Sunday, March 31, 2013

Springing into Spring

Spring is upon us, so why not begin with some spring cleaning, so we can really "spring" into spring?

There is something natural in the seasons that urges our innate to re-examine our lives, prepare for renewal, shed all the dead weight of the past, leave what no longer serves us behind and rightfully step into the now.

What is it that doesn't serve you right now? If you take a close look at your life, how is it different from the best life that you can imagine for yourself? what is holding you back?

Through a number of occurrances of the last few days, it has become apparent to me what needs to be changed. When you become committed to inner growth, all of your dark and grey areas will become exposed. It is your choice how to proceed from then on, but for me, there is no choice- I am committed to going all the way. I’ve spent a lot of time on bettering myself as a human being, getting over my emotional blocks and pains,-so I can recognize the patterns and, hopefully, not get stuck in them again.

I am determined to live my life with an open heart, shine my light brightly, unapologetically. Those who deserve to be close, who can contribute to that open heart, will be close- those who can help expand that heart even wider, will be even closer, teaching me the biggest lessons of all. But those who have no purpose being near, who have served their role, will fall away like the autumn leaves off a mighty tree.
Spread your wings, butterfly.

Such is the renewal cycle of life. What doesn’t serve your highest purpose, will fall off. Those who recognize your real self and the message you carry, will want to be near. They will come from all directions, old friends and newly found soul brothers. Pity not the ones who leave, it is their choice in life- stay committed to your life and purpose. Shine even more brightly than ever.

Release your shackles, you dead weight, once and for all. Whatever is holding you back from living your dream, the greatest version of your life ever possible. If there are people in your circle ridden with negativity and emotional parasitism, ask yourself- what purpose are they serving being there? maybe it is time to let them go? There are two types of people: ones who inspire, who bring out the best in you even on your bad days, and then there are others, who are there to steal your light, to take some of that radiance away from you, because they are not happy themselves, they haven't found their way and their place in the world, they refuse to look within and face what is staring right back at them. As radical as it may seem, I now cut out all the unaware, misguided people like that from my life, I have no use for them. Life is too short to spend it on people who don't want to get better, who don't want to help themselves. It is not our role to change them or to mother them. 

So I disengage from these kind of people from my life. New friends will come, ones worthy of spending your time and energy on. If someone claims to be your friend, but never has anything friendly to offer, doesn’t care about your well being, only their own- that is not someone I want in my life, and neither should you. 

Let us be more mindful of who we chose to spend our time with, how we choose to spend it- are there recurrent patterns you would like to address? Notice your thoughts, your emotions- are some more prevalent than the others? If other people could hear all your thoughts, would that embarrass you? Would you still like yourself then? or is it time for some changes?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bare it all

I quite like myself, thank you very much. More than that, I think I am a pretty awesome, fun, generous, well-natured person. It really doesn't get better than this.

Yet, I am left wondering: what is it that makes me, among other successful, put-together women, be so readily willing to give away their self-worth to someone who barely even matters to them anymore? 
When you get disrespected over and over again, at which point do you finally say "enough"? At which point do you look at the things in your life that no longer serve you and decide to make a different choice?As hard as it may be for some people, there is no substitute for honesty. When looking at your actions or reactions, one must ask themselves as to what are the real reasons for choosing to behave in this particular manner? what are you really trying to achieve? I do my best trying to stay honest with myself and other people, hence why I have no time or patience for idle chit chat and bullshit anymore.  When you say you wan to talk to me, are you really prepared for honest communication? Are you willing to face the depths of your soul and bare it all, perhaps finding something completely unexpected along the way? When things don't go as planned, will you run and hide, or are you going to welcome the new experience as part of the process, learning about yourself as a result? Do you really want communication, or rather a confirmation of your own attractiveness and your status in this world instead? When those little voices start bothering you that maybe you're not following the path of your heart, will you listen? or will you turn to the world, busying yourself int he daily life of a working bee, pretending that you don't know any better? that that's really all there is to it?

Be honest.

With yourself, with other people, with the strangers on the streets.

