God, I love being near water. I grew up in Lake Geneva, I go to school with Lake Michigan a couple blocks east, and now I am living in Kansas, a state with zero natural lakes. My current situation has made me think back to my time in Santorini when I could barely go an hour — a minute, really — without being reminded of how much water was around me.
Our schedule for most of our days: wake up, eat breakfast, drive to a beach, sit on said beach for several hours, drive back to hostel and shower off the sand, lay out by the hostel pool.
Yes, I was living the life.
My favorite beach was probably Kamara because it’s a little less tourist-y and has tiki huts you can rent. We opted out of that one because how does shade help us become bronzed Greek goddesses. Spoiler: we really didn’t get that tan.
We also hit up the Red Beach, named for the color of its surrounding rocks. Santorini’s beaches are all different from one another because of a volcanic eruption a while back.
We signed up to take a boat tour to this volcano, which is located on the island of Thira and used to be attached to Santorini, but the eruption separated them. The volcano is still active today and we hiked around it for a while before boarding our pirate-esque ship. The bay of Thira had the greenest water I’ve ever seen.
On the way back to Santorini, our tour guide promised us a stop at some natural hot springs. We were all imagining the captain to dock the boat and then we’d get off on an island and dip our feet into little pools. But then the guide announced that it was time to strip into our bathing suits, jump off the boat and swim to the springs.
Apparently, the boat was too wide to fit through this channel, so we had to swim from the boat and through the channel to get to the springs. We were a bit surprised, but decided it was something we had to do since on none of our beach days did any of us do more than dip our toes into the ocean to cool off. Even when I visited Barcelona and the Amalfi Coast, I barely walked in up to my knees.
A week on a Mediterranean island…we owed it to ourselves to swim in the sea at least once. Carpe diem. Many other people were jumping right in — one guy flipped off the boat’s railing and into the sea — but I climbed down the ladder like the Nervous Nelly that I am.
The water was freezing at first, but as I acclimated, I found it to be refreshing after spending most of the day sizzling in the sun. The sea was so salty, and even though I didn’t completely submerge myself, my hair was feeling the impact of all that salt. Read: it was wild.
The springs themselves were pockets of warmth. I kept thinking I was swimming in a spot where someone had peed because the springs were about that temperature, but the sulfur-y smell and orange spongy chunks floating up to the surface reminded me I was not. The coolest sensation was standing on this spongy like sand in the spring. I felt like one of those jellyfish in Spongebob Squarepants bouncing along the ocean floor.
Swimming through the channel to the springs
When we were standing in the springs, I said, “I wish someone would have taken our picture.”
They all nodded in agreement as it was all of our first time’s swimming in the Med Sea.
Then Emily said, “But some of my best memories of study abroad were the ones I didn’t take photos of.”
That couldn’t be more true. All of the undocumented moments where in the back of my head, I was screaming REMEMBER THIS, those were the experiences I valued the most. Laughing at the Moroccan herbalist’s shop as we loaded up our bags…eating macarons with my aunt in our Parisian apartment…making faces at Alexis in Italian class whenever our professor did something so predictable…sipping prosecco on Gianicolo Hill as the sun set…floating in the Mediterranean Sea.
God, I’m writing it out now and I realize how privileged I am to have had all of these experiences. I remember feeling so sad in that last month for all of it to come to an end, but on this cruise — my last day in Greece on my last trip of study abroad — I realized I shouldn’t be sad. I should really just be grateful.
I am so thankful for the week we had on this island. It wasn’t the trip I imagined in my head and I learned that no destination is perfect. There will always be something that goes wrong. People will get the stomach virus and shit for two days straight. Or the car doesn’t work as well as you’d like. Or there’s mobs of tourists messing up your postcard-worthy shot.
But trips aren’t supposed to be perfect. That’s boring. The best trips are the ones where you accumulate moments.
I’ll remember hearing the Greek language and thinking it sounds like Russians speaking Italian. I’ll remember feeling like so many things about this island are familiar and reminiscent of my hometown yet also so foreign. I’ll remember wanting my days in Santorini, this little slice of heaven, to never end because it was one of the few times in my life where I didn’t have work or school or anything to stress about and I wondered when — and if — I’d ever have that again. I’ll remember seeing only blue and white for ten days straight and thinking I was finally living in my desired color scheme. I’ll remember the taste of the salty saganaki cheese and lemon juice dribbling down my chin. And — even without a photo — I’ll remember swimming in the Mediterranean Sea.