As a solo traveler you’re often out exploring the world by yourself. You do it not because you’re antisocial or a total loser, but because you’ve prioritized travel in your life and you don’t plan on waiting around for your friends, family, or who ever to join you on your adventures. You book your ticket and just go. I’ve traveled with friends. I’ve traveled with family. I’ve traveled with significant others and co-workers. I find that I prefer to travel solo. Does this make me weird? Maybe. Does this make me brave? I don’t think so. I just like the idea that I can do what I want when I want. Of course, traveling solo can be lonely and stressful. You have to navigate the local public transportation system that only has signs in a foreign language by yourself. You often eat dinner alone at restaurants. You’re often the odd man out when you sign up for tours. And when you’re watching a breathtaking sunset in Greece, you may think that it would be nice to share it with someone special. Despite some of the drawbacks of traveling solo, I’ve also met some of the most amazing people while traveling that I know will be lifelong friends (or at least friends that will let me crash on their couch anytime).
While I was in Greece I sailed the Sardonic coast with a UK-based sailing company called MedSailors. I signed up as a solo traveler not knowing what to expect. I was told that I would be placed on a boat with like-minded travelers of a similar age group. I didn’t know until the day I showed up on Pier 3 at the Athens Marina with two large backpacks in tow who I would share a 50-foot yacht with for seven days. I was immediately greeted with a smile by the lead skipper Nick, an older Kiwi with years of experience sailing the high seas around the world, who quickly informed me that I would be sharing the Jackpot with another American girl and seven guys from New Zealand and Australia. Instinctively my first thought was: “Good god! This is either going to be the worst seven days ever or the best seven days ever.” Thank goodness the latter was true. Okay. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that “girl, you’re on a boat with seven guys with sweet accents so we know that’s not your first thought.” Guilty. More accurately my first thought was “Dear God, please let them not be fat, hairy, loud men wearing speedos!” And I have no doubt that when the boys were told that they were sharing a boat with two American girls that they questioned our attractiveness too. And if they tell you otherwise, they are lying. I call bullshit. Drink your Mythos, boys.
Just like my solo trip to the Azores in November, I am going to tell you a bit about the people on this trip. The more I travel solo, the more I realize that the people you meet along the way will ultimately define your trip and perhaps your life. While I don’t think any of them changed my life, I know my seven days on the Jackpot would have not have been the same without these nine people.
The first person I met on the Jackpot was our Skipper. We didn’t know at the time, but we totally scored the best MedSailor skipper in Greece. Skipper is a tall and lean 24-year old Brit who grew up sailing and racing the shores of Cornwall, England. Our tour began his second season sailing with MedSailors, but based on the warm welcomes he got from the locals at each port you would have thought he had been doing this for 20 years. Skip was the perfect mix of pure professionalism and a giant ball of fun. During the days it was all business as you could see in his eyes that boats and the open seas are his passion in life and he takes his job seriously, but during the night that spark of passion would catch a glimpse of a cold beer or glass of wine and his other side would come out and play with the rest of us. Our Skipper could party with the best of us and had some pretty sweet dance moves. I don’t think I can look at a pair of shoulders without giggling a little. He was always willing to share his vast sailing knowledge with us and demonstrate how to correctly tie a knot or steer the yacht towards our next destination. And when he’s completely pissed he just might offer you 100 quid to tie a portuguese bowline with a few flicks of the wrist or a piggyback ride back to the boat. But don’t ask him to run because he won’t, even when I have to drag him back to the boat after a few Tequila shots. By the end of our seven days on the Jackpot, Skipper became like the little brother that I never had. If you’re lucky to get Skipper on your MedSailors cruise, you better count your lucky stars!
Soon after meeting Skipper, the only other girl and American boarded the Jackpot with a huge smile. I was excited to meet Nashville Girl as I knew we were going to be partners-in-crime and bunk mates for the next seven days. Neither of us had met the boys yet, but we both knew we were in for a wild ride. As you may have guessed, Nashville Girl is from Nashville and works in music publishing. Can you say amazing job?! Nashville Girl is a sweet 26 year old with a mild twang and curly brown hair. We quickly bonded and I was glad to have her on the boat to balance out the testosterone even just a wee bit. As a fellow country music lover I loved hearing her stories of all the musicians she’s met and worked with in her short career thus far working in the music industry. Girl, I’m totally coming to visit you soon! She was always the one to look after us and make sure we had enough to drink, both water and beer, and I’m pretty sure she would give you the shirt off her back too. She was the only smart one and brought a floatie with her. During our morning swims she’d be the one quietly sipping a beer in her cozie just floating around in her tube while the rest of us doggie paddled and splashed around like dorks.
