Yachting in Greece

You wake up to the sound of cicadas as the sun rises. The morning glow begins to illuminate the hillside and you take off to the south of Athens. Fueled with coffee, you begin to anticipate the oceanic day ahead.

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Cruising the sea is one of the greatest ways to see Greece. Not only does it give you great panoramic views of the many coasts and islands, it’s friggin’ fun. Whether it’s a romantic getaway with your loved one or a big social partaking, you will appreciate the experience, and you will be better for it.

Of course, no Greece cruise is complete without the ouzo.

Another nice touch is wine from Lemnos. It’s pretty dry, robust, and flavorful.

A Greek yacht excursion obviously costs much, but valuates high. You get what you pay for, and you get a lot. Be sure to negotiate before chartering, ensure that the wine/beer/ouzo is unlimited, and make sure there’s shuttle service included. If you have everything you need, you’re bound to have some wild times. Take, for instance, front-flipping off the back plank:

Control Your Adventure

Yachting has a controllable level of adventure travel to it. You can lay back with the ouzo all day if you wanted to, and relax casually while you trail past the islands. You can get off the boat, swim to one of the secluded islands, and go cliff-jumping. Our group leaned toward the more daring excursion, and jumped 140 feet off the jagged rock edges. The captain wasn’t too thrilled, but I’m sure it formed unforgettable memories for some. The Wedding Therapist and I stayed in the middle of the adventure continuum. Though we ventured off the boat with a snorkel mask and dove off the plank, we left the cliff-jumping to others.

You don’t need much to be prepared for a Greek yacht ride. Here are some travel tips, however, to get the most out of your day trip:

    1. Take the Dramamine if you need it.

      This is pretty straightforward. The yacht ride can be a little rocky, so if you’re prone to motion sickness, I definitely suggest bringing the Dramamine for good measure. 

    2. Use trekking sandals, as much of the land in Greece is rocky.

If you’re venturing off the boat and onto the islands, consider hiking sandals. The land is rocky and full of rough foliage. For both men and women, I’ve heard many great things about KEEN sandals. They’re built to last, they’re comfortable, and are sure to protect the feet.

For women, you have this option:

And for the guys:

3. Take this immunity formula 3x/day beforehand to ensure good travel health.
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Airports, airplanes, hotels, buses, trains, hostels…what do these all have in common? They’re all full of people spreading their pathogens. You should absolutely be fortifying your immune system to reduce risk of getting sick on vacation. I use this and a multivitamin supplement.

4. Bring sunglasses that look good, but you aren’t attached to.

Chances are, your shades will be fine. However, I still wouldn’t take chances with expensive designer sunglasses. Here’s what I brought:

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I got those aviators (the “Desert” model) from SunglassWarehouse. They’re stylish, resistant to scratches, and only cost around $13. They’re even cheaper with code “SAVE15.”

5. Pack the sunscreen.

You’re on a boat in direct sunlight all day. Even if you don’t burn easily, have a little protection!

 

You’re going to be getting up early for this, so another suggestion is that you get plenty of rest the night before. A couple of more travel tips:

  1.  Try to power-nap as you adjust to the time difference/jet lag. Don’t sleep for more than 30 minutes during the day. If you want to be awake and alert for your excursions, try to get your body adjusting to the new rhythm.
  2. Use natural sleep aids to rest at night. I don’t like pharmaceutical sleep aids at all. I don’t even use melatonin. But a natural sleep formula lets your body settle into rest without putting you into an hours-long stupor. Natural herbs like passion flower and lemon balm are great for this, and are significant components of Desert Willow Botanicals’ Stress/Sleep formula. Passion flower is clinically implicated to calm the mind and assist with better sleep cycles (this article talks a bit about this).

Enjoy the ride

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You are the Earth’s audience. Every mark of beauty and every occurrence of joy is an invitation to your own personal bliss. This is why I feel excursions like this are worth it. It does require saving up your funds, but it’s a much better purchase than buying a brand new game system or Armani jeans. It does help, of course, when you have a large group to split the cost.

The service we used was Hellas Yachting. And (I can’t help myself here), it was “Hellas” good. The crew was fantastic, the food was fresh, and the ouzo was abounding. The chance to see Greece from the sea was amazing, and brought us up to “baller” status.

