One Year Abroad

Today marks exactly one year since I stepped foot into another country, and began my overseas adventure.

At this time last year I was in Morocco, probably resting after a 27 hour flight with no sleep (really.. none) and since then I have had some seriously amazing experiences. I have ridden a camel out into the Sahara Desert and camped there for a night, explored abandoned hotel buildings and looked off to the liberating village of Lagos in Portugal. I spent a week with a French family, riding horses through vineyards in the countryside while finding historic ruins and eating cherries off of trees. I worked in a couple of hostels, hiked up some mountains in the French Alps, and hitchhiked on the island of Sardinia. I went cliff jumping for my birthday in the Greek Islands, drowned my phone and lost 13,000 photos and videos, worked on a farm with my best friend and had a masterchef cook off with an Italian (and unfortunately failed miserably).

Now I am living in Madrid, teaching English and trying to learn Spanish. I spent a couple of months volunteering at The Way Hostel, making friendships and moments I will keep in my memory and cherish forever (and if for some reason I forget all of that, Ill just go and volunteer again to relive my time there). I have made a lot of friends here in Madrid, and a boyfriend who I love very much. Madrid is a dynamic, vibrant city filled with music and colour and life. It is a place full of creativity and inspiration. Seeds are growing, and ideas are developing about what I want for my future. I have many exciting things planned in the short and long term, and if all of that goes to plan… I wont be coming back to Australia for a very very very long time.

I have been so fortunate in life to have had the constant love and support of my entire family. Particularly my parents, without their encouragement and help, all of this would have been much more difficult. Its weird to think that if I hadn’t been so obsessed with spaghetti from such an early age, all of this might not have happened. Me loving spaghetti and my family all having some little connection with Italy turned my pasta obsession to an obsession with anything Italian. My best friend and I bonded over our love for Italy and began to dream of visiting it together. Once that dream was fully realised, my plans expanded rapidly.

Travelling hasn’t always been easy. The visa and legal stuff is EXTREMELY painful. Italian and Spanish bureaucracy is the worst. I have been dead broke a couple of times, and when my Granddad passed away I was close to coming home. But I’m not exactly a traveller anymore. I am making a life for myself here and I’ve learnt I am excellent at adapting to my surroundings and whatever issues arise. I know I am young, but I’m confident with myself and feel stronger and more alive than ever. I know this is an extremely cliché post. But I just thought I would leave you all with a little update, and hopefully inspire you to make some crazy decisions in the meantime. So I’ll finish up now, share some photos with you, and go out to celebrate one year abroad!!

Black sand, hungry horses, lonely mountains, and braying donkies

We wanted to see more of Santorini than the usual tourists (honeymooners) do. For this reason we visited the backpackers area of Santorini first. Perissa Beach is known for its black sandy beaches, and for being an area with super cheap accommodation 😉 For 10 euros we were able to stay in a private room, with ensuite and a kitchenette. The hotel also had a swimming pool where we could look up to the mountains of Ancient Thira. Alright. Im going to break down our stay in Perissa based on our favourite and funniest moments.

The hungry horse – Walking between our hotel and the beach was my absolute favourite part of Perissa Beach. We´d pass slightly run down houses and paddocks with corn, people would zoom past on their motorbikes and on the way back you could see all that with the mountains in the background. The hungry horse is pretty self explanatory. I was patting a horse that lived in a paddock by the road, and it started to eat my leg. Jenna was actually taking photos at the time, and its facial expressions are the best. So evil.

Black sand beaches – Okay Jenna and I had already seen a black sand beach on Sardinia in Italy, but this beach was still particularly special. It wasnt like the other beaches we had swam in on Ios and Mykonos. Those beaches were perfectly clear and it was like swimming in a pool. The oceanbed here was a lot more rocky, and I kept thinking of what could be lurking underneath. But despite that, it was amazing laying in the black sand and looking out at the bronze mountains towering above the water. While relaxing on the warm sand I remember seeing some little girl rolling around the sand like a lunatic. She actually made me think of a really happy pig rolling around in mud.

