So this whole group travel thing — it genuinely took me by surprise. I didn’t expect how much I’d love getting to know my fellow Contikiers in Mykonos, how I’d love rediscovering Santorini with them, or how much fun my new friends and I would have raging and recovering in Ios. I couldn’t have anticipated how good it would feel — letting someone else plan the fun while I sat back and enjoyed. And I’ve loved sharing it with all of you, especially those that write to me looking for a way to ease into international travel.
But I’ve saved the best for last. This day, sailing on a pirate ship with my new crew around the island of Ios, was my absolute favorite of the entire trip.
Though this, like all activities, was an optional add-on to the tour, almost every single person had signed up. Two weeks in, and I felt like I was surrounded by old friends. The day started low key as we admired the scenery of tiny and sparsely populated Ios unrolling in front of us.
It didn’t take long, though, before things started getting silly. How could they not, when we were on a pirate ship in the middle of the Aegean?
Though for me and most others this was a sober outing, the boys simply couldn’t resist adding to their singlet collections — appearantly even boat excursions aren’t immune to this savvy marketing ploy.
It wasn’t long before we were docked in a beautiful bay, and taking part in one of my all time favorite life activities, Jumping Off High Stuff into Water. I was in heaven as I leapt off the second story bow.
I may have let out a cry of protest when it was time to pull up the ladder — what can I say, being told where to sleep, when to move and what to eat quite temporarily regressed me to my toddler years — but I shouldn’t have protested. Our next stop, a hidden cove in a place that looked suspiciously like paradise, was even better than the last.
One by one we jumped in and swam for shore.
For a girl with an incurable ocean addiction, no, I can’t really imagine how a day could be better than this.
It was just crazy, silly, amazingly carefree fun. One of those days where half of the things that come out of your mouth are some variation on the expression, “Isn’t this great?”
After a picnic lunch on the beach, some chose to hike to a nearby viewpoint, some chose to nap in the sand, and a few of us chose to don snorkel gear and go for a swim. While there wasn’t much to see, I had a transcendentally happy moment swimming as far out as I dared and floating on my back until I was in what I can only describe as a full meditative state, the sun and ocean making the perfect Alex sandwich. This is it, I thought, the two purest things I need in life, the ocean below me and the sun above me. I’ll just float somewhere in the middle.
Contiki indeed has a reputation for partying. But it’s worth noting that for me and many others, the highlight of the trip was a good old fashioned day of fun and friends, with a heavy heaping of sunshine.
I’m thankful to this trip for opening my mind to group travel, introducing me to some truly fantastic people, and allowing me beautiful moments like this in what I can now confidently say is one of my favorite countries to travel in.
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