I’m Going to Greece. Who is Coming With?
I sat down with Tom Gehrels of Adventure Coordinators to talk about his life as a travel agent and how indispensable this relationship can be for the adventure seeker. You can read all about it here. We also took a few minutes to talk about his latest trip to Greece which in true Tom fashion, was an adventure.
Tom sent out an email to his entire client database saying, “I’m going to Greece, who is coming with?” It was really meant in the spirit of “I’m travelling, are you?” in the hopes of inspiring people to get back on the road after two years of little to no travel. A long term client, Allan from Halifax, took him up on it and booked on the same trip. Unsurprisingly, they had a great time although Allan kept saying, in good humour, that he was the only client stupid enough to have travelled with good old Tom. I think the opposite is true. Traveling with an experienced travel agent who has been to 103 countries and counting sounds like a pretty good travel partner to me. Here is our discussion, which may inspire you to add Greece to your future, especially if you are a hiker.
MELISSA: Hey, weren’t you just in Greece?
TOM: I was! For all of April! All of April in Europe, I should say. I was supposed to leave late March, spend a week in Holland with family, and then fly to Greece. I had an Exodus tour there and then 10 days in Crete with a car. Well wouldn’t you have it, five days before I was supposed to fly out, I get COVID!
MELISSA: Oh no!
TOM: Luckily, I had flexible tickets, so I flipped my week in Holland to the end of my trip. That all worked out, but it goes to show, buy flexible tickets. Pay a little extra so that you can make those changes if you need to!
MELISSA: Right, yes! How was it though?
TOM: Fantastic! The first bit in Greece was a little weird because I was in Rafina, a little port village outside of Athens. I went to get a SIM card and I walked into the phone store and suddenly I heard, “STOP! Show me your vaccination papers and put a mask on!” I was like, really? I thought Europe was really relaxed. It turns out it was just that part of Greece, the greater Athens area, where they were still doing that. After that, masks were few and far between. It was just so liberating, I can’t tell you.
“Buy flexible tickets. Pay a little extra so that you can make those changes if you need to!”
But regardless. I LOVED Greece. Loved it. Really, really loved it. I loved the food, I loved the people. Crete. If you’ve never been to Crete, my god what a place that is. I really enjoyed it.
I read about this hike in Lonely Planet and the write up was small but they raved about it, and so I decided to go there and do it. It was one of the best hikes I have ever done. Afterwards, I was staying in a hotel outside of this village and I thought, I’m going to go out for dinner. I got dressed up…jacket, scarf. I’m going to go for dinner and have a post-celebratory dinner. I walk into town and it’s all cowboys! Literally on horseback and pickup trucks! And I’m like, okay, overdressed! (BOTH LAUGH)
MELISSA: That’s hilarious!
“I LOVED Greece. Loved it. Really, really loved it. I loved the food, I loved the people. Crete. If you’ve never been to Crete, my god what a place that is. I really enjoyed it.”
TOM: It was just good fun! And then I did another hike. A huge circuit through a gorge down to the coast, along the coast and back up the mountain which was about a 700-meter vertical, you know, slogging it up in the midday sun. I get over the edge of the top and then there is the valley where I’m staying, with snow-topped mountains in the back. It was an absolutely gorgeous view.
And then I think, oh my god, I want an ice cream and so I walk into the store and I say, “Do you guys sell ice cream?” Nope, nobody in this village sells ice cream. Okay, well I’ll go and get a cold beer at the hotel instead. So, I walk into the hotel, “Hello Tom, how was your day?” They knew my name after one night. (BOTH LAUGH) I say to them, “You know, it was fantastic, but in the last half hour, I had the biggest disappointment and the biggest surprise of my life.” They ask, “Oh yeah, what was that Tom?” So, I tell them. “The biggest surprise was coming over that hill and seeing this beautiful valley, and your hotel, and the village, and the snow-topped mountains in the background. The biggest disappointment was nobody sells ice cream.” And they said, “Well, we’ll have it ready for you for dessert, we’ll make you some.”
TOM: ….in a little two-star pensione type of place. Just incredible.
MELISSA: How was it?
TOM: It was REALLY good! It was actually the best ice cream I’ve ever had even though it hadn’t quite set yet. And then they wanted me to eat it for breakfast! And I said, no, I can’t eat ice cream for breakfast! (LAUGHS) I should have, I think, in hindsight! But just those things, you know, people in Crete are just wonderful! Maybe it was because they were fresh after COVID, but they’ve been pretty busy in the last year because Greece was wide open, so I think it’s just genuine, it’s the way they are there. It’s this undiscovered part of Greece which I really enjoyed.
Tom is a regular guest on FLY Travel Radio. You can hear our many conversations here. Be prepared to get inspired by hiking trips in Europe, local outdoor adventures in Ontario, expedition cruises in the South Atlantic Ocean and more. Tom is a born adventurer and he does it all! Be sure to visit Adventure Coordinators for your next trip.