Life doesn’t always go as planned, especially while traveling. Especially, especially while traveling alone as a female. And especially, especially, especially while traveling as a solo female for the very first time in Greece.
We, us solo female travellers, do our best to map out our destinations carefully, searching amidst hundreds of reviews and advice posts to ensure we don’t get lost and end up in the wrong spot. But, try as we might, accidents do happen. Random, incorrect, information does get published online, and do we do – at times – trust such sources.
I had only arrived in Thessaloniki the day prior, but my eagerness to discover another area I had heard rumours of, which was situated just beyond its boundaries, urged me to embark on the trek after my first sleep in the city. Halkidiki, some of Europe’s finest beaches… calling tourists from all areas of the globe.
Halkidiki, which is also known as “Chalkidiki,” (the ‘ch’ is pronounced like an ‘h’ in Greece, which I was repeatedly and embarrassingly reminded of by the locals during my stay), boasts some marvellous turquoise and clear waters with vast stretches of white sand and privacy-enhancing, exotic lagoons. After months of living in London and Budapest, much too far from the ocean for my liking, I just couldn’t manage to wait another sleep before arriving at what I’d dreamt of for so long: a day on the beach.
Perhaps my eagerness is just what set the day off on the wrong foot, for it stole any little patience that exists within me, allowing me only to consider the quickest of errands, and therefore limiting my options for breakfast as well. I wound up eating something I’d normally salivate over : a crepe. It wasn’t the crepe, really, that caused the spiralling events, but surely the sugar-induced coma and persisting hanger as my body screamed for nutritional sustenance.
Soon my sandals were giving me blisters, and nowhere could I find a solution to my second errand before starting my journey to paradise: a beach bag. With time, limping time, I found what I needed and made it home. Changing quickly, I packed my camera gear into my bag and headed for the street. My map told me the bus station which would eventually take me to Halkidiki was 20 minutes by walking, and because 0f my frugalness and eagerness to save travel funds, I chose the foot route despite my angry feet.
Halfway there and just 10 minutes to go, I stopped briefly to snap a photo of a monument along the way, at which point my camera alerted me of my third delay: “no card.” Heart sinking, I turned and raced home as quickly as my feet would allow, checking my watch incessantly. I realized I wouldn’t make it back to the bus station in time (utilizing the foot method) after all, and vowed to take a cab. By the time I reached the station, camera gear intact, and paid the driver, I had only 5 minutes on my side before my scheduled bus was set to depart. Trouble was, there was no bus station in sight. Huge sigh, panic rising, I found a girl who spoke english in a nearby shop, and she pointed me leerily in the direction of the station: “Um, I don’t think it goes to Kassandra though…”
Well, she was right. It didn’t go to Kassandra, and this ‘KTEL bus station’ – which is still impossible to find online, by the way – was not KTEL bus station at all. I let go of my hope to make the 12pm bus, and opted for the 1pm. But after 20 minutes spent asking strangers for directions to “Chalkidiki” to which they responded with shocked facial expressions and lengthy pauses to ensure I was serious before continuing with directions, I figured maybe it would be more like an evening in Halkidiki after all.
I didn’t give up. I found the correct bus station eventually, which is actually located at the central train station of Thessaloniki, and after waiting around for a bus which was meant to deliver me to my terminus bus which would take me to paradise, I made another wise decision. I hopped in a second cab, which took me back past where I was staying, and at 12:55pm, I had arrived safely where I needed to be. Jumping on my Halkidiki bus with literally 1 minute to spare, I let out a sigh, knowing that my intensely frustrating morning was finally over.
I realized once I was on the bus that I didn’t exactly know where I was going, since where I initially thought I’d end up – Kassandria – was set a little too far inland for comfort. I hopped off at the stop before in Kallithea, and made my way in the direction that I deemed to be the beach.
The moment the trees parted, revealing that smile-inducing turquoise blue I’ve only seen in places situated far south of the equator before, I knew it was all worth it. It may have taken me longer than I’d hoped, and I may have had a few war wounds to show for it, but I had made it.
I had made it to Halkidiki: Greek paradise.