Next up… the boys. Nashville Girl and I were quietly sitting in the cockpit area of the boat chatting about whether the Jackpot would live up to her name when the herd of boys arrived lugging pallets of Greek beer while playfully yelling at each other. The introductions were a whirlwind of names that I soon forgot and just like that we were off to sail to our first stop. One by one I began to learn the boys names and a little about each of them. To be honest though, I’m pretty it wasn’t until late into the second afternoon that I finally knew who was who. Each boy had a distinctive personality and story and you’ll meet each of them shortly. As soon as I spotted them carrying racks of beer and liquor, I knew my measly little 6-pack wasn’t going to cut it with these guys. On the backpacking trail, Aussies and Kiwis have a bit of a reputation on the party scene and I had a feeling that these boys were going to live up to their reputation. As someone who doesn’t drink much at all, I was going to have put my big girl panties on and play with the big boys.
As soon as we untied the Jackpot from the pier and Skipper turned on her motor, you could hear the refreshing pop of a beer can from all the boys. It was time to party and those boys were ready to forget the cloudy, gray skies and their 9-5s in London and enjoy the sun and heat of Greece. First up we have First Mate. There was never a dull moment with First Mate. He is predictively unpredictable and I have a feeling that he was voted class clown in high school. First Mate hails from sunny Melbourne, Australia and I believe was the youngest of the group and at times it showed. I swear he just walked off the set of Weekend at Bernies or some other 80s movie with his interesting wardrobe choices throughout the week. For some reason First Mate thought my name was Elaine and in his drunkenness went around and told all the boys that was my name unbeknownst to me. After one of the other boys finally told him that wasn’t my name, he kept profusely apologizing for the mix up, which I found rather amusing as neither of us have any idea where the name Elaine came from. And I scored a free drink out of the deal. Scratch that. I’m pretty sure I drank a lot of “free” drinks over that week. Thanks boys! I’m pretty sure I owe you all a few rounds of pints. First Mate earned his nickname a couple of days into the sailing tour as he always wanted to be at the helm and would eagerly volunteer to help Skipper out even if it meant that he had to swim in sea urchin infested waters (a few of the boys managed to step on sea urchins and lodged a few spines in their feet on the first night).
And then we have The Locksmith. The Locksmith was the oldest on the boat and has been in London the longest. He is a little quieter than First Mate, but is just as jovial and humorous. The boys were completely obsessed with quoting Wedding Crashers and a cult Kiwi movie called What We Do in the Shadows, which neither I or Nashville Girl have ever heard of thus we were quite confused most of the time. Thankfully one night at one of the bars with wifi, The Locksmith pulled out his phone and showed me the trailer of the movie so I at least had some semblance of what the heck they were quoting and giggling about at every hour of the day. He also taught me about drift racing which is apparently a big sport in Oceania. It makes absolutely no sense to me, but then again I also think that NASCAR is pretty dumb too. And then there is The Fox, which is his actual nickname. Throughout the trip I just assumed that was his last name and then we became Facebook friends and I realized that he had clearly earned that nickname. Fox is very fitting of him as it was clear to me that he is a bit cunning and the mastermind of the group. He always had a bit of a mischievous grin on his face and would often plant little seeds in the other boys’ heads to do his dirty deeds or something stupid. He was witty and never lacked a wise ass comment either, something I respect. And as the whitest of the boys on the boat, he “burnt to a sizzle” by the third day. Even the tops of his feet were red. The best (well, not best for him) was his red singlet sunburn. Apparently singlets are a high fashion statement in London during the summer months as all the boys were wearing them. The Fox forgot to put on sunscreen under his singlet and succeed to get a massive sunburn in the shape of his singlet. It became the running joke of the week and is quite visible in many photos. I think he and all the boys learned a hard lesson that week… wear your damn sunscreen and make sure you reapply it multiple times a day.
