No one likes to stand out or feel awkward in sports, especially me. If there were awards for awkwardness, I’m sure I would have a few by now. Maybe it is the elementary physical education classes where I farted while trying to do a sit up in front of the entire 6th grade that still haunts me, I dunno – it just isn’t fun to feel awkward. So when I took up the new, posh, sport of Scuba Diving I dreaded getting in the water and looking like a fool. So after a few dive trips under my belt, here are my Tips for First Time Scuba Divers, and how to avoid aquatic awkwardness.
My Number One Tip for First Time Divers: Go To The Bathroom!
Going to the bathroom beforehand is the most important part of this entire tip. Do NOT get creative in your eating right before your first scuba trip. Yes some of the boats have the confined toilets, but if your bowels decide to become water instead….well, the whole boat will get to smell your innards the whole trip. The other part is, when you are under pressure, at depth and have a….shall we say intestinal civil war – you are going to be in a wetsuit and there is no escape from the dreaded explosion.
There is a natural physiological phenomenon that happens when a warm body is placed in cool water. It will make you want to urinate, so just let it go – most divers end up doing this. You are swimming in a marine life toilet anyway, so just consider it contributing to the minerals in the ocean.
Ladies, very important, do not plan on going diving with sharks if it is your time of the month unless you are in a cage – then it is fine.
Keep it Clean
Make sure to keep your stuff neat and tidy. While there are different ways for everyone to organize, just make sure you are conscious of the common space on the boat. There are limited areas for you to put your belongings. There is a dry area (typically under the front of the boat on a ledge) where you can keep a small bag. Anything wet, that can get wet should be tucked under the assigned spot where your tanks are.
Keep your fins out of the walking area, as this is a tripping hazard and can land someone in the water with a ‘man overboard’. Which you don’t want to be on the receiving end of that when the individual gets back in the boat.
There are a lot of things I remembered to bring on my first dive trip, and a few I didn’t. No matter where you are in the world, a boat does not have an ATM card to give tips, nor do they have a cash register. So if you plan on giving a tip then be sure to bring that with you.
My Scuba Instructor Rachelle, from Scuba Utah, gave some good advice on this as she has been diving for the last 35 years, “It is pretty typical when on a dive trip to tip them 10-15% for the day (total, not per individual). Make sure to tip them on a daily basis, as the crew will or can change daily”.
Bring a Photo Stick
I’m not talking about a selfie stick, I’m talking about a blunt 12″ rod that you can clip to your BCD. When you are first starting out, and going from fresh water to salt water; or if you have lost a lot of weight or gained weight it can be hard to find your buoyancy. This small blunt instrument will allow you to gently push off surrounding rock and not crash into the delicate coral reefs.
I recently lost 25 lbs and wasn’t quite sure on my weight I should have in salt water. Utah has all fresh water diving, and when you dive in Salt Water, your weight requirements are going to increase. So keep that in mind, and get the photo stick so that you are protecting the environment until your able to get a little more experience.
Get Reef Safe Defogger and Sunscreen
While on the subject of protecting the coral systems and reefs of the world I would highly suggest getting reef safe defogger and sunscreen. Here are a few I recommend: SurfDurt not only is it organic, it is also in a non-plastic container, so win win!
There are a couple of different options for the ladies (or guys) with long hair and to keep it from becoming a rats nest when you get out of the ocean. One way is to use a swim cap. You want to make sure that it does not go underneath your mask, as this can let the water seep in. It keeps everything tame, and also adds a little extra layer to your head to keep in the heat without having to wear a hood.
Another option, which I learned recently, is to put leave in conditioner in your hair the night before (I’m talking quite a bit). I prefer the spray in kind, like Sun Bum Revitalizing 3 in 1 Leave-In Conditioner Spray (which is vegan and environmentally friendly). When you wake up, put your hair in two braids as tightly as you can get them. This works well for those with long hair especially. It looks great in underwater photos too! When I got back to my hotel, I couldn’t believe how much easier it was to unravel my hair.
Watch That Air
I was guilty of this the last dive trip I went on. Again, being from Utah, pretty coral reefs, sea turtles, and sharks are in short supply here for divers. So when you see these animals in person, it is easy to get enamored with them and taking video of it that you lose track of your air. Luckily I had a dive buddy who I had warned her about this prior to diving and she caught me at 800 on my tank pressure. We started to head for our safety stop, and the more shallow we became the harder it was to stay down despite the extra weight that I added. I have never swam so hard to stay at 15 feet in my life as BCD and tank were trying to skyrocket me to the surface. I burned through 300 PSI in 1:30 min and surfaced before my 3 minutes were up with 400 PSI.
This could have gotten me in big trouble, and her in big trouble. So now I’m fully aware that each time I see marine life that is interesting to me, I need to check my air. Luckily I wasn’t diving deep enough on that dive to put me into decompression sickness, but I don’t ever want to take that chance again.
For the Asthmatics or Those With COPD
When you have Asthma, or COPD you can still go Scuba diving, but have to be aware of a few things. You have a form of air obstruction, which means air gets trapped in your lungs more easily than the average joe (or jane). This can significantly affect your bouyancy when you get fatigued.
When a person with Asthma or COPD is fatigued, air can get trapped. This will require you to add more weight to counter this. Think of trying to get an inflated balloon to descend on a dive. It is nearly impossible, unless you have a tow rope to pull you down with the balloon. This is the same idea when you go diving. So if you are out of shape or fatigued, I would suggest adding an additional 2-4 lbs of weight to your BCD so that you can stay down during the safety stop as you start to surface. (A lesson I have had to learn the hard way).
Rachelle taught me in my Scuba Class, that noise underwater will be amplified. Being very sensitive to sound above land, I was a shocked at how much sound carries underwater.
Once I realized what was going on, it was easier to isolate and tune out the buzzing of the engines above me. It is quite distracting though when your descending for the firs time, so stay close to your diving buddy and the instructor.
Motion sickness can happen in many different places, and is different for everyone. For example, I do not get sick on boats big or small, but get me in the back of a tour bus and I will be green as a tree within the first ten minutes. There are many options for Motion Sickness so be sure to read my recent article on different ways of treating this and avoiding it in the first place.
Allow 18-24 hours Before Flying
Even some of the most experienced divers, forget about this rule. It can affect the incidence of Decompression sickness due to the altitude, and Nitrogen needing to fully ‘off-gas’ or dissolve before flying.
I typically give myself 24 hours, just to make sure I won’t get sick. While this is more important for live aboard diving where you are doing multiple dives per day over several days. It is good to get into the habit, so you don’t forget in the long term like many divers end up doing.
Know How To Self Calm
The Scuba Magazine reported that 20% of diving accidents are caused by people panicking. So knowing how to calm yourself while underwater is key to beginner divers.
On my last dive, I was so nervous before getting into the water for some reason. I quietly asked my friend Jen, from Coleman Concierge, ‘Do you get nervous before dives still?’ She said, ‘After all the dives I have been on, all the years I have done this. This year has been the first year where I haven’t felt nervous before a dive’.
I have PTSD, and anxiety at baseline – I also almost drowned as a child after getting stuck under a bridge during a river tubing trip. So I had to learn very quickly underwater, that simply maintaining bouyancy, making a specific handsignal where both hands are up in a stop gesture – signals to my diving buddy that I just need a second to calm my nerves.
After getting an ok from my dive buddy that they understand and come closer. I hang onto their BCD, close my eyes, and concentrate on breathing slowly until the wave of anxiety passes.
If the wave of panic or anxiety is bad enough, or you can’t self soothe. Just gesture to your diving buddy that you need to end the dive. Be kind to yourself, and like Rachelle always says – ‘It is normal and ok to be nervous. Never be afraid to end a dive if you feel uncomfortable’.
