When Mary Beth Got Her Groove Back

So I’m sure as you can tell by photos and posts, Greece was the most amazing trip of my life. I’ve done a lot of traveling but nothing compared to that trip. The timing was perfect, the culture was amazing and the number of weeks I was there was just right. So when I came home, I expected a rejuvenation that would make me sparkly, happy and ready to rock. I was wrong. I’ll explain how I quickly I realized I was not so happy to be home. I get off my flight in NY and grab my bags and walk outside to look for my ride. As soon as I walked outside I heard a man on his cell phone go, “No f*ck that man, f*ck you and your bullsh*t motherf*cker.” At that point I literally almost turned around and bought a ticket back to Greece.

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Getting thrown back into American culture and New York culture, nonetheless, was quite a shock. I had imagined that upon my return I would be so excited to share my stories and see my friends and family but I found myself pulling back from all of that when I returned home. I will say that getting Pixel back was by far the highlight of my first week home. That little nugget makes my heart happy. I really wasn’t prepared for what I now know as post-vacation-blues. I learned that this is a real thing by doing what anyone does these days when they want to learn about something, I googled it. Wikipedia says, “Post vacation blues may result in tiredness, loss of appetite, strong feelings of nostalgia, and in some cases depression. Jet Lag may intensify the post vacation blues.”

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I found myself not wanting to leave the house and not wanting to talk to anyone. I felt like every time I talked to someone and tried to explain how amazing the vacation was, I was taking away a small piece of what I experienced. Nothing I said was doing my experience justice and therefore I wanted to keep it to myself, keep it safe and keep it sacred. And I felt like a real jerk because I had all these wonderful people who wanted to see me and hear about this once in a lifetime experience and I didn’t want to share. I wanted to keep it all to myself in fear of losing it.

One night I found myself explaining my feelings to my friend Steve- – over text of course because I hadn’t left my house except to go to work for about a week. I explained to him this feeling and how I wanted to snap out of it. He said, “You don’t have to snap out of it, you have to carry Greece with you and carry the way you feel.” It made so much sense. It was so simple but it made so much sense. My time in Greece was never meant to be explained in one conversation or one blog post or one photo. It was something that would impact me for a lifetime and my job was to slowly allow myself to understand it and then like Steve said, carry it with me.

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Since then I slowly but surely came out of my funk. I started seeing more people, going out more and talking about my time. I knew that not every conversation could do Greece the justice it deserved but I also knew that it was an experience that didn’t necessarily need to be explained, it would be seen. I am finding new ways every day to put Greece in my life. I’ve already done three day trips to small towns in New England to remind myself that travel is a necessity in my life and it can be as simple as a two hour drive to discover a town I’ve never been to before. I’ve taken time out of my day to stop and lay down in the sun. I am doing things like reading and writing on an almost daily basis- things that normally I only save for vacations.

IMG_2907 *one of my day trips was to the Lizzie Borden house in MA. If you don’t know her, she killed her mom and dad and we toured the house where it happened!

IMG_2956 This is another day trip to Shelburne Falls in MA

So the fear that I would lose Greece has been just the opposite. Greece is becoming a part of me more and more every day. I have even found ways to bring it into my work. I’m seeing things in a different way and can feel myself photographing from a different perspective and it’s pretty amazing. So if I see you out and about and you ask me about my trip, know that I might not have the exact words to describe the incredible experience I had but I’m learning each day how to carry it with me.

IMG_2881* Reuniting with my nieces was probably my favorite reunion!

Todays Post is brought to you by the song that always puts me in a good mood 🙂

A Non-Travel Related Blog Post

So here it is, my very first personal-non-travel-related blog. For those of you that don’t know, I had originally intended to go to school for photography and when that didn’t work out (2 weeks prior to the first day of college!) I ended up at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing. I first realized how much I loved writing during my creative writing class in high school taught by Mrs. Corvino. For all you teachers out there don’t forget your impact on students. I give so much credit for what you do and there are probably so many students out there who never get the chance to tell you how you affected their life. In fact, I’m going to look up Mrs. Corvino and tell her!