We don't have to pretend like everything is ok at all times, that we are liked and approved of by everyone always, that our lives have a direction and a purpose, or that we have it all together.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't have any of those said things, yet, strangely enough, I feel normal and part of society, and I'd rather be friends with those who can look within and readily admit what they see, than those who choose to keep up the appearances for the fear of facing something they are not yet ready to deal with. 

It's all about the level of self-awareness. Choose yours.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Greece: the island of Skiathos, Part II

I have to start off by saying that the only 2 factors governing our choice of the island to stay on were:
1) availability or timeshare resorts through RCI
2) ease of transportation to and from the mainland

Based on this, we chose Skiathos-the resort photos were phenomenal, the previous visitors seemed quite content in their reviews, the ferry to and from was 15 euro when booked in advance and only 2 hrs, leaving from a tiny port town of Aghios Konstantinos, where we were required to spend a night each time-the ferry boat only leaves in the morning, and brings you back mid-afternoon, where there are no more connecting buses. Again, if you book a tour, then they have a joint boat/bus schedule, so you step off the ferry and onto the bus-for quadruple the price. I liked the fact that we'd get to see a tiny seaside town on our way and perhaps discover something interesting, instead of being rushed to return back to Athens.

Thus, upon arriving into Aghios Konstantinos in late afternoon, we simply stepped off the bus and asked the first person we saw "hey, any cheap hotels out here?" and he sent us to a nearby hotel/converted apartments, 2 mins walk from the bus station. Yes, it was cheap- that's all I can say. Actually, i was blown away when the old lady said "25 euro, please",-to which I replied "per person?". She just laughed and showed us the room (I wish I had picture of it, but I must have been too shocked to take some)-but money was already paid, the deal was made-imagine my shock when later that evening we found out that a whole stretch of seafront boutique hotels were only 35 euro a night? yes, I guess we got what we asked for- "cheap"-to Greeks, 10 euro difference is a big deal, or maybe the old lady just took advantage of her only customers that month? Needless to say, she was much more ecstatic than us that by some will of nature we went sent her way- oh well, it was 1 night of sleep and we were out of there bring and early, making sure to check all our options next time before getting the wallet out.
Skiathos island at last!
Upon arriving onshore, a cue of lazy cab drivers were waiting for their next victims-only, as it turned out, we had to chase after them! Only in Greece :)

A short cab ride later, we were checked into and delivered into out new digs. First impression? This definitely isn’t what one would expect out of a normal, 4-star RCI resort. However, this is 4 “greek stars”, meaning… well, I don’t even want to imagine what a 2-star accommodation would look like. Considering we had a chance to compare 3 units (yes, we were that picky and no, I did not think of all those stairs i'd have to climb on a daily basis), here’s the details:

None of them are equipped or look alike. The first one had a musty, damp smell and was quite poorly lit. Granted, it was only 100 steps to the beach, thus saving us a huge walk, but it didn’t have its own patio or anything that really screamed that I wanted to stay there, other than the rustic design, which makes you feel like you are in a real greek village home.
quite a bare kitchen but good enough for occasional cooking

Bedroom view, opening onto private balcony

 The next one we tried was a very small unit. In comparison with the previous one, this one seemed a teeny tiny bit better (they all were supposed to be studios accommodating 2 persons), where the dining table was right in the same room as the bed, although it did have a nice, renovated bathroom, which none of the others had. The last (as the reception warned us, the absolutely last room they were going to let us look at) was a winner: same arch design, alright bathroom, separate eating area and a great patio with a nice view over the little olive treed court yard and the pine-covered hills. The balconies are arranged in a  staggered fashion, so as to avoid the neighbors peering into each other’s dinner plates. We happened to travel in what seemed to be the end of tourist season (late august) and lucked out by not having any neighbours  thus any noise or complaints from either side. Overall, the apartments aren't much, but are kept clean enough with the bare essentials to keep you satisfied. We were missing even the basics in the kitchen (we like to make a few snacks here and there, thus we purposefully paid in cash and not in timeshare points to avoid the mandatory half board menu pushed on you otherwise). Believe me, the half board is NOT worth it! We ate at different restaurants, tavernas, etc, never spending more than 25 euro for 2 people with wine, 3 meals, snacks and stuffing our faces with whatever we wanted. There is such a huge variety of great tavernas on the island and it’s a shame that the resort’s one (Nafiska) is a very poor imitation of what is known otherwise as amazing, fresh greek food. We had a misfortune of going there once, and I sincerely hope I can warn people against making these choices. The "greek potatoes" were french fries, my "greek salad" consisted of tomato and cucumber only. But the worst part was the service- they are confident that you will tip them regardless, so they don't even try to accommodate you by any means. We only went there because we were starving and too tired to figure out where the bus was and where we should go.
central cafe next to the ferry station-effortless chic!

