It never clicks in that I’m really leaving until I’m already gone. I say goodbye to my friends, pack up my bags, and hop on the airport bus, leaving Barcelona behind me. It’s the end of an era! Though right now it just feels like I’m going on vacation, like I’ll be back next week. Realistically I’m not sure I’ll ever be back! I miss Lindzee already, after spending almost every day together for the last 10 months, but she’s someone I am certain I will see again. I had an amazing time here and it’s sappy but the city will always have a special place in my heart.
Now, I’m on my way to spend the summer in another part of the Mediterranean. I’m heading to Greece!
If you’ve never heard of WorkAway, I highly suggest you check it out. It’s this enormous network of hosts that offer free food and accommodation in exchange for a few hours of work every day. The type of work ranges from babysitting, to gardening, painting, animal care, language teaching; really just anything and everything. The length of stay depends on the hosts, and some even offer a small pay along with the free room and food. Accommodation could be in a tent, on a catamaran, in a hostel or guest house, or a spare room. Again, anything you can think of is probably available on there. You have to pay a 30€ annual membership free to join the site, but once that’s out of the way, the rest o the exchange is free!
A few months ago I got to searching and decided to sign up. I had already decided to join a volunteer group in Athens for August, and thought it might be fun to experience some Greek island life beforehand as well. Working as a teacher in Barcelona wasn’t overly lucrative, and I don’t exactly have money for a lavish island hopping vacation to Mykonos and Santorini, but WorkAway allowed me to hack the system and travel for cheap! I found some really cool opportunities on various islands, but ended up deciding on Zakynthos. It was really easy. I exchanged a few e-mails back and forth with the host to line up dates, and boom. Here I am, leaving Barcelona behind to spend the rest of my summer in Greece.
My flight leaves at 1am. I rather like overnight flights, but what I do not like, is arriving at the airport and finding out checked baggage is not included in the price of my ticket.
Who travels without checked baggage? If it’s not “included” then why wasn’t that made clear so I could f*cking include it? I’m told it’s a whopping 60€ for my 17kg bag. I can’t exactly be like ah, too bad. Guess I’ll just leave my bag behind then. No. I’m stuck here paying this ridiculous fee. They could have charged me 200€ and I’d still have had to pay it. This puts me in a bad mood.
There’s no gate number printed on my boarding pass, so I just follow the closest and longest line of people waiting to go through security. Airports aren’t exactly busy at this time of night which is another bonus.
I wait in line for about 25 minutes before reaching the front and handing my passport and boarding pass to a guy, who looks at me like I’m stupid and tells me the security line for Athens is downstairs. How am I to know that? But k.
What I love about airports is the people watching. There are so many possibilities. Where are you going? On vacation? Home? Are you excited to go, or sad to leave? When you arrive will you be reunited with someone you love? Someone you haven’t seen in years? Who are you leaving behind? How long have you been away?
Aside from the people watching though, airports are actually quite shit.
My gate isn’t announced until 45 minutes before my flight so I just post up on a random bench near a screen with the list of departures and wait. In my excessive free time I get petty and write a complaint letter to Expedia. Basically I just say I didn’t choose to book a budget airline because I think it’s fun. I booked it because I DON’T have 60€ lying around to spend on baggage. Nothing will come of it, but I feel better after calling them on their bullshit.
I wonder if anyone will even read it.
After a quick flight I land in Athens where I have to collect my bag, head out to the departures area, and re-check in for my flight to Zakynthos. I always like to be so thrifty when I’m booking tickets but then I wish I’d just booked a normal connecting flight. What if I’m charged another 60€?? I’ll have paid in baggage what I paid for the damn tickets.
No one charges me extra, and instead, I’m given a voucher for a free coffee! neato!
I board one of the tiniest planes I’ve ever been on -just 50 seats!- and 45 minutes later I’ve arrived at my destination. I struggle a bit to get the wifi to work, which I need to read the e-mail from my host for the address. I am so disorganized I hadn’t even thought to ask for an address until I my flight was taking off in Barcelona.
