2015 Bucket List Review!

This is it, the year 2015 is more or less wrapped up. For me, this time of the year is always dedicated to re-living everything that has happened over the course of the last months. If you are one of those awesome fellas that regularly read my blog (YAY, big shout out to you guys!), you might remember my bucket list for 2015. It’s an excerpt from my infinite bucket list that I am hoping to check off in decades from now.

A bucket list really is like a to do list for me. As I have uttered several times, I simply like checking things off lists just to be excited for the next step on that list. But what I’ve learned this year is that bucket lists are a tad different. They really mostly fuel my excitement and are less straightforward than a regular to do list. I’ve learned how much I like veering off the beaten path and finding myself in situations I hadn’t planned out for myself.

So here is what I had planned and what actually happened:

Athens, Greece

Yep, that definitely happened! I still look back to this trip regularly. Not only because I relish thinking back to the incredible Greek architecture or the vast amounts of mouth-watering dishes we consumed but also because it made me learn a life-lesson right at the start of the new year: getting robbed and still managing to enjoy your trip.

Filopappou Hill Athens

Filopappou Hill Athens

Exploring Wales

I can also cross this off my list! And as a matter of fact, I could cross it off several times because I was lucky to explore Wales more than once. Every day whenever I wander through the streets that I currently call home or used to call home, I am determined to explore and look behind each hidden corner. But not only did I meander my immediate surroundings, I took three road trips around Wales!

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Driving around North Wales

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Skrinkle Haven Wales

Scotland

Well, I was not able to visit Scotland this year. I was all too consumed with running around Wales or sitting at my desk in Cardiff, head fuming with thoughts about assignments or my dissertation. But Scotland, I’ll be back someday!

Alberta, Canada

Hell, yeah! Words cannot even begin to describe how much this trip impacted me. Being a bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding, road tripping through the most incredible landscapes I have ever seen, summitting my first mountain and just loving everyday life in rural Alberta. A trip to remember and a heart lost to Canada!

12391220_10156311755500722_7259269346134442187_n

Southeast Asia

A trip of a lifetime. My first backpacking trip and also my first time in Southeast Asia. This trip made me learn a lot about myself and about travelling. And even though we’ve been back for almost three months now, I am still basking in Bali bliss with my head in the clouds and radiant sun streams still leaving warm marks on my skin.

Sunrise hike on Mount Batur

Sunrise hike on Mount Batur

Jimbaran Beach Bali

Jimbaran Beach Bali

Breakfast at Crate Cafe

Breakfast at Crate Cafe

Black Forest, Prague and Barcelona

These three destinations still remain uncovered. With a year as eventful as this one and with as many accomplishments and changes happening, I am at peace with not having discovered these destinations. Instead, I focused on going back to my hometown more, admiring it with the eyes of a first-time visitor and building up an immense amount of gratefulness about having grown up here.

Well, were did I veer off the beaten path then? Being caught up in one-of-a-lifetime-experiences often doesn’t come planned. Just as my most recent trip to Japan did. Sitting at home, caught up with job applications with no immediate bucket list destinations ahead, I had never expected for such an opportunity to happen that quickly. A very dear friend and her family suddenly swooped me out of my rut and invited me to a road trip through Japan. Who would I be to say no that?! Against my I-am-an-adult-now better judgement I left my job applications instantaneously and went to rove around Japan.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Himeji Castle in Japan

It made me realize that this truly is what I love about traveling. Expect the unexpected and just go with the flow. Those are the times when you discover who you’ve always been, what drives and motivates you and how you find your utter bliss.

 

Ancient Athens.

After rambling about adventures between the lines and sights off the beaten track, it is worth mentioning how much I indulged myself in discovering Athens’ typical yet jaw-dropping ancient sites. It is a sheer wonder when you imagine how old these premises are and how many tales and stories are connected to them. The first thing that probably pops into your head when thinking about ancient Athens is the Acropolis.

2015-01-17 09.14.41

Without doubt, it is impressive. Floating above the city on a hill, the Acropolis is visible from everywhere you go in Athens. Its white marble gleams in the sun and gives it an even more majestic feeling.

Untitled-2

But history goes so much deeper than the Acropolis. Visit the Ancient Agora, the heart of historic Athens and the vibrant focal point of political and social activity. Or wander around the grounds of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the largest temple in Greece dedicated to the supreme god of sky and thunder.

