And so naturally I have mixed feelings and emotions right now on this first morning 'home'. Besides it's looking like it's going to rain heavily soon - an element I've happily gone without for so long. Remember it's not just the physical manifestation of rain that I will find depressing, but of course the mental side effect it will bring.
For this last reflective post, it's in the direction of the past we must go but not before the final random story of the season. I say random but at the same time I'm not really sure of what differentiates a random story to a travel story? Do '24 hour' friends I become acquainted along the way count as a travel story or a random story? Whatever the answer, this story involves a '4 hour friend'.
Why so many people?
'I'm surprised to see the plane is full of people wanting to come to the UK right now for the cold rainy season', I say to the youngish looking guy next to me on the plane.
'I think it must be a mixture of reasons but I would say mainly people looking to do both business and pleasure. I too cannot imagine the majority are going to the UK in December for just a holiday', he responds.
'Ah, ok' I said out loud whilst I simultaneously (and internally) weighed up the validity of it. To be fair, I couldn't fault that suggestion and if anything, that made sense to me too. 'And you, Sir?', I asked.
'Business and pleasure, he says with a smile. I'm off to Las Vegas to see my girl'.
You see this man's profession was modelling. Tough life huh. This surprised me a little at first as certainly he wasn't an ugly looking fella but, and to exercise some diplomacy, I'd seen plenty of 'equally' handsome men here in Greece. Maybe he had the 'jaw-line' or whatever else it is these agencies look for in their models. Anyhow, past work must have been good for him because he had hired a room sized for four - all to himself. No, really.
did you know that the cost of accommodation for a night's stay in Las Vegas is actually affordable. I knew this from a memorable experiences I had in 2010 my friends. Its the drinking and gambling that augment the income for the hotel businesses on the strip. Still, he wasn't staying for a night or two, he was staying for 18 nights and shows me, and I quote, the 'great price' for his accommodation - 850 euros. 'Bargain' I said, sarcastically but with a smile. To be fair, it might actually be a decent price when you do the sums but still, 850 euros just for accommodation I didn't see coming.
Were you paying attention earlier? He said he was off to meet his girl so why would he be staying in the hotel alone?
I picked up on that and asked him. He says she is staying in a different hotel as she is the one working this time, not him. Three guesses to what her profession was? No, no, not a stripper or dancer, but also a model. Of course.
Being a heterosexual man, naturally I said 'Dude, show me pics' - lol, sorry ladies it's just how we're programmed :-) She was fair haired and skin toned which was also very different to what I envisaged. Greeks, like Italians, Spanish and wherever else are predominately of darker complexion.
So to wrap up the story for the punchline, this is her (shown with the arrow) from just a photo taken a few days ago in Las Vegas.
It transpires that the fella I sat next and conversed with is the boyfriend of Greece's MISS UNIVERSE. Not county, city or whatever else, she is the single entry (I believe) to be representing Greece as a country in the 2015 Miss Universe competition happening right now and for the next week or so in Las Vegas.
Naturally then I later went and Googled 'Mikaela Fotiadi' and enjoyed her
Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of random travel stories and frankly I'm very sad they're at an end.
Anyway, back to the less glamorous world and to conclude this post...
So did I have a master plan?
'Are you really doing this?'. 'This is a big wind up, right?'. 'So what on earth is the plan? You always have a plan'.
Memorable quotes I remember from some friends in the three weeks leading up to departure. People that knew me well found it impossible to believe I didn't have a plan and that's entirely understandable. You've only got to look at precision planning behind some of my past lads road trips to know it would be highly unlikely for someone so organized and meticulous to be able to just 'pack up and travel' without a plan.
Of course I had a plan but to be fair, it was a high-level plan (and a rather ambitious one a that) so there was truth and meaning behind when I said to folk 'I did not have a plan'. You see, I genuinely believed it was more unlikely than likely that I would accomplish this plucked-out-of-the-air target I set myself and so unsurprisingly, I wasn't in a rush to share the master plan with anyone.
By high-level I mean I had an overall plan, not a day, week or monthly plan. My friend and ex work colleague Nick the Greek will recall that during my visit to see him in Cyprus back in April, I had no clue where I was going next. He will recall that I was siding with Turkey due to its proximity to Cyprus only to shortly after be taught a history lesson from Nick as to why entering Turkey from Cyprus would be non-trivial.
Later than evening and with the help of Google Maps, I randomly took a chance on Romania and that would mark the start of me squashing countless stereotypes throughout this year. Regular viewers may remember how charmed I was by this fantastically picturesque country and one of many countries I long to return to. To think I was just a travel baby back then....
As for the master plan, well this was to a) always stay in Europe and b) time my return around Xmas.
Sounds simple enough in a few words but 240 backpacking days later, I promise you it wasn't. They say the first steps are often the hardest and I too can relate to that thinking back. Let's see quitting my job (and very possibly my career) was a huge deal. To add to that there was the selling of my car, renting of my home, buying a one-way ticket out of the UK, saying goodbye to my family and friends and heading to a far away destination not as a tourist, as a wet behind the ears solo traveller. Perhaps that puts into a clearer perspective...
Therefore in the immortal words of George George Peppard:
Please do be sure to check in online from time to time over the months as maybe, just maybe, you haven't heard the last of me...
Goodbye for now, Godbless and Happy Christmas from me, Bebop and Rocksteady (People of my age may remember which kids show those names came from):
Job done. Over and out...