Summer is right around the corner and it's got me all warm and fuzzy inside, reminiscing about my best summer ever....
In all honesty I've had some pretty epic summers.
From traveling alone to Australia to meet my family when I was just sweet sixteen, to backpacking and camping under the stars... Every summer has a story but this is the one that stands out most in my mind.
I was 19 years old. Fresh faced. Just quit college. Was thrown in to "adulthood" and now had to make it in the real world. All I wanted to do was get a job and werk, werk, werk, werk, werk, to be able to save enough money to go traveling.
I knew I had to take off and explore by my myself. I had this uncontrollable urge to experience a new culture and country. Looking back I think I probably had this desire from about the age of 12. Something just told me that I wanted to try a different life.
Luckily for me I have a Mama who is very supportive and she always told me, "What's the worst that can happen? If you don't like it, you can always come home."
So I booked myself a package holiday with three of my girlfriends.....
Destination: GREECE! To be more specific, the Greek island of Corfu.
I pre-warned my Mama before I even boarded the plane that I was going to find a job and a place to live and I most likely would not be returning home with my friends at the end of the one week vacation.
That was it. I had one week to get my sh*t together and make sure that not only could I talk the talk, I had to now prove to myself that I could walk the walk.
We touched down in Corfu and I can still remember the bus ride from the airport to our hotel. We took the coastal road, passing through tiny little fishing villages and by sandy bays and coves.
The Ionian Sea on one side and rugged mountains on the other. I instantly felt this sense of being in the exact place I should be at that exact moment in time.
I already knew I had made the right decision and I was excited for a fun filled summer ahead.
The first few days and nights I spent doing what every teenager does on holiday.... Soaking up the sun around the pool and taking frequent dips to cool off in the sea. Then planning my evening outfit, applying LOTS of aftersun to my sunburned skin and then getting ready to party the night away.
And oh boy did we party!
*just for context I was the ultimate party girl back in those days. I would dance until my feet got sore and didn't want to come home until it was daylight! Oh to be young again! Ha!
Every night we would make our way down the Strip, sampling as many shots of Ouzo as our bodies could handle, dancing in the street as we bar hopped... Not a care in the world!
We were having the time of our lives!
Each night we would "do the snake" home, stopping by at a local all night bakery and treat ourselves to a four cheese pie to soak up the alcohol before heading back to the hotel. We would stay awake until sunrise chatting about the nights events, where we went, which bars we liked best, which song was our new anthem of the summer. Just gossiping with the girls until my sleepy eyes couldn't stay open anymore.
As the week long vacation was coming to an end, I knew I had to act fast to try and get a job for the summer and secure an apartment to live in and as luck would have it I saw a poster advertising for an admin job working for a local tour operator... Accommodation included! Bingo!
So with zero admin experience, no resume, or appropriate interview style clothing, I turned up at the office wearing a bikini, sarong and flip flops, completely blagged it and somehow got the job!
And that was it... My friends hopped on the bus back to the airport, I waved them off and said goodbye and there I was... Alone, in a foreign country, feeling fearless.... I knew this is when my summer adventure would truly begin!
The job was average, nothing to really write home about but it allowed me to earn a wage, have a roof over my head and most importantly live out my Greek island dream.
Within the first month I had made so many friends from all different walks of life and even though we were completely different, we all had a common connection that cemented our friendship... We wanted to have the BEST SUMMER EVER.
I filled my days off hanging out with my new found friends lounging by the pool, playing bat and ball on the beach, taking boat trips to find secluded coves and exploring dirt roads that led to secret beaches.
The days were long and hot, and the nights were even hotter!
Being 19 years old I pretty much lived for the nightlife, always counting down the hours until work ended and as the sun would set it signalled that it was time to put my dancing shoes on and party the night away.
There were some big nightclubs that would fly in famous named DJ's from around the world for special events and club nights but my preferred bars to hang out would always be the beach bars and open air discos (yes, they were called discos back then!).
There was one sweet spot on the beach that was super chill. Everyone would sit around on comfy bean bags and kick back in hammocks whilst listening to Ministry of Sound Chillout Sessions with some classic Reggae thrown in for good measure.
It was pure bliss.
A little further down the beach there used to be this little old weathered looking Greek guy that would cook up souvlakis on his BBQ grill. He was a hit with both tourists and locals and that is when I first learned that you should always eat where the locals eat. It's a travel tip that's stuck with me forever.
I can still almost taste the oregano, rosemary and fresh lemon when I think about them now!
Long lasting friendships, crazy nights out dancing under the star lit sky, experiencing a new culture and the feeling of being care-free are the memories that I still hold dear to my heart even to this day.
But the one thing that really made this a memorable summer was meeting a boy.
