Bikes, and Bros (Greece)

Greece – Zakynthos ~2011

It’s somewhat of a rite of passage for young adults in England to go on a “Lad’s/Lasses’ Holiday” at some point…at least where I come from anyway. Now these holidays are unlike any holiday you will likely ever experience, for a few reasons…but are still pretty simple to sum up – so how about I go ahead and do that, just so we are in no doubt:

Young people. Sun burn. Intoxicants of every description – and a strict code which makes sightseeing, and the absorbing of any cultural elements of the country unimaginable.

In short, the unfortunate place becomes an absolute wrecking ground of glow sticks, bubble machines, and cheap booze for a few blazing weeks of debauchery…and likely spends the rest of the year recovering and rebuilding…until it’s time to go again. 

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Despite not being particularly my thang, back in 2011 I was returning from the US with a rather handsome refund for all of my various student exchange costs…and as coincidence would have it my old school friends were planning a holiday and wanted me to join. I agreed without a second thought. In fact I’m so stupid that I didn’t even know I was going to be getting this aforementioned refund until the last second, so it felt like a free holiday. Sort of like finding a tenner in an old pair of jeans.

The trip started off at an ungodly hour, something about letting the Mammy turtles hide their eggs in the sand without the distraction of a blaring jet plane beneath them. It’s sort of understandable, I mean they’re turtles after all – not the Easter bunny, so they need more help…but it still made for very groggy red eyes indeed.

The coach from the airport took forever. It circled the island dropping off a few people at a time at various hotels, as twatty Liverpudlian sing-songs rang out through the slightly ajar windows. We were one of the last ones…typical. Some guy who looked like Gareth Gates (if he was slightly overweight and worked at a bingo hall) kept standing up and shouting out the hotel names whenever we were getting close – I was told he was our holiday rep, and that he had a strange Pokemon sounding name like Zippy, Zappy, or Ziggy. He was also making all sorts of suggestions about “getting on it”, “getting rat-arsed” and “getting mashed”. None of this seemed particularly appealing, or at least not with him anyway. We rolled our eyes, and made a few comments at his expense – mostly surrounding his obnoxious haircut. In that moment we vowed to keep ourselves to ourselves.

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We rose at different times the next day…that’s the problem with a group; some want to lie in bed (which is fine, you’re on holiday after all) and some want to go out and see things. The issue lies with doing both of these things together – as unless you wheel the sedentary people around on a wheely hospital bed then you inevitably have to split up. The day passed by beautifully; lying by the swimming pool, iced glasses in the freezer ready to be filled with draught beer (great idea) , and all in the company of friends I have known for years. Bliss. 

Then Zappy Ziggoles (or whatever) turned up. A dark cloud would have passed over the swimming pool – but he was far too short to block out the sun in any meaningful way. However he still put a dampener on things; he started saying something about drinking tables, or drinking under tables, or something like that…which I have never really understood as I much prefer being above my tables and using them as intended – as a place to rest my glass. There was some sort of “partaaaay” and we best get involved or we will miss out – and blah blah blah – please go away and leave us alone. Please Zigglyzoof, please.

That night, that first fateful night…was an absolute trainwreck. And no, it was nothing to do with Mr. Ziggy. I wish I could blame him, but I can’t. We very quickly got separated as a group, despite the relatively small street on which most of the main bars and clubs were located…cheap drinks that taste like strawberry flavoured piss served in luminous buckets will do that to people. In between the fist-fights, blaring music, and people selling unconvincing knock-off Rolex watches – there unsurprisingly wasn’t much time for  cordial conversation and quiet relaxation time.

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We lost one of our members…and he didn’t turn up until the next day – looking like a cast member from The Walking Dead, but with slightly more deterioration. Our first instinct was to insult him (naturally) but after that little period had passed we asked what had actually happened to him. The jokes stopped after that, in place of head shakes and wide shocked eyes.

Let’s just say he had found something which promised to make things a fun party, but then the party ended up being dreadful. So like if you were invited to an all you can eat doughnut event – but then it was in fact a suicide pact party. That’s not exactly it, but it sort of is. Essentially what you need to know is, whilst we were dancing on tables and being sick in a back alley, he was running wide-eyed through the streets and later attempting to drown himself because he “felt he probably deserved it”. Scary. In fact if it wasn’t for the help of two strangers, affectionately referred to as “The Guardian Angels” for the rest of the trip, he may have been a goner. They had ran after him, seeing that he was in…distress (to say the least)…and dragged him from the depths of the water and back to the hotel. This apparently took some time as his directions kept changing.

That was the first night – and we had booked for two weeks. We naturally started to pace ourselves, well not really, but we were at least aware of how bad it could be if we weren’t at least a little bit careful. The only time I wanted to be in the sea was when I was cooling off from the unforgiving sun, not begging for forgiveness while I plunged myself into some sort of biblical punishment. In lieu of the latter we began to go out and experience more; we hired quad bikes and roamed around the island – seeing the old part of town and marvelling at the best views, we actually began to talk to people and share our stories, we even took Zippy Zapplin up on a few of his suggestions…and had a good time doing it too. 