For the rest of the week, it was simple: the bus stop was right next to the resort, once you descend down to the main road, it comes every 15 mins or so, thus never having to wait too long, the price was 2 euro pp regardless of the length of  the trip, which I found a bit bizarre  So, if we only wanted to go to the beach that day (the resort's one wasn't really much to look at, although we did use it some evenings if we were too tired to go somewhere else), we ended up walking alongside the road- and no, they don't bother with pedestrian areas-for about 15-20 mins and we were there. Yes, I know it's not ideal to walk alongside traffic and exhaust, but there are virtually no other ways to get from one beach to the next, plus you get to hit up a few convenience stores on the way, pick up some water, refreshments for the day on the beach-and you're set. At lunch time, when the sun was scorching, we'd leave our towels on the beach and head on out to the taverna 2 mins back towards the main road, where the friendly waiters were already smiling and waiting to surprise us with yet another mouth watering creation. This place had hands down the best greek food I've had in the entire 2 weeks: lamb, grilled eggplant with dip, endless seafood options,everything was so tasty that we washed it down with half litre of homemade wine each time! And the prices! appetizers under 6 euro, entrees under 10! Like I mentioned earlier, try as we might, we never managed to spend more than 25-28 euro for a 2-person meal, while leaving this place completely stuffed and content. If this isn't enough of a reason to go to Greece, i don't know what is. Next time I'm in Europe, looking for a vacation destination, I'd head down to Greece just for the sake of gastrotourism alone, never mind the amazing scenery. 
See you soon, Gorgeous!

Greece in Spring: Athens to Skiathos through Delphi, Part I

This post is long overdue. My only excuse? Greece is so vibrant and fantastic, the memories are still as fresh in my head as the day it happened. Out of all the travel photo albums I have, I probably look at the Greece ones the most and cannot wait to return.
I admit, I was skeptical at our initial plan of flying to Athens, then somehow making it more inland towards Delphi, then transporting ourselves onto the island of Skiathos and then back to Athens all in a matter of 2 weeks! Well, the car rental option was out-not only expensive, but everyone advised against it, kind of like back in Italy. I searched and searched and it turned out that Greece has  quite a decent and relatively cheap bus system, so we decided to give it a try, not really sure of what we were getting ourselves into.

Well, arriving into Athens was a no-brainer, the connection by the metro line was pretty straightforward too; we chose a hotel walking distance to the Acropolis and I have to add, we lucked out and saw it lit up at night   from out balcony :) that really made the experience of being in greece for the first time surreal. I've been a huge fan of Greek and Roman mythology for years now, so visiting all the main sights in person is an experience like no other- even the late August heat was not a distraction to our heavily scheduled days.

Acropolis temple
Once the 3 days in Athens flew by, we picked up our bags, got ourselves to the main bus station, got the 1-way tickets to Delphi and off we went! Here, I cannot stress enough how easy it all was- you do not need to book any tours, pay hefty sums only to be ordered around and ripped off. The bus ride was amazing-it was mostly locals, just a few smart tourists like us, who opted out of any tour packages. The bus cost 15 euros for a 3-hour trip, made 2 stops, both at great roadside cafes with decent bathrooms and amazing food selections where I'd managed to stock up for the entire ride and then some. The seats themselves were comfortable, spacious and overall a very pleasant ride. Of course, we did not have a clue where to get off, so we just told the driver to let us off at the main Delphi stop, hoping we'd figure it out from there-that he did. 
Sunset View of Athens from Agora hill
The hotel was an easy 5-minute walking distance from the bus stop, altough we did get some funny looks from the locals as these two "American tourists with oversized luggage" that did not even fit on the sidewalk (where there WAS a sidewalk). Anyhow, we made it! All by ourselves, no tours, no maps.