Tips for First Time Scuba Divers From A Professional
I asked my instructor, Rachelle, for some of her input on things that she would strongly recommend to new students. Having 35 years of experience and teaching hundreds of students, and Veterans with PTSD, Here is what she suggested:
Dive within your limits – don’t try to appear cool, or think you are the weak link by voicing something you are uncomfortable with.
Do not try to dive outside your training or your equipment requirements. You will put yourself at risk, which you have that right to do if you wish – but more importantly, you are putting your dive buddy, and dive master at risk which is absolutely NOT ok to do.
Respect the boat and the crew no matter how much you think you know. They know the area better than anyone, and they know what works best for the conditions in that moment. So even if it seems ridiculous, offensive or childish – just do what they ask with a smile and complain when your done with the dive.
Be aware of your surroundings. Our brains aren’t trained to protect us underwater, so just keep in mind to keep an eye above, and below you. You could stuck between a person who can’t keep their buoyancy and a Moray Eel. You might be confidant in your abilities, but there are other people you can affect by not being aware.
Leave only bubbles, take only picture. While it might be tempting to pick up that starfish, or take that giant seashell home as a souvenir. Just leave it alone, and let the next diver appreciate it as you did.
Don’t touch, tease or harass aquatic animals. There are so many marine animals that may look harmless enough, but can be quite deadly.
Keep your mask OFF your forehead! This is a universal sign of distress that Master Divers are trained to recognize. So when you do this, it can cause all sorts of chaos that is not needed. Keep the mask on your face until you are back in the boat and even then don’t make it a habit.
Create Your Bucket List!
The Diving community is a tight knit community, that generally is quite supportive. Reach out to those in your community, take a dive class, and then create your bucket list of Diving. I asked my fellow divers for their Top Dives From Around The World, and now have my own Diving Bucket list I’m working through.
If you have any Tips for First Time Scuba Divers, be sure to drop them below and connect with the Culture Trekking Community on Facebook or Instagram; arrange a few dive trips with other members of the community.
I have always associated the Acropolis with Athena…the Greek goddess, but did you know that even before the Greeks built her this temple— it was utilized to house a King? There was so much I didn’t know before visiting the Acropolis on a shore excursion from our Eastern Mediterranean Cruise.
Know the History Before Visiting the Acropolis:
It was a massive structure built in the Bronze age with walls that were 15 feet thick, and 20 feet high! This was the ideal place for fortifications and protection due to the high walls of limestone that make up the Acropolis.
It wasn’t until the 6th Century (BC) that the Athenians built a temple they called the Bluebeard Temple but was dedicated to the Goddess Athena. Confused? Yeah, I thought so ….. the reason they called it the blue beard temple, was because of a man serpents face with 3 beards adorning the outside of the temple. It seemed strange to me that they would name the temple as such, the Native Americans in the States have a similar practice when naming their children. The first animal they see becomes their name and the action the animal is doing as well such as, ‘running bull’, or ‘flying eagle’.
Fast forward a few hundred years and we arrive at the Golden Age of the Acropolis when Pericles built it into a grand pavilion fit for the Goddess of Wisdom, War, and Crafts. This project lasted nearly 50 years! I would kill my builder if my house had taken 50 years to build, although it truly felt that long (even though it was 9 months to build). In fact, it took so long, the builder (Pericles) died before it was finished.
When it was finished though, it represented the most iconic piece of Ancient Greece. A massive Parthenon with the Doric-style temple with an ornate entrance that once had plastered colorful walls dedicated to the Goddess. As the worshiper made their way into the Parthenon, a small shrine to Athena was located on the right. The worshiper would put there offering in this place, and then approach the imposing 30-foot statue of Athena, and pray for events related to Wisdom, War, or Crafts. If your offering was good enough she would offer wisdom on your plea, and then give you the courage to follow through with the advice. Pretty swell deal if you ask me!
Except for the offerings which most basic sacrifices were that of an animal For those who are squeamish (or vegan), skip to the next section heading,if not please continue. Animal Sacrifices typically consisted of a steer, pig, or goat. They would then pour a cold bucket of water over the animals head, to get its consent in the form of a head nod. The animal’s throat would then be sliced, collecting the blood in a sacred vessel for the God.
The priest would then cut the animal open after it’s death, and find readings on the entrails and liver to determine if the God or Goddess accepted the offering. If the offering was acceptable, the bones were burned at the feet of the God/Goddess so that it could rise to the heavens. Then the meat was cooked at the shrine, or at the feat of the God/Goddess. It was considered a family time, a community time for those in that time period. It was also the only time that the Greeks would eat meat. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, ‘Dining with the Gods’ now when I hear it in movies.
The smaller temple that adorns the Limestone hill to the North of the Pantheon is the Erechtheion. Six beautifully sculpted maiden statues support an outcropping of the temple once dedicated to Athena, the local hero Boutes, Hephaistos and other gods and heroes. This smaller temple was considered the most sacred area on the Acropolis. Legendary Kings of Athens are said to be buried around this site.
The Christian Takeover:
The climb up the Acropolis takes your breath away, in every sense of the phrase. The climb up will give you a glimpse of Mars Hill. A very popular site to Christians, as this is the place that the Biblical Apostle Paul gave The Areopagus sermon that addressed the ignorance of the Greeks that practiced Pagan worship, encouragement of worship towards the God of creation as the only God to worship.
The sermon also addressed the loving relationship God had with humanity, how idols of gold and silver and stone are not proper things to worship. This was in 49 AD that he preached to the Greeks on the day of the yearly festival for the Goddess Athena, right below the temple for her. The sixth century came around and Rome converted to Christianity, many of the Temples were converted to Christian churches. The Parthenon was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and the Erectheion became the chapel.
The Turks and Venetians in Greece:
The one thing that surprised me the most was the story of the Venetians attacking the Acropolis. It was September 26, 1687, when they decimated the Parthenon as it held the cities powder munitions at the time when they attacked. Items were looted, taken, and then a British Earl came and rescued the remaining artifacts and took them to the British Museum for preservation (at the discontentment of the Greek Government those items remain in a British Museum).
Nazi Occupation of Greece:
The Nazi resistance in Athens was unlike any story I have heard of before. After the Nazi’s began their occupation in Greece nearly 11% of citizens died; with 40,000 of those being in Athens from Starvation. The Greeks have always been fighters though, small guerrilla resistances were popping up all over the country with the National Liberation group, guerrilla force ELAS, and other axis groups throughout Greece.
On April 27, 1941, the Acropolis added one more story into its history of surviving in the face of hardship and centuries of change. On April 27, 1941, two nationalists were forced to take down the Greek flag and raise the Nazi flag. Manolis Glezos, instead of raising the Nazi Flag, wrapped himself in the Greek flag and jumped from the Acropolis rather than have to raise a flag that was causing such oppression and death in his country.
Yet despite the long fall, he survived and climbed back up the Acropolis on May 30, 1941, and tore down the Nazi flag again. Over the years experienced imprisonment, torture, exile, re-imprisonment, and accused of espionage during the Cold War. In total, he had 11 years and 4 months of imprisonment, and 4 years 6 months of exile. As of 2018, he is now a 96-year-old with a resume to rival any ancient Greek God.
Still Inspiring Generations:
It was so hot the day that I went to the Acropolis, standing on that Limestone hill in the humid summers that often plague Athens. The hike didn’t help that fact, but it did help with giving me a much better perspective and appreciation for the high walls, steep hills, and what it would have been like to be a worshiper in ancient times. The most moving part about visiting the Acropolis was the soul inspiring story of Manolis Glezos. His courage in the face of the tyrannical Nazi’s left a deep impression on me as I walked back down the hill of the Acropolis.
Important Information to know Before Visiting the Acropolis
The Acropolis is open year-round. Lines can be long, even if you do have a ticket to get in, but tickets can be bought at the entrance as well. I would suggest arriving 20 minutes before opening to avoid the crowds, bring cash, and you will have some shade in the morning until around 11 am from the grand entrance to the Parthenon. Please check out the Acropolis Opening times, as they are subject to change depending on the season and holidays. Most importantly, bring comfortable shoes and water because exploring the Acropolis requires a lot of walking. Keep in mind that some buildings may be inaccessible due to renovations.
