Sitting at an airport in Turkey, I began to realize the implications of what I’d done. Google maps, internet, e-mail, all things I thought I wouldn’t need. I thought I was prepared to live without. Turns out, maybe not. Not just yet.
I was halfway across the world. I didn’t have phone service, currency, or even the directions to get to my first hostel. I was still hoping I had got the name right. Yet, in the faces of the other travelers with their giant backpacks and easy going demeanors, I saw a calm, almost disinterested look that lead me into the same. They’ve been there, done that. They’ve known for a long time what I was still learning, that it will all work out somehow and so far it has.
Back then, I nervously turned to a currency exchange counter to turn a few of $20’s to euros. I knew finding an ATM would be cheaper, but I hadn’t seen one yet and I worried there wouldn’t be another opportunity outside of baggage claim. Of course as soon as I left baggage claim, there weren’t any more exchange counters, but the whole area was filled with ATMs.
I used a few of those new euros to grab a train and tried to watch the city fly by through the darkness. After awhile I gave up. I reviewed my basic Greek phrases and looked over at my fellow passengers. It was near midnight. I was alone abroad. It was intimidating. Fortunately, my confirmation e-mail provided me with simple instructions to reach the hostel. At least they seemed simple, I missed a turn while attempting to interpret the odd names and find the street names high on the corner of each building. I was still nervous fumbling around in the Athenian city night, but I was excited. I was in a new world. The buildings, covered in graffiti and squashed together, the tiny roads haphazardly criss-crossing, and the bar scene flowing out into the street. It was wonderous, but I was focused on a singular goal: getting to my first hostel. It ended up being less of a feat than I expected.
I made it with time to spare. I met my roommates, all five of them traveling together with four different countries of origin between them. They were getting up early to leave Athens the next day, so I locked my things in my locker and took to the roof to let it all soak in. In fact, the reason I had chosen that hostel was for the unbelievable view of the Acropolis. It was all a bit of a blur that night as I had taken my contacts out earlier to avoid waking my roommates later, but the memory of that roof on that night remains one of my favorite of all time. It was gorgeous. The well-lit monuments of old loomed large above the ancient city with its modern metropolis sprawled below. I had come up simply to soak it in, but soon other travelers joined me. We introduced each other and started talking about our lives and travels, past and future, without a moment’s hesitation, a behavior I was to find common place the rest of that trip. Already, the first night proved to me that this was where I belonged. My first night already producing a lifelong memory of a time spent simply sitting on a roof, talking with other travelers, and marveling at the view of the ancient marvel that is the Parthenon.