“Do we get mats?” I asked.
“This is real yoga. No mats.”
Determined to do “real yoga,” I followed his instructions.
“The floor’s a little cold,” Sholeh said.
“You will become warm,” our teacher told us. He went over to turn off the air conditioner and opened the window. The brackish, humid air pushed into the dining hall yoga studio.
Our instructor then came back over and kneeled down on the floor between us and yanked on my leg. “I must pull your leg this way,” he told me, “to stretch it.”
“What about the asanas?” I asked. “Don’t we do the poses ourselves?”
“Don’t you want to do Indian yoga?” He left me and edged over to Sholeh. He sat down cross-legged next to her, rubbing her arm.
“It just seems strange,” I said. “It’s not like home. Not even a little bit.”
“Have you done yoga in India before?” he asked.
DURING MY THREE MONTHS in Greece, I returned to Athens time and time again. I am not a big city girl, but there’s something about Europe’s oldest city that hooked me like a fish. It’s real. It’s gritty. It’s honest. It’s no Eiffel Tower beaming its romanticisms across a Paris landscape, muting poverty and pollution. In Athens, what you see is what you get.
Most of the time, every traveler I met was spending a brief night or two in Athens before moving on to the islands. I love the Greek Islands, but comparing Athens to the islands is like comparing apples to oranges, or cats to penguins. It just doesn’t make sense.
I spent many evenings at AthenStyle, a wonderful hostel with a rooftop bar overlooking the Acropolis. I befriended the two workers there, Anna and Steve, and stuck to them like glue. For Easter we had a lamb roast and a party, and I confessed my unwavering fascination with the birthplace of democracy.
“I’m going to miss this place too,” Steve said. “I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a bum shitting in the alley on my way to work.”
There are at least a dozen different ways to view the Acropolis.
On my first day in Athens, I hired a private guide through Athens Insiders. Essentially I was paying someone to be my friend. They ended up showing me a few spots I would never have discovered.
It actually took me a few tries to visit the Acropolis. On the first day, my guide took me to Pnyx Hill, where the democratic assembly took place, and where I had an uninterrupted view of the Parthenon. A similar view is available at Philopappos Hill. The road between these viewpoints is paved in stone and ancient pottery, and you’re not likely to find big crowds.
Just the same, it’s worth it to battle the crowds at the Acropolis and to see the Parthenon up close. It’s the most important structure from the ancient world, after all.
The locals take their free spaces seriously.
Being the birthplace of democracy and all, Athenians are not afraid to fight for their rights. One of those ongoing battles is for green space within the city. One of the best spots is Navarinou Park, a former car park turned into a neighborhood garden where locals come to socialize and relax. Sometimes it’s used for political and cultural protests, but they’re always peaceful. You’ll see all odds and sods of characters in this park.
The same goes for Nosotros, a free social space in Exarcheia where the youth come to discuss politics or to participate in seminars on literature, theater, painting, music, dance, and more. You can take free Greek lessons here, and during the summer there’s a cinema on the rooftop terrace. When I was here, a rock show was setting up. Admission? Free.
You need to embrace Exarcheia and all its weirdness.
The Exarcheia district is my absolute favorite in Athens. We didn’t get off to a good start, though. My friend Matt and I were exploring one evening when a bus pulled up and dozens of police started filing off, looking like they were prepped for warfare. I texted my Athenian friend, Theo, in a panic.
WHAT IS HAPPENING DOWN HERE?! Police everywhere.
Police? They’re always there. Relax.
It’s just one of those places that come across as intimidating at first glance: a graffiti-ridden neighborhood chock full of punk-ish looking students, cafes, and street buskers. Matt and I eventually settled down at a hookah bar and smoked shisha well into the evening. Our server was a Syrian immigrant who made fun of us for how we prepared the shisha. The table next to us was filled with Greeks sipping frappes, while a few loners scattered here and there read books in the waning light. Sometimes the younger folks gather in Exarcheia Square and drink and swap stories.
If you want a quieter spot, go to Floral Café on the square. It’s equal parts bar and study space, with some fine, cheap food.
