly belong there either. No matter how hard I try, I will never be totally Greek. I’m so in love with the culture, the people and their character, the scenery, the food, and the history. If I could live anywhere in the world, I would choose Greece. Maybe this is what traveling is all about? It’s how we find ourselves, when we lose our surroundings.

Dimitra Milan at Elafonisi Beach, Crete
By | 2017-07-17T23:21:38+00:00 July 17th, 2017|Uncategorized|8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Emma July 18, 2017 at 3:05 am - Reply

    Love love love 🦋🌊 Greece is a dreamland a wonderland to me🌊

  2. Despina July 18, 2017 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    I love your diary ❤
    I read it all and it was so powerful and inspiring!I feel like you because i’m half Greek half Italian so yes we belong to both worlds!
    I live in Athens but we have a summer home in Crete in the south of Rethimno is called Plakias you can google it it’s near preveli and it’s fantastic,i wish you could come with your family and visit i would be very happy!
    You should keep on writing you are really good 😁
    Many kisses Despina

    • Dimitra July 21, 2017 at 1:36 am - Reply

      Aww thank you!! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Plakias sounds amazing! Maybe one day… <3

  3. Kanella Georgopapadakou July 19, 2017 at 10:39 am - Reply

    Amazing writing, so amusing and vivid! Expecting nothing less from two wonderful girls like you! Keep on dreaming and traveling!
    Many greetings and kisses from me, Konstantinos and our newborn baby girl!!!
    Looking forward to seeing you again!
    xxx Kanella

  4. Meghan July 20, 2017 at 3:40 am - Reply

    Been following your artwork on the gram for a while- randomly thought I’d see what you charge and found this!! Wonderful and real and beautiful! Greece is my pie in the sky end all be all dream trip and I thank you for sharing. Xxx be well

  5. Tanya July 23, 2017 at 11:01 am - Reply

    I too am an American, but my husband and I are living in England right now. I so desperately want to go to Greece-your pictures and descriptions were equal parts pleasure and pain! Perhaps soon-traveling so much now…Keep us apprised of your travels & stay safe.

  6. Dorka Barta July 26, 2017 at 11:45 am - Reply

    It’s really good,that you documented your trip. So useful and the photos are amazing. After all when we met in Hungary that day was a fantastic day for me. Thnaks guys! Soooo much love! <3 <3 🙂

  7. Michèle Gysin December 9, 2017 at 4:17 am - Reply

    Aloha Dimitra
    I’m sitting here in Haleiwa, Hawaii and started to read your blog after I saw your Paintings the first time and I had to buy 4 because I fall in love with all of them and the decision was too hard.
    I can’t read your whole blog now, I have tears in my eyes because everything you wrote in the beginning is how I feel since I’m travelling on my own for almost 4 months and your wordes touched my heart deeply.
    I love your art and your words. I hope I can buy a original painting one day. That’s real art! <3
    (I'm sorry for my english, I hope it's not too bad)
    I'm excited to see more of your art and will follow you on Instagram.

    Greeting from Hawaii
    Michèle (swiss girl)

Leave A Comment