Whenever I read old travel journals or emails sent while abroad, I’m stunned by the details I’ve forgotten. And it’s the details that really count. They’re what make a story juicy. Details transform stories. They can turn a one liner that no one cares about (e.g., “I got home late last night”) into the tagline of a story you can’t wait to hear (e.g., “I got home late last night because I couldn’t stop watching a prostitute harassing the cashier at Dairy Queen” – yeah, that happens).
I bring this up because I recently reread a journal entry I wrote when I was in Greece with my friend Kendall. I remember the trip being super fun, but I don’t recall anything too out of the ordinary happening. That’s not quite the case. The trip was great, but because we waited until the absolute last moment possible to reserve a room, there weren’t any two-person rooms left at the hostel we wanted. Instead, we booked a six-person room and hoped we would be the only ones to show up. We weren’t.
We arrived at our hostel in Athens to find that we really would be sharing our room with four other people. As luck would have it, one of our new roommates recognized Kendall. It turns out that she was a fellow Cornell student studying abroad. This instantly made us feel at ease about sharing a room with strangers. The Cornellian, Hannah, was traveling with two girls (Michelle and Ruby) and a guy (Stefan) from her abroad program. Anyway, how can you worry about stranger danger when you’re staying about five minutes from some of the world’s most beautiful ruins?
The group was quite friendly and on our last night in Athens, the six of us went out together. My memory of that night is pretty hazy. If you asked me about it before rereading my journal, I would have said we had a nice time. My answer would have actually been that trite. Fortunately, my journal entry speaks for itself, so here’s what really happened:
We went to a bar where I made out with a guy named Kostos, which I thought was really Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants of me (I still think that, actually). Then we got a cab to go to another bar. Michelle thought our driver was hitting on her (he wasn’t), so she stopped him halfway to our destination, told us all to get out, and found us a new cab. At the second bar, I distracted a guy while Kendall stole a cigarette from him (somehow that seemed easier than bumming a cigarette). Hannah broke down in tears on our ride home and broke the handle of the room above ours trying to get in (she may have had too much to drink). Then we all went to bed, although I did see Stefan get into Ruby’s twin bed with her.
For a typical night out, I’d say that a drunk and crying girl, a drunk hook-up, and a drunk make-out are pretty standard. What I did find strange was that when I woke up at 5 AM, Stefan was suddenly in Michelle’s bed and there were a lot of clothes on the floor. You don’t have to be regular on Criminal Minds to figure out what went down there. But we all know that what happens in Athens, stays in Athens.
Lesson learned: booking a hostel at the last minute meant that you’d probably have to share a room with strangers and those strangers might have sex while you sleep in the next bed.
We decided not to wait until the last minute for our next destination, Santorini. However, by the time we made that decision, it was already “the last minute.” So we arrived on the shores of Santorini on a 1 AM ferry with absolutely nowhere to go. Clearly we didn’t mind fornicating roommates.
In probably our second sketchiest travel decision of the week, Kendall and I approached a man holding a sign that read “Hotels.” What choice did we really have? It was between talking to the hotel sign guy and sleeping on a cold and windy beach with no blankets. You would think that two Cornell students would know better, but you would be wrong.
April must be the off-season in Santorini because we ended up paying hostel prices for an actual hotel. I guess we made the right decision by not booking early. Or we were lucky AF. Either way, the moral of the story is that everyone should travel. Even people with poor planning skills.