#MatadorU student @awattykins12 took a 28-mile ebike ride through San Francisco this weekend. This was the view halfway through. Have you ever ridden an ebike? #travelstoke!
#sanfrancisco #travel #view #california #goldengatebridge #clouds #water #blue
YACHTIE: pronounced [yot-tee]
1. Roses delivered by helicopter to the boss’s mistress doesn’t shock you at all.
2. Your family and friends still think you work on a cruise ship.
When you try to explain what you do to those around you, it’s always the same response. “It’s like a cruise ship, right?” Um, no. By this point, though, it’s simpler to just shrug it off and accept the loss of veracity.
3. You see fingerprints everywhere.
The owners of these yachts seem to have panic attacks when they see their multi-million-dollar babies contaminated, and now you are meticulously trained to spot smudges, footprints, dust, or any kind of imperfection from across the room or on deck. Nowadays, even on dry land all you see is dusty corners you’re desperate to take a Q-Tip to.
4. You have an “owner.”
You work, live, and play aboard the same vessel that your boss does, and the extremely wealthy man or woman you work for is casually called “your owner” in conversation. To some people outside the industry, this may sound like slave labor. Yachties who work for tyrants won’t disagree.
5. You refer to the ‘day head’ or ‘galley’ in a home.
When you tell a friend to step into the port side aft door of your car, you know you’ve been in yachting for too long.
6. Tea time is the happiest time of the day.
You work long brutal hours, your back hurts, and your mind is spun out from polishing stainless steel or silver all day. But at precisely 10am and 3pm, you put your sponges, microfibers, and shammies down and enjoy a delicious 15 minutes in the crew mess. This is the closest you’ll get to bliss all day.
7. You speak the language of jandals, flip-flops, pluggers, sandals, and thongs.
You work, live, and play with an international crew of South Africans, Australians, Brits, Kiwis, and Americans, and soon enough you start speaking their language. You start calling each other “mate” or “buddy,” and no one is offended when someone says, “Put on some thongs” or, “I’m going out on the piss.”
8. You’re maxed out on South Africans (Saffers).
Right now, the industry is dominated by hordes of Saffers. They’re lurking under every marina dock, local bar, and crew mess. You love your South African friends, but there are only so many times you can handle your BBQs being renamed braiis, so many conversations you can end with “lekker bru,” and so many occasions you can hear about the best methods of making biltong.
9. Climbing onto a boat intoxicated becomes a cherished skill.
The few nights you have off, you and your crew decide to hit up the town. Your greatest learned skill kicks in when you have to jump onto the withdrawn foot-wide walkway with a single rope rail to guide you safely onto the vessel. This brings me to my next point…
10. Your alcohol tolerance is godly.
Your work-hard, play-hard mentality lives up to the expectations of your pirating ancestors, allowing you to consume incredibly large amounts of alcohol. If there’s a pub in a 20-mile radius, you can find it. It isn’t uncommon to hear about blowing $5,000 in one weekend after a nice charter tip, nor is the statistic of 100 liters of vodka being consumed in five days startling.
11. You buy expensive things you never use.
Your wallet has been hidden away for months, and when you step onto land again, it’s time to splurge. You probably have a storage unit halfway across the world filled with fine things inherited from refit periods: surfboards and paddle boards you could put the finances but not the time into, and probably all of your clothes that you never wear considering you live in polos and khakis.
12. An inflatable water slide off the back of your boat is the bane of your existence.
You know you’ve been a yachtie for too long when this innocent, childish symbol becomes a back-bending, loathsome chore that takes your whole deck crew four hours to set up for a rich kid to play on for about five minutes before getting bored.
Whoa, amazing shot of the Hohokam Petroglyphs in Arizona’s Saguaro National Park. Photo by #MatadorN reader @mbfnzz. Thanks for tagging #travelstoke!
#rainbow #petroglyphs #arizona #saguaronationalpark #clouds #storm #color
A famous white whale appeared off the coast of Australia last month, and notably did not terrorize any monomaniacal sea captains before biting off their legs and sinking their ships. Because yes, world, there is more than one famous white whale.