Activities Near the Acropolis:
Corinth Cave of Lakes, Meteora Day Trip, National Garden of Athens, Acropolis Museum, Plakas Neighborhood, Pisirri Neighborhood, Temple of Hephaestus, Panathenaic Stadium (where Olympic flame originates during the Olympics), Central Market (for a more local experience), Thermal Spas are another great place to meet locals, Kayaking on the Aegean Sea, Museum of Illusions. Eco Tours: Base Outdoor Activities and Trails beyond.
There are a few times of year that there is a free entry and coincides with National Holidays. Yes, it will be busy, but you may get fireworks as a backdrop or some incredibly unique lighting of the Parthenon (every photographer’s dream). Here are a few of the days and associated holidays that come with free entry to the Acropolis: 6 March (In Memory of Melina Mercouri), 25 March (Greek National Holiday), 18 May (International Museum Day), 28 October (Greek National Holiday).
Greek Isle Paradise…..feeling fancy, free, and a little like Athena reincarnate. The cruise ship had poured her passengers out onto the docks of Mykonos, letting her contents explore the whitewashed streets of Mykonos. Hours or research on what to do in Mykonos lead me to this day. Bumming on the beach…..that is where I was headed. If you do nothing else during your one day in Mykonos, please experience their beaches, they are world renown for parties, relaxing, and pure bliss.
Cruise excursions for me are largely done independent of the ship, as I can find activities just as good (if not better) than what the ship offers. Mykonos is not for the budget-friendly folks however……in the summer it is bursting at the seams with tanned, beautiful, thin millennial’s who like to party. Don’t get me wrong, if you enjoy the nightlife and clubbing scene – definitely visit in the summer.
If you visit in the offseason, the ocean is cool (nothing a wetsuit couldn’t handle), the sun is warm, and the drinks are just as good. You will be able to experience Mykonos at it’s most serene and authentic. If that isn’t enough to convince you, the cost of the flights, ferries, drinks, hotels and so much more are half the cost.
One Day in Mykonos and What to See:
1- Visit the Beaches
The beaches here are built for leisure if there isn’t a chair and palm clad umbrella to snooze under – just jump on the bus to the next beach over. I wasn’t able to visit each beach while I was there, but here is the ultimate guide to the best beaches in Mykonos (from a reputable source). I listed the two beaches I found the most appealing during my stay there.
This is typically known as the party beach, but there were only about 10 people when I went there in the offseason. The soda was a bit expensive but well worth the feeling of pampering myself a bit. I really dislike lounging around on a beach, as I often think of all the other fun things I could be doing…..this was very different for me though. I fell asleep, was relaxed, struck up a conversation with the couple next to me about how they found out about Mykonos & when I got too warm, lazily meandered into the ocean.
It’s located 5 km south of Mykonos town. Go there if you want to see celebrities but I want to warn you that you will not find a sunbed and you will pay 7 euros for a cappuccino.
Agios Sostis Beach:
This is where the locals are….it is a virtually deserted beach with soft red sands, and very few tourists. Located along the hiking route below, it is a welcome stop to dip into the cool waters and get your Greek on 😉
2- Explore the Alleyways and Streets
These dotted streets are much cleaner (in my opinion) than those in Santorini. The whitewashed walls are pristine, with an occasional tree winding it’s way up the side of a building. If I could decorate my room in a theme, this would be it.
The best thing to do is to just get lost, winding through the streets, stopping at each shop and cafe to collect your bits and bobs while sipping a cold drink. You will get lost, the streets were designed for you to get lost— well they were more designed for invaders of the Mykonos to get lost. This way the raiding party would be separated, and easier to defeat by the local militia’s. There is your historical tidbit as always 😉
3- Go Shopping
Ladies……they have some of the highest quality dresses, swimming suit covers, bags, glasses etc…. Just remember that you will pay in Euros and it will be expensive. Set a budget beforehand, take cash and put only a small amount in your coin purse at a time. This is a bartering tip, where if you show them you are taking out all your bills in your coin purse, they assume that’s all you have. Then when you leave the shop, take the rest out of your hidden purse pocket and restock your shopping funding supply.
4- Eat Local Cuisine
There is nothing fresher, more nourishing, nor delicious as Mediterranean food! The food is locally grown, caught, and cooked with recipes that have been handed down for generations. You will truly be missing out on an integral part of this culture if you do not participate in the gastronomic touring of this tiny island.
5- Go Fishing
If you like fishing, why not catch your meal for the evening on a fishing boat tour! Step on a local boat and witness the bounty of the sea in your watery voyage. Behind the Mykonian party scene, there is a well preserved traditional way of life. Get on a boat with the local fishermen and let them show you the secrets of traditional fishing. This is a huge industry for the island and provides a much needed financial relief for those that reside here. Fishing isn’t just a job, it is their way of life in Mykonos
Traveler Tip: Mykonos is very windy in August during the ‘meltemi’ so try to avoid this month if you are set on a fishing tour.
6- Spot Local Wildlife for Good Luck
If you are lucky, you can spot the Pink Pelican. The people of Mykonos believe that if it visits, it means that good luck will follow you and that will be a day full of good fortune. Just don’t try to get too close, they like their space, and getting skewered by their beak isn’t the most pleasant feeling in the world (not that I would know…..ahem….). You can walk along the water and see straight down into the bottom of the blue waters, fish will be swimming around in schools. It is the most surreal thing I have seen in quite some time. No matter what beach you are lounging on your sure to cross paths with some sort of wildlife. The islands off the coast of the mainland have become a refuge from the smog and busy city.
7- Take a Tour of Delos, a UNESCO world heritage site
Visit the island of Apollo, and walk where some of the fiercest warriors of Greece once stood and trained. Be sure to wander the path to the former Temple of Apollo. Here you will see the famous lion statues, dated back to 600 BC. Strategically placed to both incite fear and awe prior to visiting the Temple of Apollo. Be sure to check out my post, 12 Things to know before visiting the Island of Delos, it will have ferry times, ticket prices, what to bring, and what to do before leaving on your tour from Mykonos.
8- Go Swimming/Snorkeling
The crystal clear waters make it a breeze for even the most novice snorkeler to find fish. I would recommend wearing water shoes due to the pebble-like nature of the beaches, and the close proximity of the coral reefs. Getting a laceration from coral reef can be not just painful, but has a high likelihood of becoming infected. As they say, it is better to be safe rather than sorry. The best snorkeling spot is Psarou Beach if you wanted to do a self-guided snorkel tour. I would always recommend going with a guide though. They will keep you safe, know where the fish are swimming, can show you areas that are difficult to reach on foot, and provide gear for you during your tour as well. The Aegean Sea is beautiful, and honestly…..when will you be able to go back to Mykonos? Might as well invest in a grand experience, to help give you memories to last your lifetime.
Capture, amphora’s from old shipwrecks and pelagic species including huge schools of Mediterranean Barracuda. There are a plethora of diving activities available from the local dive shops such as Wall diving, cavern diving, the coveted shipwreck diving.
While certified divers can buddy up and go diving together, I would still recommend getting a few tips from the local dive shops on the best places to go. Currents can be unpredictable, and it is just better to be safe (maybe it is the Physician Assistant in me talking, but it is true—- no one wants a funeral or a massive hospital bill in a foreign country).
Traveler Tip: It is always a good idea to have travel insurance. While most insurance companies in the USA have coverage overseas, even the best do not cover repatriation.
10- Go Hiking
For the more adventurist tours, try the seven-mile hike to the famous Armenistis Lighthouse, or hike to the Vioma Organic Winery. Here you will be able to sip on your (what I call) crazy juice, and converse with the locals on what daily life is like on the island when all the tourists have gone to bed or gone home. If you have limited time on the island, but would still like to experience the best hiking trails of Mykonos, here is a hiking tour of Mykonos I recommend. As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Mykonos. It is a paradise for the young and old to wander, explore, and infuse those relaxing vibes we all need. ………
As Always…..Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and See YOU on the Flip Side.
