Posted: 7/12/21 | July 12th, 2021
I was scared. As I packed my bags, all these worries darted through my mind: Would travel be just as fun and carefree as it was pre-COVID? Would people still be hosteling? What would that vibe be like? Would I even remember how to travel?
But, as the world got back into traveling — as I got back into traveling — would it be so different I wouldn’t recognize the experience?
And what about Greece itself? How different would it be after so long, not only because of the boom in influencer-driven selfies from the islands but also a year without tourism?
Before every trip, my scared inner self worries about all the things that could go wrong. It screams my lingering fears and anxieties about, well, everything. I don’t let these fears stop me from traveling, but, even after all these years on the road, the old me is still there in the back of my mind, fretting about everything.
It turns out travel is just like riding a bike. As soon as I touched down in the Athens airport, my brain went on autopilot and, before I knew it, I was reading a book on the subway into town as if I had done it a million times before.
Because I had. Subways work essentially the same everywhere in the world.
And all those worries? They were for nothing. Traveling in the age of COVID just means more paperwork and a mask now and then. Before my flight, I had to show my vaccination card and proof I had filled out Greece’s health screening form, as well as answer a barrage of additional questions. Masks were required on the plane, and there were document checks when you landed. And there are health forms to be filled out before taking any ferries.
But beyond that, everything else is (mostly) the same. Traveling through Greece right now, you don’t see many people wearing masks. It’s too hot, and most people (at least on the islands) are vaccinated. Servers, bus drivers, some hotel staff, and taxi drivers wear them about 50% of the time. If you go into a museum or public building, you are required to wear them but it’s not common to see people in public walking around with masks.
Greece is as magical as I remember it. It’s still the land of blazing suns, picturesque landscapes, olive groves, azure water that beckons to you, jovial locals who talk with such rapidity and vigor that you think Greeks only communicate by yelling, refreshing wines, and out-of-this-world food with a variety that never seems to end. (And, ten years later, Greece is still incredibly affordable.*)
Naxos, my favorite island in the Cyclades, is still as quiet as it has always been, but there are more shops, beach bars, and boutique hotels catering to a richer clientele. Thankfully, the island is so big that it’s easy for people to spread out; there’s hardly ever a crowd.
Santorini is way more developed, with more boutique hotels, fancy eateries, and bougie wineries. And the prices and crowds are just as crazy as I remember them to be (though not as much as Mykonos). As I said on my Instagram, I’m not a huge fan of this island. There are just too many people concentrated in a space that can’t accommodate them.
But the crowds that descend on the island are still fairly muted compared to pre-COVID standards. There are fewer cruise ships each day and not as many regular travelers. If I’m finding it crowded now, I can’t even begin to imagine how crowded it must have been pre-COVID.
And the hostel scene I was so worried about? Well, all over Greece, it’s still raging. Hostels are still the bustle of energy they used to be. Sure, they aren’t as crowded as before but I can say that hostel life has not been destroyed by COVID. While some hostels are limiting the number of people in dorms, hostels have been fairly crowded with plenty of backpackers looking to meet other travelers.
Overall, I don’t feel like Greece has changed that much. Sure, credit cards are widely accepted now, prices are a bit higher, and there’s more luxury stuff for tourists, but its essence hasn’t changed. It’s still got the same character.
(And Crete? Wow. What an incredible place. I am glad I finally made it here. But more on that later in a longer post just about this island.)
Being back in Greece has reminded me of the joy of travel. Sitting on the water’s edge, diving into a fish with a glass of white wine, I felt just so dang happy. I was feeding my body, but more importantly, I was feeding my soul. Greece has been the antidote to the malaise I’ve felt since the pandemic began.
That year-plus of drifting denied me my passion in life: travel. What does one do when they can’t do what they love anymore? It wasn’t like I had decided to retire. I was forced to take a break.
Now, I am back at it and already have found that there is simply not enough time to do everything I want to. My month in Greece looks like it will turn into five weeks, and as I stare at a map of Europe and think, “Where to next?” my mind creates a million itineraries and possibilities.
But that is a Future Matt problem. Present Matt has noticed that it’s dinnertime here in Crete, and as the sun sets, another seaside restaurant in Chania, with its freshly caught fish and chilled glass of white wine, is calling me.
And that’s a call I simply can’t resist.
*Note: I’ll have a post on costs soon.
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Book Your Trip to Greece: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite places to stay are:
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
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