Hi. My name is Kerry and this is a scrapbook from my Rick Steves' Athens and the Heart of Greece in 14 Days tour. I'm a teacher from Southern California who loves to travel, especially over summer breaks. I usually travel solo, so I was kind of surprised when I decided to sign up for a Rick Steves tour. As it turned out, I'm so glad that I did. Hopefully, this scrapbook will give you a glimpse into a great trip and encourage you to look into taking a Rick Steves tour yourself--even if you're a solo traveler like me who wouldn't normally see themselves on a tour. Thanks and enjoy!
A Little Background
I didn't travel much until I went to college--and I haven't really stopped since. When I got to college and met people from all over the world, I found that the people I was most drawn to were those who loved to travel like me--on the cheap, close to the local culture, with an emphasis on experiences and friendships. I wound up traveling with friends to Alaska, Kenya, Indonesia, Israel, and England.
Later on, when I started planning my own solo trips, I guess it's not surprising that I connected so much with the Rick Steves travel philosophy. I loved the idea of traveling as a temporary local. I wanted to experience more than the typical tourist spots. And I didn't want to break the bank on my trips. So, when I finally had saved up enough money to take my first big solo trip to Europe, I poured over all the latest Rick Steves books for 2014. I settled on a plan that was based on the Best of Europe in 21 Days. I got my Eurail Pass and launched out on my own armed with my Rick Steves guide books. It was amazing. It was also bittersweet when I came home because I thought it would be a long time--if ever--before I got the chance to take another trip to Europe.
Two years later, I was back on a plane heading to London for a repeat of the previous trip, but with the addition of Berlin, Prague, Vienna, and Fussen. Another fantastic trip. I figured that would be my last trip--how could it get better than that? But before long, I started dreaming about a trip to Greece.
Greece has everything a traveller like me looks for: adventure, history, art, beautiful landscapes to photograph, natural beauty to explore, and great food. But Greece still seemed like sort of an exotic, distant, unknown place. For a natural introvert, it was a bit daunting to think of planning a solo trip to a place so unfamiliar. Would I really want to try my first trip to Greece on my own? After some research and reading, I decided to do something I thought I'd never try: I signed up for a group tour. It was the Athens and the Heart of Greece in 14 Days Tour. I figured that I could take the tour and then travel on my own for a few days after the tour to get my solo-travel fix.
Since I had never taken a group tour before, I was a bit apprehensive. Would I like the people? Would I like the tour guide? Would I have enough free time? Would everything run smoothly? And, as a solo traveller, would I fit in with a group of strangers? As it turned out, the answer to all of those questions was a resounding yes!
So, here is the scrapbook of my tour through one of the most amazing places I've ever seen: Greece (plus a bit of an epilogue with my small, post-Greece travel gallery to wrap things up).
How This Solo Traveller Planned For a Group Tour
Finalize Travel Plans
After signing up for the Greece tour I wondered if I should try to add to the trip. It seemed like a shame to be so close to the rest of Europe and not see some if it, so I decided to take two weeks after my Greece trip and see some of my favorite sights. (The hardest part was deciding what I wouldn't see!) I made my hotel reservations, got my Eurail Pass, and booked my flights.
Research, Learn, Plan
Once I decided to go on the tour, I got my hands on everything I could find to start learning about Greece. I got some Greece tour books, I listened to travel podcasts, and I started trying Greek food so I would know what to expect. I even ordered flash cards with the Greek alphabet so I would have some inkling of the written language--maybe enough to read signs? Also, I knew this was listed as a tour with high activity. To make sure I was in shape, I started hiking some nearby trails in the foothills while I listened to everything I could find about Greece on Rick's app: interviews, talks, even tours. I just immersed myself in information. For me, the fun of the trip starts with the planning.
Choose My Travel Gear
For my three trips to Europe, this has been my gear: Rick Steves carry on, canvas camera bag, and money belt. That's it. I lived out of these for four weeks--easy! Packing light is the way to go. It is so great to never have to worry about checking bags on long flights. No lost luggage, no waiting in baggage claim--and it forces me to not overdo it on the souvenirs.
Small Luxuries for Journaling and Down-Time
I guess it seems strange to talk about luxuries right after I talked about the virtues of packing light, but as a solo traveller I've learned that sometimes I get worn out on trips and just need some down-time to rest and relax. When traveling with friends, that would be the time for hanging out, conversation, and games. But when I can't travel with friends, I try to find bits of home or favorite hobbies to bring along. I love movies and books so I loaded up my Kindle. I love to write, so I always bring a journal. But this time, I thought it would be fun to try a different kind of journal--a sketch journal with a bit of water color. (I got this idea from watching a video on "Packing Light and Right" by Sarah Murdoch. You can find it at the Rick Steves web site.) Now, I'm no artist (yet? always an optimist) but it's all about the learning and fun, right?