So I’ve decided that I need to keep up with this writing thing and start a weekly blog. I don’t have an exact science as to what it will be about but you could probably ask anyone I know and they’ll tell you that I always have something to say. Like the description of the blog says, “If you ever heard a story about a friend whose friend had this crazy thing happen to them, that friend was probably me.”

This post is basically my announcement to the world that you’ll be seeing and hearing more of me and honestly, who doesn’t want that?! 🙂 Also, as much as I want these posts to have personal interest to me, I’d be intrigued to hear what you all would want to hear about. SOOOOOO… if you go back to Facebook after reading this, under this post please post A, B, C or D based on what you think would be most interesting for you to read.

A. My life as an entrepreneur, the events that surround the life of a photographer and running a small business

B. Stories about personal events such as love life, family, friends and general day-to-day adventures

C. A how-to blog about kicking ass, taking names and pursuing your passion in life with personal experience/stories to back up these inspiring posts

D. A combination of all of the above

While I’m speaking directly to my readers, I’ll say thank you! I can’t tell you how many people helped me realize that a personal blog would be a great addition to my creative lifestyle. I got these amazing texts, emails, and in-person comments about my writing. Thats a great thing to hear and I can’t tell you how much it meant to me that these people felt compelled to share their thoughts with me. In fact I had a complete stranger come up to me the other day in Essex and somehow she knew me but I did not know her. She explained that someone had shared one of my posts on their feed and that she was head over heels in love with my writing. Now thats a pretty killer compliment!

Don’t forget to go back to Facebook where you originally saw this post and underneath it type the letter associated with what you think would be most interesting to read about on a weekly basis. A-Life of photog, B-Personal stories, C-Inspiring/motivating ideas D-All of the above. Cheers to the future of this blog and the support that comes along with it!

Blog Post #7, All the Sh*t that happened in Greece

So by now after you’ve heard all the amazing and wonderful adventures I had on my trip, so aren’t you ready to hear all the crap that happened?! I figured it would be fun to tell the other side of the story! So lets go from once in-a-lifetime experiences to some crappy shit that happened while I was there 🙂

Here is a quick rundown:

  • After driving the ATV that day, I left it at the top of town, went to dinner and when I returned it wouldn’t start. The gas had been siphoned out of it, and I was literally stranded and had to hitch hike my way back to the hotel.
  • I forgot to pack my flip flops. I FORGOT to pack my flip flops.
  • I attempted a selfie with a selfie stick (I know, I know) and proceeded to drop my brand new iPhone 6+ which then cracked into about a million pieces on the third day I was there making it next to useless the rest of the trip.
  • My brand new phone case magnetically holds my phone in place and has a space on the opposing side for my credit cards. The upside is thats perfect because I hate carrying a purse. The downside? The magnetic strip of my credit cards was literally stripped which made them impossible to use. I was left with the small amount of euros I originally came with and a bunch of “broken,” credit cards that were useless.
  • The adapters I brought over to charge my electronics were for Italy, not Greece.
  • When I finally found an ATM that accepted the chip of my debit card, the machine ate it and refused to return it to me, leaving me with 2 broken cards instead of 3.
  • I overslept the morning of my flight. Like I don’t mean sort of overslept, they said they knocked on my door 4 times before I answered. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the numerous Jameson on the rocks I consumed the night before. I made it to the airport with about 15 minutes to spare.
  • I followed a road trip I found in a book with my car which was clearly outdated. The car and I ended up on a cliff with no way to do a 3 point turn which left me reversing for over a mile on a space about 5 feet wide. When I went to get help a donkey approached me and I ran back to my car. It followed me back and walked about an inch in front of it as I drove backwards — for the ENTIRE MILE, making it impossible for me to go forward even if I wanted to.

