First, a little about my travel style
Whenever I can manage it, I am absent during all pubic holidays on the calendar. For the past five years, I spent any gloriously-long weekend that comes my way outside of the UAE. I love and long for such getaways. While my friends plan their day-to-night merriments during time off, I troll the web for my next accessible destination to tick off – usually on my tod.
I am part of a generation that prioritises travel over future-proofing our latter years by ascending the property (or rather financial) ladder. And we’re not even sorry about it. We wolf pack it, get personalised T-shirts made and do the travel thing en masse. I’m less like this cohort though. I prefer to go at it alone – mainly because going to Kazakhstan in the dead of winter isn’t on most people’s travel agenda but it’s the stuff of bucket-list dreams for me.
The ups & downs of traveling alone
When I travel alone, I very much live in my head. I might be submerged in thick crowds of people, passively picking up mid-conversation stories and information (oh the things you can’t unsee or unhear) but it stays and swivels in my head, mounting into a fascinating mental mood-board. There’s something so personal and influential about letting that build up in your body.
But then there are times when I wish there was a person to share some belly laughs with when I trip over air, or attempt to converse with locals using hand gestures similar to the spin cycle on a washing machine, or to witness that time when I was in The Seychelles partaking in your typical snorkelling trip with five honeymoon couples and one husband asked me if I was in The Seychelles looking for a man, to which I jeered “but every man here is married!” and he gave me a pitied smile. Group travel takes the best of solo travel and amplifies its joy.
Now, onto the life-affirming magnetism of northern Greece
I adore the humanity aspect of travel. The chance-encounter of someone going about their daily life who stops and shares that with you through a simple exchange hooks you in. And for me, there’s no country that comes close to the visceral and life-giving humanity of Greece. Where I’m from, up north, that national generosity of spirit is next-level. We don’t get the same attention as the south, so I guess we have to work harder for it and therefore, are a treat to all. We don’t do things by halves, it’s go big or go home – you will never get a small slice of anything – be it a spinach pie or a celebratory reaction for the purpose of you just being there.
Because it’s largely untainted by tourism, what you get is an unfiltered snapshot of the real Greece – the good, the bad, the hilarious, the weird, the authentic and the beautiful.
There’s a magnetism to the north’s shabbiness. I can’t quite put my finger on why it brings about so much familiarity and cosiness in me, but I feel I can be at ease and not worry about maintaining expectations. As much as I travel the world, no place gives me the same feeling like Greece does. The freedom that comes with it is plain addictive.