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Month Seventy-Five and Seventy-Six were busy, first with travel then with work as I worked two back-to-back events that were both exhausting and rewarding.
I started the month on Paros, where I had one last look around this beautiful island before catching a ferry to Crete – a place I have wanted to visit for a long time.
Somehow, Crete turned out to be even more incredible than I imagined. The food, the culture, the friendly locals, the stunning beaches, the lovely cities and towns, the hiking trails – it was all so overwhelmingly amazing.
I also met some new travel friends and sharing these experiences with like-minded travelers made them even better.
I managed to visit a large amount of the island during my two and a half weeks there but there were definitely things that I missed, and I definitely see myself going back sometime in the future.
After a day and night stopover in Athens, I caught the train up to Kalambaka for two nights to visit the cliff-hugging Meteora Monasteries – one of the most spectacular sites in Greece, if not all of Europe.
My last two nights in Greece were back in Athens, a city that I think is highly underrated and actually really, really cool. Then my five weeks in Greece were up and I flew back to the U.S. to make back some of the money I spent.
I had a night in a dodgy Airbnb in Cleveland then caught the bus to Columbus to start a 12-day stint doing site admin for Lost Lands Music Festival – a behemoth EDM festival that hosts 40,000 attendees.
It was my first time doing site admin at an event and it started out great, we even got to stay in an incredible log cabin mansion before moving to the site to sleep in tents when the campers started arriving.
From there, things weren’t so rosy – more on that in the lowlights.
After one of the most exhausting and stressful work experiences I’ve ever had, I had a night to relax with some work friends in a hotel in Columbus, then I flew to LA where I went straight into working and staffing a family-friendly Halloween event for a month.
It is the first time I have been in charge of staffing and I actually really loved it, despite it being demanding, difficult, and annoying at times. I really hope I can do more of it in the future.
I did get some time off during our month in LA and I spent that doing life admin, hiking, going to the beach, visiting the Getty Center, and grabbing drinks with my workmates.
We even did a couple of short trips away – a mini road trip down to San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente where we slept in the van for two nights, and a more luxurious two-night stay at a lodge in Big Bear to see the fall colors in the mountains.
Now onto the stats!
Countries Visited: Greece, USA
- Greece: Paros, Crete – Heraklion, Matala, Agios Nikalaos, Spinalonga, Rethymno, Margarites, Apostoli, Arkadi, Agia Roumeli, Plakias, Preveli, Chania, Elafounisi, and Balos; Athens; Kalambaka and Meterora
- Ohio: Cleveland, Thornville, Columbus
- California: Los Angeles, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Big Bear Lake
National and State Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: Meteora Monasteries in Greece.
Islands Visited: Paros, Crete, Spinalonga, and Gramvousa in Greece.
Best Meals: So many incredible meals in Greece again – honey sesame baked feta, delicious greek sweets including ekmek, loukoumades and bougatsa, vegan Moussaka, grilled calamari with fava, vegetarian and chicken gyros. I miss Greek food so much already! Back in the US, I loved CAVA – like a Meditteranean Chipotle, and the Macadamia nut-crusted halibut topped with black cherry and Maui onion marmalade with garlic mashed potatoes from Peppercorn Grill in Big Bear Lake.
Worst Meals: I was disappointed in my grilled fish from Malibu Seafood Cafe – way overcooked, and my raw pizza dough pizza from Slice Pizza in Laguna Beach – apparently the crust was meant to be like that according to the staff member I complained to.
Best Craft Beer: Wowie Ale with Pineapple and Passionfruit by Rhinegeist Brewery, Checked Out sour ale by Artifex Brewing Company.
- Matala Beach to Red Beach hike in Matala, Crete – 2 miles
- Samaria Gorge Hike in Crete – 11 miles
- Kledisi Beach hike from Plakias, Crete – 2 miles
- Gramvousa Fort on Gramvousa Island in Crete – 1.5 miles
- Holy Trinity Monastery from Kalambaka, Greece – 1.2 miles
- Corral Canyon loop trail in Malibu, California – 2.5 miles
- Lake Balboa loop walk in Los Angeles, California – 2.5 miles
- Manhattan Beach to Redondo Beach in Los Angeles, California – 4.5 miles
- Caballero Canyon hike in Los Angeles, California – 3.7 miles
- Lakeside trail in Big Bear, California – 2.2 miles
Watching: The White Lotus, Mare of Easttown.
Reading: Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah.
Finally Visiting Crete
I have wanted to visit Crete for as long as I can remember so it was so exciting to spend two and a half weeks there this month.
