I have always viewed myself as a bit of a five-star baby and during my working life, I was exactly that. I stayed at the best hotels when I was working because the company paid, and when I went on vacation I stayed at five-star because I could. And I loved the posh surroundings and fine dining and it was all about me and what I needed.
I have just returned from a trip to the Greek Islands of Santorini, Mykynos and Naxos and I was staying in hotels that I booked on Hostelworld. And yes, they were really hotels rather than the hostels that I had pictured. They were not five-star hotels…in fact some of them had no rating at all.Before I left, I was nervous but willing to give it a try. And I have to say that without exception, these hotels were exceptional. They picked you up at the Pier just like the major hotels, they were well-located some with views and swimming pools,they served you cold refreshing Greek coffee on arrival, they mapped out ideas for your days with enthusiasm and pride in the place where they lived and the rooms were clean and comfortable. They charged from $14-$60 a night. Who would have known in my five-star life that these places were even there. The large hotel chains wrap you in luxury and convenience in a way that if you have only 7 days to experience your vacation, you have the complete experience from the minute you arrive. Which is perfect.
But I had three weeks, so I saw Greek Island life in a slow unplanned way that just unravelled as the day went on. And my accommodations did not cost me nearly as much as I had in the budget. And I learned a lot of neat things about myself in the process.
I learned that I may not be the five-star baby I had assumed I was after a lifetime of living that lifestyle.
I learned that I am quite resilient and adaptable to unexpected changes in my plans. I was able to roll with any new ideas or places that were interesting where in my past life my days were planned in advance.
I learned that living out of my suitcase is all right for three weeks. I wore clothing more than once and carried a lot of practical rather than fancy clothing. But I still wanted to look okay because that is important to me.
I was able to sit and enjoy beautiful settings in a way that was not created and framed by the major hotels. Instead they just happened and they were more beautiful because of that.
I felt safe despite not being in the insular environment of the hotel chains. Feeling safe in important to me but even when I was riding my scooter on unnamed roads in Mykynos where there was no English, I still felt safe. That was very reassuring to me, as my need for safety is high and the only time I felt unsafe was a delayed flight that landed me in downtown Athens at 3AM. But I made it through that also.
I learned that meeting new people is easy when you smile even when you do not speak the same language. People who speak different languages can be intimidating (especially some languages) and a smile breaks through the barriers between people in an instant.
I learned that I love to sit and drink espresso (not Greek coffee!) while surrounded by many languages filling the airwaves around me. It gives me a cosmopolitan thrill to hear the chatter even when I do not understand it. I am used to hearing only English and the sounds of so many languages was quite exciting. It reminded me that the world was so big and so different and that is why I wish to travel.
I learned that travel does not have to cost a lot. You can go to great places and have amazing experiences for less money than I had imagined that I could.
So, I travelled in a way that costs less and therefore lets me travel more. And I was okay….more than okay….I was enriched by the experience. So my plans to travel for five months a year may be possible if I am willing to make compromises on how I travel. It turns out they are not really compromises though. Great to know.