It’s been a while since I have sat down to write my blog. Who knew that retirement would be so busy?!
What I like best about my “retirement” is the time to do things that I love. For me, that’s traveling!
This year we ticked off another box on my bucket list.
I have always wanted to go to Greece, but this year it was my husband’s turn to pick our vacation spot. He chose Scandinavia. However the Universe wanted me to go to Greece. We received an email that there was not enough interest in our Scandinavia tour and it had been cancelled.
I called to rebook and said, “How about the Greek Islands?” They said they had a tour, rebooked us and actually refunded part of our money. It cost less for us to go to Greece than to go Scandinavia. Win. Win. For me.
My husband and I favor guided tours for overseas travel. We have many friends who are comfortable traveling around the world on their own. We are not those people.
My husband and I have very different travel styles. He likes to know what he’s doing every moment. He likes order and wants to know where he is at all times. I don’t mind getting lost. I like wandering and accidentally stumbling onto non-tourist attractions.
So, for the sake of our marriage, we travel with a group.
Choosing the Group
There are many different travel groups out there. Some cater exclusively to individuals over 55 like Road Scholar. My brother his been on a number of these trips and loves them.
Some of the people on our tour had gone on trips with Road Scholar . They indicated that those tours were more scheduled and structured. Of course, perfect for my husband, not so much for me.
Then there are many other groups including Trafalger, Firebird (they called and emailed me excessively when I was just browsing. I didn’t like that.) and others. However, we chose EF GoAhead tours. We have now been on four tours with them: Italy twice, Australia and Greece. Each time you take a trip, they give you credit towards your next trip. It keeps us coming back. (I guess that’s the idea). And while many people on the trips are over 55, the trips are not exclusively for Seniors.
Why Choose Group Travel?
There are many reasons to travel with a tour group. We like that everything is done for you. They pick us up at the airport, take us to our hotel, arrange transportation, book our hotel, buy tickets to the attractions and generally make sure that we see everything we should see.
In addition, because my husband likes order and structure, he likes to double check the details of everything. He also has lots of questions. It actually drives me a little crazy. So having a tour guide who takes care of everything is the perfect solution.
We have had many good tour guides, but in Greece, we had the most amazing tour director we have ever had Pascale Fraissard. Pascale is a French woman who fell in love with Greece while in school and never looked back. She seemed to know everyone in the locations we travelled to and was a cross between a den mother and a drill sergeant.
Another quality Pascale had that made her special was her ability to make a group gel. She created a real camaraderie. We have been with many travel groups and of course some are better than others. This group was amazing! Everyone on the trip was considerate. They showed up on time and helped each other. We actually liked everyone in this group, but that is not always the case.
Sometimes there are one or two people in a group you don’t like, but with a group of 20 people, you will find someone to talk to. Sometimes you can even find life long friends.
The people who travel in these groups are usually pretty interesting and have travelled to many different places all over the world. One of the people in our group said, “In my day-to-day life, when I ask if anyone has been to a specific country, usually no one has travelled there. When I’m in a tour group, there is always someone who has been to the country where I want to travel to and they have great advice about traveling there.”
If you’re not sure whether or not group travel is the right way to travel for you, try taking a short trip somewhere and see what you think.
One of the reasons we like GoAhead is that the tours have a basic structure. You can see the itinerary, what meals are included and any in tour transportation. For this tour we used ferries to go from island to island and then returned to Athens from Crete by plane.
Then there are additional trips you can add on. Some people don’t like add-ons and think everything should be included. That’s definitely reasonable. However, we like to pick and chose our tours.
For example, we decided to forego two tours because they involved long bus trips. I’m sure they would have been amazing, but after a long plane ride, we weren’t up to it. Instead, we had a free day walking around Athens and a free day walking around Crete. It’s a tough life.
More About Greece
As I said, we have been on four trips with EF Go Ahead tours and have travelled extensively on our own. For us, Greece was the most amazing trip we have ever been on. We went to Athens, Mykonos, Santorini and Crete. Each one was so amazing and unique.
The history in Athens was incredible and you feel as though you are witnessing the birth of humanity. But of course, Greece is also known for fun and food and food and fun. We went to a “Big Fat Greek” style dinner where we broke plates and drank Ouzo. For some reason my husband was selected to clean up the plates after we broke them all. (I had nothing to do with that.)
Mykonos was gorgeous. Our hotel was on a mountain top overlooking the sea and a black sand beach just a quick shuttle ride away.
It was hard to tear myself away from the beach and the view, but I decided to visit Delos, the birthplace of Apollo (according to legend). Our tour guide made the whole island come alive and as a history major, I was captivated.
My husband stayed back at our hotel. the Utopia, on Mykonos. He texted me, “I’m not leaving and you can’t make me.” I think he liked the place.
But we did leave and went to Santorini. Santorini is the island you see in every marketing shot of Greece. Blue rounded roofs and white painted buildings. Really, just WOW! We took a catamaran ride around the caldera and jumped off into the Aegean Sea. More singing, dancing, swimming, great food and wine.
Our last stop was the island of Crete. We toured the ruins of Knossos, where King Minos imprisoned the Minotaur in a labyrinth, according to the myth. To think that a 1,500 room palace was built 3,500 years ago was just awe inspiring.
After a quick trip back to Athens, we had a group goodbye dinner and the next day caught a plane for home.
It was hard to say goodbye to the history, the fun and the food. (You would think with all the spinach pie and wine and greek salad and fish and wine and dessert I had that I would have had to buy an extra seat for the trip home, but I actually only gained one pound.) But we all have to return to real life sometime.
So that’s what I did on my summer vacation. That’s why you haven’t heard from me and why I haven’t been writing.
However, in my time off, I have received so many ideas about people I should interview for my blog. I’m excited to start back to writing again. There are so many amazing people in this world, doing incredible things after 50 and I would love to introduce them to you.
If you know someone I should interview, message me or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FYI — I did not receive any compensation from Go Ahead tours or the Greek government for this blog, but if they would like to say thank you, I like wine!