Travel & Culture: B.V. does Europe!
Taking vacation as a realtor is tough because our success is measured by our availability. That’s when the value of a team structure materializes. With my teammates covering for me, I was able to attend a client’s wedding in Puglia, Italy this spring. I combined it with a trip to Greece, checking off the #1 item on my bucket list!
We flew from Boston to Rome and spent one day exploring Rome’s antiquities. The Coliseum was by far our favorite tour - it took 5,000 men working every day for 8 years to finish it. They've constructed a glass floor so you can see the maze of stalls below where they kept the animals and recreated the hoist system that brought them up into the arena. Then we traveled south to Fasano (Puglia, Italy) on the Adriatic coast for an epic wedding that started in an olive grove at 5 pm and ended with a DJ in a grotto at 3 am (not kidding - a 10 hour wedding!) Next we flew to Athens and visited the Parthenon and the Acropolis museum.
The highlight of the trip was our four nights in Santorini, Greece. Their high season starts in June so going early May meant that we had lower prices, attentive service, and warm weather without a gazillion other tourists. We stayed in Oia which is all pedestrian streets, whitewashed buildings with sapphire domes and 360 degrees of breathtaking caldera views. We ate Greek salads EVERY day! We walked to a charming winery where we discovered Santorini’s indigenous varietal, Assyrtico - a light, crisp white wine perfect for summer. Our last stop was Mykonos, Greece’s party island, where we rented an ATV to check out the beaches and partied at the famous Skandinavian Bar.
Reentry after this trip proved very difficult. Luckily home is Charleston - a place the rest of the world dreams of visiting. I documented our itinerary and expenses for anyone who considers visiting Greece in the future. I also jotted down a few take-aways to share:
1. Use a travel adviser. The internet is a black hole of indecision! A travel expert can identify the best destinations, excursions and lodging based on your budget and timeframe. There is no extra cost, and you get the benefit of their travel status which resulted in free upgrades and comps for us!
2. Practice packing lightly. Luggage rules are more strict abroad, and airlines charge for bags weighing more than 15 lbs. I researched "capsule wardrobes" on Pinterest to minimize clothes, laid everything out 2 weeks ahead and practiced packing to be sure everything would fit. I stayed stylishly comfortable for 11 days out of a carry-on suitcase!
3. Learn 3 basic words in the local language. Hello, please, and thank you are all you need to make a good impression. The locals all speak English but are significantly more helpful if they see you trying.
4. Hire a tour guide with a car. We did private morning tours in Rome and Athens. In 4 hours, we were able to hit the highlights with a knowledgeable historian who arranged direct access to the landmarks. Expensive but totally worth it! Then you can spend the afternoon exploring on your own without the pressure of a schedule.
5. Limit your phone time by scheduling check ins. You will inevitably need to touch base with work or family, but do that at a set time and embrace airplane mode otherwise. We forget how nice it is to take a break from technology and the stresses of every day life.
6. Embrace the surprises. The best memories are made when you least expect it. I had some anxiety before we left. I hadn’t traveled so far to a different culture, language and currency in a decade. The fear of not being in total control was unsettling. My brother wisely told me not to stress, that the moments “in between” would be the most fun. It proved true... our favorite moment was stumbling upon Rome’s Spanish Steps at sundown, where we purchased a light-up souvenir from a peddler, and slingshot it into the sky while the night fell around us. We didn't plan it, and we'll never forget it.
Safe travels, friends!