So, even if you can’t do an excursion like this, I hope some of the information and traveling tips were helpful. Whether you’re taking on a yacht cruise, just enjoying the beach, or sticking to the tour bus, here’s one final suggestion: enjoy the ride.

 

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Here Are 4 Travel/Adventure Books Worth Checking Out

I sometimes see books as a “hold-me-over,” a supplement to enjoy until I get to my next adventure.

Here’s a diverse list of four. One’s a novel, one’s a light reference, one’s a thrill guide, and the last is sort of an anthropological text.

All book purchases through this page go to supporting the site (each title links to the Amazon page). Your support also comes from booking hotel deals through the following link:

Hotels.com is a great way to find last minute deals if you need to get away. Check out the Vegas deals in particular.

The Reading List

On The Road

“Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk—real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.”

Way before “wanderlust” was a trending hashtag and blogging was a concept in anyone’s head, Jack Kerouac was exploring the continental United States and sharing his travels on paper. This novel expertly captures the beauty and vastness of two beautiful countries (U.S. and Mexico).

America was already settled in the 1950’s, but Kerouac’s unique lens and wild fervor was a brand new angle. In the novel, he meditates on adventure, appetite, the sanctity of human life, and the magnificence of jazz music. A truly beautiful memoir, this book is an essential work within the Beat Generation canon.

LonelyPlanet’s 1000 Ultimate Adventures

“We live in fortunate times. The world is more accessible than ever before.”

This is a light, fun read. Some of the adventures are aspire-worthy, experiences to live and long for. Take, for example, #302: Mountain Biking in Chi Phat, Cambodia. The description mentions the “backdrop of mountains, waterfalls and, if you’re lucky, grazing elephants” that you’ll cycle past. Some “adventures” fall flat. I’m not really sure how remarkable paddle boarding in Wisconsin is. Nonetheless, the book is a perfect antidote to any sort of “traveler’s block” or stickiness you may have.

The World’s Most Dangerous Places

“And remember, the most dangerous thing in the world is still ignorance.”

Robert Pelton is a bad ass. He’s a writer and interviewer who has risked his life more times than you can comprehend. Pelton has spent times in places where journalists were being evacuated. This book explores the war-havoced depths of Chechnya, some of the notoriously gang-infested streets of Colombia, Uganda, North Korea, Sudan, and many more. The only common criticism of this book is some of its outdatedness.

Tibet

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“The people of Tibet, even today, can be best understood through an understanding of their past…”

In this revealing book by Thubten Jigme Norbu and Colin M. Turnbull, a vast history and fascinating culture is taught. The writers detail Tibetan history, religious beliefs, customs, food, and various subcultures.

Tibet used to be a grand enigma, a mystical land cutoff to most visitors. Tibetans, though generous in nature, were extremely averse to tourists and researchers. This book, published in 1970, provided ample insight into the beauty and simplicity of Tibetan life.

Norbu was the eldest brother of the current Dalai Lama. His pride in his culture and his personal transparency make for an enjoyable read. He mentions the secret rituals of Tantra and Bon practitioners, explains how Tibet was once full of fierce warriors, and tells of the complicated relationship between Tibet, the Mongols, and the Chinese.

Six Signs You’re a Classy Traveler

There are essentially six signs that you’re a classy traveler. Classy ladies and gentlemen adhere to these important guidelines all over the world. They travel from England, China, Argentina, Russia. And, despite some ugly stereotypes, I sincerely believe a good number of Americans travel with this type of respect and dignity. Check the list, and see how you compare!

1. You tip generously.

In this day and age, there’s little reason to tip under 20%. Unless the service was truly sub par (and not just the server forgetting a lemon wedge for your lemonade), tip well. 

As a former server myself, I experienced a lot of gratitude toward people who took care of me. I remember people like Carl, the aging workaholic who would give a few extra dollars because I refilled his coffee often. It’s a classy move, and if you can afford to travel, you can afford the gratuity. If you truly cannot, consider street food, packing lunches, ordering less expensive items, or sacrificing that second glass of vino.


2. You research some basic customs and etiquette before arriving at your destination.

Courtesy of TripSavvy.com

The classy traveler knows that shoulders should be covered in most cathedrals.

The classy traveler knows that in some Arab and Asian countries, it’s rude to point your foot at someone.

