Why you should take the train to Cornwall (in 22 seconds)

6

07.10.14

Cornwall, you are lucky you are so pretty. Because traveling to you by train and back in under 26 hours is brutal.

But gorgeous. I’ll be back…

Tip: Make the video full screen and sit sideways and its almost like you are on the train yourself…

Captured from my seat on the train at sunset on Sunday evening with my iPhone

The man who saved us in Athens

28

02.10.14

1024px-City_of_Naxos

I love the theme from this month’s travel linkup: the most interesting character you have met.

But the face that immediately popped into mind wasn’t who I expected. It was a face from a bus in Athens some 13 years ago… but before I get to him, you need to know some context.

Some 12 or 13 years ago, my boyfriend at the time and I took a trip to Greece. I was studying in Paris and he lived in Lausanne. I’d developed the world’s best weekly routine: classes Tuesday afternoon to Thursday morning, hop on a train to Geneva on Thursday afternoon and return on Tuesday morning. I’d do most of my school work on the 4 hour ride down (to this day, still one of the prettiest train trips in my opinion), spend the weekend on the French/Swiss border or in Lausanne and wrap up any reading for the week on the train ride back up. It was wonderful. And because of it, we were basically broke.

Somehow we managed to scrape together money to get tickets for a few days in Greece in the springtime – it was a big trip for us and I was beyond excited to travel to a country where I couldn’t even read the language. We arrived in Athens and immediately caught a ferry from Piraeus to Naxos – the biggest island in the Cyclades. We’d planned to spend a few days exploring the island and then gently make our way back to Athens to wrap up with a few days there. I remember Naxos being calm and humid – we basically just wandered the little whitewashed alleyways, ate Greek & octopus salads and pasta bakes with aubergine and drank ouzo on our little balcony.

One day, as we strolled through the harbor, we happened to see a sign in a travel agency window in English that read: “Strike imminent – ferries cancelled.” Cue panic once we learned it was a national strike that would mean we’d be stuck on the island for days and wouldn’t make our plane back to Geneva. We needed to leave our hotel in Naxos a day early, book an earlier ferry and find a place to stay for a night in Athens a night before we’d planned to be there. These were the days before widespread WiFi… we did it all with the hotel lobby’s phone and a Lonely Planet guide.

We loaded up the backpack – we’d stuffed everything we were travelling with into one oversized duffle bag which normally held a surfing kite – jumped on the ferry and sailed away. Straight into a thunderstorm. The next four hours were honestly some of the worst I have ever spent. The ferry we were on was gigantic but we were tossing and turning on the water. Never was I happier than when we touched dry land.

Except it wasn’t dry… Athens felt like it was drowning in a monsoon it was raining so hard. Our canvas backpack and everything inside it was absolutely soaked through. We made our way to the train station to learn that the strike had already started and extended as far as taxis. The only way to get from the port to central Athens was by a few night buses that were still running that would make a giant circle across the city. Absolutely miserable by this point and – at least for my part – seriously close to tears, we needed to figure out where to get off.

And this is where we meet our hero. As I tried to decipher the rain-drenched route map in my hands – holding on for dear life as the bus took sharp corners like a rally driver – I happened to glance up at a little old man sitting on the seat right in front of me, leaning on a cane. He had one of those faces that looked remarkably lived in: wrinkly, friendly and authoritative. He gave me a quizzical little look as if to say “what are you looking for?” I tried to pronounce the name of the neighborhood we were hoping to reach. He gave us one sharp nod of the head, touched his fist to his chest in a gesture that clearly meant “trust me” and then waved his arm down in a strict motion that clearly meant “sit down, stop worrying, you are being ridiculous”.

It was one of the most reassuring things any stranger has ever done for me.

With no words and two gestures, he’d made me realise we weren’t going to be stranded in some random neighborhood in a city where we didn’t speak and couldn’t read the language. All of our clothes would eventually dry out and the rain would stop. Our preciously saved up for vacation wasn’t ruined and we would see Athens after all. The adventures you come across when you travel don’t have to seem scary. They can just be adventures.

We travelled in silence together for maybe 30 minutes or so until he made some shoving motions that we should get off the bus. And that was it. But I don’t know if I’ve ever been so grateful to someone who never said anything to me. And it makes me smile to remember him 13 years later – now much more adept at travelling, but still just as grateful.

Really looking forward to reading others stories from this week’s linkup. To see more, check out Rebecca (this post is incredible), Emma, Kelly and Molly’s blogs.

Photo of Naxos by Sergio Alvarez found on Wikimedia

Ups and downs with the Internet

2

01.10.14

Black rhino

As much as I absolutely adore the internet, I find it often sends me on a roller coaster of an emotional ride.

Case in point: Yesterday.

Exhibit A: The building dancers

I started the day off watching this. Its essentially the video dancing equivalent of holding a puppy on a gorgeous summer’s day when you are a kid. Its that peaceful and wonderful a thing to watch.

Exhibit B: Joan Smalls “likes” everything

Then I watched this fun little Vogue short that made me feel like I just want to go around liking all the wonderful things I love in the world. Its a lighthearted, endearing thought that you could leave a little heart wherever you go.

Exhibit C: John Oliver takes down Miss America

This afternoon, the seriousness started to come out. I am quickly becoming convinced that John Oliver’s show is one of my favorite things happening back in the States.

As funny as this segment is, it is depressing/outdated/insertyourtermforithere to think about John’s take home message that Miss America is one of the largest sources of female scholarships… he gives some suggestions of other organisations, including US-based SWE, Patsy Mink Foundation or the Jeanette Rankin Foundation you can donate to.

(At the same time, the fact that there are people like John Oliver writing stories like these gives me some hope…)

Exhibit D: We’ve lost 50% of the world’s wildlife population in 40 years

And then the internet broke my heart. WWF released this report yesterday outlining losses to lion, elephant, tiger and many other animal populations since the 1970s. My clicking also led me to discover their environmental footprint calculator. You can work out how your daily routine affects the planet and the results are shocking. I encourage everyone to take this quiz. We only have one planet. And so many of us are living like we have more.

The WWF report sent me spiraling back to last year on safari in South Africa when, speeding towards our camp for the evening which closed at sundown, we ground to a halt at the sight of a black rhino silhouette on the horizon. Everywhere we went in South Africa, there were signs telling us that future generations probably wouldn’t see a rhino. Poaching is one threat. This report convinced me that my lifestyle is another.

Attempt at a conclusion during what feels like whiplash

So I guess the simple conclusion to all of this is… I love you, Internet, but at the end of the day, you often make me exhausted.

I’ve laughed and I’ve smiled. I’ve been reduced to tears and inspired to make a difference.

You are one powerful thing.

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