The only boy who didn’t get sunburnt due to his naturally darker complexion was The Archeologist. Or perhaps he avoided a sunburn because of the years he has spent digging for treasure in the Middle East has made him immune to the sun’s rays. When he told me he was an archeologist I thought that was pretty cool as I have never met one before. In my head I’ve always pictured archeologists as old men with white hair wearing bucket hats and dusty old steel toed boots trying to live out their Indiana Jones fantasies, but I suppose at 26 he still has a few years to live up to my stereotype. The Archeologist is a total sweetheart with the most beautiful blue eyes, but also really annoying allergies as he would always blow his nose at the breakfast table, which would drive me bananas. Blow your nose in the bathroom dude! For the first two nights the boy was homeless. He slept on the deck the first night and the kitchen table the second night before finally one of the other boys let him into his room. Apparently he snores so I can understand why he got shut out a couple of nights.
Then we have the other Aussie who I have named the Komodo Wearing Aussie. He is First Mate’s friend from Down Under. I assumed that he lived in London with the boys too, but I learned after a couple of days that he was fresh off the plane from Melbourne after quitting his graphic design job to explore Europe for the summer. The way he got along with all the boys would make you guess that they have all known each other for years. You might have deduced based on his nickname that he is fond of komodos. One morning he emerged from the cabin wearing a silk red komodo similar to one a geisha might wear or one a guy might borrow from a girl after a one night stand. But, apparently this is a thing in Australia as one of the other Aussies on the other boat had one too! Fascinating. The Komodo Wearing Aussie is tall and lean with several colorful tattoos on his right leg. He got the worst of the sea urchin spines on the first day and was hurting pretty bad by the end of the trip. There was certainly never a dull moment with him, especially when First Mate was involved. Next we have the elusive Boxer. The Boxer could often be found napping in his cabin. He was a serial napper. He would wake up, eat breakfast, take a nap, wake up again, eat lunch, and take another nap. I think the boy spent more time sleeping than awake. By day The Boxer is an accountant and by night he moonlights as a boxer. He’s not a very large man, but I bet he’s agile and quick footed in the ring. I wouldn’t mess with him, but I would highly doubt he would ever hit a girl. Girls, he’s one of the good ones. Polite, sweet, and charming with his Kiwi accent. And he likes his rum and coke and put up with my eccentric dance moves.
And last but not least is the Big Fish. Out of everyone on the boat, the Fish was the hardest to read. I think we were the most similar in a way because we were the same age and had a similar upbringing, but at times I sensed he didn’t like me. Occasionally he would give off vibes that made me question whether I said or did something that he didn’t like (and in my drunkenness I probably did), but I just don’t think he handles sarcasm well when you dish it back to him. But he often sat next to me at meal time, which I have a feeling was mostly because if I didn’t finish my meal he had first dibs. That boy could eat and he LOVED his ice cream. He’s definitely an introvert compared to the other boys, but at random times he would break out in song and dance or just say something really funny. He has a bit of an ego and will claim to be the best at everything. He never loses. Personally I think he’s a bit of a peacock. He puffs his chest out and puts on a showy act, but deep down I think he’s a teddy bear. One of the best conversations I had with him was on the last day where I learned that as a child he lived in both South Korea and Thailand and has also climbed to Everest Base Camp (I’m totally jealous). Our chatting turned to life in London, living as an expat, and little life things like paying taxes, what student loans are like in New Zealand, and why guns are legal in the US. Clearly all very light topics.
We were a boat of misfits, but everyone got along charmingly. After a couple of days into the sailing tour we learned that two of their females friends were supposed to be on the trip with them but for whatever reason canceled. Lucky us. Nashville Girl and I were placed on the best boat. The boys never once made us feel like the replacements or outsiders. They were all equally welcoming and polite with their little accents from the other side of the world. They practically forced their beer and junk food into our mouths and as the only two Americans on the boat we shared tidbits from home and our country music. We became “One Team One Dream” and by the end of the seven days we left as a family. It’s always sad to say goodbye to travel friends, but travel friends are also the people who you’ll probably see again somewhere in the world. You bond quickly over your love of travel, the places you’ve been, and the places you want to go. There is never nothing to talk about over lukewarm Mythos beer and Pringles. Now that you know the characters of my MedSailors story, make sure you stay tuned for next week’s post on our adventures sailing the high seas of the Sardonic coast of Greece. You’ll definitely want to read about our shenanigans, mishaps, and our winning victory in the MedSailors Regatta.
And One Team One Dream, you’re always welcomed in my little side of the Earth. The lobster is cheap… 🙂