I recently found old photos of my first backpacking trip which began in Athens, Greece, and ended in London, England. Like many new travelers, I was excited and filled with adventure as I traveled through Greece, Italy, Austria, France, and England, by foot, ferry and train.
My first memory was of the huge backpack that I struggled to carry. I remember Athens was hot and crowded as my backpack appeared to grow larger and heavier with each and every step I took. I found myself throwing shirts, shorts, and dresses into city garbage cans along the way, leaving a trail of my identity on the streets of Athens.
I boarded a bus to the coast and then jumped onto a boat to Kefalonia, an island in the Ionian Sea, west of mainland Greece. At that time, it was not a tourist destination but an untraveled location, unspoiled by commercialism and tourism. I immediately fell in love with Kefalonia and the relaxed, laid-back lifestyle. My days were spent riding a moped around the island exploring the green mountains, and swimming in beautiful azure blue seas. Evenings were spent strolling along the shore, eating at cafe’s and connecting with the locals.
I remember thinking that I had found a paradise, a place where time was irrelevant and life was simple and minimal. The island created a sense of stillness within me, as I fell in love with the island and its people. Eventually, it was time to pick up my backpack and move on again. The rest of Europe called to be explored, but Kefalonia had settled in my spirit in an unexpected way.
From Kefalonia I took a ferry to Italy where I traveled by train to Venice and spent a few days on the canals, exploring a completely different world of water, gondolas and Italian food.
The journey continued on to Austria, France, and then eventually a ferry to Dover, England, where I lived for the next twelve years.
Sometimes when we travel, we are so focused on the next destination that we don’t really experience the place or present moment that we are in. I remember that on the island of Kefalonia, I settled into a lifestyle that I had never known before. It was a place where body, mind and soul, all felt at peace, and everyday life became meaningful in a way that it hadn’t before.
I still dream of my short life on Kefalonia, and although I haven’t been back in many years, I suspect that its probably changed and has become a popular tourist destination now, but it’s true essence of its beautify and people are still there and will forever be a part of my journey as a new traveler.