She doesn’t have a street address, just directions from the airport. I show it to a taxi driver who seems a little flustered but thinks he can figure it out. Quotes me a 15€ fee which seems steep af, but I’m tired and just want to get there. I’m also unsure of island prices or how far this place is. Whatever.
We drive less than 10 minutes, and he says we’re close but it turns out he can’t find it. He starts getting snippy with me because I can’t contact the host, so I’m like, buddy, just let me out here and I’ll sort it out. I give him 5€ because we’ve only driven like 100m and he couldn’t even find the place. 5€ is probably STILL too much. I walk into a nearby furniture shop and ask if they know where this house is, which they don’t, but based on my hosts instructions of “a pink house next to a furniture shop and across from a taverna”, I guess I’m at the right place.
The real problem, is that she’s also mentioned in her e-mail that she’ll still be asleep, and to let myself in. I can’t just knock on the door and wake her. So here I am…walking up to the backdoor of a mystery house, trying to open the door, and praying I’m not breaking and entering on a random Greek family. The backdoor is unlocked so that’s a good sign.
I quietly enter the house, walk through the kitchen, and find an open room with fresh bedding folded at the end of the bed. Seems promising. The only moment that I’m truly sure I’ve found the right place is when the wifi password she included in the e-mail connects.
I make the bed and immediately pass out.
When I wake up a few hours later, my host and her friend are sitting outside on the patio. We laugh about the strange circumstances and I learn that 15€ actually IS the standard price for a taxi from the airport. I feel a bit bad about giving him so little, but he was kind of a dick, so not really that bad.
Abby, my host, is from England and about my age. She’s been living here for the past few years working at a hotel as a bartender. She takes me around the house and explains what kind of stuff she’d like me to do. It’s just general cleaning and a bit of gardening, which I can do at any time I want. The most chill. The house is newly renovated, I have a king sized bed, and am given a bike I can use to get to the beach or into town. Really couldn’t be better.
The three of us walk down to the grocery store to get makings for dinner. I feel kind of weird about not pitching money for groceries. The free accommodation is easy, but sorting out food feels a little strange. I’ll eat anything so that’s not really a problem but what if I want something she hasn’t bought? What if what I want is expensive? It’s just something I haven’t had to worry about before, but I’m sure I’ll adapt.
We make a delicious broccoli flan, mashed sweet potatoes, and a side of green beans and tomatoes. We want to open some wine with dinner but the wine bottle opener is broken, so we end up being really responsible adults and smashing the neck of the bottle on the side of a ledge. It’s extremely successful. No shards of glass get into the wine and we only lose about half a glass in the process (of the first bottle…for the second bottle we lose about half).
After dinner we walk across the street to this taverna I mentioned before. There’s also a 1€ souvlaki stand out front which will be dangerous for me to have so close to my house…
We sit down and are given a carafe of white wine that I see poured from a 10L box. The owner, his son, and some other locals come to join us at our table. Abby speaks a bit of Greek but people are always eager to practice their English.
A guy our age and his girlfriend show up on a motorcycle and it becomes clear to me that he’s absolutely smashed the moment he sits down. He and his girlfriend are both visiting from Germany, where he goes to school but I gather he’s from here originally. She’s super lovely and I don’t talk to him much. One of the older Greek men at our table pulls out some weed and rolls a joint. The drunk guy gets on his bike and goes somewhere for about an hour before coming back to collect his girlfriend.
20 minutes after they leave he returns on the bike without her and asks who let his girlfriend smoke weed. The older man who brought it has already gone home, and I don’t even smoke but I tell him I did. I already got the vibe that he was controlling and I’m just pissed off that he’s being such a dick. She’s an adult woman like I think she can make her own decisions about what drugs to take or not to take?
He looks at me and slurrs “if you ever give my girlfriend weed again, I’ll kill you”. Everyone at the table laughs. Some words are exchanged in Greek between the owner’s son and this flaming idiot, before he finally gets back on his bike and drives off too drunk to speak. My heart breaks for his girlfriend, who I can only imagine is going to spend the rest of her night arguing. Or possibly die in a motorcycle crash one day.
Anyway. What a fun first day in Zakynthos!