Crete turned out to be even better than I imagined with incredible beaches, interesting cultural sites, beautiful cities, gorgeous small towns, and great hiking. I absolutely fell for Crete and know I will be back again someday.
All the Incredible Beaches in Crete
I hadn’t heard much about Crete’s beaches but they turned out to be my favorite in Greece. Stunning turquoise water and white sand beaches, hidden beaches wedged between cliffs, shallow lagoon beaches, red sand and pink sand beaches, crazy wave beaches, palm tree beaches with crystal clear rivers flowing into them… there are such a variety of beaches in Crete and all of the beaches I visited were so beautiful.
My absolute favorites were Elafounisi, Matala, Red Sand Beach, Preveli, Balos Beach, and Kledisi.
Visiting Spinalonga Island
I love an island, especially one with a history and Spinalonga Island has a very storied and interesting past. In its last iteration, Spinalonga was a leper colony, and the tour we did mostly spoke about that part of the island’s history.
I walked the circumference of this beautiful island, as well as to the highest point where there are ruins of buildings. It is such an awe-inspiring and tragic place and I loved my visit.
Wandering the Old Towns of Chania and Rethymno
I LOVE the old towns of Chania and Rethymno and spent hours just aimlessly wandering, eating at different tavernas, patting all the kitties, doing some shopping, and taking a crapload of pictures of the cobbled alleyways and bougainvillea draped buildings.
I don’t think I could ever get sick of the beautiful and historic Greek Island old towns.
A Cultural Day Trip in Crete
A did a few excellent day tours during my time in Crete but I think my favorite was the Real Crete small group tour I did from Rethymno.
Our guide and driver were both such fun guys and we visited a great mix of places including the historically important Monastery of Arkadi, the beautiful mountain village of Margarites, atmospheric Melidoni Cave, the interesting Museum of Ancient Eleutherna, and we finished with a traditional lunch and dancing in the mountain village of Apostoli. I loved it all!
Hiking Samaria Gorge
Hiking Samaria Gorge was long and hot, but damn – it was so worth it! I hiked with two girls I met – one the day before on my cultural Crete day trip and one I met on the bus, and we had such a good time. The gorge is so picturesque and I felt fully immersed in its beauty.
The hike ended in the small coastal town of Agia Roumeli which can only be reached by boat or by hiking there. We swam at the beach and sat and had a late lunch in a beach cafe before taking a scenic boat trip to Sfakia from where we took a bus back to Rethymno.
I was exhausted but so happy to have done this incredible hike through one of the longest gorges in Europe.
Hiking Up to Gramvousa Fort
I was so looking forward to visiting Balos Beach but because of the crazy wind there, the highlight of my day trip was Gramvousa Island where I hiked up to the fort which had stunning views over the coastline and swam in the crystal clear waters at the beach.
Gramvousa is Greece in all its glory – history and natural beauty intertwined.
Staying at the Best Hostel in Crete
I heard about Plakias Youth Hostel when I was in Paros from one of my roommates and he spoke of it so highly that I knew I had to add it to my Crete Itinerary. I was not disappointed.
The hostel is a relaxing oasis with super friendly people, many of whom have been visiting for years. The town has a relaxed local vibe, and there are some stunning beaches nearby. I loved my time at Plakias Youth Hostel and can definitely see myself returning in the future.
Exploring Athens by Foot
I think Athens is underrated. I always hear people bad-mouthing it, calling it hectic and dirty, but there are many parts of the city that are very beautiful and interesting to explore. I really enjoyed wandering the maze-like streets of pretty Plaka, edgy Monasatariki, hip Psyri, and local Exarchia.
Although there are a lot of tourist restaurants in Athens, there are so many excellent local spots too and I really enjoyed eating out at a number of places.
Don’t listen to the haters – Athens is actually a really cool place.
Visiting the Monasteries of Meteora
Seeing the insane beauty of the monasteries of Meteora perched high on rocky outcrops was absolutely incredible and the day I spent hiking between them, learning their history, and soaking in the natural beauty was one of my favorite days in Greece.
Making New Friends at Lost Lands and Haunt O’Ween
Despite the challenges of working Lost Lands and Haunt O’Ween, I will go through it all again for the people I met. Event people are the best, and I made a lot of new great friends on this event run that I can’t wait to work with again.
Loving Event Work
Turns out I am actually quite good at recruiting and managing staff and despite all the stress, I really enjoy it. I’m looking forward to recruiting and working site admin for more events in the future.
Beach Time in LA
I loved my beach time in LA and we went to the beaches in Malibu frequently during our five weeks in the city. If I can’t be in the mountains, being by the ocean is a very close second choice – there is definitely something healing about listening to the sound of the waves and feeling the sand between your toes.