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Where to Stay in Mykonos if Staying More Than One Day
Santorini has been a bucket list destination for years by travelers around the world. The sweeping cliffs, blue and white colored buildings and relaxed environment make is a perfect retreat from the rat race of life. Here are a few things to do in Santorini to pass the time on this blissful island.
After my Photography Tour in Seattle, I am a huge fan of Photography Tours from Locals. The particular tours I found for Santorini may be a bit more expensive, but to have someone there who can show you exactly the settings, directions, transportation etc…. to get to the best spots in Santorini might be worth it. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the photo you took on your living room wall of the sweeping cliffs of Santorini? How about you solo travelers who are always trying to figure out how to get that perfect shot. Santorini is one of those iconic photography places that I personally would invest in a photography tour for.
The roads, paths, nooks and crannies are at times very hard to navigate. So to have a local who could let you into a backyard at the edge of a cliff face to take photos, snack on some cheese and introduce you to locals…..well…..that would be worth it to me. I certainly wish I would have done this when I was there, it gets a bit chaotic on the public transportation systems. These huge buses take turns around cliff edges so rapidly, I found myself squeezing my butt cheeks as hard as I was holding my breath while praying I didn’t die in a bus on a Greek island. Not a bad way to go, but repatriation is a nightmare, dying on vacation is bad form anyway.
If you are coming from the cruise ship, it is a bit difficult to NOT take the cable car. You must pay to ride it, the cost to ride is 5€ for an adult one-way ticket, 2.5€ for children under 5 years old and 2.5€ for large luggage. Make sure to bring cash, when I was there, credit cards were not widely accepted.
You can also lug your body weight, and luggage up the steps to Santorini…..but if you are there in the summer I highly discourage this. The sun hits the cliffs, the stones reflect the heat and there is usually donkey dung dotting the pathway all the way up. So you may as well go lock yourself in a barn that hasn’t been cleaned in 6 months and run 5 miles on a treadmill in July in Texas…..at least you will have access to water in the barn.
The views from the cable car are quite stunning, and especially at sunset…..this is the time to do it. Combining your cable car ride with your evening boat tour would be a perfect ending to your day while there.
Swimming at Oia south of Ammoudi Port
It is the Mediterranean. It is an isolated island. You have to jump into these crystal clear blue waters! It is a right of passage for me to jump into whatever ocean I am visiting, just to say you did it.
I would suggest going with a guide or a local, as they will know the best places for swimming without currents, clear areas for cliff jumping, the best area for seeing fish and which areas are clear of coral or other dangerous obstacles.
Fresh fish, clear waters, cool breezes, good company…..this should be your siesta. Jump on a boat and try your hand at fishing some of the exotic fish in the area. I’m not really into fishing, but I wanted to include this for all my ladies who want to shove their husbands on a boat for that coveted ‘man time’ they all talk about. Tell them it’s a ‘gift’ for them, even though the alone time is going to be a gift for you, because of the next suggestion I have.
THIS is where it’s at ladies! These areas contain the best shopping, views, photographic spots around. Firostefani and Imerovigli is where the classic white buildings with blue-topped domes are hugging the cliffs. I also found most of the unique clothing, trinkets, Ray Ban knockoffs etc..in these areas.
The pricing is a little on the steep side when you factor in currency conversion, but keep in mind that the items are genuine and handmade. Too often I am visiting countries where the ‘cheaper’ option is made in China, not very well made, and doesn’t last long. The tourists support these items to save money, but often it takes away from the local economy and puts families out of business. So whenever possible, try and buy from shops that are family run, and locally made — it will help sustain the culture, local economy, and make the tourism in the area you are visiting a little more sustainable.
Walk to Skaros Rock
After eating all the fish your husband/boyfriend/local café caught that afternoon, you will want to take a hike. I suggest walking to Skaros Rock. This is a medieval fortress that was built in the 15th century to help defend the island from pirates and raiders. I can’t imagine the raids worked all that well, given the steep cliffs. You didn’t think I would let you leave my website without including a little tidbit of history, did you? There are some fascinating drawings of what Skaros Rock would have looked like in the 15th Century, and also depicts just how flourishing this tiny outcropping really was.
Loads of shopping is also available here, just watch out for the occasional sweating donkey carrying items for the various shops that line these alleyways. The donkey’s cause quite the traffic jam, but they are really necessary as there isn’t a way to get supplies into the center of town without them. The ones used near the center of town (in my opinion) are a little better treated than the ones used to haul tourists up the long path from the Old Fira Port. A tour of Oia’s alleyways is the best way to do this, but make sure to stay for the sunset — you won’t regret it.
Don’t ride the Donkeys at Fira Port
I know they say it is the classic Greek thing to do, I was sucked in and did it and felt like crying afterward. The donkeys looked drugged, miserable, and was sweating like crazy. They get whipped to bring you up the pathway in Oia from the cruise port and it is so so sad. I even poured water on the donkey’s back as it brought me up the steep and long pathway. I will never ever do this again unless I see loads of water available and know for certain the animals are regularly switched out. It is the one thing I have done while traveling that I am still ashamed of honestly.
I know it may provide money to the locals utilizing these animals to haul you up, but the more ethical way of doing this would be to take the cable car. The donkey has been scorned and punished for centuries, let’s give it a break when we can.
Rent a Scooter and explore the Santorini countryside
This is the best way to get around on Santorini if you choose not to get a guide. The maneuverability of the scooter on small roads, pathways and winding roads is very useful. You can also visit a lot more having your own transportation that is fairly reasonably priced if you choose to stay for a few days.
The only downside to this is that near the cliffs, where many tourists want to stay, there is nowhere to park and you really have to hike down or up into your accommodation. So I would suggest doing day rentals from a company that has shops throughout the island.
You can also hire a private driver for about $58 for a day. A local can take you around the island, see the highlights, and then you can spend the rest of your vacation relaxing, eating delicious food and enjoying the sunsets of Santorini.
Eat in the local Café with the REAL Mediterranean food
Fresh food, sea breezes, Greek hospitality, and warmth…..you would be a fool not to partake in the cafes of Santorini. This is where the local culture spends their evenings. They talk about life, love, children, work and being Greek. Their laid-back demeanor is sure to make you want to linger longer and ask to be adopted by the end of your meal.
If partaking in local food traditions, and want to taste the best of the best of Santorini’s Cuisine – I would suggest taking a Local Food Tour. Food Tours are not my cup of tea, I’m more of a historical and natural surroundings type of gal, but for those of you who really want to experience the culture of Santorini – then food is the way to do it.
Stay for the Sunsets in Oia
Sunsets in Oia are what many tourists flock to see. Orange hues reflect off the whitewashed walls of the buildings, with the blue tops creating a perfect complement of colors. Settle down in a café in Oia, unplug from technology and let the gentle waves of the ocean below lull you into a sense of pure vacation bliss.
When the lights turned on at the old Fira Port, the sun settling down behind the mountains….this view took my breath away. My camera was hot in my hands from taking so many photos. It will be difficult to get a good evening shot of this view when you are on a boat, but don’t give up…..it will be your favorite photo. Seeing lights dot the sides of the cliffs like fireflies flickering, seeming to want to compete with the bright stars above. I wanted to make a bed on my boat, open the windows to the sea breezes and fall asleep whilst watching Santorini settle in for the night.
The structure of the city, colors, people, food, and contrasting barren landscape to the deep blue of the ocean and buildings is a visual feast for the eyes.
If you would like to do a full day boat tour around Santorini including snorkeling, seeing the volcano, eat lunch on the boat, and then stay for the sunset then I would recommend the Caldera Oia Perl Boat tour. This is a really good price for this considering the currency exchange and everything that is included for this type of trip.