Part of what makes traveling great is the consciousness you build after being exposed to other societies. It also requires a little pregaming in the consciousness department. A little research goes a long way in excursions. Know how to act, and the people will (usually) respect you for it.


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3. The hotel room isn’t trashed.

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My wife takes this seriously. Yes, you are paying for a housekeeping service. This doesn’t warrant a free pass for leaving a pig sty though. Not only is it courteous to the staff, it is helpful to other guests as well. We had to wait almost two extra hours for our room because a family left the place in disarray. Don’t be that guy.

Some specific tips:

  • Use the trash bin.
  • If it gets full, call management.
  • Don’t flush your pants down the toilet.
  • Save the blowing of snot-rockets for the woods.
  • Wine goes in the mouth.
  • Anything rotting should be tied in a bag immediately and taken outside the building.
  • Don’t conceal vomit. Be a big boy/girl and ask for help.
  • Dogs that can handle their s— (no pun intended) are ok. Cats are another story.

4. You rock classy travel gear.


5. You keep your shoes on.

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This specifically applies to planes, trains, and automobiles. Even if you had a pedicure last week, keep those metatarsals to yourself. If you haven’t washed your feet since packing, definitely keep that funk contained.

I spoke to a flight attendant close to me, and she revealed some of the in-flight atrocities she’s seen. She spoke of the minor offenses, like people walking barefoot to the lavatory as if it were their own home. But more disgustingly, she spoke of jamokes setting their feet up on the armrest in front of them. This is not classy.


6. You have at least one black-tie affair on the itinerary.

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You don’t have to wear an Armani suit or dress like Sophia Loren every day of your trip to breathe class. But it’s good to have at least one chance to look elegant. Even after you take the dress socks off, you’ll likely remain in a sagacious mindset.

Also, don’t take this as “I need to spend a lot of money on formal wear and spend a lot of money on an expensive restaurant.” Adapt. If you’re low on cash, who says you can’t wear a tie on a picnic? Who says a tie from Goodwill isn’t formal? 

Another note: this is not a point of condescension. There are more reasons to embrace sophistication than there are excuses for disposing your own pride. I want everybody in this world to feel good. We all owe it to ourselves!


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Back-Pooching

Never heard of back-pooching before? Me neither, until I came across this video:

Meet Penni

Penni is a dog that was rescued from a tweaker pad outside of NYC. Her rescuer, Blaine, speaks about her with great passion:

…to see how she just comes to life when we’re outside, she’s the kind of dog that will turn a cat person into a dog person. There’s not one person that meets her that doesn’t just fall in love with her.

The video above takes place in the Lake Powell area (Utah-Arizona border). When I saw it, there were many questions. How the hell did he get his dog to latch onto his back like that? Where else has this doggy been? Who is this pooch?

It turns out Penni Dog has her own Instagram, which can be found under the handle @pennidog. The photos are stunning. She’s been to snow-capped mountains in Zion National Park. She’s been to the Grand Canyon. Moapa, Nevada. Valley of Fire. Some of the most majestic locations in the Southwest.

Blaine was gracious enough to take the time for an interview. Here’s more on Penni, her life, her story:

Steve/HMPYG: It says on Instagram that Penni was locked in a basement for a year and that you rescued her, right?

Blaine: Yeah, so I was living about thirty minutes outside of New York City at the time and I was looking for a dog for six months. I think I was rejected by four different rescue groups, them not thinking I’d be a good dog owner because I work in an office job. Basically I wasn’t an unemployed millionaire entrepreneur or something, that’s what they were looking for, but, luckily came across her. The story I got was she was locked in the basement of a drug house for the start of her life. I’m not really sure how old she is, it said something like between a year and two years when I got her. She was thrown out of the drug house, picked up by some cops, the cops took her with two other dogs to the pound. They were next in line to be euthanized that day. I’ve stayed in touch with the rescue group, I send them pictures all the time.

Steve/HMPYG: That’s awesome.

Blaine: They said I’d be a good owner, and then, “trust me, you’re going to love her as soon as you meet her.” She was a mess when I got her. She was a huge mess. Between all the physical abuse and then the stress of everything else, she was in awful shape when I got her. I never seen a dog more terrified of everything in my life.

Steve/HMPYG: Yeah I had an abused dog too, and she spent twenty hours a day underneath the bed.