Best bakery cafe ever – Thank god for this place. Omg. What can I say. I dont know. Just. Sitting by the pool looking up at the mountains with an amazing iced mocha, and the second best pastries Ive ever had in my life (the first will always be our special place in Newcastle Jenna). We limited ourselves to one baklava or yummy thing a day. Just to prevent or diet consisting solely of chocolate coffee honey and pastry.

Donkeys braying and evening strolls towards the mountain – Evenings (actually day times too) were often accompanied by Jenna and I taking a walk around the town and countryside toward the base of Ancient Thira. Not too far off was the harsh cry of a donkey, just to set the mood. There was this black donkey up on the mountain that I felt particularly connected with. I dont know why. I just liked it (and I know it liked me). On one of these strolls Jenna got attacked by a stray cat who wanted her spinach pastry thing. I cant remember but I probably saved her. Im always saving Jenna 😉

The tiny tiny row boat – This next memory was beautiful and unfortunately unphotographed. Below Ive shown you a section in my journal where I included a little sketch of the scene so I would keep it in my memory. Jenna and I were sitting right over on the rocks by the water underneath the cliff. The sun was setting, and we had an amazing time discussing many things. We watched as this “little” greek family played together. It was the grandad with his 7 grandchildren, all crowded onto this tiny little row boat, about 1 and a half metres in length. They were all shrieking and laughing and had the best time ever and one kid was standing up dancing and then the boat nearly tipped over and that kid fell out and then they all just started to jump out and scream. It was the happiest thing I´ve ever seen in my life.

Being broke, but still using our remaining money to buy a “freddo cappuccino” – While we were in Perissa Beach we completely ran out of cash. Okay thats not true. I had about 5 euros in coins. The point was, we were peaking out because in a couple of days we would have to pay for our accommodation, plus we needed more food. We couldnt get any money out of the ATM because it was empty. Thanks Greece.

The most greek person anyone will ever see – On our last day in Perissa we were sitting at the bus station waiting to be taken to our next stop. Jenna and I were sat in the little white concrete cubicle when we heard clattering hooves. We didnt really perk up that much. Horses and donkeys around here were normal. But we were left gobsmacked after the horse cantered past us, the rider was some tan greek man with a flowing white shirt. I dont know how that sounds to you. I cant really get across how dreamlike it was. He was the sort of person mums would faint over. I didnt really have an idea on a Greek stereotype until I saw him. He now epitomises Greece for me. Nothing will be more Greek and more fantastical than him. After we recovered from our shock (ok that still hasnt happened) we were picked up by the bus. On our way back through Perissa town we noticed a lot of the locals dressed up, riding decorated horses, and even a glimpse of some dancing. Luckily the wedding festival held up the traffic a bit so we got to observe them before being whisked away.

The Best of Ios

We have to say goodbye to everything in the end Im afraid.. Okay Im sure if I wanted I could have just stayed and hid out and found work on the island and never left and that is actually a realistic sequence of events. But there is still too much of the world to see. Im going to share with you some of my favourite moments from Ios.

Mornings.. or afternoons (or whenever) at the cafe (shown below) eating the most incredible greek yoghurt with a local honey. At night time the locals all came and sat at the cafe and a group of them always sat at this particular table performing to everyone.. whilst also sitting down and eating dinner. If I could ever become a professional singer that is how my concerts would be. It was an incredibly relaxed atmosphere.. something Ive found typical of people in southern Europe.

Walking up and down and around the cobbled alleyways of the main town. Flowers hanging down, white painted buildings, cats everywhere (I could make a seperate blog for the cats of greece), and reaching our room just when I thought my legs were starting to get sore (ok Im severely unfit).

The fact that whenever you greet someone, good morning (kalimera) or good afternoon (kalispera)  you use my name 😉

Incredible sunsets every afternoon, sitting on the ledge in the common area outside or standing on the side of our balcony when in the room to get an amazing view of it fading. Climbing up to the top of the hill for the best view.

Of course, our little boat adventure and all the mischief Jenna and I find ourselves in 😉

The hot sun. The clear waters. Enough Said.

