From Sunbathing to Snow, I’m Coming Home

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And the trip home begins. This will most likely be my last blog post for everyone out there to read, as when I get back I will expect face to face conversations instead of communication via The internet. (Kids these days) I have noticed this trip that being overtired makes me extremely emotional. So be prepared for tons of tears upon arrival. I write this just before heading to the port to begin my 36 hours of travel: 6 hour ferry, 14 hours on planes, and about 5 hours in a vehicle, not to mention passing through 9 time zones….

Speaking of tears, I don’t know if it’s the magnificent views of Santorini, or if I’m just getting emotional about this being the end, but man I’ve been a baby for the last two days. Probably a combination of them both because Santorini is just so majestic! I love it. Unfortunately I made the mistake of staying on the side of the island that is a beach…. But it’s still low season and there’s no one here and it’s windier than Lethbridge in summer. That being said, I dragged myself out of bed at 5:30 yesterday to watch the sun rise over the ocean. It was very beautiful and I don’t regret losing some sleep over it, however it was so cold I had to wear layers… And socks and sandals (not okay). After I got ready, I took the bus to Fira, the main town on the island. When you are at the middle point on the island you can see water on all sides and it is quite the feeling when you realize just how small the island is. I could probably run from one side to the other. Fira changed my disappointment into amazement. The town is perfect. White houses all up the coast, it was a combination on Mykonos and Cinque Terre. With little shops everywhere, and the fact I had saved all my ‘tourist shopping’ until now, I went to it. I had a great lunch of stuffed eggplant, and a terrible coffee which tasted like it had sand in it… They call this Greek coffee apparently. After I found out the museum I wanted to check out was closed, I took the bus to Ia (Oia). This is the town famous for the white houses (it just auto corrected that to White House…. No) with blue roofs. Also, for all my fellow Travelling Pants fans out there, this is the town they used in the first and second Travelling Pants movies. In my desire to make my life the same as the movie, I went in search of the place they jumped off the cliff into the water. Sadly, I didn’t find it, but I did do my own rock climbing and got to a place it was obvious few had been (thing I don’t tell my mother). It was secluded and right on the tip of the coast. Beautiful. Upon realization that I think I have a fear of donkeys, I did not ride the donkey up the hill again and check that off my bucket list, but rather walked…. I lived in Italy which has the worst stairs ever, and even I thought these stairs were death. I walked and walked until sunset, which is suppose to be the best thing to do in Ia (Oia). (If you haven’t realized yet, I am obsessed with sunsets and sun rises, but due to my inability to wake up that early most days, I usually stick to the sunsets). I felt like a princess all day, as I still had money left over (hooray!) so I was able to treat myself to some nice food on my last full day. 20140430-224404.jpg

The Greek Islands are stunning at worst, and if I am ever rich one day, I am going to rent an apartment in Ia that overlooks the ocean and the sunset, and has an infinity pool, because that’d be insane. Something I do wonder though, is if Greek people ever feel like they just want to get crazy and paint their house, I dunno… Grey? Ah! Crazy. Before catching my bus to the port I got to enjoy some sun on the beach where they brought me the best lunch of Greek salad and a dinner of homemade tzatziki and stuffed eggplant. The hostel even let me hang out here and use all their services for free until I leave at midnight. People here are wonderful.

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You know, I’ve travelled alone for four months now, but even when I was the only person in a room, I wasn’t really alone. Guess who was with me, always, just hanging out? Irene! And she came to Greece with me too! What a party animal that gal is, I tell ya. Grandma I can’t wait to see you and to show you all the places you have been with me. You have been a conversation starter and an inspiration. Oh yeah, you’re also now famously featured on Studentsville Italia!

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So, weird things happen when you travel. You sometimes get a little crazy. You hop on trains to Naples for lunch, you get tattoos (surprise dad), you use a fake identity majority of the time, you sleep in airports to save money, you stay out way too late and book travel tickets for way too early, you go swimming in the ocean at 4am, you spontaneously purchase plane tickets to places you’ve never heard of, you walk without a map and purposely get lost (sometime to see the best things, sometimes to fear your life and turn around), you trust people you’ve only just met, and (craziest thing of all) you learn to live without a cell phone. Oh my God, I know. However, just when you start to think you’ve done it all, you meet some crazy Germans who slept on beaches for two weeks and hiked a mountain to sleep above the clouds for the most amazing sunrise of all time, or some Swiss guy who works all summer and travels all winter living in a tent along a river and having the best stories ever, or a young Aussie travelling the world who has surfed with Jack Johnson, accidentally ran into Ricky Martin at the beach, and who stayed in a 100 bed hostel room (best story ever, someone ask me to tell them this when I get back). Have I learnt lessons from anything I have done? Heck yes. Would I take back anything I’ve done? Heck no. If I were to change anything about this trip, it would be that I would have lived a little more at the beginning. I guess that is part of the process though. Quote of the trip: you’ll never look back and reminisce about the nights you went to bed early.