Now wait for it because you knew it was coming… all these things happened and guess what? Not only did it make the trip more interesting and yes even stressful at times but none of it impacted my health or overall happiness and here I am telling you about a story where a donkey basically hijacked my car because I went down the wrong road and he wasn’t having it! Who else can say that?!

I am home now and I have to say it was fun to reflect on these things. I think the people at home whom I spoke to while I was there and heard about these stories, were way more stressed than I ever was about any of it. A lot of people have said to me, “I can’t believe you went to Greece all on your own, I could never do that.” But here is the thing, you can! My motto is, whats the worst that can happen? And please, really think about that. Do you think that none of this stuff would have happened to me if someone else was with me? I mean maybe someone would have said to me, “Hey MB, maybe we shouldn’t go down this very narrow road that has a cliff on the side because we won’t be able to turn around or even worse, perhaps a donkey will be pissed we intruded on his space and try to back us out on his own!” Other than that, the rest would have happened and it would have all been part of the story and if our whole lives were perfect blogs about a Greece vacation, what would the fun be in that? You gotta live a little and let life test you. These little adventures only made me more confident in traveling in the future! So the next time you see someone doing something and you think, “I could never do that,” consider what the worst thing is that could happen. I mean I could not go get my morning tea today because I have a higher chance of dying on my way there than I do on my flight to Greece but what kind of life is that? Go out and live!

Another thing people said to me, “Oh my god, you are going to Greece? But they are in economic/political turmoil, are you crazy?” Guess what, Greece sure is in a really bad way today, but now more than ever, I am so happy to spend my hard earned money on a country that deserves it. The people, the places and things that I saw- I want them to be there for a LONG time, long enough for me to bring my own children there someday. So yes, they are dealing with political unrest within the country but they love their tourists and I can’t imagine a better group of people to take my money than the Greeks.

Thanks for keeping up with all of my adventures. If you missed any, you’ll see there are little arrows on the bottom of this page that will let you scroll through all the blogs. But for now, I’m signing off and leaving you with one last song. I listened to this song every single day on my trip and it will forever be associated with the best 3 weeks of my life, enjoy.

Click on the picture for the song.

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PS- I just got this update on George today!

“Mary!

George can walk normally now and he is enjoying his life at the farm. I have attached one more picture of him!

-Georgina”

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Greece, Blog Post #6, Holding out for a Hero

I walked into the reception area of the gorgeous hotel I was staying at, Dream Island Hotel (http://www.dreamislandhotel.gr). I had a question for the owner. While we were chatting I heard a tiny cry and she mentioned “baby,” and asked if I wanted to see. So of course I said yes and that is when I met George, the baby sheep.

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The owner of the hotel runs this gorgeous place and also owns a farm on the island. In her spare time she takes in any animals that need a little TLC. She recently acquired two baby sheep; one was at the farm and one was at the hotel. George was the hotel, he was two days old, as cute as a button and having trouble walking. They weren’t sure why he was like this but you could tell he hung on to every word the owner said, as if she were his real mom. He would follow her voice everywhere it went. George became a really big part of my trip to Santorini. I found myself habitually going into reception to check on him, see if he was eating and gaining weight. One day while I was there her daughter mentioned they need a new box for him because this one they had wasn’t cutting it.

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Here’s one thing about me you may or may not know. If I have something in mind that I need or want to do, I make it happen. It can be becoming an owner of a photography business or finding a brand new box for George. Both will happen with perseverance, time and patience and both will be worth it in the end 🙂

That day I rented a car to explore the island further. I’ll describe driving on these islands to you like I told my dad, “You know how in Ireland they have super tiny roads in the old towns and the only way to get by is for someone to pull over? Well it’s like that except no one pulls over. Both people go at full force and somehow make it out on the other side.” Driving here reminds me of the scene from Footloose when Kevin Bacon and that other dude get on tractors and “Holding out for a Hero,” by Bonnie Tyler is playing in the background. That song played as my own background music in my head every time another car was coming towards me in the other direction. Thanks to that this post is brought to you by,

The good news is that neither me nor any Grecian ended up in a dirty river. Not that I know of…

So the journey, although tense at times, was awesome. I came across so many places that you wouldn’t normally see and tons of places the normal “tours,” would miss. I like have my own means of transportation so that I can stop and go as I please. By mistake I came across this beach with black sand. It had some sort of bar that had been closed down for quite some time. There, I found a moment of reflection when thinking of all the horrible, drunken decisions people probably made in this very space and while I was imaging those scenarios I found an old crate. BOOM! George- young 20-somethings and their tainted ways led me to your new little home.