Rest your head after your fun-filled day in a Windmill in Oia.
You can stay in this windmill! The Dutch woman in me went a little bonkers when I found out you can stay in this Windmill! It’s the Windmills Suite at Golden Sunset Villas in Oia it can easily fit 20 people. There are a kitchen, full bathroom, 2 “bedrooms”. The stairs are steep, narrow, a little difficult to maneuver in with your luggage (so pack light). There is only one windmill suite in Santorini, so be sure you book as early as possible. They do include breakfast as well should you choose to book with them.
Santorini is a glorious experience that I hope to repeat one day very soon (I really want to stay in the Windmill). The isolation of the island has kept much of the shifting of the Greek culture from being westernized. While I anticipate that this will change soon, I will always hold a place in my traveling heart for this unique and beautiful city.
As Always….Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and see YOU on the Flipside.
This post may contain affiliate links, for more information read our full disclosure The travel industry is throwing around this term: Responsible Tourism or Sustainable Tourism. So what does Responsible Tourism mean? Each year we travel, consume, photograph and share on our social media channels, exposing friends and family to expand their knowledge of the cultures of the world.
Responsible Tourism is a multifaceted approach, which includes:
Minimizing negative social, economic and environmental impacts while traveling
Generating greater economic benefits for local people and enhancing the well-being of host communities
Improving working conditions and access to the worldwide industry
Involving local people in decisions, markets, and trade that affect their life and chances at life.
Making positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, embracing the diversity.
Providing more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues.
Provides access for physically challenged people
Is being culturally sensitive, encourages respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.
There are many different ways that this can be addressed and focused on. The Culture Trekking Community is one that focuses on numbers one, five, six and eight. Creating a community where ideas, religions, cultural idiosyncrasies are both shared, respected and embraced. As the Community grows I want to improve awareness on environmental impacts as well as fight the uphill battle of having more meaningful human connections. Today I will focus on the latter.
Where the idea started for my own Responsible Tourism:
The video was quite graphic when I saw this 2 years ago, but it really impacted me in so many different ways. The moral of the story is…..you don’t know what you don’t know until you educate yourself on how small choices like using single-use straws can impact the environment. I now carry a reusable metal straw in my purse at all times. This video is where responsible tourism started for me….watching this turtle in so much pain made me feel like I needed to do more for the environment.
It isn’t just the plastic straws, it is garbage that is left strewn about in all the different places that I visit. I remember walking behind someone in Yellowstone National park…..they dropped a wrapper on the ground (a large one). I was so frustrated by this because they had a bag they could have easily slipped that wrapper into. I picked it up and gave it back to the tourist, who naturally acted like they dropped it by accident (even though I watched them look around before dropping it). It is not that hard to slip those wrappers into a pocket, a bag, in your shoe….anything but on the ground. Taking a few more steps to ensure your rubbish gets into the proper receptacle is not as hard as you think…..as Nike says ‘JUST DO IT’!
Another video that truly impacted me was one man in India, who returned to his home to find the beach he loved filled with garbage. He knew he had to do something so he started knocking on doors and aims to be that change he wishes to see in the world. Take a look at the video & then I want to think about how much of a difference we could make if each of us committed to picking up 3 pieces of trash wherever we travel to. What about taking an extra garbage bag on a local hike in your hometown? We could all use a few more squats in our day, right?
Why am I showing you all these videos? A picture is worth a thousand words (or so they say), but I feel that videos are the way to make an impact that can create change. What is better than a video? Visiting a place like the Washed Ashore Gallery in Bandon Oregon (several displays are located throughout the United States, see the Washed Ashore Exhibit Locations for more information) can both teach our generation and the generations below us how to protect our earth and save our oceans.
Traveling can be an exotic thing full to the brim with activities that will make your friends envy your life & maybe even despise you a little. The more I travel the more I realize that I want to make a difference in the world, no matter how small it is. Ecotourism and Volunteering for cleanups and service can help connect our communities, open minds and hearts, and help start the change we wish to see in the world.
Supporting Companies with good causes:
Save the Baby Turtles!
A Blogger friend of mine in Fort Lauderdale Florida was able to participate in the nighttime protection of hatching baby turtles. These baby turtles get confused by the city lights and instead of going into the ocean (following the moon), they follow the city lights. This leads them to be run over or crushed by bikes, cars or fall into holes they cannot get out of. What these volunteers do is once the baby turtles hit their 10-foot periphery line, they gather them up in a bucket and take all the confused little fellas to the ocean where they set them free. They also move beach chairs and sandcastles to allow for the mothers to come to the beach easier and lay their eggs. Check out her post on Saving Baby Sea Turtles and how you can help or participate!
Soul Flower Clothing Company
As soon as I found this clothing company, I know I had found my tribe. Just look at their tagline:
Soul Flower is a natural clothing brand for kind souls and free spirits. Mindfully made with natural fibers and heartfelt art, we design our threads with kind vibes from start to finish. We seek inspiration in the simplicity of everyday life – in nature and in music, in free-spirited adventures and in like-minded souls. We create clothing in a way that supports our planet, spreads a positive message, and most importantly — helps you express yourself.”
To all my big headed ladies out there (I’m talking literal, not egotistical) – this is the place you should get your headbands! Every time I wear these headbands I feel a little better about myself, I read the inspirational message printed on it and cannot help but feel inspired to finish out the day with a bang! Plus, let’s be honest, sometimes a girl just needs a headband to decrease the stress of doin’ da hur….ya feel me? To get your headband:
The other items I have personally tried and fallen in love with so far are the yoga pants and shirts. If I’m being honest, I wear the pants EVERYWHERE! Not just because the pants are comfortable, but because they have the most adorable prints on them that inspire me to continue to be Eco-friendly in my day to day life & inspire me to live a simpler life to help have less of an impact on the environment. I wore the shirt for two days in a row people! I know that’s gross but it has been so hot over here, and it is so light, airy and cute with the little leaves on it… I couldn’t resist
Personal Note: It is sooooo hard to find cute and comfortable clothing as a curvy woman — so to find a company that caters to my desire to be eco-friendly and embraces those of all shapes and sizes really just gives me warm fuzzies and I want to shout out from the rooftops how much I appreciate and love them for this.
You don’t just have to participate in environmentally friendly activities at destinations you visit. You can start being environmentally friendly to companies just like Soul Flower. Check out Soul Flower Summer Specials today!
Other Ways to be a Responsible Tourist:
Be Respectful of Religions and Cultures:
Look at local customs and rules when entering churches across the world. Do not make derogatory jokes or compare those within the country to something you deem as ‘more sensible’ or ‘better practices’. Do not impose your beliefs on those within the country unless prompted to. Respect the cultural idiosyncrasies of what is considered ‘normal’ for that country.
The bottom line is, just because something, someone, or a country as a whole does something different than what you know to be normal — doesn’t mean that it is wrong. There are some exceptions where it endangers basic human rights, practices, or harms/mutilates any animal or human being (obviously). Even if you do see something wrong, intervening as a tourist could land you in jail – be careful, be cautious and if you have a concern about the country/destination use a guide that you can ask questions about what is appropriate or if you can do something/intervene without landing yourself in jail.
Be Respectful of Shop Owners Overseas:
Do not take photos of products, items, or anything in different countries that could affect their livelihood. Do not get offended if they ask you not to take photos, there is a reason! Unnamed countries citizens will visit these economically struggling countries and take photos of their products and produce them at a fraction of the cost, but they are not authentic products.
Moroccans, for example, rely on their skill and artistry of furniture, clothing, architecture, woodworking to profit from their craft and provide for their families. How many times have you visited a country and thought, ‘Oh I can get that back in my own country, I don’t need to buy it here’. This is why it is so important….so many countries rely on tourism and the money it brings in to put food on the table. So please….before you take a photo in a store, ASK the owner if it is ok.
