Samaria Gorge

Nestled among mountain villages in West Central Crete lies the starting point of the Samaria Gorge. The Samaria is one of the longest and most pristine gorge hikes in all of Europe. At 16.7 KM or 10.3 miles, the Samaria is very long and full of constant unrelenting terrain. For 8 months of the year it is visited daily by thousands of people. These people are typically avid hikers, using the Samaria as a future goal to conquer and a huge trip to plan. So when I decided that I would hike this beast with my four year old, five year old and a baby on my back I did briefly consider how crazy of a concept that was, but I had no idea what I was actually getting us into. 

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Somehow, I convinced my mother to visit and attempt this crazy feat with us. I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid; I knew I needed another set of adult hands for this and she was crazy enough to say yes. Up until the moment we began the hike and even up until the half way point, we were considering turning back. The terrain was huge river rocks, loose falling stones everywhere and a dire need to look down at your feet the entire time in self preservation. It is one of the most difficult things I’ve done to date and to think that I was being followed by my small children. . .

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In the Early Morning Rain

We set out for the bus station, on foot, at 0630. Our bus left for Omalos Crete at 0730 and was a little over an hour of winding dark mountain roads. Heavy fog and rain in the mountains is normal, but very ominous when you are trying to mentally prepare for something like this. We all fell asleep briefly and awoke at the end of the road, next to a small building, in the pouring rain. We went inside to huddle with other crazy people in the hopes that the rain would let up soon enough that we could still get through the hike. The business was selling trash bags as rain ponchos, after investing in those and styling them to fit my small tribe, we set off. 

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We set off in the drizzle with some new friends we had made. Two American couples from Chicago decided to follow us into the dreary rain, because, “if those kids are going so are we.”  The first three miles were straight down a mountain side in the drizzle. Within the first two miles Rhodes and I had both fallen. A month later, my ankle still hurts, but eventually we hit the bottom of the gorge, which mean’t flatter ground and the sun came out. 

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The Librarians and the Lawyers kept us company for the first 5 Km before they sped ahead and we kept on keeping on. Unlike almost everyone else, we booked a room in the village at the end of the gorge. Whereas, everyone else hiking the gorge was attempting to complete the hike and make the 5:30 pm ferry to the nearest bus stop. We were in no hurry. We couldn’t be in a hurry, we had too many little people and too much at stake.


Wandering with Wild Goats

We tried to keep a steady pace, stopping at available bathrooms (some of the worst bathrooms I’ve ever seen) and eating our lunch while keeping the wild Cretan goats at a distance from our food. They would periodically jump up on walls and picnic tables and scare the living daylights out of Lux. The views were spectacular, but you had to make a sizable effort to look up from your feet and admire your surroundings. 

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The entire 10.3 miles was the boulder type river rocks you see pictured above. A pair of shoes with a strong ankle support is heavily advised if ever you decide to give it a go. 


On the Other Side

We MADE it! It took us 7 hours, but we completed the hike and Rhodes is probably the youngest person to ever hike the entire gorge. The kids did amazingly, mom and I were struggling for days and days afterwards, but the kids were not sore at all. The gorge ends by some small farms and then you have to hike into the nearest village; Agia Roumeli. 

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We found our hotel and crashed. Pure exhaustion doesn’t begin to explain the state of my legs and back from carrying Atlas the whole way. We spent the next day enjoying our reward. The Libyan Sea.

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In all things truly difficult I find myself saying “well I’m glad I did it once, but I don’t need to do it again.” Though now that I’ve done it once, I’m tempted to do it again, but better. As I finish this article, Rhodes looks over my shoulder and says “mom, when can we go hike the gorge again?”

 

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Touring Athens Greece


Welcome to Athens! Athens is a city of amazing history. Once the artistic and cultural Mecca of the ancient world. Home to the only philosophers most people can name and the birth place of everything we, as Americans, recognize as government and society. From a distance, it is easy to visualize Athens and the many surrounding sites and think “vacation,” but Athens is also the largest city in Greece and home to over 4 million people.

The best time to visit Athens is on the cusp of the high tourist season, April and October. If you must come during high tourist season (mid-may through the end of September) you can expect higher hotel and food prices as well as endless seas of people. It is always worth it though.

