In addition to having jet black gorgeous hair, and beautiful olive skin, one of the other reasons that it’s hard being friends with my friend Katy is that she spends her summers in Greece with her grandparents.
That’s right. Greece.
While my family is toting beach chairs out to the shores of Oak Island and most of you are sitting poolside at Myrtle Beach, Katy is doing her summer relaxing in the Greek Islands.
Life is so unfair.
When my Grandmas were still alive and I would go and visit them, I went to one of two places: Celina, Ohio or Wellston, Ohio. I love both of my Grandmas very much and enjoyed these visits, but I don't need to tell you: Ohio ain't Greece.
Not surprising then, that I’ve been begging Katy to take me to Greece since we became friends. My begging is usually in jest—I never actually expected her to extend an invitation for me to accompany her on her yearly visit because the trip, for her, is all about family. She saves up all of her days off from work so that she can devote an extended period of time to being there with them.
When I started writing Project 29 to 30, my persuading finally had an angle. "Greece is a place I’ve never been before," I would tell her.
But deep down, just as I never expected Katy to invite me, I never suspected that if she did that I would actually go. This time with her family is sacred and I'd really feel bad about imposing. Not to mention, I’d already been to Palm Springs and San Francisco and New York and Lake Tahoe and Panama this year alone. I needed to table the traveling for a little bit, and my checkbook needed its rest. Plus I'm an average 29-year old working girl, not some cosmopolitan jet-setter, no matter how many times I play one in my dreams.
Shockingly, though, on the night Katy, Justin, Mo, John, Ana and I ate steaks and played dirty Jenga, Katy did the unexpected and extended, to me, an invitation to go with her, to Greece. I figured she was "over-served," and probably wouldn’t remember it the next day, or if she did, realize she shouldn’t have and never bring it up again.
A few days later, though, she did bring up Greece again. Katy was serious! Serious about my coming to Greece with her, and after a conversation with Mo and Justin, most serious about getting tagged in the blog more times than them.
“I spoke to my mom and she talked to my Yaya and they said you could come," Katy said to me, smiling widely. "So you have to. Greece is amazing. Book your trip. Please come. Steph, you have to!"
She followed up her demands with the beautiful pictures in this post showing me her grandparents' house, and how much fun she has when she goes. The photos weren't necessary, but they definitely made an already sweet deal even sweeter.
Her offer was still a lot to consider. Not because going to Greece with a Greek person wasn’t the opportunity of a lifetime. But there was a lot that was holding me back from saying “yes” right away:
1. Imposing on Katy’s family time. This was the reason I got over the fastest, considering Katy had asked me to come along. Plus she would be there for several weeks, and if I went I would only go for part of that time. She would have plenty of solo time with her fam.
2. Taking days off from work. Also an easy problem to fix, considering I’d already randomly taken off the very week in August that Katy had planned to go to Greece. What are the chances? It was like it was meant to be!
3. Paying to go. This was a big one. Though Katy assured me everything would be paid for once we arrived, I had to get there. And airline tickets to Europe were not cheap.
Just when I started really wanting to go was the very moment that I realized I couldn’t. But as I have done before when I want something I cannot afford, I began figuring out ways to make it work, some of which made sense (pick up some freelance gigs for extra money) and others that were just ridiculous (selling stuff on eBay).
I just couldn’t seem to make it work out, so I came to my senses and called my parents, sure that they would be able to nip these crazy thoughts about me whisking off to Europe in the bud immediately.
Who did I think I was? I could not afford to go to Greece.
I called my Dad first.
“Dad, you’re never going to believe it but my friend Katy invited me to go to Greece with her. Isn’t that so nice? Airline tickets are crazy expensive, though, and I just can’t seem to make it work financially, so I’m going to tell her ‘no.’”
His response was not what I was expecting.
“Wow! That sounds awesome! Wow, Steph, Greece? With someone from Greece?! That’s awesome, dear!”
I shouted back into the phone at him because it was loud in the background, “Dad?! Did you hear what I said?! I can’t afford to go. I would have to charge my ticket. On. My. Credit. Card.”
He ignored the credit card completely and just kept talking about how awesome it was that I had a friend whose grandparents lived in Greece. He was asking me detailed questions about how long they'd lived there, and what they did for a living, none of which I could answer. He went on and on about how much fun it would be for me to go, money or not.
I blamed his uncharacteristically irresponsible suggestion on the fact that he was in a crowded restaurant and he didn’t completely understand what I was saying. I called my mom next.
Her answer, like my dad’s, was unexpected.
“Oh Stephanie! That sounds wonderful! A once in a lifetime opportunity! I wish I could go!”
My mom was not in a crowded restaurant. She heard every word I said, but the fact that I would have to charge this ticket on a credit card and work like a dog to pay it off seemed completely irrelevant to her. She was romanticizing, on my behalf, about all the fun a Greek vacation would bring. I think she even referenced my trip to Psychic Rose, “Maybe that’s where your water man is!” I thought that was a stretch, but couldn’t help but feel her excitement too.
Wow. My financially-sensible, pay-cash-for-everything parents had both advised me to go on this trip that I can’t pay for.
I was confused.