Be Aware and Educate Yourself on Regional Issues:
Human trafficking, terrorism, and so many more unsavory things happen in this world. I have too much of a tender heart to focus in on the negative all the time, so rarely listen to the news – but I do search for those individuals who have the capacity to handle situations such as this. I support them, I share their stories and donate when I’m able to.
It is important to be sensitive to cultural and religious practices (as part of Responsible Tourism) that help to positively define a culture, but that never means we should tolerate those who continually violate the basic human rights of food, safety, and shelter.
With having experienced Rape and sexual assault myself, the topic of sex trafficking is a very passionate topic for me. Operation Underground Railroad is a team of individuals of highly specialized individuals who have years of experience in special forces, law enforcement working proactively since 2013 with local governments that I wholeheartedly support. This is a video that had me in tears for how grateful I was to the men & women who do this. Please support them in whatever way that you can…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_CgQcNkUlw&feature=youtu.be If you would like to Donate to O.U.R. please feel free to do so, if you are unable to donate, then try and Volunteer for O.U.R. to help aid in their efforts.
Small changes can make a big difference:
Wear environmentally friendly products:
Keep any soap while camping at any location away from runoff areas (at least 100 feet).
Bury or pack out your human waste. Look at the requirements for each camping spot you visit for their rules and regulations.
Wear environmentally and Ocean friendly sunscreen as this often washes off the ocean, causing damage to coral and marine life.
Bringing your own straws, skip the straw at Starbucks. If this doesn’t make sense, please keep watching the video of the Turtle above until it does.
Get a recycling bin or start a recycling group in your neighborhood. (More information below on recycling that could be available in your country).
Make a list of low-cost companies that produce Biodegradable Products and keep a list. Hand the list out to anyone who uses straws, show they alternatives. Don’t force it down their throat — educate with KINDNESS! Honey works better than vinegar when trying to entice people to change their daily habits or companies to change the status quo.
Utilize the Reusable Grocery Bags:
This is such a simple change that we can all do (especially those of us in the States). In most other countries they are charging for the plastic bags, yet when we implement it here to try and help support the environment….everyone loses their minds! They tried to do this when I lived in Texas and I would stand there and see with my own eyes, these grocery baggers get verbally assaulted for doing their job and charging for the plastic bags. Come on people…..be better than that……do better than that…….realize that this isn’t just about YOU and YOUR needs, but for the betterment of humanity and animals. If you still aren’t convinced that plastic bags are a big deal, watch this video of the whale found dead with hundreds of pounds of plastic bags in its stomach. If that doesn’t convince you, well…..I don’t know how to help you become a better human being.
I need some advice myself on this one….grrrhhh….. I have all the reusable bags I can handle. I start daydreaming on the way to the grocery store, then out of habit, forget to take the reusable grocery bags I brought off the garage wall where I put them so I wouldn’t forget them. If you have some advice on how to remember these things…..let a girl know in the comments below.
A Call to Action for Responsible Tourism:
Here is a great resource if you would like to participate in Ecotourism on your next trip: Ecotourism.org
Straws:The Last Plastic Straw is a great website for a list of all the different types of straws, where to get them and how they are better than the plastic straws. There is also a site completely dedicated to Living a life without plastic, this is where I get my reusable metal straws (bamboo and glass is also available).
Home, Pets, Cleaning supplies and more:Life Without Plastic gives you so many bamboo or steel options that can replace many of the household items that have or contain plastic. Gift certificates, gift registry, and points program are also available on this site to help you invite friends to the #noplastic movement.
Recycling throughout the world: Recycling in the States (contact your city councils to arrange this), Recycling in Australia, Recycling in Canada, Curbside Recycling available in New Zealand please check your local city councils, Recycling is also available in the United Kingdom for each household (mandatory supply of bins from government), Spain also has recycling available in some areas, and the Netherlands actually pays you to bring in your recyclable materials (typically at grocery stores).
IF YOU HAVE RECYCLING IN YOUR COUNTRY AND IT IS NOT LISTED HERE, PLEASE LIST THE RESOURCE OR WHO TO CONTACT BELOW 🙂
A Must Read Plastic Free Blogger: If you are like me and feel a little overwhelmed by how many things in your home contain plastic, visit Beth Terry: My Plastic Free Life Blogger. She will teach you, take you step by step through the process and show you how to live a plastic-free life.
Worldwide Plastic Pollution Coalition – Now NO ONE has an excuse to not participate in reducing their plastic use. This is a global alliance of individuals, organizations and businesses working together to stop plastic pollution.
How To Tour Responsibly:
We have such a duty to protect creatures who outlived the dinosaurs, are essential to our planet’s ecosystem – the Sea Turtles. We don’t have to start being Eco-friendly or participate in Responsible Tourism practices only when we are traveling. Get involved in the activities now, one goal or plastic straw at a time.
Be respectful of religions, people, cultures, and races as long as they do not infringe on basic human rights to live life peacefully, safely without fear of bodily harm and can provide for basic human needs of shelter, food, and water.
Get involved in volunteer programs locally where you can help end human trafficking, gang violence, opioid epidemics, and so much more. There seems to be an Instagram hashtag or Facebook group for everything these days. If you have any suggestions for local groups you are passionate about, please let it in the comments below with a link to their site. Teach those around you, share the information on your social media platforms….it just takes one rock in a pond to start a ripple that turns into a wave. Be that change you wish to see in the world.
How do you like to contribute to Responsible Tourism?
What is the most important thing to you regarding Responsible Tourism?
The first time I backpacked through Europe as a US Citizen, I was entirely overwhelmed and confused. I wasn’t the only foreign visitor who was confused, there were so many people who had questions about how this complex interconnecting system worked. So for those first timers out there, here are my Top 15 Tips for Travel by Train in Europe.
Just because you have a Eurail pass, doesn’t mean you have a reserved seat. So be sure to buy that extra ticket in order to reserve a seat. Also, make sure you are there at least 30 minutes early so you don’t miss your train. Especially if you are traveling across country lines. Only buy tickets from reputable places, there are a lot of scams in Europe around travel. Educate yourself on how to avoid scams in Europe.
2- Check Your Platform And Car Number
Get on the right train from the right platform. Look at the train names above the numbered platforms. Then make sure that the car you enter is the exact car you need to take. The cars separate at different stops and you don’t want to be left behind unknowingly.
IF YOU DON’T KNOW, ASK!!!! Ask someone after you get on the train if you must. They will close the doors when the conductor blows the whistle. The trains in Europe wait for no one.
3- Anticipate The Need To Run
Once seated, look at your ticket……look at the next platform you need to go to. Look at when your train arrives and when the next departs. You may need to run across the station to platform 12b from platform 1a in 15 minutes. There is always going to be someone slow in front of you, so take the stairs.
4- Scan Your Ticket To Get In And Out
Keep your ticket in hand! You need it to scan in and scan out of each of the train stations. The ticket must be current, or you can get a fine. If you have a Eurail Pass, you can just scan the code on the outside of the ticket to get through the gates. The Eurail tickets sometimes have their own gates. Try to go with the gate not everyone is going through (if you can’t understand the Language).
5- Check The Type Of Train You Get On
Make sure you are getting on the right type of train. If you get on the wrong train you can still get fined. It may be going to the right place, but if you get on the faster train or get on an inter-city train instead, you can get fined. B
6- Bring Your Own Supplies
Bring your own water, your phone charger, and a Travel Pillow— especially if you have a sleeper train — small backpacks are the best…..just minimize by packing like the news told you the city was going to be bombed and you had 15 minutes before you had to be evacuated. That will get you everything you need in one bag. Yes, you will probably smell……bring Febreeze…..trust me…..there are people who smell worse on the trains.7 – Take Your Trash With You
7- Take Your Trash With You
Take your trash with you when you exit the train. There are small little garbage cans underneath the tables or right under the window on most trains. These fill up very quickly, as well as the ones in the bathrooms, so take your rubbish with you when you get off.