Blaine: That definitely sounds familiar. There was probably six months before I could really make eye contact with her. I just started from day one, just walks every day, and you know, she had sheer panic with every single noise that she heard. She started becoming more trusting of the world. I’d say at two years, everything was manageable I guess. It wasn’t as nearly as stressful owning her and trying to get her to feel normal. I’ve had her a little over three years now at this point. I’d say we’re as close as we’re going to get to rehabilitation. She definitely has strange quirks, particularly when we’re indoors. That previous traumatization is still kind of lingering, but anytime we get outside she just kind of flips a switch. She’s an entirely different dog when she’s outside.

Steve/HMPYG: That makes her around four years old now?

Blaine: Somewhere between four and five, I’m not really sure. I gave her a birthday of fourth of July. I’m saying she’ll turn five on the fourth of July.

Steve/HMPYG: Where do you guys live now? Henderson?

Blaine: Yeah, so, it’s right outside Las Vegas. I got transferred here for work about two and a half years ago, still working for the same company, still doing your standard Monday through Friday. The geography here is just amazing, it’s been the absolute favorite place I’ve ever lived in my life. It’s pretty much every weekend we’re going out somewhere doing something.

Steve/HMPYG: Same. I moved to Phoenix from NY and I have a rescue too. I take him out whenever I can. Where does that video clip take place? Bryce Canyon?

Blaine: No, that was actually a little slot canyon off the side of Lake Powell.

Steve/HMPYG: Oh really?

Blaine: Yeah, we were there last week. A pretty tough-to-get-to spot off of Lake Powell. It’s funny, I didn’t even know anybody was taking video of me, I just kind of had my head down. We stopped on the way to Reflection Canyon. I couldn’t even tell you the name of it though.

Steve/HMPYG: Does she just naturally latch onto your back or did you train her to do that?

Blaine: The very first time it ever happened, it was just after work one day, we just went off to a little scramble up a little mountain outside of Las Vegas. When we got to the very top of this mountain, she cut a pad on one of her front paws wide open. She was just walking so gingerly I winded up just throwing her on my back that day. I think she was like well, I can walk in pain or I can just do this. (laughs) I had her on my back for a better part of three hours before we got back to the truck.

Steve/HMPYG: Oh wow.

Blaine: And ever since then she’s had no problem with that. Every time I throw her on my back she sits perfectly still, doesn’t fight it. She seems pretty relaxed with it.

Steve/HMPYG: Some people might see that and they would say that’s reckless. I think people freak out when they see stuff like that. What would you say to that?

Blaine: It’s not like all this just happened overnight. What I love about taking videos of her is that you can watch her jumping up and down ledges and stuff and seeing how much she enjoys it. The people that see her inside versus outside, knowing the history she’s had, knowing how truly depressed she was before I got her… just the intake papers from the pound where they did the initial assessment on her, it’s the most depressing description of a dog you’ve ever seen in your life. So to see how she just comes to life when we’re outside, she’s the kind of dog that will turn a cat person into a dog person. There’s not one person that meets her that doesn’t just fall in love with her. And it all just comes down to her attitude when we’re going out doing stuff like that.

Steve/HMPYG: What’s the best thing you’ve ever done with her?

Blaine: That’s a tough one…

Steve/HMPYG: I saw you took her to Havasupai, that must have been cool.

Blaine: Havasu was probably some of the most exciting photos. We did probably 35 or 40 miles the three days we were there. She was right by my side the whole time. People get a huge kick out of seeing us go up and down ladders. She’s perfectly comfortable with that. All those photos of her around Havasu Falls/Mooney Falls, one friend after another says, “You belong in travel magazines.”

Steve/HMPYG: Yeah I saw someone [on Facebook] say that and it’s very true. I see that she likes yoga mats. (laughs)

Blaine: Every one I’ve owned fell victim to her, and it’s weird because she doesn’t destroy anything. Since I’ve had her there’s only been two or three things she’s gotten into besides that. For whatever reason, she’s got some special taste buds for the yoga mats.

Steve/HMPYG: You have any words for pit bull haters?

Blaine: I get it…I get it because there’s this social stigma associated with them, there are laws being enacted all over the world that outlaw them. It’s no different than a person. You put a person in the wrong environment, they’re gonna turn out the wrong way. If you want to raise a dog to be like that, raise a dog to be an ugly dog, that’s exactly what you’re gonna get.