Migaloo, unlike Herman Melville’s famous Moby-Dick, is not a dick, and is generally thought of as a relatively friendly cetacean. Migaloo is Aboriginal Australian for “white fella,” and is one of the world’s only known albino humpback whales.
#MatadorU student @hungontheworld enjoying the San Francisco view from Twin Peaks. #travelstoke!
#matadorn #travel #california #sanfrancisco #twinpeaks
Women are getting totally wild these days. Some of them are making their own plans, cavorting about sans chaperone (clutch your pearls!), and generally holding it together. Here are some topics to avoid if you want to keep the crazy traveling ladies in your life happy.
Talk about all the romantic action we’ll be missing on the road.
Yes, sorry I missed an awkward blind date at Applebee’s with your coworker’s socially challenged nephew — I was too busy enjoying a sunrise guitar jam session on the steps of the British Museum with my hot piece of the moment, Claude (terrible name on a great everything else). Claude was from Australia, worked in the London hostel where I was staying, and wanted to be a pilot; I was living in Germany and used to fly trick planes with one of my professors. That instant connection, fueled by the intersection of interesting life experiences and washed down with several pints, made for a much better time than your average Match.com date.
The dating downsides of traveling are more than balanced by their upsides: You broaden the types of people you encounter, meet interesting fellow adventurers, and develop your own independent personality, all of which make for a more fulfilling relationship in the long run. And if you meet the love of your life, you’ll figure it out.
Assume we don’t have friends.
Traveling with a friend or romantic partner can be an awesome and relationship-solidifying experience, but traveling alone is rewarding in different ways. Mainly:
#1: You can do whatever the fuck you want. If you feel like speed walking a 15-mile self-designed tour of Berlin, you can do it without your boyfriend sulking and dragging his feet. If you decide the next day that you’re going to sleep in until 2pm, go for it — no one’s there to judge you. When your fellow hostel tenants invite you out for a beer, you can say “yes” or “no” based on what you want to do without consulting your friend who just got dumped and wants to have “girl time” tonight so she can endlessly bitch about how “Jason never cleaned the bathroom but she misses him soooo muuuuch.”
#2: You also have complete responsibility for taking care of your own shit. If you’re on a train to Cologne that gets rerouted midway and you wind up getting unceremoniously dumped on a platform in Frankfurt at 11pm, you need to figure out how to get your ass to Cologne. If you get arrested in Prague because you didn’t pay your subway fare, tough titties. You have to make decisions in an unfamiliar place, and you need to learn how to adapt without the assistance of others. This is an invaluable life skill.
Tell us we need to find a man to travel with.
From my experience in the US, women implicitly aren’t trusted as decision-makers and leaders. We still haven’t had a female president, and over 95% of Fortune 500 CEOs are men. We are infantilized, raised to be people-pleasers who defer to parents, boyfriends, and husbands for the final say in many things.
I guess it’s not that surprising that this attitude also permeates the stereotype of a woman traveling on her own — she might break a nail and subsequently melt down in the big, terrifying world. We all need to get over this and start trusting women to handle themselves.
Treat us like “accidents” (read: rapes, murders) waiting to happen.
This is fucked on so many levels.
First, there’s the victim blaming, which applies to sexual assault anywhere. When a guy gets robbed at gunpoint, how often does he hear, “Well what did you expect, running around flashing that fancy watch? Everyone knows you give money away all the time, so what’s the difference? I bet you even enjoyed it a little. And why were you out so late by yourself? Were you drunk?” The idea that women should never leave home alone or need to wear the equivalent of a full-body sweater to make sure not to offend anyone places responsibility on the wrong shoulders. Rape is not a natural disaster — it’s a crime perpetrated by human beings who should be held responsible for their behavior.
Second, your sweet lecture about our destination’s myriad dangers is also some patronizing bullshit. I’ve been planning this trip for months, but I’m sure someone who’s never been within 500 miles of this country knows all about it, right? Because ladies are ditzy, defenseless airheads who can’t make coherent plans.
Finally, this idea that wherever we’re coming from is some pristine beacon of safety is also nonsense. The world is a dangerous place in general, and women are aware of this. We do appreciate your concern, but please trust that we’re reasonable adults and will take appropriate measures to minimize our risks.