Now, Delphi... Indescribable to say the least. If you've been to Greece but haven't been to Delphi, you need to return. This place holds so much magic, history, and such an easy-going approach to life that forces you to forget all about time and just relax..
...I can still remember the feeling of wandering the streets of Delphi, the afternoon sun, the golden pillars of the Temple of Athena, the pleasant breeze and the soft pine smells in the air… I can recount the details of almost every day. What I cannot remember is how many times we’ve laughed until it hurt, we found joy in the simplest things, sat by a giant tree for the most delicious homemade moussaka with rose wine that is making my mouth water just writing about it. And the views, the views! Delphi is located in the valley along a winding road, so there are endless photo opportunities hidden behind each bend.

After a much too short stay in Dephi, we were off to the island of Skiathos for a needed swim and relaxation-see the next post!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Nomad in love?

Prompted by a post from my fellow travel blogger, I have a few words on whether your love of travel is secretly sabotaging your potential for a relationship.
As you may have noticed, I try to keep my private life...well, private. I have other blogs for that kind of stuff. So, since this blog is dedicated to travelling and exploration of the world and the self, from that perspective, I try to streamline my posts to showcase more facts, interesting observations, but something that would be relevant to all the potential readers out there. Hence why my posts are quite sporadic- some days I just need to rant, and this is not the place for that.

That said, this issue of whether or not you will meet someone because you are not stable or rooted in one place doesn't just apply to the travel bugs out there- as an exploration geologist, my life takes me all over the world, sometimes for a few weeks, sometimes for a month, sometimes indefinitely,-but that is something I knew well in advance when choosing my career, I just didn't know how hard it would be.

Each time I am faced with the decision: is the new adventure worth losing what I have here, right now? And almost always, I hear a resounding “yes!” in my head-what is meant to be, will be. You cannot stop life from happening, but you can stop fear from letting you life your life the way you envision to, or secretly hope to.

As one of my friends once said: "people break up living in the same city every day, why would long-distance relationship automatically be destined for a break-up?" While I whole-heartedly agree that living in the same city does not offer immediate chances for the success of a relationship, having a long-distance relationship is not picnic either (although the comfort of knowing that you won't run into them at your favourite cafe after you break up is a great perk!)

Although there are some great uplifting examples of long-distance working out for committed couples, who have spent more than 2 years apart, only to reunite and get married and live happily ever after( far), it takes a fantastic dose of commitment, dedication, trust and,most importantly-great communication skills. Let's face is, when you cannot simply meet up after a disagreement, put your arms around each other, and agree to "forgive and forget", all you have to rely on is skillful communication-avoiding those sharp corners and possible problematic/sensitive topics.

Having said that, distance is not to blame for whether or not your relationship survives. Let's face it, throughout our lives, there will be circumstances when you will be forced to spend time away from your partner-days, weeks, maybe even months-so it is not through avoiding the separation, but rather how one chooses to deal with it that determines the "rate of survival" of this particular relationship. Breaks can be nice: having more time for yourself, your hobbies, meeting with the friends you may have been neglecting, getting to all those projects around the house you keep putting off, going the gym more often (and getting a free "fell-good" hormone boost!) and of course, having time to miss each other -all of this can put the romance back into a relationship, refresh your perspective on life and what is important- when done right.

I've had relationships fall apart equally as fast when a long-distance turned into living together, and vice versa. Despite all the challenges and unknowns, I am a firm believer that you should not let fear stop you-be it fear of missing out, fear of change, or fear of being alone for an indefinite amount of time- and I salute all of you brave souls out there who dare to explore what beyond what is familiar and comfortable. If someone truly wants to share their journey with you, it will happen- regardless of time, place, circumstances and plans.