Steve/HMPYG: I totally agree. Thank you so much!

***

The Way a Dog Can Shape Our Cosmos

What is beautiful about Blaine and Penni’s story is the embodiment of small impact. Blaine made the choice to rescue a dog. She went from being close to death to a lifetime of experiences that we all probably envy. Blaine gave her a piggyback ride out of necessity one day, and now she takes to his shoulders like a squirrel monkey. These small things are vastly inspirational. Seeing Penni in Zion might make a procrastinator somewhere stop delaying, and start to take action. She may (hopefully) change some minds about pit bull breeds. Whatever the impact may be, getting to know this story has been a true privilege.

A Final Suggestion

Check out this pet bed from Amazon.com:



Furhaven Orthopedic Mattress Pet Bed

 

 

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Photo Credit: Nick Wrzesinski Instagram: @nick_wrz

Finding Holiness in la Sagrada Família

As we walked down the streets of Barcelona on an early Saturday night, my wife and I had to swerve to avoid a drunken man. He was stumbling, couldn’t fully open his eyes, and held his arms out. His limbs were covered in lacerations and blood. It was around 7 o’clock. Other people parading down the block didn’t seem to care. This absurd scene was violently different than the experiences we had in Assisi, Italy.

In Italy, the cathedrals are quiet and ancient. Often, you are required to cover your shoulders. There’s a sense of modesty and solemnity accompanying many of the holy sites. This wasn’t so with la Sagrada Familia of Barcelona. The line is long outside the front entrance. Video monitors display information in various languages. There’s a grand sense of tourism that makes you feel like you’re at a trendy shark museum.

We had come to la Sagrada Família to admire the famed art and architecture. The structure is astonishing. Rectangular Picasso-esque statues of Christ dot the gargantuan cathedral. The towering steeples are reminiscent of termite nests. I don’t know much about architecture, but any formal knowledge isn’t necessary to admire this Gothic glory:
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I looked at la Sagrada Família as a work of art that had a secondary functioning of being a place of worship. Even as you go inside, the interior is something like a fantastical ice palace. People crowd around selfie sticks, speak at robust volumes, and talk about their lunch plans. As we sat, my wife and I overheard one conversation:

“The bible just doesn’t make sense. It claims to go back many millennia in time, yet says nothing about the dinosaurs.”
“Mm-hm.”
“They teach the kids that Noah brought animals in sets of two. Giraffes, donkeys, lions, and all that kinda stuff. But no dinosaurs on that ark?”
“Ha!”
“It’s just a timeless brainwashin’ of schoolchildren. The book isn’t based in fact at all. We just learn it and accept it without questionin.’ ”

We said nothing and just smiled at each other. I’m not a particularly religious man, nor am I an atheist. I can find humor in biblical fallacies. I also believe in sanctity very much. But this was a demonstration of the absence of sanctity, an outwash by tourism, skepticism, and commerce. The cathedral seemed figuratively plastic.

Then, all thought and contemplation was disrupted.

The sounds of a choral Ave Maria enveloped the cathedral interior. The pitches, balance, and timbre were perfect. I felt a power like my mother’s vast endless adoration, fortuitous rainbows, galactic mystery. My throat swelled and my tear ducts tingled.

This was one of the moments in life that you remember forever. A transcendent experience that stays with you until your last living minute. This was spiritual.

My ideas about la Sagrada Família were transformed. I didn’t know much about Gaudí, but I knew right there and then that he was a holy man. The perfection of that Ave Maria rendition wasn’t a happy accident. I later learned that much thought and planning went into the cathedral’s acoustics. According to MUSMon, a visitor’s guide, the church was constructed in a directly musical way:

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I quietly sob as I write this article, thinking of that moment. Underneath all the marketing and management, La Sagrada Família is a deeply spiritual place. It was made and designed with worship in mind.

Later on in the weekend, my wife and I went to the most unbelievable flamenco show we had ever seen. I sipped whisky and studied the guitarist’s fingers. The dancers displayed a synchronicity that must have taken decades to master. As mind-blowing as this show was, a thought fluttered about the Ave Maria moment. The world is full of marvel and wonder, and I believe that this kind of greatness can be found anywhere on the planet. Despite the magic of ordinary experiences, however, la Sagrada Família will emanate a particularly special harmony for a long, long time.

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