I Went To Greece to Knock Off Part of My Bucket List
I was beginning to panic in the hot Grecian sun.
The taxi driver had dropped off me and my 14-year-old son at the marina. I knew my phone wouldn’t work on this remote island, so I already had the e-mail pulled up from the boat company I had chartered for us.
I re-read the information but still didn’t understand where the boat was located.
There was no way for me to make any calls, texts, or e-mails. My phone was useless.
We stood awkwardly with our oversized bags unsure of what to do.
After freaking out, I eventually tracked down the right boat, a 60 foot restored wooden beauty, and we loaded our luggage on board.
Our skipper introduced himself. I wasn’t sure who I was expecting, but it was something other than the wiry Frenchman in front of me.
He was relaxed yet commanding.
I was still getting over the miracle of months of planning — and decades of longing to see the Greek Isles — when he delivered the news within 10 minutes of our boarding:
We aren’t going to Santorini. Or Mykonos.
I was stunned.
I asked a few questions about why we weren’t able to go to the two main islands that were on my bucket list. The two islands that were at the heart of the entire trip.
He then added that we were not going to be able to make it to the one island that my son wanted to explore. Delos, arguably the most important Greek island in terms of ancient history, was dismissed from our itinerary as well.
He responded that the weather wasn’t going to cooperate. He wasn’t rude, but I could tell that the only way those islands were going to get added back into the itinerary was if I pushed hard.
In that moment —
after significant time spent researching cruise and sailing options, making an expensive financial commitment, cashing in two years worth of frequent flier miles to cross the Atlantic with my son from Austin to London, then traveling to Athens, then taking the 40-minute flight on a puddle jumper to Paros, the short taxi ride, and our initial confusion on the sidewalk adjacent to the marina —
I knew I had two choices:
To become adamant. To demand that the cruise I was paying for include the islands that we wanted to explore.
Let it go. Have faith. Trust the experienced skipper.
Fleetingly it occurred to me to see if he might be swayed, but I quickly decided that he knew the area. That I had hired a reputable group for their experience and prudent decision making.
I would not argue with him.
It took me about 30 minutes to process the changes and my disappointment.
Even now it’s a bizarre reality. I am so, so blessed to have taken a 6 night/7 day private sailing cruise with my teen son for his birthday. To have gone to a magical place that many will never get to see.
[To be super duper clear: I’m not complaining nor do I expect a shred of sympathy.
Oh, Bonnie only got to see some Greek Islands on her bucket list with her son. Boo. Hoo.]
I certainly can’t say that I regret our itinerary or what we saw.
The Greek Isles are magical, mystical, and beautiful!
If I don’t make it back to Greece, my life certainly doesn’t have a hole in it!
And yet, I went to knock off specific bucket list items. I planned and researched and emotionally invested in this particular trip.
And I didn’t get that exact trip.
For the most part, I’m very much at peace with the special trip that our fabulous skipper crafted for us.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that a small part of me feels like my dream is partially unfulfilled.
Nonetheless, in the end, I believe that providence or serendipity or the sailing gods smiled upon us by connecting us with Mr. Bertrand.
He had visited Texas and New Orleans in the States. And we had a mutual love of Paris, dragees from chocolatier Jeff de Bruges, and an appreciation for the more isolated pockets of the Cyclades.
We found commonalities and had mutual respect for one another.
Mr. Bertrand showed us way off the grid spots with no human inhabitants, emerging towns like Koufinissi, and more populated places like Amorgos.
He took us to islands that had more animals than people!
In the end, I think the itinerary Mr. Bertrand crafted was perfect for my son, who doesn’t respond well to crowds. There was a wonderful balance of being able to run around on Antiparos, explore Iraklia, and shop/dine in Paros.
I still hope to finish what I started in the Greek Isles by seeing Santorini, but I’ll go with different expectations and without my son.
(And I might forego Mykonos entirely because I was so fond of “Little Mykonos,” aka Koufonissi. I’m not sure that I need to experience the crowds of Mykonos and might prefer the quieter vibe of Koufinissi.)
Our seasoned skipper declared that I was one of the most adventurous Americans he had taken on a cruise. (I find that the French are pretty direct and not apt to sugarcoat things, so I knew he was sincere.)
He was impressed that I’d taken my son with me as a single mom. I was only the second mom who had done that on one of his charters over 15 years.
I must confess that that’s one of the best compliments I’ve ever received even if I feel unworthy of such high praise.
I mean, I’m an accountant for goodness sake! I’m not often called adventurous!
A surprising outcome of his proclamation and our trip, in general, was that I felt inspired to add to my bucket list travel destinations.
I had knocked Australia off my list, but it’s back on there. In fact, I’ve moved it near the top of my list. I truly do want to go there and feel reinvigorated to try to make that happen.
But the next bucket list item is taking my son on my favorite hike overlooking Lake Louise in Canada. I’m just young enough that I think I can make it and my son is just old enough that he should be able to handle it.
I haven’t done it since I was in my 30s. It’s such a cool hike. It starts at the bottom of the lake where a thousand well-dressed tourists outnumber everybody else.
The first stop on the hike drops to maybe 100 people.
The next stop is at the Lake Agnes tea house, only accessible by foot or horse. Around 40 or 50 people make it that far. Watch out for the brazen, industrious chipmunks known to steal your snacks right from your plates!
Finally, if you take the small path behind Lake Agnes and cut up the hill via the switchbacks, you can make it to Big Beehive. It’s an amazing view below to Lake Louise.
When I went all those years ago, there were 6 other people who made it that far! Plus the mountain goat that was chillin’ up there! (Mountain goats are REALLY big, for the record.)
The hike takes me about 7 hours round trip and the switchbacks are quite grueling. But I’ve been determined to go back at least once more.
Summer 2020, my friends!
When I wrote this story, I had no intention of turning it into a prompt. But when I woke up this morning, I realized it might make a fantastic one.
Please share what’s on your bucket list. Or what you’ve already knocked off your list. Or, like me, partially completed bucket list items!
Anyone is welcome to join in, but I’ll start by tagging: Vanessa Torre, Heath ዟ, Dick Millet, Michelle Jaqua, Jeff Barton, Iva Ursano, George J. Ziogas, Jessica Wildfire, Kyrie Gray, Rusty Alderson, Niki Marinis, and Jon Scott.
Until her 40’s, Bonnie’s worst nightmare included writing and sharing personal stories publicly. At her friends’ suggestion, she bemusedly started Bonnie’s Mixed Tape on Medium in 2017. She remains shocked that anyone reads her stories and that P.S. I Love You, the Writing Cooperative, and the Ascent have published her work.
She is moving to Mississippi in the coming months and is trying to embrace the fact that she has no idea what she’s getting herself into.
Thank you for reading this story
I know you are busy and have lots of ways you could be spending your time. You using your time to read my work means the world to me — my sincerest thanks!