Touring Athens: Tips for Seeing Ruins


Here in Greece, each day begins a bit overcast and by 11 am you are considering gelato. By 3 pm you are certain you could fry an egg on the sidewalk if need be. One of my biggest tips for tourists is to HIKE THE ACROPOLIS EARLY IN THE MORNING. The Acropolis gates open at 8 am for this very reason so do your best to get there for the opening. My second tip is to use public transportation to get around the city. You can use apps like Oasa to figure out what time and which line of bus to use, but the metro system works very well and is typically quite clean. The metro offers 5 day passes, which are much more affordable than a 24 hour pass.

Each ruin site sells a 30 Euro ticket that gets you entrance into the main ruin attractions within the city (Acropolis, Zeus’ Temple, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora and Hadrian’s Library) This is a great value if you are interested in seeing all of these things as the Acropolis alone is a 20 euro entrance fee.

What to See: Athens and Ruins


This is where things get tricky, as there is so much to see that prioritizing is a must. Athens is not the place for the lazy leisure traveler. You will go go go constantly while here if you want to see even a small portion of your list. This is where you should start:

  • The Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum. If you did not major in classics then you will want a tour. Go early, accomplish the Acropolis first and then spend the hot afternoon going through the huge museum.
  • While in central Athens you could also swing by the Ancient Agora and Zeus’ Temple. Both of the sites are incredibly beautiful, peaceful and full of cultural history.
  • The National Museum of Archaeology is a must see. The collection of archaeological finds; gold, bronze, pottery, statues is absolutely incredible and reveals a great deal about the culture and history of the Greek people.
  • Day tour to the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. If you are a bit more adventurous then I recommend renting a car and doing both Delphi and the battle site of Thermopylae in the same day.

  • Thermopylae. If you are a history lover or a huge fan of Gerard Butler (300 reference) then Thermopylae is a must. It is just a really neat place. Bring your bathing suit to take a quick dip in the incredibly hot and putrid smelling hot springs. A must do if you enjoy off the beaten path sight seeing as you also get to see some Syrian refugee housing.


Southern Mainland and the Peloponnese


  • Sounio Bay and the Temple of Poseidon. Personally, I believe the Temple of Poseidon to be one of the more impressive Greek ruins and a wonderful place to catch a Mediterranean sunset. The same day you could go to the beach of Marathon and its adjoining museum. You will learn about the battle and about the history of the 26.2 mile race as well as enjoy a not so famous, or crowded, attraction.
  • If time allows, rent yourself a car and take a 2 or 3 day tour of the Peloponnese. Ad Mycenae, Nafplio, the Palace of Nestor, the Castle Methoni and Olympus to your agenda and drive. Once you are out of Athens, driving is very easy. Some of the greatest archaeological finds of the ancient world are just a half day’s drive away from Athens and essentially unpopulated compared to the Athens metropolis.
  • On your last night in Athens you should treat yourself to dinner on the rooftop terrace of the Saint George hotel or the Dorian hotel. The Saint George terrace won ‘best terrace rooftop in Europe’ last year and for good reason. Be sure to make reservations in advance and be there for sunset of the city.


My Life in Ruins: Athens Greece

For those of you that have seen the sequel to ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ I am here to tell you that everything about Greece is exactly like the film ‘My Life in Ruins.’ The Greek culture is a bit difficult to adjust to as their sense of time is very fluid and unhurried, but the richness of the culture is present at all times as well. Take the time to walk through a street market. Get up early and go get coffee so you can see the ‘real locals’ of Athens. Say Yasus and Kalimera to everyone and you will never feel alone here. Eat the food, drink the coffee, talk to the taxi driver as he most definitely has family in Ameriki. Enjoy your stay and let the Greek lifestyle influence your time, diet and priorities.

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Schooling on the Road: What I Packed and What I Should Have

As you all have learned by now, we are an avid homeschooling family who has taken to the open globe for a world schooling experience. Most of the world schooling families that you come across practice a form of ‘schooling’ known as ‘unschooling’ they require almost none, if anything, as far as supplies and books are concerned. We unschool a few subjects and many experiences, but we are primarily a homeschooling family with a curriculum and a small, though present, need for school supplies. When I began making a packing list for this year long trip I obviously couldn’t bring EVERYTHING that we had come to use regularly. We only had four of our thematic books left for the year from our curriculum resource (see previous May article) so I wanted to bring those. Everything else was planning for the unknown. What would each child be interested in? What resources would I have abroad? Would school supplies be easy to find? Affordable? Would my child currently learning to read have access to the right books? I had no idea.