The Last Super Moon: View from the Church, Ios

While in Ios we read… Probably on the Facebook page IFLS that there would be the last super moon of the year. We figured we had to see that, unfortunately the view from our hostel gave us a breathtaking view of the sunset, but not of the moon. So we set out just before sunset to walk to the top of the hill up to the church.

The view up the top was beautiful, from our hostel we could only see one side of the island, but up the top we could see all around at the rest of the white houses, and off into the distance. We were up there with a group of people all there to see the sunset. We all watched together as the light slowly faded from the sky.. Actually not slowly. When your actually sitting there watching the sunset it goes away so quickly. Thanks life for once again making something beautiful rush by us.

Anyway afterwards everyone else went back down the hill to the houses, or whatever activities they were doing before. Jenna and I were up there alone waiting for the moon to rise. We walked around to the rack of the tiny little church up there and sat on the edge of the cliff. The moon wasn’t as spectacular as we imagined. I don’t know I figured it would be orange or something. That was stupid. But it was really big, and slightly golden. It was basically impossible to get a good photo of it though on our shitty cameras. Even on Jenna’s good camera. We really needed a tripod.. And photography skills. I tried using the rocks as a tripod.. Haha I was seriously in the weirdest positions trying not to fall at the same time.

It was really relaxing up there. We had hilarious conversations and laughs and looked down on everyone below us. If you go to Ios please go up there. Or please don’t and just leave it as a special place for the most deserving people.

Cave explorations, snorkelling, secret beaches, and an unexpected encounter with attractive french boys.

The title of this pretty much sums up this day. We wanted to explore a bit more of the island. So we went out on a boat to explore the surrounding area by sea. We went snorkelling at a site of a ship wreck. Here I thought I would be a genius and take underwater photos. I didnt have an actual underwater camera but I had an iphone and Billy had a waterproof case. Originally I was extremely dubious of this. But desperation to capture the beauty of the Cyclades won over. Unfortunately this experiment ended in tragedy. By the end of the day my phone was going crazy. Siri wouldnt leave me alone. Really. I could not get rid of her. My iphone wouldnt charge, and then when it finally died… it never turned back on. The waterproof case leaked. And all my underwater photos from that day, not to mention all my photos and video diaries of my trip totally gone. Omg…. the video diaries… oh they were so special… Im getting emotional again. Shit….

I have to move on. After snorkelling we were met by a boat full of french boys. They were all good looking. All of them. I had a photo of them.. on my phone. We swapped boats with them, then left. On our way to the sea caves our new boat died. Thanks guys. We fixed it, and then we continued. We stopped in at these 3 caves, swam out to the first and then went through them all. Our voices echoed as we swam through and we just had a fantastic time. Just as we came out and swam back to the boat the boys boat pulled up at the same spot.

After the caves we went to relax on a secret beach. I didnt think you could get much better than the beaches I had already been to, but it was incredible. There we swam around, laid in the sand, ate a snack, and then. Of course. We were interrupted by the french guys. All 15 of them piled onto the beach. Burying each other under the sand, then all jumping on the person who was unable to escape.

It was a beautiful day, we really enjoyed ourselves. Just like every day over here. I wish I could share with you the underwater photos I took. But all I could save was one. One stupid selfie in black and white. So there you go.

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Partying with the Australians in Ios

When I read that there were a lot of young people on Ios… Everyone failed to mention that about 95% of those people are Australian. Seriously, saying that Ios has been invaded by Australians is an understatement. Everyone working there is Australian. Everyone. You go into the local store and you can find one of the small jars of vegemite for 6 euros.. that is $9AUD … FOR A SMALL JAR! The thing is they can afford to jack up the prices that much because us crazy Australians away from home for so long just love our vegemite and just adore our vegemite 😉

The vegemite isn´t the only thing either, I mentioned in my last post there was an Australian bakery.. seriously named “Australian Bakery”. And I am not ashamed to say I frequented it during my stay. Mostly because it was the cheapest food that you didnt have to cook yourself besides that frigging Gyros shit (which is beautiful and delicious and contains all the food groups so its healthy right? Okay no it has chips on it forget I said that).