I thought about everything that they said and their advice to take the opportunity that was presented to me. They didn’t say so, but I suspected that had I called them and told them that I really wanted to buy an expensive sweater or a car I couldn’t afford, I doubt they’d be so encouraging. But a trip to a beautiful place? They were on board in a big way.
"Live your life, Stephanie!," they were telling me. "Deal with the consequences (which are minor in the scheme of things) later."
I’m so lucky to have them as my parents, who know that the most important things in life aren't things, but people and experiences. I'm also so lucky to have a friend whose grandparents live in Greece.
I had to wonder how I got to be so lucky all of the time. I mean, Golf course houses in Palm Springs? Mountain houses in Lake Tahoe? Tree Houses in Panama? And now beach houses in Greece? I’m a traveling wizard thanks to all the people I continually surround myself with.
Still, there was a part of me that felt guilty and mildly embarrassed about going and telling people, that for the second time in five months, I was leaving the country for an exotic, beautiful destination. But my parents were right, this was a special opportunity. Saying “no” would be completely out of character for me in my 29th year.
So I booked a flight, making Day 316’s (which because of the time change led into Day 317) thing I’ve never done before to go to Greece (with a Greek.)
Writing a blog about doing 365 new things in one year has forced me to take life one day at a time. So much so, in fact, there is rarely much anticipation for things with me. I don’t have time to get excited about things that are about to happen, because I have to focus on the here and now. The same was true of this trip. I booked the flights and then didn’t think about it again, thinking, “I will be excited about Greece when I’m on the plane headed there.”
I think Katy mistook my lack of enthusiasm as me not looking forward to the trip, which was not at all the case. I was excited, I just couldn’t stop the momentum of doing other new things ahead of leaving. I also sensed that I had started the very thing I hoped this blog would help me avoid and that’s the spiral into depression over my upcoming 30th birthday. I’m not sure what brought it on, but I was determined that it was nothing seven days in the Greek sun couldn’t fix.
When I finally let myself relax enough to get into trip mode, I sent Katy an email asking her about riding to the airport, and, of course, what to pack.
Her packing list was funny, not in her suggestions, but in her commentary about each of them:
1. Bathing suits and cover ups. We'll need them every day including 1 bathing suit you can do water sports in--very important.
2. We have lots of suntan lotion but not much over 30 so you may want to load up on some 50 shit. Or we can buy it there.
3. 1 nice dress or outfit for going out to nice dinner. We may not even use it but just in case.
4. Sneakers for hiking up to the church up a mountain near the house. And running clothes because I may want to jog and make you come with me.
5. A semi-slutty going out outfit. We are in the Greek islands, after all.
6. Bunch of like, 'lounge wear' - like shorts/tank tops for hanging out in the afternoon, taking a break from the heat.
7. Books for reading on the beach, or you can borrow from me, I'm bringing a bunch. (bttw - I'm bringing hair dryer so don't worry about that.)
8. At least 1 pair of heels, maybe 2 for fun. Lots of flip-flops/sandals
I was comfortable with every item on the list, except for #5, because I don’t really own anything that is “slutty,” or “semi-slutty,” even. Except for maybe my Strawberry Halloween costume and I didn’t feel comfortable rocking that in Greece, or anywhere outside of Team Temecula. I more or less packed the exact same clothes that I'd packed for Panama.
When it came to getting to airport, Katy said she’d like to be at the airport at 1:30pm, and wanted to know if I wanted to ride with her.
I read her email again.
Our flight was at 4:30pm. I realize I’m the last person to look to for success at the airport, having missed my fair share of flights over the years, but 1:30pm? I also realize we were flying internationally but three hours felt like entirely too much time for a nervous flier (yours truly) to just hang out at the gate. Katy explained that her family has terrible luck at the airport and she likes to get there as early as she can.
Luckily, Katy’s diligence (or anal retentiveness) was not something that she forced upon friends she invites to Greece because she agreed to let me meet her at our gate.
Not to mention, I scheduled a lunch date with a client at work, who has become over the past year, a good friend. I don’t know what kind of person schedules lunch dates on the day that they’re flying out of the country for a week; the plan sounded doable when we made plans weeks in advance, considering I had the entire weekend to prepare to leave for the trip.
Once Day 316 arrived, however, after I wasted a whole lot of time feeding animals at the weirdest place ever, the idea to go to lunch felt downright stupid. I couldn’t back out, and though the morning was stressful, I left for my lunch date already packed, I arrived on time to pick up my friend, I had lunch at Zoe’s Kitchen (a place I’d never eaten) and got on the train to the airport ahead of schedule.
In fact, I arrived just minutes at the gate after Katy did. Greece had already made me fabulous. And responsible, apparently. My parents would be so proud.
We even had time to grab a beer at the airport before boarding the plane, which turned out to be a mistake; the beers were stale and not very tasty. Small setback, I figured, because soon after, we boarded our plane and were headed to Greece!
The flight was, in a word, long. I think it lasted 10 or 11 hours, but it felt like 15 thanks to the guy next to me asking me every 15 minutes who I voted for in the last presidential election and asking me what I thought about Sarah Palin. When I refused to tell him who I voted for, and expressed my indifference about Palin, he pressed further.
“Like what do you really think about her?” he said.
I tried to fall asleep quickly to avoid his super intense questions. I hoped that when I woke up, we’d be in Greece, and my Big Fat Greek Summer Vacation could begin.