On the Road Packing List


The original packing list for schooling on the road looked something like this:

  • Four thematic books (Pebbles for you pocket, tide pools, Hiawatha and the Peace Maker and the complete works of Beatrix Potter)
  • A notebook for each boy
  • A journal for each boy
  • A new box of pencils per child
  • Pencil sharpener
  • One box of colored pencils
  • One box of crayons per child
  • One coloring book per child
  • One boogie board per child
  • The Usborne Fairy Tale collection (very heavy items)
  • The Usborne paper plane book
  • An Usborne sticker book per child
  • The Usborne beginning to read collection
  • Little wooden spelling rods
  • Book of Greek Myths

I feel that in list form it does not seem excessive for a whole year, but my oh my has that list changed. For starters, once all of these things were packed, our luggage was too heavy and some of it overweight entirely. Plan B, I sent some of it home with my father to ship to us once we were settled in Greece, but turns out it costs approximately a hundred dollars to ship most anything to Greece. Those items never made it to us so my plan was revised again.

Plan C of Schooling on the Road


It came to my attention, shortly after our Northern European tour, that in Greece specifically, school supplies were easy to come by, but English books would be a real challenge to find. By the time we arrived in Greece mid-April we had one remaining thematic book and had been notified that our books from my dad would not be coming. Therefore, the hunt for new material began. We found two workbooks in Greek that were simple enough that we could use them without translating every word. Those bought me a few more weeks.

What I should have packed


Lesson learned, I could have gone without packing a single school supply and squeezed in more books. So what did I end up doing? Well I needed to place an amazon order for the oldest’s birthday present so I tacked on more school books since I was already paying a fortune to get the camera to us. That got us through another two months.

We also found an inexpensive small abacus that helped tremendously while it lasted. We improvised with counting sea glass pieces and leaves once our little plastic abacus bit the dust, but it was a nice addition while we had it. Most recently, my mother came to visit and she replenished our school books and supplies hopefully getting us through the month of August when we rendezvous with the next friend from the U.S.

Hunting for Curriculum Substitutes


What did I do about our thematic book curriculum? Well I had to find some major substitutes that were location dependent. While we were on the island of Crete, visiting the Palace of Knossos, we found quite a few Greek battle story books in English! Now that we are on the mainland of Greece again these books are guiding our cultural history and field trip planning. We found books about the Trojan War, the Battle of Marathon and Leonidas and the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. We will be visiting Thermopylae this month as well as Marathon and Sparta. It has actually worked out in my favor that we crossed paths with these books because they are now prioritizing our field trip adventures.

I also had my mother bring Italian Renaissance books for our stays in Venice and Italy later this summer. The plan for the summer is laid out and currently working, plan D will take place at the end of August. Location dependent learning can be absolutely wonderful if you can find English resources. In my personal opinion, that is what world schooling is all about! One thing you can plan for is the unexpected to happen. If you stay flexible in your curriculum planning and open minded in your learning options you won’t need a plan at all. Enjoy the wonder of learning in whatever form it finds you this year.

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Foreign Feelings

I have been trying to write this post for quite a long time. It is a difficult subject because I do not want the whole post to appear negative, nor do I want anyone to think that we aren’t having a wonderful time, but this post needs to be written as well. Everything about raising three children ages 5 and under is difficult, I would be down right lying if I said that was easy, even with 21st century amenities. Here, abroad, I am attempting to survive and thrive in this parenting thing without things like; dryers, dishwashers, cooking utensils, English speaking friends, sports and a yard. I love living abroad, but I do not love every moment and the kids definitely do not love every moment. This post is about the realities of full time traveling on our emotions. 


