Originally, I wasn’t planning to write about Ios at all . I didn’t think there would be anything to say that would contribute to the message I try to get across in my writing and certainly not anything worth sharing with my grandma or my pint sized readers. If anyone has heard of Ios, you know what I mean. This is a party island. For the tourists, it’s dedicated to one thing and one thing only. Like I’ve mentioned before, blowing all my money on clubs in Greece wasn’t my main objective. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good night out, but there is so much more to see and do that I would never be able to experience anywhere else! The party can wait. The party can happen anywhere.
As I write this now, I am thankful that I decided to do what my fellow travellers advised and spend three nights (it was very specific) at Francesco’s hostel in the city center. They were right, these nights would be unique. They would be full of new people and nonstop, flashy, excitement until the sun came up and the moment it went down again.
Yes, I spent my nights and early mornings dancing away the minutes and my days napping on the beach and eating my weight in fried food. It was a given. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Am I thankful I listened to the three day rule? Most definitely.
But that’s not what I want to elaborate on. By now I bet you’ve already guessed what made my time here something I will hold with me in my mental book of memories. It was the people I met who became a family to me for that short little while. I couldn’t have skipped a post without telling you about how they made my time in Ios unforgettable.
It’s usually within a matter of minutes that I run into the perfect companions. When I arrived in Ios, it was a matter of seconds. As soon as I walked up to the sign a man was holding at the port reading Francesco’s, I was rushed in the direction of the parking lot and remember saying “I’ll follow them!” and pointed to two girls around my age. We started talking right away. Lisa and Nena are both from Holland. They had been told to be here by many travellers as well so we bonded over our weariness and excitement about how the next few days were going to pan out. Lisa and I quickly connected over something we both adore. She had recently done an exchange in Canada and couldn’t stop raving about how much she loved the country. It made me feel more proud than I’ve ever been about living where I do. I smiled as she pointed out the little things that make Canada a wonderful place to be. The polite nature, Tim Hortons, free refills. I’ve actually run into several people who have done exchanges in my country and couldn’t get enough of it either! This trip has opened my eyes to that aspect of my life as well. I am extremely proud and lucky to be a Canadian and extremely embarrassed that I haven’t seen more of it. Take a wild guess at what my next trip is going to be? I know there’s even more to appreciate in my own backyard.
Lisa and Nena were fun and sweet from the get go and I was really glad to have already met two people to spend the first night with.
It was obvious from the start that Francesco’s has run on the same schedule with the same routines for many years. It was a well oiled machine, that place was. Francesco himself was always seen sitting outside of the common bar area. Picture a sleek, cool looking old man who was probably living the life on that island. Judi is the fantastic bartender who comes from Edmonton and is always calling everyone baby. The days and nights ran on a schedule that was engrained in our memories by the time our stay was through. Welcome shots began at 10:30pm. Whether or not it was your first night or your tenth, you were always invited to welcome shots. And you better believe people stayed there for weeks on end. I don’t want to think about it. Socializing in the common area started right afterward and drinks were flowing. It was the perfect system because at 12:15 on the nose, our driver Alex would hop up on the table and announce his “famous” speech that we all eventually learned to know by heart, ended it with some crazy profanities that we chanted in unison and the heard of us headed down the cobblestone into this community of bars. This place was wild. The only thing I’m going to bother sharing is feeling of the atmosphere there in the center. Everyone was there to have a good time and you could just feel the buzz of energy. You got to know the bartenders, the bouncers and would even run into the same people each night. Every second shop sold crepes so it couldn’t get any better.
In the meantime, before the first night hit, I met two more amazing friends to join our trio. Kirsty and I met in the sketchy hostel bathroom at the sinks. Actually, our first meeting involved me standing behind her as she lugged her suitcase up the steep steps and wheeled it to her front door. Our conversation this time began with, “I think I need to invest in a backpack.” From there, we talked about our travel plans and shared our blog links. Kirsty didn’t have much of an idea when she would be home at all. She was flying on even less of an itinerary than I was which is saying a lot. She is from Australia and it was easy to see that almost everyone visiting this island was. It was a wonder I met two girls from Holland. It’s very common for Australians to take a large amount of time to travel before heading off to school or to take on a job.
Kirsty had a very mellow way about her. I found it was refreshing to be around her and the calmness she emitted. She had decided to stay in Ios for a few weeks and find work so every day she would report back with a new job she received and then the next hour a better one. Then a better one after that. It’s incredibly easy to get work on the islands. Heck, maybe I should have picked something up!