Mini Southern California Road Trip
For the first part of our stay in LA we got two days off a week and we definitely made the most of it, doing a couple of two-night trips away including a mini road trip where we visited Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Manhattan Beach, San Clemente, and San Juan Capistrano.
I really enjoyed discovering new to me towns, walking along the beach, and visiting the mission at San Juan Capistrano on a rare day when they have a ceremony and bell-ringing (Indigenous Peoples Day).
A Chilled Weekend in Big Bear During Fall
I spent a couple of weeks volunteering at a hostel in Big Bear Lake in summer 2016 and I had heard that fall is beautiful there too so for our second trip away from LA we headed up to Big Bear.
I ended up needing to do more work than planned and a major road was closed which meant we couldn’t visit Lake Arrowhead and Deep Creek Hot Springs, but despite this, I really enjoyed our short time in Big Bear.
We stayed in a lodge with a fireplace and spa bath in our room so we made good use of that, as well as strolling and shopping in the village, eating some incredible meals, trying local brews at a couple of breweries, and doing a short hike along the lakeshore.
Rainy Days in Chania
I was so lucky with the weather during my time in Greece, despite a few windy days I didn’t get any rain – until my last two days in Chania.
I had four days there and still managed to visit Elafounisi and Balos Beach before the rainy days hit so the only thing I missed was Seitan Limani – a beach on a peninsula near the city. I already know I want to return to Chania one day so it is something I can do in the future.
Restless Nights in Chania
I didn’t have any major issues or annoyances with staying in hostel dorms on my Greece trip – until I got to Chania. Unfortunately, there was a woman who I think had mental health issues in my room, and she spent one night screaming and crying in her sleep for hours, keeping everyone in the room awake, and another night she got really drunk then loudly came in and out of the room all night.
I barely slept both nights and was worried about my and my other roommate’s safety so I was really happy she checked out on my third day there.
Further Ear Issues
My ear issues continued this month with pain in my left ear and some further blockage issues. I was worried enough that I went to urgent care but as it was going to be super expensive, I decided to wait another couple of days, and luckily the pain subsided and I haven’t had any issues since I returned from Greece and stopped swimming most days.
Overheating While Hiking Samaria Gorge
Despite getting picked up at 6 am, it took a while to get to where we began the Samaria Gorge hike so we didn’t actually get started till closer to 9 am. By midday, the gorge had really heated up and I started to struggle with the heat.
It was rough going for a while but when we finally got to the end, a dip in the ocean was a great way to cool down.
A Scary Boat Trip to Balos Beach
Because of the crazy strong wind on the day I visited Balos Beach, the boat ride there got pretty scary the further along the peninsula we traveled. As someone who feels nervous on boats when it’s rough, I was absolutely terrified when we were smashing into giant waves that wet everyone on deck, dropping down other waves which felt like being on a rollercoaster, and rocking so far sideways I was certain we were going to tip.
This crazy ride lasted about twenty minutes of our boat trip to Balos, then around 45 minutes on the way back, and it definitely put a big dampener on my day trip.
A Dodgy Airbnb Stay in Cleveland
The only hostel in Cleveland was shut due to COVID when I was passing through after returning from Greece so I booked a private room in a self-proclaimed hostel on Airbnb as it was the only option I could find for under $100 – and it was so bad.
The neighborhood was super dodgy, the house was falling apart, there was a weird smell, and I felt very unsafe.
Some people came back and made loads of noise from 3 am-4 am too which definitely didn’t help matters. I was so happy when I woke up in the morning and could get the hell out of there.
Everything Going to Shit at Lost Lands
My 12 days working as a site admin for parking at Lost Lands music festival in Ohio started out good – we were staying in a luxury log cabin, the hours weren’t too crazy, the catering at work was excellent, I was working with some great people – and then everything went to shit.
We had a couple of days of crazy rain and the ground got waterlogged making it very hard to park cars, we had to move to site from our luxury Airbnb to tents in the cold and rain, we didn’t have staff showers or toilets so it was a trek to go to either, we worked long hours with not enough staff, some people just didn’t show up for their shifts, I had an upset stomach from the festival food for days – it was a lot.
But, we survived and I met some great people, made some money, and now it is over.
It took me nearly a week in LA till I got used to the three-hour time change from Ohio and I really struggled during that time, operating on only 5-6 hours sleep each night. I think the stress of work didn’t help, so when I would wake up early I couldn’t get back to sleep.