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My days in Santorini were up but leaving George was the hardest part. The hotel lady, Georgina even told me they named his sister after me- Mary. Did you hear that? Mary and George- just like my own aunt and uncle 🙂 She also promised to send me updates on him. I think part of why he hit home with me so much is because they told me the reason the vet thought he wasn’t walking was because of a muscle disorder and of course I thought of my Bella. I saw the same strength in his eyes that I constantly see in her and I will be sure to update you all when I hear from them. If he follows Bella’s footsteps, even just one, he’ll be A-Ok.

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Greece Blog Post #5 Teenage Dirtbag

So the evening on the Catamaran boat I met 2 other travelers around my age. They were a couple— him being from Australia and her being from England but they both live in England now. In fact they are getting married in July and I’ve now been invited to their wedding! We immediately clicked on the boat because we were the only English speaking folks other than the employees of the boat. I will tell you that for someone who has a strong extroverted personality, traveling alone can be tough because part of how I gain and receive energy is simply talking to others. FaceTime has been great for this but nothing beats shooting the shit with some strangers who are also being immersed into a foreign culture at the same time you are.

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These two were awesome and they were staying in a place out 15 minutes away from me but asked if it would be ok to come to my town and hang for the night. I was all about it and now it had been 3 days so of course I was a local and knew all the great places to take them to 🙂 One of the places I took them to was Two Brothers Bar. The cool thing I’ve noticed in Greece is that they have legit bars. They serve no food. Their sole purpose is to serve alcohol. Given that it was an all you can eat/drink on the boat the three of us had a good buzz going on. It was the first time the whole vacation I got, what I would consider drunk. I don’t generally like drinking too much in another country, it affects me differently and I always have a strong need to be “on.” But with these guys, I let that go and had such a fun night!

Two Brothers Bar

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This bar is so cool. When one of the bartenders asked me how I found them I said, “Oh in my travel book on Greece,” and he goes to his coworker- “Did you hear that? We’re in a book,” (cue the less than impressed tone which actually was refreshing to me). When I asked how late they were open they said 4 or 5 am every night or “until we stop partying.”

The bartenders killer tattoo!

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One of the things I’ve truly learned to love about Greece is that there are some rules, but most rules are adjusted according to the day, the attitude, the weather or the stars. They drive in the breakdown lane when there’s traffic, they drink a little too much, they stay open when there’s business and close when there isn’t, there are dogs and cats everywhere including restaurants, pedestrian crosswalks have no real purpose- people stop or they don’t, they have ferries/fights on some days and some days they don’t and they sort of do whatever the fuck they want — all while respecting their neighbor which seems to come natural to them. Can you imagine any of this in the US? Oh the horror! In America if you are at a bar all of this will be the opposite. Everyone is forced out at the same time of night (all while making sure they get all the their last, unnecessary, call in) and you, and everyone else who is drunk goes out on the road at the time in hopes of 1. Not killing anyone and 2. Not getting a DUI. How about you make your own rules and try not to kill anyone that way?

Maybe we would all be happier and want to be better people if this was our view every night 😉

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I’ve never been good at following the rules and as long as I can remember I’ve been asking why. I’ve been questioning the man and his whole goddamn family because if something doesn’t make sense to me I’m going to find out why it is that way. I’m finding that the way of life here is so much more refreshing when it comes to laws and rules. Imagine living in a place with fewer rules and more just straight up good people. Greece is one of the safest places on earth and that proves the point I’ve been trying to make all along, live and let live.