As we sat talking on the beds in my dorm, a guy walked in and plopped himself on the bed beside mine. I was beginning to wonder if anyone would be staying with me. Caleb’s personality made it incredibly easy for the three of us to duldge into an immediate conversation. An Australian as well (but sporting an English accent as we all joked), he had been traveling for about four months now and was on the last legs of his trip, traveling about the same time as I will be. He too had done an exchange at UBC and shared a love for Canada as strong as mine and Lisa’s. His funny and easy going ways allowed the three of us to chat until it was time to head downstairs.
As soon as I introduced Kirsty and Caleb to Nena and Lisa, we became a group of five that you would rarely find apart. The coolest part about the friendships that I make and the tight knit groups we form is that every one of us is from a different part of the world and still, we are able to find ourselves around a dinner table sharing wine. We talked about it often, marvelling at the beauty of that concept. It still makes me stop every once in a while. We danced that night until our legs turned to jello and our mouths hurt from smiling.
During the first day, Caleb told us about a boat trip he was planning on taking that takes us to a beach pretty far from the rest of the Ios world. How glad I am that he recommended that. It was something different than the main beach. The best part and one of my favourite memories was the little stop the boat made by a tiny beach area along the way. It stopped there for half an hour and the water was crystal clear. It was the clearest and bluest water I had ever seen and incredibly refreshing. The ocean has this amazing way of cooling your whole body in such a peaceful way that no pool or lake has ever done.
The second day was spent on the beach but alone with Kirsty. The others had gone off on their day adventures separately and Caleb set off for his next destination. The two of us shared the day together and effortlessly talked the day away over dinner, ice-cream and beach waves. We found out that our birthdays landed on the exact same day but four years apart. We were pisces twins and it showed as we soared deeper and deeper into our conversations on the sand. We talked about changing the world and future aspirations, heart breaks and family. It was easy to talk to Kirsty about things like that. She had an understanding nature and although we didn’t relate in every single way, it was an afternoon of listening and support. I know she’s going to go far and wide with whatever she decides to take on in the future and I can almost guarantee that travel will be a part of it. It just seemed like she was made to make her mark in all areas of the world.
It’s odd that I didn’t take many photos at all during my time here. There are several in the hands of my friends but here’s one of at least four of us that I managed to get at the beach we spent the day on.
One final moment that I’ll never forget was shared with a little girl. I was sitting in a square where the local kids would often play soccer or tag. While casually eating my lunch, a small girl came up to me and started pointing at my bag. She only seemed to know one word of English and that was the word “happy.” She continued to point in my bag and poke around saying, “happy, happy, happy.” I was sure she was trying to reach into my box of granola bars but I quickly figured out it was my camera that she wanted. I pulled it out for her and saw her smile. I carefully put the strap around her neck and told her to hold on tight and click the big black button. Of course, most of this was communicated by actions. Regardless of if she understood my words, she picked it up very quickly and was snapping away in no time. The camera was almost the size of her head and I was afraid the weight was going to cause her to topple over! I couldn’t believe how happy my camera had made this little girl. She kept motioning for me to pose as she took my photo several times and then did the same with some people around her. At one point, I watched her spin in a circle over and over while constantly clicking the shutter. Whatever works for you sweetheart! I showed her how to use the video next and how to change the lens. That was a big deal! She gasped as I took the lens off and replaced it with one that zoomed.
The rewarding feeling I got from that moment will resonate with me for a long time. It got me thinking about Hilary Camilleri from One for the Wall right away. I mentor with this beautiful photographer back at home and she recently held a camera course for kids between the ages of 9 and 14. It was always something I looked at as a brilliant idea. Young people have so much passion. Being able to have an outlet to learn and grow doing something that you love is incredibly important, especially at a young age when that drive is still so strong. Hilary provided that for these kids and that’s one of the reasons why I admire her so much. Because she cares so deeply. So just then, as I was I was laughing and teaching this little girl about how to use my Nikon, I felt what I’m sure Hilary did numerous times over. I felt a huge sense of gratefulness that I was able to experience this moment with her, a complete stranger from another country. I was able to give her that half an hour of happiness that I saw all over her face. It was an incredible feeling. That one English word she spoke over and over couldn’t have been more perfect.