Ancient Agora and Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Ancient Agora and Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Speaking of Olympian…the first ever Olympics of modern times where held in Athens. In 1896, the Panathenaic Stadium hosted hundreds of athletes and thousands and thousands of spectators for this historic event. Get yourself into the athletes’ minds and imagine what is must have felt like entering the stadium through a dark aisle and suddenly finding yourself in beaming sunlight and a state of expectation and adrenaline.

2015-01-19 08.54.13

2015-01-19 08.20.05

You don’t have to be a history-fanatic to enjoy Athens’ historic sites – white marble, majestic figures and carefully crafted columns speak for themselves.

Adventures between the lines

Well, you already know that Athens has been more than adventure for me. Getting robbed isn’t the only reason for this though. Whenever I go on a trip, I try to make sure to step out of the comfort zones that tourists usually find themselves in and transform my mind into the one of an explorer. This way I create a deeper connection to the places and its people and leave a lasting footprint wherever I go. Sometimes, these things don’t happen on purpose. My time in Athens is not only a tale of getting robbed, it is also a story of getting lost. Don’t worry, getting lost is usually not a bad thing. It often takes you places which you otherwise wouldn’t encounter. Why not walk around the corner and see what’s there?

IMG_0881

Walking only a few meters instead of heading straight to the tourist attraction might surprise you with whatever is hiding there. Take advice from locals, they know the place that you find yourself in and their ideas will lead you off the beaten path. This way Corrie and I found a little gem called “To Kati Allo” (Chatzichristou 11, near Acropolis Museum), a family-run restaurant, hidden between tourist-influenced establishments in the buzzing Acropolis area. They offer authentic Greek cuisine and the hosts are just lovely. If you don’t know what to choose from their menu, make sure to ask!

2015-01-17 22.14.10

Going a little further and extending your paths might take you to captivating places. Why not walk up a hill other than the Acropolis hill and indulge in the breathtaking views this offers you? The perfect spot for this is the Filopappou hill in the centre of Athens. The scenery there is indescribable. What I found is that Athens is one of the strangest yet most all-consuming cities I have ever visited. The neighbourhoods range from touristic to upscale to a sub-cultural almost run-down atmosphere. When you’re on top of a hill, the sheer size of the city is incomparable. I have never seen a city that stretches so far to the horizon and yet has no skyscrapers or sites that you regularly associate with a capital city.

2015-01-21 12.52.49

2015-01-21 13.24.32

Our paths took us even further. Outside the boundaries of Athens, to the countryside. Even though you’re telling people that you’re going on a city trip, this doesn’t mean that your trails are limited. They day after I got robbed Corrie and I decided we needed time to breathe. In an impetuous mind, we rented a car and just left. We decided to drive down the coastline to Sounio with our roadtrip ending at the famous Temple of Poseidon.

IMG_0795-001

But for us, this trip wasn’t about reaching the destination, it was about the journey itself. Stop at random corners, get out of the car, breathe in the salty air and let the sun streams touch your skin. Needless to say, the cape of Sounio is magnificent. Imagine a temple on top of a hill, close to the cliffs where the sea gently touches the earth.

2015-01-20 12.42.17

2015-01-20 12.57.30

2015-01-20 12.59.03

You might think that this adventure was the day that stuck with me the most. Actually, it is only number two on my list of my favourite moments in Athens. My personal highlight was the day that followed our roadtrip. Me not being a religious person, I would have never thought that I’d actually say that a trip to a Greek Monastery would take me in as much as it did. The Kaisariani Monastery is located just outside the outlines of Athens. It is literally a 20-minute drive to this enchanting place. Arrive in the early morning and you will be completely alone there. Walk around the monastery’s premises and try to imagine what it must have felt like when monks used to wander around.

2015-01-21 06.47.00

Since the sanctuary is fairly small, take your time to walk up Mount Ymittos. What we found there was pure serendipity: farmers being indulged in their daily routine of picking an olive tree. We couldn’t help but stop and admire their continuous effort in shaking the tree and picking up every single olive that hit the ground. After being engaged in a conversation that mainly consisted of smiles, hand movements and a few words that we exchanged in English and Greek, Corrie and I started picking up the olives ourselves. It is such a monotonous yet rewarding work and we could almost imagine ourselves doing this as elderly people.

2015-01-21 07.20.15
 After this, we couldn’t leave this place yet. We hopped back into our car and drove up the mountain. This journey took us around winding roads with the fear of crashing down one of the edges but we couldn’t resist driving up higher and higher. When we finally reached the top, another jaw-dropping view awaited us.