Staffing Issues at Haunt O’Ween
Turns out it is pretty stressful recruiting then doing HR for 50+ event staff, especially in LA when everyone is just working events to survive while chasing their passions. In the last week, I was averaging five call-outs a day and we were struggling with having enough people to cover each shift.
It was a lot of weight on my shoulders and there were definitely times when I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore. But I kept going and we pulled it off in the end.
A lot of these costs are my half with Toby paying the other half. I also don’t include international flights in my recaps.
Although the first part of the two months was expensive as I was traveling in Greece, the majority of the month was spent working so my total spend evened out.
My 26 nights of paid accommodation for the month consisted of 4 nights in a hostel dorm in Heraklion, 4 nights in a hostel dorm in Rethymno, 4 nights in a hostel dorm in Plakias, 5 nights in a hostel dorm in Chania, 1 night in a hostel dorm in Athens, 2 nights in a hostel dorm in Kalambaka, 2 nights in a hostel private room in Athens, 1 night in a private room in an Airbnb in Cleveland, 1 night in a hotel in Columbus, and 2 nights at a hotel in Big Bear.
My 35 nights of unpaid accommodation for the rest of the month included 7 nights in staff housing for work near Thornville, Ohio, 5 nights camping onsite at Lost Lands for work, 1 night in a hotel in Calabasas for work, 20 nights in staff housing in LA for work, and 2 nights free camping in the van in Laguna Beach and Manhattan Beach.
Food and Drink $1320
Not too crazy as this is split over two months. I ate a mix of Taverna meals and street food in Greece and back in the U.S. I spent money on groceries and meals and drinks out once I got to LA (my meals were covered at Lost Lands.)
- Sandals $40.50
- Gas $155.50
- Buses on Crete $90
- Ferry from Paros to Heraklion $75
- Taxi to Bus Station in Heraklion $6
- Shuttle from the end of Samaria Gorge hike to Agia Roumeli $2.50
- Boat from Agia Roumeli to Sfakia $13
- Boat from Preveli to Plakias $9.50
- Flight from Chania to Athens $47.50
- Taxi from Chania to Airport $29
- Train from Airport to Athens $10.50
- Trains in Athens $2
- Train from Athens to Kalambaka (Meteora) $62
- Train from Athens to Airport $10.50
- Train from Airport to downtown Cleveland $2.50
- Lyft from train station to Airbnb in Cleveland $9
- Lyft from Airbnb to downtown Cleveland $12.50
- Uber from hotel to airport in Columbus $18
- Parking $3
- Combined ticket for Knossos Palace and Archeological Museum in Heraklion $23
- Cliff caves entry in Matala $4.50
- Boat cruise and Spinalonga Island entry fee $28
- Sea Fortress entry fee in Heraklion $4.50
- Venetian Fortress entry fee in Rethymno $4.50
- Real Crete Tour from Rethymno $47.50
- Melidoni Cave entry fee $4.50
- Museum of Ancient Eleutherna entry fee $4.50
- Monastery of Arkadi entry fee $3.50
- Samaria Gorge Entry and Hiking Tour from Rethymno $41
- Balos Beach and Gramvousa Island Tour $46.50
- Monastery entry fees at Meteora $17.50
- San Juan Capistrano Mission entry fee $14
- Getty Center parking $10
- Hulu $14
- Phone plan $80
- Toiletries $87
- Souvenirs $5.50
- Charity Donations $50
- Laundry $7.50
- Gifts $21
- Rapid COVID test in Athens $11.50
- Candle $5.50
- Power bank $22
- Fanny pack $20
- USB converter $15
- Laptop sleeve $15
- Wallet $31
- Prescription sunglasses $25
- Prescription glasses x 2 $50
- MacBook charger $20
Website Costs $24
- Monthly payment for Keysearch $24
Van/RV Costs $50
- Van Insurance $50
What’s in Store for Next Month
Next month will start with our last nine days of work at Haunt O’Ween, followed by a day to rest, a quick two-day visit to see my mother-in-law in Phoenix, then we will be spending around a week in New Mexico – starting with a weekend in Santa Fe with family for the annual Outlaw Party, then staying with my father-in-law in Espanola.
I’m hoping to hit up some old favorites in the Santa Fe area including Meow Wolf, the Plaza and Canyon Road, and Rancho de Chimayo, as well as some day trips to new locations, dependant on what is open.
It is my birthday on November 13th and to celebrate we will be doing a nine-day winter road trip through Colorado on the way back to Denver, including stops in Durango, Silverton, Ouray, Crested Butte, Buena Vista and Leadville.
The last few days of the month will be spent in Denver, seeing friends and family and starting a nine-day paid housesit to look after two pups.
To read additional Monthly Recaps, you can find them here