Now that my angry teenage years rant is over, I’ll continue with our night. We went to a few places and found that we were old. A few bars had Contiki tourist in them and that made me laugh because when I was in my early 20’s I did the whole Contiki thing and I thought I was old then. For those of you not familiar,  Contiki tours run all around the world and are geared towards young 20 somethings but giving them a killer experience of traveling all while taking out the headache of room, board and transportation. I still remember those days like they were yesterday. I went all across Europe and it was absolutely awesome.

Anyway after we realized we were old we went our separate ways to go home before the normal 4 or 5 am train came to a stop. All in all it was a fantastic day. The catamaran experience (see previous blog), plus a night out with new friends in a reckless city that was anything but- made for one of the best days of my life!

 

Everything teen related brings me back to this song, so teenage anger here is your shoutout. Post brought to you by:

Greece- Blog Post #4, Sharing Secrets With Strangers

Santorini is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. Mind you, I’ve seen quite a lot of places. Greece is the 24th country I’ve traveled solo to. Greece in general is so beautiful but the beauty I saw in Santorini couldn’t be captured in a photo, an Instagram pic or anything I could post here that would do it any sort of justice. I’ll tell you that you need to find your way to Santorini and do it now because waiting is for those who don’t do.

So Santorini is like Mykonos with its white washed walls and roads and each corner similar to the one before. So my first night, as uncomfortable as I felt at first— I ventured into the city. OF COURSE as I am walking I see a wedding taking place. I thought to myself that this might be the most gorgeous place on earth to get married and then positioned myself in a photo bomb with them.

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Not only did I find a wedding but I found the local Irish pub and got myself a pint. That was a great idea. The next day was Sunday and I woke up and took in my surroundings. I found myself with my feet in the pool, sipping on a cup of tea and trying to remember that last time I felt this relaxed. I couldn’t remember. Relaxation lately has been a faint memory so I breathed it in, deeply and exhaled the combustion I felt inside me. And then I napped on a sun chair…for two hours.

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That night I went to see the famous Santorini sunset. This sunset has been written about in every Greek tourism book I read. I wondered if it could live up to its name. Well, it did… and then some. I sat and watched this sunset and felt like I was in a different world. How could this sun be the same sun that rarely ever gives me these brilliant colors when I am home? Maybe on a September night you could catch a glimpse of the range of pinks, purples and oranges I saw but what a rip off. Only a few days of one month a year do I get to see this? Greece, you win.

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Monday I decided to take an excursion on a Catamaran boat. There were the normal tours but this one seemed to have more character and it offered a more personal experience. I’ve noticed no matter what experience I have, it’s only as rich as I make it. I always try to speak to the people giving me the experience to understand their background, how they got here and how they feel rather than be caught up in experiencing things as a solo tourist. At each restaurant, bar, shop, hotel and well…catamaran tour I’ve made a commitment to talk to the host.

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The crew and myself 🙂 And they let me drive the boat!

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During dinner on the boat I noticed one of the crew members sitting in the front and I asked if it would be ok to sit with her (given this was probably her “break time.”) She said “of course!” To make a long story short the two of us sat there for about 20 minutes and in that time period we both shared a personal story of what brought us to where we are today. She explained her background, the life her father had to endure for her to be where she was and the loss of her Grandmother in the recent weeks who was her last connection to her family history.  I was astonished by her story and felt comfortable to answer her question when she asked me, “What’s the REAL reason you came to Greece?”  This was a hard question to answer. To be very honest, the last month has been one of the hardest of my life for some personal reasons and although the trip was booked back in December, it couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I told her the details of some serious shit that went down and how there were things I was learning I needed to let go of, there were things that I had to come to terms with and there were things I needed to be reminded of.