8- Sit In Seats With No Reservations
Don’t sit in a seat with a paper at the top or an electronic name above the seat…..You will lose your seat. I had this experience once, and that is all it took for me to learn to not do this. Was very unpleasant to be laughed out of your seat by a group of teenage boys. Then I stood in the café car for two hours till the next stop, the train was so full you couldn’t find a seat even between the cars.
9- Treat The Train Like You Would Your Living Room
Don’t put your feet up on the seats, or let your luggage take a seat near you. Put your bags on top and your coat on the hooks. MOVE if there are people looking for a place to sit. You wouldn’t want to sit on a spot where someone’s muddy shoes have just been, ruining your outfit. Take your shoes off first at least before you do this. They don’t exactly clean these seats regularly.
10 – Be The First In Line, In the Right Spot On The Platform
Be the first in line to get on the train…..the seats run out very quickly. Don’t be rude and shove people aside, but if you have the chance, stay close to the train. I also would gauge where the train door would stop ultimately by the train next to us. You stand right where the train opposite would stop, and you get to be the first one onto the train! Worked like a charm every time. Most people just stand at the platform thinking if they are near the front they will get a seat, this is not true. If you are at the front of the platform, right where the doors are going to stop, THEN you will get a seat.
11- Pack Light
Please don’t bring 500 pieces of luggage that require you to ask for help onto and off the train. If you cannot easily get up and down 4 very tall 18-inch steps with both luggage pieces in hand…..people will get mad. The longer you take to board the train the less likely the people behind you will be able to find a seat.
12- Sitting In Between Cars Is Uncomfortable
If you are just going one stop, you can sit in-between the cars. If you try and do this for the entire trip….you will have to get up and move every time someone opens the car doors……very annoying.
13- Sit In The Cafe If All Else Fails
There are seats in the back at the café car that you can order food and sit or stand there. I wouldn’t recommend this, as it gets crowded very very quick. No one can eat for 6 hours straight…..you would go broke.
14 – Limit Your Bathroom Use When Possible
Don’t try to use the bathrooms unless it is an emergency. If you do try and use them— bring hand sanitizer and toilet paper in your purse. The few I did have to use were so gross I was gagging. One had a floor so sticky and stinky that I had to breathe through my mouth. A coin-operated train station in Amsterdam was another bad experience. This particular bathroom had no toilet paper (luckily I had Kleenex in my bag), the sink had a powerful water flow and you could literally see the poop near the walls of the sink.
I am a pretty laid back person when it comes to expecting things to always be perfect (if you do expect it, your trip will be horrible); but this particular restroom was the most disgusting one I have used in the ENTIRE world. Who would have thought that a train station in the Netherlands would be that gross…..they are usually a very clean people.
I will say this though, there are some trains (typically the newer ones) that have decent bathrooms with air-fresheners and everything. They give hefty fines to people who are caught using first class bathrooms without a ticket.
15 – Getting A First Class Ticket Can Be Worth It
If you get a sleeper car for an overnight train trip, get one in first class with one other person if you must. I’m telling you….. it is amazing, and I actually slept…..everything is so clean and really just like a hotel room. You even get breakfast. Second class sleeper trains are adequate but don’t expect to have it be perfect.
My experience with the Second class sleeper was with 4 people in it, and nowhere to put your things because the ladies on the bottom bunks took up all the space. On top of that, you are usually at the end of the train which is a lot more bouncy and less restful. The Air conditioner broke and it was so incredibly hot woke up drenched in sweat. The gentleman in charge of our car and cabin just apologized, said they tried to fix it, and there were no other rooms for us to go
Make Train Travel in Europe Easier
Now all these things may make you not want to take the train at all. These 15 tips, were constructed from the worst parts of my experience. These tips and tricks will help your experience better. There are many many more wonderful parts of train travel, that can end up being a really great experience. My luck on trains is not the greatest. Apart from the one time I got a first class cabin all to myself. Being in first class was sooooo worth the money! To be in a cool, quiet, restful place with an attendant who really cared.
So don’t let this article deter you from train travel, it really is a great way to get around. I hope these things have helped and will allow at least those in the Culture Trekking Community to travel with ease, by learning from my mistakes.
As always, Happy Travels, Happy Tales and See You on the Flip Side.
If you like to see destinations in their natural state, and a virtually untouched historical setting then the Island of Delos is for you. Delos Greek Mythology was born in this place, many in ancient times thought this to be the Birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. There are fields of wildflowers, ancient stone houses from the 1st and 2nd Century, and evidence suggesting that this place was inhabited since 3000 BCE. It is so important to Greek Culture, that it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site. A place well worth the visit should you find yourself among the Greek Isles.
Stay in Mykonos and Take a Ferry
This small protected Island is only a short ferry ride away from Mykonos Greece. These Ferry’s are readily available during the summer months, and in the winter months run on a tight and limited schedule. The ride to the Island only takes about 30 minutes & cost about 10 euros. Be sure to check out ferry times before venturing there, and tours that can take you to Delos and surrounding islands.
Ferry rides can be purchased either on the Island of Mykonos or here. Avoid going in August as the sea can be quite rough and the boat is a smaller passenger boat. They also have 1/2 day guided tours from Mykonos for about 50 Euros as well.
History Of Delos Island
First. it was a refuge for Pirates who were expelled from Crete (note the stone huts there). Habitation dates all the way back to 3000 BCE. Eventually, in the 6th century BCE, all dead bodies were removed from the Island of Delos & people were forbidden from dying or giving birth here to keep its sacred nature for the Gods Apollo and Artemis.
It quickly became one of the most sacred places in ancient Greece. It was also the center of much of the trade for Greece at the time, because of it’s location in the Aegean Sea.
Merchants would sail here from the major commercial centers of the Aegean–Athens, Miletos, Corinth, Macedonia, Thassos, Samos, Milos, Rhodes, and Crete. In the 4th century BCE, it became the natural meeting place of the Delian League who helped protect and defend Greece from invaders and carved a niche in history for themselves as heroes. At the time it is estimated that nearly 25,000 people lived on this island.
Delos Island Can Be Very Hot
It can also be quite hot, so bring something to shade yourself. There are minimal facilities on the island, so make sure to relieve yourself before taking the ferry and bring water. Delos Tours can take anywhere from 2-4 hours, depending on how detailed you want the tour to be, and if you have an archeological guide or not.
Visit the Delos Archeological Museum
The Island of Delos Archeological Museum contains statues and pottery anywhere from the 1st century to the 25th Century. From the outside, it looks like a rickety shanty – but once you go inside there are true ancient treasures. I just happened to have extra time waiting for my boat back to Mykonos and wandered in here (otherwise I would likely have skipped it).
It contains the original Lions of Delos to protect them from further deterioration from the elements. Artifacts found in the houses on the island, funerary statues and grave stelae, pottery, clay figurines, jewelry and small objects, and mosaics.
Visit the Different Houses & Temples
The Mosaics in these houses are some of the most well preserved in Europe. They are so well preserved, it is said they can rival those found in Pompeii. The house of Dolphins, which contains a Rosetta Stone like mosaic with dolphins in the corners still has the original artists signature.
The house of masks has a spectacularly complex array of mosaics on the floor. In the center, you can see Dionysus riding a colorful tiger, similar to the one found in the nearby House of Dionysos.
Visit the Temple of Hera with tall pillars still standing like sentries after all this time. The Kynthos Cave is mostly a man-made cave in a natural hollow on the rock near the summit of Mt. Cynthus. It is roofed by monumental slabs of granite, and previously had an altar near its entrance.
The Temple of Isis is a partially restored area, dedicated to the goddess typically found in ancient Egypt. A fantastic representation of cultures crossing even in ancient times.
The Temple of Apollo is one of the first temples you encounter and is very easy to pick out because of the Delos Lions lining the walkway. These Lions were placed here around 600 BC, and were used to inspire, awe and intimidate those wishing to visit the God Apollo. The lions here are replicas, and the originals are kept in the Delos Archaeological Museum.
