From Italy to Greece

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I have no clue how I made it on this ferry. My train got me to Ancona 13 minutes late but that was the least of my challenges. Upon walking out of the train station, my brilliant plan was to take a taxi to the port, buy a ticket and hop on the ferry leaving for Igoumenitsa in just under two hours. This was a really bad plan.

There were no taxis outside the station. I got to watch the last one drive off just as I approached the stand. New plan: walk to the port. There was plenty of time so this shouldn’t be an issue. Don’t mind the rain.

As I approached the port some thirty minutes later it became immediately obvious that there was no ticket office here. But luckily, a quick scan of the street above the port revealed a SuperFast Ferries awning. Very promising. I approached the door only a little panicky at this point. It was locked with a single sign “Ring next door – first floor – f. Ii morietti”. Easy enough. I checked the door to the left; it didn’t look promising. I then proceeded to the right. The door was open so I tried just going in. As I scaled the steps to the first floor (that’s one flight up here in Europe) I found myself in a tiny hall with two unmarked doors. Okay, back down. A quick scan of the buzzers revealed one Morietti. I buzzed. No answer. Back up the stairs I went, this time one door was open a crack. As I pushed the door open, I was impressed to see a full buzzing office. There was SuperFast signage all over. Perfect! In the right place at last. Or not…

Everybody was quite busy in this office but after only a few seconds one of the ladies put her call on hold.

“You want to check in today?”

“Yes, hopefully. To Igoumenitsa.”

“Okay, you have to buy your ticket at the check-in.”

Oh. We stumbled a bit over directions but I was pretty confident she meant this was down at the port (spoiler: she didn’t). I was on my way down to the port which I had previously determined had no ticket sales. It took me a good 15 minutes to get down to the port where I asked around for check-in and tickets. I finally found someone who spoke just enough English to direct me. “You walk one kilometre that way to train station, then you look for signage saying ‘ticket office’.” Back to the train station? You must be joking me.

I hastily walked back to the train station determined that this didn’t seem correct. Sure enough, when I got there I looked around and found the sign. For ferry ticket office, take the free shuttle. Perfect! Except, that’s the shuttle and it’s driving away. The next shuttle would depart at 13:00 and my ferry was scheduled to leave at 13:30. I wouldn’t make the boat if I waited for the next shuttle.

I contemplated my options for a couple minutes. Although I knew where I needed to be – the ticket office – I had absolutely no idea of where it was. Then I noticed the taxi stand was full again. Perfect! All the cabs were empty but I quickly managed to track down a driver who spoke English. He could take me to the ticket office. He didn’t bother starting the metre and decided the fare was €10. Whatever. At least i was headed in the right direction.

I got inside and asked the SuperFerries desk if it was too late to buy a ticket. Yes, it was.

Oh.

“But,” the ticket agent volunteered, “you can try Minoan. They leave thirty minutes later.” She pointed across the hall. Turns out this was the one day a month with more than one ferry a day. Thank God.

I ran over and they sold me a ticket. Only €22 with my Eurail pass. Now, how do I get to the ferry. The shuttle? “No, it’s too late. You must walk. And hurry, they are boarding now.”

I left the ticket office and headed in the general direction of the ferry. A few wrong turns here and there and I finally found my way on board. Time to relax.

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How are you with dealing with unexpected obstacles? Have you ever had a major plan fall apart last minute?

Thoughts on Milan

Milan is starkly different from Basel. It is my first stop in Italy so I am simultaneously discovering this beautiful, ancient city and Italian culture.

I’m not sure how old this city is but first impressions suggested it had been built long ago. As I explored deeper I learned Milan is downright ancient. One church I explored had been built in the fourth century and, by that time, Milan was already a powerful and important city.

As you walk through the streets, the history of the city is incredibly apparent. Every street is paved with giant cobblestones. The stone buildings loom over the bustling streets.

And then you get to see Milan’s prime tourist attraction, Duomo (or simply the cathedral). This is the most fascinating piece of architecture I have seen in my life so far. The spires scrape the sky far above your head in a dazzling display of might. This cathedral took 400 years to build and it shows.

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On a personal note, what really made this city memorable for me was the fantastic hostel experience. This was the second city on my trip in which I was lucky enough to meet great people. We had two amazing nights of drinking and socialising that I wish could have lasted forever. We spent our last night in a piazza (or square) drinking alongside hundreds of locals. That was a night I won’t soon forget.

The adventure begins on Vancouver Island

Freedom means a lot of different things to different people. For me, it’s the opportunity to learn what I really want in life and having the opportunity to pursue it.

After nine years of school and work away from my hometown, lifelong friends and family, I decided the first leg of my journey should be back on Vancouver Island. I’ve been here for the past week and it has really been amazing. I’ve spent more time with more people than I ever could have imagined and had so many adventures.

As I write this post, I’m sitting on a rock bluff overlooking much of the Cowichan Valley. This is what freedom is.

Tonight I’ll be catching a ferry to Vancouver as I get ready to fly out on Thursday. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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View from Mt. Tzouhalem near Duncan, British Columbia

What’s the first thing you would do if you had the opportunity to do anything?