For those of you who have never had a holiday romance, I highly recommend it!
It was a typical boy meets girl scenario. Thousands of people my age had probably experienced the exact same feelings that I had that summer and I guarantee that if you asked those people now to think back to that time they would still get butterflies in their tummy like I do.
He was a sweet, polite, shy boy with THE cutest accent I have ever heard.
He was so shy in fact that he didn't even tell me how he felt about me until the end of the summer when he was about to leave the island.
That didn't stop us from having a whirlwind romance that summer though.
I actually think because he was so shy that just made me like him even more.
Back then I was oozing confidence. I would talk to anyone and everyone. I would not think twice about approaching a boy at the beach and asking his name.
But he was different. He wasn't like other boys. He was the kind of boy that you would bring home to meet your parents... You know... The marrying type.
Well, at 19 years old marriage and settling down was the LAST thing on my mind.
I was young wild and free and no boy was going to tame me.
I wanted to travel the world and I wanted to do it alone. I lived for the moment, never planning too far ahead or wondering what the future held in store for me. I was enjoying the ride and going with the flow. Ah, life was so simple then. No plans. No worries. No responsibilities. Just a strong desire to see the world.
Anyway, back to my summer of love...
He would wait for me to finish work, walk me home along the beach under the moonlight, he would sit up with me 'til all hours talking about our lives back home, our reasons for coming to Greece and what we wanted to do once the summer was over.
It was so easy. No pressure, we just enjoyed spending time together and being in each others company.
I can remember how the morning sunlight beaming on our faces would wake us up... I can picture him now... I would catch him watching me, waiting for me to open my eyes (he discovered early on that I wasn't a morning person so he knew not to speak to me right away). Instead he would just look at me and smile.
I can still see that smile now when I close my eyes, and I can still feel that same feeling of pure contentment.
I was happy.
Life was good.
I was in Greece.
Living my best life.
With a cute boy.
What more could I want?
As with all good things, the summer was drawing to an end and so was our romance.
We both knew that this was a summer fling so there was no heartbreak, no bad feelings... Just a sad kiss goodbye and a grateful heart. I feel so lucky that he came in to my life. He made me feel like a Greek goddess for that short time and we made amazing memories together that I will treasure forever.
As the famous saying goes, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."
That was my BEST. SUMMER. EVER. and I have been yearning to return to Greece and explore more of the islands ever since.
Here's my top bucket list destinations in Greece that I hope to return to and visit again one day soon:
CORFU: This lush green mountainous island is located just off Greece's northwestern coast in the Ionian Sea. The island is heavily influenced by the Venetians, the French and the English and this is reflected in the magnificent architecture and it's cosmopolitan vibes. Corfu has so many coves and beaches just waiting to be discovered. My favourite beaches are Kanoni Kassiopi and Nissaki as they are less crowded than the islands more famous Paleokastritas beach.
IKARIA: Located on the Eastern Aegean sea, Ikaria is one of the worldwide famous Greek islands, mainly due to the longevity of its inhabitants and the Ikarian diet. It's one of only five "blue zones" in the world where people live the longest and are the healthiest. Once you set your foot in Ikaria, you'll feel like a world away from it all. It is the perfect place to relax and recharge and the laid-back atmosphere of the island will make you understand why the people who live there reach 100 years old!
MYKONOS: Located in the center of the Cyclades island group, Mykonos is one of the most famous Greek islands for its cosmopolitan atmosphere and vivid nightlife! It's also the most gay-friendly destination in the whole of Greece with thousands of LQBTQ+ tourists flocking there every year. The beaches are pretty spectacular with Paradise and Super Paradise being the most famous for their day and night beach parties. If you are looking to escape the crowds then Agios Sostis and the secluded Fokos beach might be worth a visit.
SANTORINI: Probably the most famous and well known Greek island, Santorini (Thira/Thera) has the most dramatic sea views with the most breath-taking sunsets you've ever seen. The whitewashed houses dotted along the hillside are every travellers dream. It's everything you pictured a typical Greek island to look like and so much more!
ZAKYNTHOS: The family friendly Greek island also known as Zante is perhaps most famous for Navagio beach, accessible only by boat, with it's beautiful sandy bay, exotic blue water and a rusty shipwreck on the shore. The island is filled with charming little hilltop villages, traditional taverns, monasteries, caves and Venetian ruins just waiting to be explored.
SYMI: This tiny island is part of the Dodecanese islands. The colourful neoclassical houses are reminiscent of Positano in Italy and the people still carry out the age-old tradition of free diving for sponges. It really is a postcard place that you need to visit at least once in your life.
Is Greece on your bucket list?
Which islands would you love to hop around?...
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