Anyway I am getting sidetracked. This post is about the nightlife in ios. Up in the main centre of the town (Chora) there is one particular street and area where all the bars and clubs are. I´m not really a party person. But it was a lot of fun. You go out with 15 Australians 2 Americans and 1 New Zealander and meet more Australians, and some Americans and New Zealanders. Actually we also met some Italians which was a bit exotic for Ios. The nightlife is… how can I explain this… like a candy shop for young adults. Every bar tries to have some special activity or competition there to stand out from the rest.

For example:

Shot bars advertising special shots such as tiramisu, bounty, mint chocolate, etc (it was my goal to try a bounty shot but unfortunately I never made it).

“Lost Boys” was a favourite of many. You can play beer pong there, and if you buy (I think) 7 shots you get a free lost boys shirt. I´m not gonna lie, the shirts were actually really cool. I wish I had one, but I didnt want to buy 7 shots, and I didnt want to pay 25 euros for one by itself.

The “Slammer Bar” had this special shot. You order it and you get the joy of taking your shot whilst simultaneously being slammed in the head with some random object. It could be a fire hydrant, a chair, the crutches of someone with a broken ankle (and afterwards with broken crutches to top it off), whatever is lying around, anything goes. No need to fear though, you get to wear a helmet. Its totally safe.

Im not sure of the name of this bar, but throughout the night you would see more and more people with kind of tribal white painted dots and patterns on their face or arms. I passed this bar once, down a tiny little alleyway. Seriously Ios is fantastic.

The Jäger Bar was my all time favourite. The music they played in there was so much fun. The kind of old music that everyone dances and sings to and actually has a good time rather than being super sleezy and creepy. Once I went in there I danced hours. The two photos below are from inside that bar. They are terrible quality and terrible everything but we were too busy dancing to take good photos. Sorry.

One night when we didnt feel like dancing the entire night away, Jenna and I walked back a bit early. On our way back to the hostel we were greeted by many club promoters. But we didnt want alcohol. We just. Needed. Water. We came across this one Australian guy who so badly wanted to impress his boss he was begging us, “Please, just one shot!” We agreed on coming inside if he could give us a shot of fresh water. He agreed. It was a win win. That bar was kind of weird though and empty and boring so after our shot of water we left.

So yes! We spent our nights partying, and when we got tired it was just a short walk, on the same street, to our hostel. Perfection.

Welcome to Ios (aka paradise)

After only lasting 2 nights in Mykonos… we had more time to enjoy Ios, So I’m going to break these posts up a bit. Ios was absolutely beautiful. We stayed in a fantastic hostel called Francesco’s, with an INCREDIBLE view. The old part of the town is built on the side of a little hill, with a church right at the top. From our hostel we could swim in the pool or sit on the ledge and look out at the ocean, another island, and gaze at the incredible sunsets. At what cost was this amazing view? 15 euros per person for a private room with an ensuite. It was fantastic, our routine was pretty much, eat gyros every meal of the day (seriously… EVERY meal), buy water, go to the beach, pick up a sausage roll from the Australian bakery (Ive been away for a long time okay.. and the Australian classics are hard to come by), go back and relax or go out partying. What a life.

We were there at the perfect time as well, in September the temperature was perfect, hot but slightly cooler at night, and really quiet so the beach was nearly empty, but there was still enough people there to make the nightlife a lot of fun. The main beach there is called Mylopotas Beach, and just like Mykonos… it was perfect. Just like nearly everywhere in Europe the beach has umbrellas and chairs all set up that you can pay for (or for free if your sneaky). I dont really like the whole umbrella chair thing, it makes it more commercial, like you have to buy a place to sit for the day… when the beach can be free for everyone. But anyway you dont need to use them so no use  complaining.

Every day we swam in that perfect water, laid on the sand, and relaxed. Im not sure if I ever did anything in my life to deserve this but I can´t get enough of it. We opened our eyes in the water and could see everything.. not that there was much to see.. it was all just clear water and white sand. Anyway there isn´t really much more I can say to describe the beach, Ill just show you some photos.