If I said I made all these decisions on my own, I would be lying. So I would like to take this entry to thank a few people for supporting me before, during, and hopefully after my travels. Without a little voice inside my head (named Deanna) telling me to “put the map down and just go”, I would probably be one of those tourists you see in the subways with their tiny backpacks strapped on their chests wearing matching t-shirts and ridiculously bright coloured hats. I know she’s at home living vicariously through me, but not for long, as I know her travelling days are coming soon, whether she knows it yet or not. My Grandma and Marilyn pushed me to do this too, whether they know it or not, they are responsible for most of my actions… Okay some of my actions. My grandma always wants me to experience places that she will never have the chance to see, and I have made it my personal mission to take her with me to as many places as I can (see above). Marilyn once hosted me at her house for a weekend and over a nice glass of tea, or coffee.. No probably wine actually, she told me stories of her travels and of all the people she has met from all over the world and the treasures she had collected. It was obvious to me how traveling had turned her into the wonderful person she is and just how many things she had learned from people outside of the country. Oh, she was also the one who told me it was possible to work abroad, and I literally went home and started searching for options. Thanks also to my roommates Kelsey, Laura, and Jenna, for convincing me to apply to the Florence internship. Whether you remember it that way or not, I recall your exact words while I was sitting on the couch in a state of depression after my first internship placement fell through. “Florence?! Jody, apply. It’s a sign”. Thanks girls, you kept telling me everything happens for a reason, even if I couldn’t see it at the time, and boy were you right. Finally, my boyfriend. Living in the most romantic country ever, and travelling to some of the most “lovey dovey” locations in the world was not easy when you’re all on your own and know that the one person you’d want to share them with is at home, in a snow storm, studying for like 700 exams. That being said, I’m sure it sucked for him too because all I did was talk about how much I loved it, how much fun I was having, and how I wasn’t ready to come home. He’s the most supportive person I’ve ever had in my life and I’m glad he stuck around, and is even willing to come get me at the airport at midnight. What a keeper.

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The last three people responsible for everything I have done are the most important. My family. Without the support of my parents, I wouldn’t have been able to leave the house, let alone leave the country to live thousands of miles away by myself. I can’t say thank you enough, nor will I ever be able to repay you for the amount of money, love, and trust you have given me. Every parent wants to give their child the world, but you have literally already done that for me. Congrats! You’ve won best parents of the year award, your job is done. Thank you to my dad for passing down most of your “Armstrong” traits on me and making me the leader that I have come to be. As no one would survive this trip if they didn’t have that instinct in them. Oh, and thanks for monitoring my bank account… That was a pretty important role too. Thank you to my mom and sister for joining me for the most wonderful two weeks I have ever shared with them. The memories we have created in those few days will last forever and will be some that no one else will ever understand. Even one year ago I would never have imagined climbing rocks in Cinque Terre, illegally riding trains (not as badass as it sounds), drinking sangria in Barcelona, or even FLYING with you two. I loved every minute of it. Even the time I accidentally purchased an extra hotel room…. Funny now, not funny then. Thanks for not leaving me alone for a month, that meant more to me than you’ll ever know.

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I’ve met some outstanding people from all corners of this world (why is that a phrase? Everyone knows the world is round, come one, it’s 2014 not 1820). I hope to keep some contact with everyone and hope that some day I will be able to visit all of your wonderful countries (hint hint, can I stay with you?) you are all welcome in Canada any time you want. Call me up and I’ll give you a place to stay, that is if you’re willing to come to the most uneventful part of the country. You could tell your friends you visited Regina… Eh, eh, eh? “It never gets old” yes, I am from Regina, I get it. Shout of to Global Experiences crew. Reunion at my place? We can, like, go snow shoeing or beaver trapping or something. And Lauren, Boas, and Sebastian… If we are working our way from North to South, you know Canada comes after Iceland.. 2016. And hey, by that time, Sebastian will even be legal. Speaking of which, we might have to do Maryland last…..

If anyone is looking to get me a welcome home gift, or if you have anything that you’d be willing to give me… I’ve started a list of things I am in need of: new feet, a hair cut, a massage, a straightener (mine blew up…), a personal trainer or someone who can kick my butt back into shape for summer, heck while I’m asking for things I also need a job and a home.

See you all so soon! (See some of you as we walk across the stage to receive our diplomas!!!)

Thinking of home,
Your Italian-Canadian Armstrong

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