While we were talking I hadn’t realized that we had made our way almost into a cave and then she turned to me and said, “wait for it.” I wasn’t sure what she meant but I trusted her as she kept repeating it. And then, in 3, 2, 1, as if I had never seen one in my whole life, the most gorgeous sunset popped through the side of the cave and then onto our boat. She turned to me and said “Give the sunset your worries. Leave them with her.” And, I did just that. Another huge breath of relief was exhaled as it was the day before. This time though a physical feeling of weight was being dropped into the ocean. This was only day 3 of Santorini and already I knew it was my happy place.

The view of 3, 2, 1….

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She made me pose for this photo and I’m glad she did 🙂

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This post was brought to you by this song for sure:

Greece- Blog Post #3, Kung Fu Fighting

I wasn’t sure about even going to Mykonos because all I had heard was that it was a party island. People partied till the sun came up and although I do like an occasional night out, my nights of clubbing and staying out till dawn are resting in peace with my twenties. But I am so glad I decided to go to Mykonos. The hotel was so fabulous and the last day I was there I saw a little girl (maybe 1.5 years old) with the same big, Grecian toothy grin as the man who had helped me all week had. I asked if it was his daughter and her said it was his niece. So there was his mom, his sister, his niece – all of them living this one life. When I asked him where I should stay in Santorini, he replied that he wasn’t sure because he had never been there. IMAGINE THAT?! Santorini is 20 miles from Mykonos. He explained that he’s never had a chance to go in the summer time because the hotel is their life, and in the winter there aren’t boat rides so you have to fly. And a flight during that time is so rare and expensive that he said it would be easier to fly to New York City. It was just another moment on this trip that I felt SO thankful to have the ability to travel as much as I do and to be able to see this gorgeous country.IMG_1879

This is a photo of my hotel at night that doesn’t even do it justice!

 

After some talk with the locals, it sounded like Santorini would be the next logical move for me. It was another great island with lots going on even in the off season. Right now is considered the off season for Greece but it seems to be opening up its sleepy eyes after a long winter and starting to let the light in. It’s slow enough to see the culture and fast enough to keep yourself busy. Peak season is in the summer and from what I’ve heard its hot, crowded and very pricey.

To get to Santorini, I took a ferry and fought for my life trying to store my luggage on the bottom of the boat against about 347 Asians. I literally turned around in a sea of people shorter than me (imagine that) and said, “What the fuck?!” And the expression wasn’t to be rude, I literally had no fucking idea why people were swarming around me, my luggage and the bottom of this boat since we were all going to the same place anyway.

IMG_1884 Me before I boarded the ferry. Little did I know it would be a battle of the bags in just a few moments.

I noticed here that I am totally racist. Not like in the traditional sense of the word; it’s more like I try to figure out where people are from before they speak and their accent gives it away. So I judge them based on their clothes, shoes, what they are eating or drinking and how many selfies they take (cue exact definition of being a racist, oh well). Once they speak and I hear their accent the game is over and I’m just about always right! (Ah, the ways of entertaining oneself while traveling solo). I will say there are a ton of Asian tourists here, – like a ton! Also I can’t imagine being a photographer in Asia. I don’t want to hear one more American photographer complain about everyone having a camera and starting a business. These folks have the big boy cameras, like cameras as nice as mine and it seems as though they’ve been photographing since they came out the womb. On the other hand I can probably count on both hands the amount of times I have heard an American accent. I have been doing detective work though and figuring out the Aussies from the UKs or the Irish folk. A lot of European people as well.

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The beautiful port in Mykonos where I got the ferry to Santorini

When I arrived in Santorini, it almost felt like I was out of place. In the few short days I was in Mykonos, I had gotten to know some of the restaurant managers, the one town druggie who was always high, where the dogs hung out, where the good drinks where and how to get around. So just went I got comfortable it was time to move. My first night in Santorini was a bit uncomfortable because it was much larger than Mykonos, and the family hotel I was staying at was quieter and I felt a bit out of place. But as you’ll see in the upcoming blog, not only was Santorini a place I found myself comfortable in, it would become a place that I truly feel in love with. Stay tuned….

 

Todays Blog Post is brought to you by this song, as I will forever associate it with my ferry ride.

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