When we found out we couldn’t legally enter Portugal for our spring trip, Ahmad and I needed to think quickly. To not go on holiday was unthinkable. We’d already began our countdown.
We’d also, stupidly, disregarded all the travel advice including that of the embassy and booked non-refundable tickets. In my defense, they were a really good deal- and I love a good deal! The flight connected through Athens, which, as we discovered after a little bit of research, did not have any problem with Ahmad’s travel document.
We’d take the first leg of the trip, making Greece our only destination. We had dismissed it every single time we talked about where we wanted to travel, but fate had a funny way of making it a priority.
Another unexpected twist was splitting the trip between Crete and Athens.
I’d never imagined that the Greek islands would have much to offer tourists in mid-Spring, with the weather being on the colder side and the beaches essentially out of commission. This is why I was more excited to stay in Athens for a whole eight days: we’d have plenty of time to take in all the history and check those UNESCO World Heritage Sites off our list.
But a conversation with a friend who’d been living in Athens for years made us re-consider. Four days in Athens would be more than sufficient to do everything that I had in mind and then some. Since we were already there, island hopping was the way to go.
So we chose Crete.
Years ago, I’d seen a TV feature on the largest of the islands and vowed to myself that I’d visit some day. If it was that beautiful on the small screen, imagine what it would look like in reality.
Something like this, apparently:
Sure, we considered the traditional Lebanese haunts like Mykonos, Santorini, and Rhodes, but I had already been to the latter and the first two seemed too touristy for our liking.
With less than a week to go, we booked the cheapest flights we could find from Athens to Chania, where we decided to base ourselves as it was the prettiest of the Cretan towns. We even managed to find great accommodation just a few minutes walk from the scenic harbor.
And to sweeten the deal, Ahmad went ahead and rented a car so we’d be more flexible in exploring the island. In those few days before we departed, this was what he was the most excited about: being able to drive a manual on those open, paved roads while I raved about visiting ruins and eating great food.
I felt like we were going on The Amazing Race!
And we drove, we visited the ruins in Heraklion, we ate some of the most fantastic food I’d ever had, we strolled along the harbor under the rain and at night, we enjoyed an upgrade at our accommodation. I even sat on the balcony and read a few books.
All this with minimal planning and almost no research.
All the restaurants we ate at just happened to be along the way on our strolls. The road trips we took to Therisso and Falassarna only came to be because Ariadne, who owned the flat where we stayed, recommended them. I hadn’t even heard of either one. We sneaked in a visit to Rethimno to stretch our legs and have breakfast- I’d initially thought it would be overkill to go as it looked a lot like Chania, but I was glad we made the stop.
In a way, I think that this whole sequence of events was a wake-up call for me.
I’d become too stressed out before we got to Greece, forgetting that the whole purpose of us travelling is to bypass our daily habits and see the world through different eyes.
So for me, that means relinquishing control and learning to be spontaneous. It means not drawing up detailed plans for every single day and getting to enjoy the lack of structure.
It also means that if I happen to find myself in Greece, as we did, I should embrace the Greek way of living and take things easy. After all, lamenting your luck or lack of plans hardly helps anyone, especially when Souvlaki is involved. It’s best you just ignore everything else and devour it.