If you are craving for moments like these as much as I do, walk off the beaten path – and sometimes just sit on a street without being afraid that a car might hit you.

2015-01-21 07.57.10

How to enjoy a trip despite being robbed.

I knew it. At some point in my life I was going to experience that travelling is not always pure bliss. There will be moments where you get lost, have a fight with your travel buddy or in my case, get robbed. I must say, I have been very lucky with all my travels so far. Whenever I am on a trip, I feel at peace and nothing can disturb me. I’d say I am a complete optimist when it comes to exploring the world. I don’t mind getting lost or experiencing that a trip didn’t turn out the way I planned it. Those moments are usually the ones that I remember afterwards and which distinguish travelers from tourists. I guess I can be lucky that I have this attitude – even though I got robbed in Athens last week, I still feel like this journey was so worth it. Not only because I still managed to enjoy Athens, I also learned some things about myself.

But let me tell you the story. Being the globetrotter that we are, Corrie and I decided to leave Athens for an overnight stay on one of the Greek islands. We were on our way to Hydra. All packed up with our backpacks and a purse each. Everything was planned perfectly. We got ourselves tickets and were waiting for our metro when a women came up to me and started talking to me in Greek. As soon as I signalised her that I didn’t speak Greek, she left. However, she left us with a weird feeling. So it was no surprise, that a few minutes later I realized that my phone was gone. Being a clumsy person that has lost several things over time (I am that kind of person that leaves her leather jacket behind in a plane) I thought I’d lost it. But when I found out that not only my phone but also my wallet were gone, the situation was obvious: I had been robbed.

I don’t want to bore you with the details of freezing my credit cards and making sure that no one was able to access any personal data. I’d rather like to tell you that reporting the incident to the police was absolutely useless. For me it was an invasion of my privacy, for them it was pure paperwork. I can only be grateful that I had an amazing friend taking care of me and making sure that I was able to organize everything that had to be done. Also, I again realized that I have the most caring mother I could ever ask for. She was literally my knight in shining armour – she immediately took care of the situation and ensured that I was able to take my mind off the incident and enjoy the trip to its fullest.

For a moment I felt that I just wanted to go home. How was I supposed to enjoy the rest of this trip? But this thought literally only crossed my mind for about a second. These people had already intruded my personal space and disrupted my vacation. Was I going to give them the power to make me regret this trip? Certainly not. Again, I can only be happy that I was blessed with incredible people that were taking care of me. I am still trying to wrap my mind around the idea of what it must feel like to be robbed when you’re travelling on your own and how I would have coped with that situation. What are you going to do without a phone AND a wallet when you’re on your own?!

I’ve lived without a phone and working credit cards for one week now. And let me tell you, it is not too bad. I am not even missing all my apps or the idea of being available 24/7. It’s more these little things that you don’t immediately think about. I do not own a watch let alone an alarm clock. How am I supposed to get up in time for work in the morning? I discovered that there are alarm clocks that you can set online! Pretty cool, ha? And again, Corrie helped me out and lent me her watch. So I am back to looking at my wrist for checking the time and not reaching for my phone every few minutes. It feels a little weird but hey, people have lived like this for so many years! I know, I am beefing on a high level here. But I guess that’s the way we act when we loose a part of our luxurious life that we have become so used to. It is more an attitude of constantly laughing about myself and the fact that I am sort of counting down the minutes until I have a new phone and working credit cards.

But what I’d really like to say is this: Even though I am used to using my phone abroad to find my way around and to keep in touch with friends and family, you really don’t need this. Going on a trip is about exploring and opening your eyes to what’s in front of you. Don’t get lost in your habits or your anger when someone intrudes your habits. You know that you are truly in love with a place and the sheer idea of travelling when you can deal with these little perks that travelling entails. I am pretty sure that this is not the last time that a trip is not as perfect as I envisioned it. If you make sure to take control of the situation and the mood you are in, you are going to have blast – with or without money and a phone. After being robbed, I was even more determined to relish every second of the vacation. And I was blessed with moments that I will never forget. My favourite memories of Athens happened after the incident. Travelling to a cape in the south of Greece to experience an indescribable awe while facing an ancient temple on a cliff that is thousands and thousand of years old. Or, driving into the Greek mountains to explore a monastery and getting the chills while watching farmers pick an olive tree and making your own hands dirty by helping them. Travelling can be pure bliss, you only have to put your soul into it.

IMG_0809