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The two weeks felt like a lifetime – but also as if they had passed in a second, it was weird. I often think back to those moments spent laughing and living life; shaving our heads into weird pineapple looking cuts, having to spend two weeks sharing a double bed with a dude (so we could keep the best room), not caring what day it was…

I mean holidays are great, but having amazing people to enjoy that time with – that’s priceless. (As long as you don’t do the whole drowning thing, obviously)

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By the way, yes – I’m back. Apologies for my absence my dear friends. You see I have recently started a wonderful new job (content writing/social media stuffs for a small charity), and that has taken up a lot of my time both physically and mentally. I’m trying to find a balance. Hope you lovely people are all doing well! I’ve truly missed you.

Youth vs. 20 Something (Holidays)

Is it better to look at ancient podiums – or dance on sticky ones in nightclubs? 

WAIT. Hold that thought…as I suppose you could do both…although just the one time – after all UNESCO people are such sticklers when it comes to boogeying on their priceless ruins. But for the sake of this post how about we pretend that the two are mutually exclusive? And that one sort of trip contains that of an avid flip flops and socks wearing tourist, and the other of a red-necked nuisance. Okay?

You see I’ve been fortunate to go on both sorts of trips and they are – OH HEY LOOK A VISUAL AID RATHER THAN ME EXPLAINING!

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Yup. Athens and Zakynthos (Zante); both in Greece but both completely different – just look at that distance, oooh wee. Actually this is why I HATE HATE HATE with a capital claw hammer when people check off a country from their “been to” list after seeing just one city during an hour long coach stop. NEWS FLASH: You haven’t been to  England if you have only seen London, no more than you have visited China by taking a selfie on the great wall of China – sorry to be that guy…but…well…facts and all that. GO SEE MORE THINGS, NOW!

And also location aside, holidays vary massively…simply put they are not all the same! If you go for a nice church retreat to Holy Island with some holier than thou nuns, you are likely to have a different experience than a pupil widening weekend to Ibiza with the boys from your five a side team. So stop trying to pretend you can see it all in one go...you can’t. 

So with all that in mind, let’s compare the two trips – and see if there is a winner (spoiler alert, there isn’t):

First up is one of the most famous cities in the world – although these pictures barely do it proof (thanks to my goofy stupid face, apologies internet):

 

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Athens, Greece: Aged 25 (2016) – This was part of my mega-trip after leaving South Korea I met with my sister and headed to the birthplace of democracy and the old stomping ground of my boy Zeus…don’t worry, there was still a lot of beer!

Key moments:

  • Having the amazingly delicious, and healthy (not true at all but it’s nice to tell yourself lies sometimes) gyros every single day for every single lunch. I also learned I had been pronouncing the name incorrectly…it’s “gee-ros” not “guy-ros” apparently.
  • Spending ages in lines to see the amazing historical sites…and then feeling cheated at the fact they were propped up with unsightly bits of scaffolding.
  • Having a staring match with this grumpy guy in a laundrette – and losing. Atheniens are some of the most miserable people I have ever met (but perhaps they have good reason to be.)

But this wasn’t the first time I stepped foot in Greece…the first time was a lot more lively and a lot more hazy too…I give you, Zante:

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Zante, Greece: Aged 19 (2011) –  Oh to be young(er)…more tan, less hair, and a whole lot of memories. Good times – minus the times I was throwing up of course…

Key moments:

  • Having two double hotel rooms with a balcony connecting both just for our group – ideal. But due to some sort of error (or accidentally on purpose?) I had to share a bed with one of my pals…weird at first, but after a few hundred shots of unidentified alcohol: not at all. 
  • Getting talked into allowing multiple friends to have a go cutting off my hair…which essentially looked like a half stripped kiwi for the rest of the holiday…and actually for years after. 
  • Whilst off his head one of my friends almost drowned himself in the sea, but was fortunately saved by a couple of random guys – who were aptly dubbed his “Guardian Angels” for the remainder of the trip. Safe to say he was a lot more careful after this experience.
  • Almost crying upon returning to my home and ordinary life…as life on this paradise island was pretty much well…errr…paradise. Which sort of makes sense I suppose.

But alright,  which one is better? Almost dying from exhaustion after two weeks of non-stop madness, or feeling a newly stuffed belly a cafe hopping vacation gives you?

Well…NEITHER.

There’s a time and place for everything – especially gyros. ALWAYS GYROS.

But I guess my advice is that you take the time to just enjoy whatever kind of experience you are experiencing…just go with the flow and enjoy it for what it is. Don’t cram. Just live in the moment…that way you will have something organic to savour later on.

Wait…why am I suddenly so hungry? 

Gotta go eat something, bu-bye – but make sure you leave some sort of experience you have had in the comments – don’t let me be the only one…my God that hair cut and earrings…what was I thinking?!

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Please buy my collection of stories! Get it in paperback here – or on Kindle here! ALL proceeds go towards Macmillan Cancer Support!