Exposed Ruins and Financial Crisis
Because of the financial crisis of Greece in recent years, there are excavations still happening, funded by the French. At first, I was really upset that the ruins were not protected, preserved, or at least covered- it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site after all. It wasn’t until after I researched why they weren’t that I was able to gain a little more understanding of the complicated situation. Excavations are slow and many of the ruins are still in disrepair. So make sure to bring a detailed map of Delos to help aid your imagination in what once was the birthplace of the Hero’s of Greece.
I would highly recommend getting the audio tour and a map of the place. There are signs to tell you about the different sites on the Island of Delos. Most signs are in both Greek & English, giving a brief and limited explanation of this island and its inhabitants.
As Always…..Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and See YOU on the Flip Side.
Before my family and I left the ship for our Mykonos Shore Excursion we were given strict instructions that the ship would depart at 5 pm sharp and we were to be onboard by 430pm. We all took note, and I thought, “Oh ok, no problem”.
Arriving In Mykonos
We arrived on Mykonos, after a successful excursion in Santorini, and it felt so serene and beautiful with the white buildings all around and the water was so clear you didn’t even have to bother with snorkeling because you could see the fishes from the pier. It’s gorgeous yet sad when I see this, because I realize what humans do to their environment.
You immediately felt at ease & in love with the place. I’m not exactly a model type, and I think the rest of my family feels the same way about being the only one in photos. So we make fun of the people who like to be models in their photos (see below).
We were in such a funny mood that day, just carefree and glad to be off the rocking ship. We all had sea legs and were bumping into each other the whole way down the dock, my Dad has equilibrium problems anyway, so we had to stay on either side of him to make sure he didn’t end up unintentionally swimming with the fishes.
We arrived into town, and most of the shops were still just opening their doors, the fisherman ships were going out to get the catches of the day, to feed the hoard of tourists that were clamoring off the boat. My family and I just stayed over to the side, and watched these ships coming in and out of the dock.
I stopped in on a little Church, it was small, quaint with white painted cement walls and a dome that was bright blue. When looking at the buildings here it makes me think I am in Smurf town. The Greeks are very proud of their heritage, and are very passionate about their religion as well.
I wandered back outside to watch the boats coming into the harbor, while the family decided on what they would like to do for the day. We decided to just get lost in the city, and I wanted to visit one of the beaches.
We wandered the streets, did a little shopping & upon finding out that most of the beaches on Mykonos were actually Nude beaches — my family elected not to go.
I am a Physician Assistant and see naked bodies all day, it doesn’t really do much for me, and people who should not be nude, are the ones that usually are on these types of beaches.
Solace on Paradise Beach
I asked around and found that Paradise beach was the one that had the least amount of nudity. So I said Adieu to my family, climbed on a bus with 100 other school children, the ride was terrifying. Imagine a large tour bus that looks about 30 years old, trying to share a 15 foot wide road with another truck or bus; while the edge of the cliff is literally right on the edge of the tire of this bus at nearly every corner.
I had started to think, “I’m going to die before I even reach the beach”; I think I squealed several times when the bus driver started to get too close to the edge. The kids would giggle then look away, every time we would get close to the cliff edge I would clench my butt cheeks a little. I commonly refer to this as “the butt clench factor” – this is a scale rated on 0 to 10; 0 being the most relaxed you’ve been, 4 being when your boss walks in, and 8-10 being the level of where you think you are on the verge of death or catastrophe.
This experience was a solid 8 for me. I did, however, arrive at the beach in one solid piece….and it was gorgeous! Apparently this is the place that a lot of Aussies come to chill out (who knew).
I don’t drink alcohol, but sat there and watch two men who were gorgeous and ripped as all get out, walk around in their speedos while I sipped my Fanta and let me legs melt in the sun. The whole thing cost about $10, and I’m not a beach person really, but this was really really relaxing and really fun.
I talked to a couple next to me who save for vacation every year, and this was their big trip for the year. After talking to them, I became inspired to be like them, and just try and take one big trip a year. Its something that I look forward to now, and save for. It started to get a little warm, so I went in for a dip and found out there was a lovely little shelf I could stand on in the middle of the ocean! I felt like a magician standing on this thing, and so deep into the water!
Getting To Comfortable on Mykonos Beaches
I stayed out there for ages & the couple I had been chatting with took the photo for me (so nice!). After coming in to the beach, I peaked at the time on my phone… it was 330 & it took about 30 min to drive back to the town center, the last shuttle to the pier left at 430. Well I got onto the next bus out ok, then got to the town center & most of the shops had started to close.
Well I have severe directional challenges, and ended up getting lost. Was walking up to where the shuttle was suppose to leave, it was 425, and watched a shuttle pull away. I thought, “oh, there has to be one last shuttle right?”
So I waited, I could see the ship, but couldn’t see a shuttle. It was now 440pm and I started to panic, even if I walked/ran to the ship pier there was no way I was going to make it — it was at least a 10 min drive to get there & 40 min walking. Most of the shops were now closed, ‘oh crap, oh crap, oh crap!’.
Panic Sets In
I noticed a rental car place across the street & watched and she closed her blinds. I ran, like I have never run before, and knocked frantically on the door, praying to God she answered.
I was on the verge of tears, the ATM machine had eaten my Debit card which was the only card I had with me, my passport was on the ship, I had no ID, and 50 euros left…..I was going to be stranded on an island where I couldn’t even understand what these people were wanting to say.
Then…..she opened the door, and I asked if she spoke English, THANK GOD SHE DID! In a rush I told her, “Ship is leaving, I have to be on it, can you call a friend or a cab”? She quickly punched in the numbers, and I ran outside to wait, hoping they magically be there…..it took 5 minutes for him to get there.
A Race Against Time
I yelled thank you behind me, jumped in the car, gave him 50 euros, and told him he could keep it all if he could get me to, I pointed, that ship in 5 minutes.. His eyes got big, and he turned into a race car driver right before my eyes.
I didn’t even bother putting on my seat belt, I held onto the roof and the handle on the ceiling. I’m telling you, this car likely was flying & I’m surprised we didn’t go over the railing at a few turns.
I thanked God there was no one on the road — and he pulled into the pier at 455pm. I got out of the car and saw them loading the plank back onto the ship. I yelled to wait, and then they looked at each other and started putting it back out for me. I ran up, profusely apologizing, and they said there was one more person they didn’t know if they would show up.
Made me feel a little better knowing I wasn’t the last person the ship was waiting on. I took a few big deep breaths, tried to calm my racing heart. When I get really nervous, for some reason I end up giggling hysterically, I giggled all the way to the elevator & then as I was waiting ended up calming down a little.
Playing it Cool After The Mykonos Shore Excursion
The elevator door opened, and out came my Mom, “I was just coming to look for you. They called the room and asked if you were there, or if I knew if you were on the ship”, I responded calmly and relaxed as I could (mostly because I didn’t want to hear the ‘I told you going to a nude beach wasn’t a good idea’), “I’m fine mom, I still have 5 more minutes”.
We rode up the elevator together, and I went to the room we were staying in. Most everyone was already showered and ready for dinner, I headed straight for the shower, closed the door, buried my face in a towel and started laughing hysterically.
The Moral of the Story for My Mykonos Shore Excursion
This was by far the CLOSEST I have ever come to feeling like the world was going to explode inside my head. So here is my advice for you should you choose to wander around on your Mykonos Shore Excursion……BE BACK AT THE SHIP TWO HOURS BEFORE THEY LEAVE. This will give you plenty of time if a tour car/bus breaks down, if you want to shop near the ship, if you get injured coming back from your activity. I can’t emphasize this enough….don’t be that viral video where everyone films you missing the ship— it isn’t a good feeling AT ALL. We all learn something every trip though, and disasters are bound to happen – but, hey….now I have one of the funniest and greatest adventure stories to tell.