The First Time I Left The Country (BOOZE!!!)

When I was 20 and in college, I had the opportunity to travel to Greece with a group of students. Since I had just watched Under the Tuscan Sun (and thus needed to be around hot Europeans) and was also convinced that my hubby-to-be was never going to ask me out (which also necessitates hot Europeans), I decided to ask my dad to fund my worldly venture.

Surprisingly, my dad said he would pay and that traveling would be a great opportunity for me. (Props to a scholarship that made those funds available, rather than being spent on tuition.) The trip to Greece would last 10 days and would include a 3-day cruise in the Aegean.

I was so excited. I bought a bunch of books to study up on Greek culture, as well as a phrase book. I was going to be prepared.

And then my hubby-to-be asked me out. And all of a sudden, I didn’t want to go anymore. I was in LOVE. And there was no way that new LOVE could survive apart for 10 days, right?

So, I did a little research and found out that I could get half the money back my dad paid if I canceled then. The hubby-to-be told me this was a bad idea and that I should go and have fun. This convinced me that maybe he didn’t love me as much as I loved him. I decided to talk to my dad about canceling anyway, and decided to pay the difference by working in the summer.

Dad: “Hell no, are you serious? This better not be because of that guy.”

Me: “No…I’m really scared of airplanes. I could die. Or get kidnapped.”

Dad: “You’re going and I don’t want to hear another word about it.”

So I was going after all. I didn’t read any of the books I had purchased, nor did I attend any of the on-campus meetings so I could get to know the other students going. I was in LOVE. No time for that! Or for reading Shakespeare.

The day came to take me to the airport. My dad and then-boyfriend took me, we said our heartfelt goodbyes (me and the boyfriend; Dad told me not to get in trouble). And a few hours later, I was off.

The first couple of days, I was miserable. I didn’t know anyone and was homesick. All I wanted was to figure out how to use the calling card my grandmother gave me and to find an Internet cafe.


The third night in Athens, though, the girls I was rooming with convinced me to go out. I was hesitant–had never done the clubbing thing–but they told me the club was just a block away and that we would be fine. Plus, a guy 6’3 and 250 was going with us.

At the club, everyone ordered drinks, proudly flashing their IDs that read “under 21 until ____,” but that didn’t matter since the legal drinking age was 18 over there.

“Aren’t you going to have anything?” one of the girls asked, while sipping on a beer.

“Uh, no” I said. Up to that point, I was a Good Girl. I hadn’t drank anything outside of a sip of beer at a party I went to in high school (so I knew that beer was disgusting and would never be an option for me), nor had I done anything else that would take away my Good Girl status.

I could tell from the reactions that they thought I was going to be *that* person, the one that sucks the life out of the party. So when the guy that tagged along offered to buy me a drink, I accepted, and chose a Smirnoff Ice to sip on.

That one Smirnoff Ice turned into a few, and a lush was born. I got drunk fairly quickly and had to be helped back to the room later. Since I had figured out how to use my calling card by that point, I decided to call my grandmother. Because getting drunk for the first time means you need to talk to Grandma, right?

I made the call. I can’t remember what I said to her, but got put on to talk to my cousin eventually. After I got back from the trip, my cousin told me that Grandma had handed her the phone saying “bless her heart, she’s crying, she’s so upset to be away from home!” But my cousin knew as soon as she talked to me what was up–and I was laughing, not crying. She didn’t rat, though. That would have been bad, as I got my former Good Girl beliefs from Grandma.

After the call, I decided to write in the journal that I was keeping. It’s somewhere in storage now, but apparently I was a big fan of Smirnoff Ice and had plans to write the company praising them for their work.

The rest of the trip went much more smoothly after the night at the club. I drank more, racked up a $250 bill on the cruise ship in three days, slept through a stop that was supposed to be part of Turkey, and had a couple of awful hangovers.


Missed stop. Thanks, hangover.

Despite the drinking, I did manage to take in some wonderful sights, including visiting where John wrote the Book of Revelations in Patmos and seeing the windmills in Mykonos.




Even though I was missing my future husband like crazy, who got a bit concerned after some of the emails about drinking and hanging out with the tall dude, I did end up enjoying myself. I hope to go back to Greece one day and enjoy visiting some of those sites again, but through clear eyes this time around. And next time, I’ll make sure I declare the box of baklava on my form when I re-enter the country, that way I don’t have a panic attack about getting arrested.

(BTW, not included in the pictures is a photo of me wearing a fanny pack. I don’t know what I thinking. I also had toned legs then! Kinda makes the fanny pack seem not so bad.)


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