Greece. My favorite country. And one that I have been fortunate enough to visit twice.
When people typically think of Greece, they think of the tourist hotspots –Santorini, Athens, the Acropolis. These are amazing, culturally rich places but they are crowded and unbelievably touristy.
There is nothing wrong with seeing the most popular destinations. When you go to a new country, you almost always have to go see what they’re known for, I mean, these places are popular for a reason.
But I know personally, the touristy places are overcrowded and have a lot of shopping traps I tend to fall into. Last time I was in Santorini, I spent $180 on a globe the size of my hand…
Let me be candid: I do NOT regret the purchase (it was a super cool globe) but I ended up leaving Santorini with only 11 dollars to my name and 4 more days left in Europe. If you do the math, I think you can image how that worked out.
Anyways, besides that random point, these parts of the country are crawling with American tourists dying to see something, buy something, do something that everyone has already done.
But when traveling, I find that it can be more interesting to go off the beaten path (how hipster of me).
I must admit though, this can be a difficult task when you’re traveling with family or on a school trip like I have when I’ve gone abroad.
You aren’t allowed to stray from the group, you can’t put in your two cents about where you should go next. You hit all the tourist’s attractions and that’s usually how it goes.
Despite this fact, I was fortunate enough to stray away for one day when I went to Greece in 2012 with my family. For that, I am forever grateful or I may never have found my favorite destination.
And on that note, I will introduce you to an island called Hydra.
I guarantee no one knows what the heck I am talking about because rarely people hear about it.
It is a very small island where cars don’t exist and donkeys are one of the sole means of transportation.
When I was 13 years old, the reason for coming to this island was for my mom. My dad (bless his soul) had set up an appointment with my mom’s all-time favorite jeweler, Konstantino, whose original store was based in Hydra.
So we took a ferry boat to the island in the early morning and met with one of his co-workers, Theodora, who worked at the Hydra store.
It was a very interesting experience because I remember us being some of the only tourists on the entire island. We got to shop around the small stores and explore the island without the distraction of other people scrambling about. Eventually, we even got to meet Konstantino, which I never really recognized as a cool moment until now. I think I was a little too young to appreciate it.
Though the beginning of the day had been a nice experience, it didn’t compare to cliff jumping while the sun set.
I am an adrenaline junkie at heart. I constantly want to jump off things or go sky diving or swim with sharks, basically all the things in the world that would probably give my mom a heart attack (sorry mom).
My sister, Sophie, was too scared to jump off the cliff with me, so I did it by myself. In my personal opinion, I think she missed out because it was some of the most fun I’d ever had.
Above the cliff there was a restaurant where people watched me jumping off as their entertainment, clapping once I surfaced from the water each time. If you can believe it, I really didn’t mind being the center of attention.
Greece should definitely be on everyone’s bucket list and I highly suggest adding Hydra as well.
There is something undeniably peaceful and authentic about the island. Additionally, the amount of trust among the island people made me love it even more.
My family and I had noticed that there were so many children and toddlers running about the island with absolutely no parental supervision. Clearly from an American’s standpoint, that is dangerous and ridiculous and unheard of. We asked Theodora why that was and she told us that everyone on the island knows each other and trusts each other. It was like a big family where everyone watches out for one another, making sure everyone is safe.
That blew my mind because of the amount of distrust that thrives in the United States.
After hearing that, I couldn’t help but think, a place where you can leave your doors unlocked and children are allowed to roam freely? Sign me up!
Sometime in the future, I would love to live on this little island. To wake up every morning to the sounds of donkey clatter on the cobblestones, boats pulling in and out of the little port, the blue waves crashing against the rocky shores.
This little island stole a piece of my heart and I cannot wait until the day that I go back.