Becoming a Full-Time Vagrant

Hiking Mt. Tzouhalem

Hiking Mt. Tzouhalem with the family

Some people are stuck with this weird idea that a proper life involves having a job and, you know, a home. I say “to hell with that mess!” Last week I left my job and moved out of my apartment in preparation for my trip.

My goal was simple: reduce all my worldly possessions down to just what could fit in my car, give up my apartment and my desk job, and park that car full of stuff at my dad’s house. It was a lot of work but I’m happy to say Mission Accomplished (and not in the George Bush sort of way).

Living on couches for the past week has been amazing and I’ve already done more interesting things than I probably did in the six months previous. I’ve hiked a couple mountains, spent loads of time with my entire immediate family and still managed a ton of personal time to work on crazy projects.

This certainly wouldn’t be a lifestyle for everybody, and you have to work for a long time to set yourself up to pull it off, but I would recommend giving it a try if you have the chance.

Have you ever seriously considered taking some time off from real life?

Tickets Bought: Heading to AMS

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I’ll be flying to Amsterdam with KLM. I opted to spend a little more because they have the option of changing my flight for a nominal fee. When you’re going away for this long, you really don’t know where you’ll be in life by the time that return flight comes up.

A lot has happened since my last post and, at the same time, not much. Vague, eh?

I’ve been working on a temporary contract which is set to end March 29th and, after that, I’m heading out. Working full-time since January gave me a convenient excuse to procrastinate on planning this trip so I put it off as much as possible. But as I watched flight prices start to skyrocket recently, I knew I had to get my ass in gear.

I bought a round-trip flight to Amsterdam departing on April 18th and returning on June 27th. That’s 70 days, or two and a half months, of awesome Europe and I am both excited and terrified. And I didn’t stop there.

I’ve also ordered a Eurail pass that will allow me to travel by train on 15 days over two months (it’s a little confusing, I know) in 23 different countries. It sounds like I’m ready to seed the continent.

My budget is slim considering how long I’m headed for. The flight and Eurail have cost me $3000 and I expect I’ll have another $6000 left over when I head out so that’s about $85/day for hostels, food & drink, and any travel not covered by my train pass. To put that in perspective, the last time I was in Europe (for two weeks) I managed to spend about $400/day.

The constraints of my travel will force me to be creative and consistently get out of my comfort zone. For example, I’ll be getting very well acquainted with the most affordable Hostel dorms (think 10-20 guys sleeping in a giant room).

This is going to be fun and will, hopefully, change my life.

Would you ever go on a trip for this long? Am I crazy? Leave a comment and tell me why or why not and we can have a conversation on motivations.

Timing is Everything: Deciding When I Should Travel

Sundial, Perranporth, UKOn 1 January 2013 I will be unemployed. My first inclination was that this would be the ideal time to begin my globe-trotting adventure. A small amount of thought has led me to realise this probably isn’t the case.

My most immediate obstacle is that I simply don’t want to be packing and planning my journey, getting rid of all my material possessions and moving out of my apartment during my final days of work. I would much rather have some time off to really figure out my plans and get my affairs in order before I get on a plane. But this isn’t the only consideration.

Weather is certainly something to consider. I have decided to start my travels in Europe and, to put it mildly, the weather in the dead of winter is not the best. Especially when you can’t be sure where you’re going to end up most nights. For this reason alone, I think I may postpone my real travel until mid-March when things start to warm up. I can start in the south-west, maybe Spain, and slowly progress to the north-east as the weather warms.

I’ve become quite accustomed to Vancouver’s temperate weather and I would rather not mess with a good thing.

Decided take-off time: Mid-March 2013.

Have you ever had a trip ruined by bad weather?

Location, Location, Location! Deciding Where I Should Go (First)

It’s a big, big world. Which begs the question, “Where do I want to go first?”

There are many places I want to go and many, many more I don’t even know about yet. But if I’m honest with myself, I know this first trip is about more than just discovering the world. This trip is about discovering myself and I’m doing it on my own. This means there will probably be a few times when I’m nervous, a few times when I’m worried, and more than a few times when I’m lonely. Also, I’ll be on a limited budget.

With all that in mind, I can come up with a basic list of criteria.

  • Semi-reliable Internet access (Cuba is out)
  • English-speaking locals and signs (Sorry, Tokyo)
  • Minimal risk to my personal safety (Let’s pass on Egypt for the moment)
  • Affordable accommodation (such as hostels)
  • Affordable travel to different destinations (No Australia this time)

I like to call this my “princess list” because, let’s face it, it’s pretty comfortable. But not to worry, this is really just the criteria for the first location(s). As I move on, I intend to shave these requirements as I play my real-life game of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

So, where might satisfy my princess list? I’m thinking Europe. All of it, really. There are some pricier places and some places that aren’t as English-friendly but for the most part I really can’t go wrong. For the record, I’ve been there before (very briefly) so this makes it extra comfy and makes me certain it’s a good starting place for this grand adventure.

I have a vision of being in Venice with nothing but a backpack and nowhere to be. According to some sketchy websites, the weather should probably be good enough by April for me to hang out there.

Sounds like a plan to me.

I think everybody has a princess list to some degree. What’s on yours? Where would you be hesitant to go?