Greece Trip Summary
Written by Rick Archer
May 29, 2009
In one month,
it will be a year since we took our Cruise Trip to
Italy, Greece, and Turkey. My daughter Sam was
looking forward to her Senior Year in high school
when we took this trip last summer. As I
write this summary, Sam will be graduating from high school
tonight. My how time flies!
This was a difficult trip for me. The long
plane trip over took its toll on me. The
summer sun took an enormous toll on me. I am
so vulnerable to the sun!
Our ongoing headaches with the euro weighed heavily
on my spirits. If you remember from the
story, my family finished the day with one lousy
euro between us and no obvious way to get more cash.
Not surprisingly, this problem seriously affected us
for the remainder of the trip. If we couldn't
charge it, we were out of luck. As the trip
progessed, there were at least a half dozen
different occasions when we were forced to do
I was out of
sorts throughout the entire trip because I was so
completely lost. The language problems, the
confusing maps, and the difficulty of negotiating
giant cities like Rome and Athens for the first time
threw me for quite a loop. My whole trip felt
like a bumper sticker:
Many Roads Must A Man Travel Down Before He Admits
He is Lost?"
I was angry at
my tour guides. The woman at the Borghese
Gallery in Rome was the exception. She made
that museum come totally alive for me. She
opened my eyes to art in a way no one else has ever
done. However, after the brilliant young lady
who guided us through the Borghese Museum, we struck
out with the rest. The guide at the Roman
Colisseum spent the afternoon lining up women, the
guide in Sicily couldn't wait for us to leave, the
guide in Ephesus led us into rug and jewelry traps,
and the guide at Knossos, well, let's just say he
was a Cretan. None of these people went out of
their way to do more than the minimum necessary to
get paid. In the process, I learned the hard way the
meaning of a well-known quote on Travel:
you travel, remember that a foreign country is not
designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to
make its own people comfortable."
Finally, I had
a problem with our steady dose of ruins. Ruins
in Rome, Ruins in Athens, Ruins in Ephesus, and
Ruins in Crete. Just one little rain forest in
the middle of the trip would have done wonders for
Looking back, I began to appreciate these ruins a
lot more when I began to investigate the stories
behind them in preparation for writing the cruise
review. I only wish we could have found tour
guides gifted enough to delve into the mysteries and
not settle for giving us the names of each structure
between yawns and glances at their watches.
Once I learned more about the stories behind the
places we visited, all sorts of fascination was
In truth, this
was really the first "Intellectual" trip I have
taken. Our previous trips have been to places
rich in physical beauty. It doesn't take a lot
of training to appreciate a beautiful beach, a lush
rain forest, or a majestic mountain.
Unfortunately, the Greece Trip was not about
visiting physically attractive places. I
realized too late that a trip like this probably
requires reading preparation ahead of time.
Marla knew what to look for because she had read so
much in advance, but I was caught flat-footed
everywhere we went. That difference alone
explains why practically every day her attitude was
superior to mine.
On the other
hand, this was the first trip I have ever taken
where I appreciated it more after it was over.
Once I took the time to bring my own personal
knowledge of each location up to speed, I found
myself actually wishing we could go back so I could
take another look!
On the bright side, I was gratified by the constant
support I received from the members of our group.
Of course, you know exactly who I intend to start
with. Thank goodness Iqbal came to my rescue.
He made sure I learned more about Athens and Ephesus
than would have ever been possible given the guides
we had. His exquisite knowledge of this part
of the world was a true godsend. I just wish
he had been at Knossos to show me where the
labyrinth was hiding.
I would like to
thank Wendy Weston for loaning us enough euros to
finish the trip. When she learned of the fix
we were in, she gave us enough money to take care of
basic things like being able to buy post cards in
Sicily, lunch in Athens and tee-shirts in Crete,
etc. It was really nice of her to come to our
I would like to thank Greg Hatchett for his constant
shepherding. Greg made sure no one was ever
left behind and loaned his big shoulders to anyone
who needed them. Greg took care of
I would like to thank a lot of people who went to
the trouble of lining up hotels and transportation
for other people on the trip who were less
experienced. There was a true "community" on
this trip - people with experience who guided the
others with less experience and watched out for
I would like to thank Gary and Tracy Schweinle for
sharing their honeymoon with us. You have no
idea how much fun they had on this trip. Every
night their table bubbled over with joy and
laughter. They had grins that stretched as
wide as the Mediterranean. It made the rest of us
smile right along with them and bask in their
warmth. Of course it made the tragedy of
Gary's accident during Hurricane Ike that much
harder to accept, but as Tracy said, she would never
give up the special moments they had on this trip.
Most of all, I would like to thank Marla. As
you can probably guess, she carried me the entire
trip. I know I was a burden on her with my
absent-mindedness, physical exhaustion from the sun,
and basic ignorance of the realities of travel.
Since Marla is such an expert on Travel, I tend to
go along for the ride more than I should. In
retrospect, I know I relied on her more than was
In a nutshell, I was truly a stranger in strange
lands. I learned the hard way why foreign
travel can be very stressful and very complicated.
of the word "foreign" is "unfamiliar". Truly I
was taken far out of my comfort zone on this trip.
I learned there is an entire world out there I don't
have a clue about. For someone who likes to know
what he is doing, I was very unhappy feeling
'clueless' most of the time. I felt broke,
lost, and ignorant! Not a pleasant feeling.
today I know I am stronger for the experience.
I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about
the next Mediterranean trip because this time I have
a much better idea how to prepare and what to look
Let me conclude by saying I probably wasn't the only
person who was overwhelmed. There were other
people who were not experienced at foreign travel
either. To a person, they quietly confided in
me how grateful they were for the support they
received. As a reminder, here is an excerpt
from my Athens write-up:
"She told me that she signed up for this trip by herself. She said
that she had wanted to visit this area of the world for a long time,
but didn't have anyone in presently her life at this time who could
accompany her. She said this trip was literally the answer to her prayer.
And although she didn't know a single soul in our group, the people
in our group had been so kind to her! Now she wanted to say how grateful
she was that a single lady from the other side of the planet could
feel so completely safe in such a confusing environment.
Thanks to us, she was fulfilling a dream."
What this lady
did not know was I felt like I was in the same boat.
I didn't admit it to her, but in many ways I felt
just as helpless as she did. I was just as
grateful to the leaders in this group for making the
reminded me of Rule Seven from The Noah's Ark
Rules of Travel:
safety's sake, always
travel in pairs".
We all owe so
much to Marla. Thanks to her, she makes our
travel dreams possible. We enjoy the safety of
the group. We always have friends to keep us
company. Thanks to leaders like Marla and
Iqbal, we feel safe, secure and protected even as we
tackle parts of the world we know so very little about.
We feel brave enough to stick out our necks and
explore a little because we know we have friends watching on
As for me, I am ready to step up in rank. Now
that I have walked the streets of Rome, I am ready
to retrace the same steps when we visit Rome again
this fall on the Barcelona 2009 trip. We all
stand on the shoulders of the people who came before
us. Marla and Iqbal carried me; now its my
turn to return the favor to others.
That's how our SSQQ Travel Group works. Once we are ready,
we contribute any way we can.