After hearing all the crazy travel stories from the Aussie & Kiwi guys at Cafe en Seine and from my good friends older brother I had no choice but to rally the troops and book our first holiday to Greece, there were four of us.
Obviously we wanted to get there for as cheap as possible, so we booked a return flight off the teletext (an advertisement on the TV, no internet or Expedia back then) from Gatwick Airport in London to Athens Greece. We got an amazing price, the only challenge was, we had to make our own way to Gatwich Airport, which was just outside London. So we booked a Ferry from Dublin, Ireland to Hollyhead in Wales and got a train from Wales to London. Fuck - we must have been nuts, we got a 6am Ferry and within a half an hour of departure we were in Duty Free buying the cheapest bottles of whisky and Vodka we could find.
After a brutal 4 hour ferry crossing from Ireland to Wales, and an 8 hour train ride from Wales to London, we arrived in Victoria Street Station London wasted on cheap whisky and Vodka. We had no idea how busy London was. It was nuts! People running in all angles. There were blacks, whites, Indians and Asian's... This was completely new for us. In Ireland in 1994, it was hard to find a Black, Asian or Indian guy. I remember one time walking down Grafton Street (one of the busiest Streets in Ireland) in Dublin with my mum and she pointing out a group of Indian guys to me. "Gerard quick, look over there." (To be honest, I think it was half novelty and she was half afraid.)
By the time we arrived in Gatwick Airport, we were even more wasted. My good friend Jeff thought it was a good idea to mix our travel sickness tablets with the Whisky & Vodka from the Duty Free, and I agreed with him. (He was right, it worked).
We still had a 6 hour wait in Gatwick Airport, which we spent in the departure lounge drinking, then a 4 hour flight to Athens, Greece, and then finally a 7 hour ferry to the Island of Paros. After our insane journey to Paros, we arrived extremely hungover, hot & sweaty. It was the hottest weather all of us had ever experienced... about 90 degrees. We were greeted by about 100 locals all trying to get our business and stay in their rooms, after some weak negotiating we got a room in some old guys apartment, 4 of us in one small room. He had clearly seen that we were newbies and ripped us off. I guess it's all part of the journey, to be honest we were so tired and hungover we didn't care all we wanted was a bed and a shower.
We spent the next two weeks partying it up with guys and girls from all over the world. We met some really interesting people, I sat spell bound listening to other travelers talk about their amazing adventures. I got to meet some cool guys who were selling t-shirts and jewelry on the beaches, it blew me away, these guys were travelling the world and funding it through selling merchandise on the beach, how amazing was that. Suddenly, a light bulb went off, I had a vision. That was my ticket to travel the world.
After that 2 weeks in Greece, I came back to Ireland with a new perspective on life. I got my old job back in Cafe en Seine and had one goal in mind "to save as much money as possible so I could go back to Greece and spend the whole Summer there. One thing that I learned from this early experience, is that if you have a goal and you're hell bent on seeing it through, you can achieve it. It just takes a bit of creativity and a certain knowledge of where you want to go and a lot of action.