F.E.A.R


Recently, I discovered this acronym F.E.A.R Feel Everything and Realign. Unlike so many of the military acronyms that I am constantly surrounded by, even when abroad, this acronym has been fueling my strength for days now. It may be the best way to describe this experience for those not experiencing it and visualizing through my facebook and instagram posts. Everyday abroad I feel great joy for the opportunity to expose these children to a world outside of the gates of Camp Lejeune. Everyday I feel like I am failing as a homeschooling mom (Lux is having a very hard time). Every day I feel brave, strong and usually incredibly lonely. Everyday I hear Lux say he wants to go ‘home’ to a home that doesn’t exist for us anymore and I question whether or not he will be better or worse for this experience later. Everyday I ease drop on English speaking conversations in the hopes that they will speak to me and I’ll get that adult interaction in my native tongue that I so desperately need. Everyday I see something new in a location that I adore and it recharges my motivation tanks for the next day. 

I’m only able to write this now because it took my mother visiting and her asking the hard questions for me to be able to put into words the holistic experience here. I would do this again, absolutely. I would do it differently for sure. A huge part of this year of travel was to jump feet first into the deep in and learn how to swim abroad with small children. I have learned SO MUCH. A lot of it has been learned in a very difficult way. I expected that and as a result I am better armed to make future plans, but again I would be lying if I pretended that this was easy. So for the sake of giving a full picture I’m going to give you an update on each member of this mottly crew as we are all feeling everything and realigning (F.E.A.R) differently. 

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Updates on the Bradbury Boys


Luxor: Lux is a difficult guy to figure out. This is what I know; he considers ‘home’ anywhere that includes Greg so in his mind that is North Carolina. He is incredibly smart, but hates all school work. He is also super lazy when it comes to my attempts at unschooling so he is going to have to adjust somewhere. He has learned to read, but ‘doesn’t want to.’ He wants friends, but does not want to put forth any measure of effort to make them and mostly he only enjoys what I refer to as vacation days. So the days where we do touristy type activities. Simultaneously, he is the first person to walk up to people on the beach and tell them that he full time travels and is a worldschooler. He basically brags about it and basks in the attention it gets him. I think he will benefit the most from this experience, long term as he will be the one that remembers the most. 

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Rhodes: Rhodes is easily pleased. He requires spaghetti and the beach and he is typically happy. He misses friends and daddy the most, but plays very well on his own and enjoys planning our next weeks, months and moves with me. He is doing so well with school work and getting more efficient at many things. He is my child that notices the boats, animals, people, buildings and seems so enjoy the culture like his mama. 

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Atlas: Mister A.J. is growing in leaps and bounds. He is a foodie, loves all the Greek food. His favorite thing is the beach and videos from daddy. I do feel like this was a strange age to travel with him as he would greatly benefit from toys and social interaction right now. I am having to seek out ways to stimulate him for this portion of our trip because he is bored. He knows almost as much Greek as he does English. He is ‘speaking’ non stop, but only about six words are actually understandable by anyone other than me. 

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Mama: I am almost as busy as I’ve ever been. I am trying to pump out a couple of blog posts a week, lesson planning based on our location, I took on a project as a columnist for Daily Mom Military Magazine and now have four articles due per month and deadlines. . .I am also in charge of the finances for the first time in our marriage. Trying to cook abroad, running a house that isn’t mine, moving out of our house in the u.s. and trying to be a decent friend and wife to boot. I am also neck deep in research for my upcoming project in Italy. The most difficult part is trying to keep all of these children happy. I feel that I have to be loving the experience every single day in order for anyone else to enjoy it. There’s a lot of pressure on me to put the smile on so to speak and realign my feeling quickly. I have a gypsy heart, I love traveling, I love seeing the kids light up with curiosity and wonder, I love fueling their little passions with real life experiences. This is the hardest thing I have ever done, but I am already planning the next huge trip. I love this journey for it’s beautiful and ugly moments.

Feelings of Freedom


The things going right and the things going wrong are about even, which is how it would be in the states as well. Rarely is everyone happy regardless of where we are. I am at peace with that realization. I have come to the realization that it is ok if some days I am the only happy one. There are many times that this journey feels selfish because I am the one that wants to live abroad and the one that ultimately made this choice. We are trying to find our balance between mama’s dreams, well rounded happy children and worldly children full of wonder and compassion for everyone and everything on this earth. We will get there and this extended trip has given me a better idea of what ‘balance’ may look like in a few years. 

Soon, I will be writing an article titled “Living vs. Vacationing.” where I will go more in depth as to how our days are organized and how we find the balance between being tourists and wanting to be locals. For now we are focusing on taking in as many experiences as possibly and feeling everything and realigning for the next adventure.

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