Hello everyone (I believe there are about two people, at least, who still follow my blog)…
If you are reading this you probably know who I am, and a little bit about me. You know that I used to live in London, and you know that I used to be very active on a hospitality exchange website called Couchsurfing (if you’ve never heard about it, you probably come from some faraway planet), and that all this interaction with foreigners and travellers made me want to travel the world. Which I did for a few years, planning short trips to (mostly) European countries, and meeting new interesting people, tasting lots of nice food, and “expanding my horizons”, as they say.
In July 2011 I met a guy, from Brazil. Yes, a guy. I’ve never written anything about him in public, and I won’t really start now, but well, it was someone I met (on couchsurfing, not surprisingly), hosted and decided to meet again. He said he wanted to meet again, so we started thinking about it a little more seriously.
Now Brazil had always been extremely high on my list of places to go to, and – in retrospect – that guy gave me an excuse to actually take the decision. So I asked for a year off work, I gave my home keys to my cousin, I did all the necessary vaccinations, I bought a book about Latin America, I booked a return ticket to / from Rio De Janeiro… and then, three weeks before I was planning to fly to Brazil, the guy announced that he was no longer in love and didn’t think this would work.
Panic. Disappointment. That feeling of emptiness. Friends (especially Spyros) advising me to stay at home and travel at some other point.
Yet… I already had the tickets and the year off work, and was sort of prepared for that… so, I thought to myself, it’s now or never.
When I arrived in Brazil I was in the worst possible mood. The fear of the unknown, the feeling of rejection, the heart-broken situation, the idea of being so far away from home, all these were rather scary – though, on the upside, I was getting to go to new places, meet new people etc etc. There were lovely moments, but also shitty moments. Those five months in Latin America, followed by a couple of months in Europe, were really strange times. Apart from new places, new foods and new languages, I also discovered new emotions, new limits and new ways to push the limits. I discovered new reactions and new ways of thinking – and all that, at the not-so-tender age of 38…
When I started this blog, it was meant to be strictly a travel blog – and it worked, for a couple of months. I managed to write a lot about my three months in Brazil, in December 2011 – February 2012. Then I went on to Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Cuba… and there were always heaps of other things to do – like trying to buy a new camera in Argentina (not as straightforward as you might think), trying to get rid of the altitude sickness in Bolivia, trying to decide where to go next while in Peru, and trying to find an internet connection (not a decent one, just ANY one) in Cuba. That was all in spring 2012. In those five months I met hundreds of people, made a few new friends, saw many lovely places, and, above all, concluded once again that the world is not too bad after all, and not everyone’s out there to get us. People are people, and in my experience they will want to help you, talk to you, get to know you (ok in some countries they may want to get to know you a little better), but overall they are not out there to harm you.
And then I went to London for a while. I spent a month squatting my good friend Pete’s floor – I don’t know what I would have done without this guy, I owe him eternal thanks, and he is welcome to Athens anytime he gets his hands on a passport – I just hope I’ll be alive then.
And then it was a couple of months in Greece – one month on Crete, where I’m going to move when I grow up, and another month just travelling around, meeting friends etc. But I realised I still had some time left until the end of my year off… so I followed a couple of Brazilian (again!) guys to the Middle East. We went to Jordan, Israel and Egypt – some great landscapes, heaps of sand and dust, lots of fun (comparing Brazilian and Middle-Eastern attitudes could fill up a whole book), and lots of disappointment, or should I say melancholy – even depression??? – upon realising that the year off would be over very soon, and that I would have to go back to work.
So there I was, on 2 January 2013 – back to work, different office, slightly different conditions, bored to death of people who couldn’t stress enough the importance of having “a job” during the crisis in Greece. While I respect that opinion (and I’m still in the same job anyway), I still thought that there has to be something more than that.
And then two things happened, which changed my life a lot.
In October 2013, a Canadian company called Circle Adventures approached me and asked me to do alternative tours of Athens for them. I jumped at the idea, and started researching possible routes and possible places to take tourists. Obviously I already had lots of experience, because of Couchsurfing and some other tours I had done in the past, but this was a much bigger thing. In the next few months, I literally woke up and went to bed with just one thing on my mind: I am a tour guide! Even part-time, but yes, I can call myself a tour-guide. Within 2014 we had about 20 tours, and we are hoping to have more in 2015.
And then… in October 2014, I organised a couple of tours for bloggers who came to Athens for the TBex conference. While the tours were interesting (if not slightly stressful) and I learnt a lot from them, the most important thing that happened there was… that I met someone. A foreigner, of course, and needless to say a traveller… but from a country I’m a little more familiar with this time. Yep, that would be England. An Engish guy, with an English accent, who likes English tea and beer (any beer, not just English beer), who can plan a few days ahead like the English do (actually he likes planning!) and who, although he hadn’t planned to move to Greece, is now happily living in Greece and discovering Athens… with me.
This is from our first day at the supermarket together. Needless to say, that was a bit of a shock for me as we were actually looking at TV screens, and everyone who knows me knows how much I hate the concept of a TV 🙂
Then again… how is it possible to cuddle watching a movie if there is no screen? This has yet to be discovered…
For all I know, this has been one of the happiest three months of my life, and I know this sounds like an exaggeration – but hey, deep down inside I’m still Greek 🙂