My current travel companion is Dan Balk. He’s a college buddy. In school we called him Math Major Dan. This nickname stemmed from his choice of major, but it stuck because of the novelty factor: never before had we met such a fratastic calculus nerd. His tendency to reference theorems while ten beers deep earned him a place in the hearts of many a Penn girl. Dan is now social chair of his med school class at the University of Colorado in Denver, and between studying for podiatry tests and retinal reviews, he has managed to run two marathons. He’s quite fit.
The upside of these things: I could assure my nervous mother I was traveling with an Ivy-League educated bodyguard.
The downside: As you may deduce, jock-nerd Dan is just as spacey and spatially disoriented as I am.
Upon meeting up in Florence, we scrapped our original plan to go to Cairo – we had failed to book tickets and last-minute airfare was unfairly pricey. Plan B: We booked a cheap ferry to Croatia. We missed that ferry. While attempting to get to the port, we boarded a train coming from the Ancona port rather than going to it. We learned of our mistake five hours later when a conductor (finally) checked our tickets.
Plan C: Once we did get to Ancona, we camped out to await the next round of ferries, which would leave the following evening.
Plan D: We boarded a ferry to Greece. It seemed like a logical plan after we overheard a description of the boat heading there. For forty euro, you can take a cruise ship. There would be a gym, pool and discotheque on board!
Note: Forty euro gets you a spot sleeping on the deck, if there is space. We were the boat vagabonds. The fancier, Coach-bag clad guests politely dodged as we lumbered through in 25 lb backpacks. The restaurant staff averted their eyes as we munched on crackers for breakfast, lunch and dinner and washed them down with boxed wine. And surely everyone admired our strategy as we staked out pool chairs for use as beds and played raucous card games until we were tired enough fall asleep in the smog of the coal stacks. It was actually really fun.
Twenty hours later we docked in Patras, Greece, and in just three more hours we arrived in Athens. When the Acropolis appeared in the distance, signaling our arrival, it had never looked so majestic.