After returning to Ireland from my second stint in Greece, I couldn't sit still. I had to go travelling again, but I needed cash (and I also had to hang around to repeat my exams). This time, I got a job in a local factory packing Microsoft Win 97 boxes and a job in a restaurant 3 nights a week. It was easy money and easy work. This time around, I passed my exams, got my diploma in Legal Studies and was ready for an adventure.
One night in my local bar, I met a neighbor of mine who had also travelled to Greece. He stayed on the Island of Corfu, and asked me if I wanted to travel to Corfu with him by car. He told me that it was amazing and I had to go. To be honest, I just wanted to go travelling and have some fun and none of my friends were up for it at that time, so I thought, "F%@k it, I'll go."
Three of us (my neighbor, his girlfriend and myself) drove from Ireland to Greece. It was a long drive with multiple ferry rides. We ripped through it in about 3.5 days of non-stop driving in a packed out old Volkswagen Scirocco, partying every leg of the journey. This was May 1996.
It turned out to be the quietest town that I had ever been too. Not only were there no tourists, there were hardly any Greeks either.
To say the least, it wasn't the place for a party. But to be fair, it was beautiful. (Back then, as young as I was, I was more interested in the party than the scenery.) After a few days, I went in search of life and ended up in small town called Benitses about 10 miles away. It was a quiet town with a few bars. As luck would have it, I found a little bar called "Idols." It was full of English guys and girls who were also looking for work. "Dave," the owner of the bar, was a complete nut job from Newcastle. The bar was like a human zoo. Half the people had never been away from home before and they were partying like the world was about to end. I was the only Irish guy in there and by the end of the night I was friends with most of the customers. I really clicked with two guys from England, Tim & Doug.
Tim was from Stoke & Doug was from Wolverhampton. They were travelling around Europe in an old camper van that they bought in England for 800 Pounds. They called it "Dave the Van" in honor of their friend Dave who was meant to travel with them but ended up in some trouble and couldn't leave England. These guys were on a different level than most travelers you meet. They were hardy English lads who were up for a party and anything for that matter.
After a few crazy days and nights partying with Tim & Doug, I moved into their camper van. I also decided I wasn't even going to look for work in Corfu. Instead I'd enjoy myself, and that's what I did. Mind you I did end up working one night though. It was when an 18 - 30's party tour bus came through the town we were staying in and the owner of a club asked Tim, Doug and I if we would help pick up the empty bottles in his nightclub. Not only did we pick up the empties, we also picked up the full bottles :)
I talked Tim & Doug into coming to the Island of Ios with me. I knew they'd love it. They were a bit hesitant at first and then they came around. But before we left the Island of Corfu we decided to take a trip to a place called the "Pink Palace" a cheesy 18 - 30's hostel/hotel where backpackers usually stay for about 2-3 nights and party like crazy. It suited us down to the ground. At this stage, there were four of us. One of my best friends from home, "Butcher," had come over to join me. We swooped him up at the airport at about 3am (only 4 hours late, hammered drunk in "Dave the Van") and headed straight for the for Pink Palace. There was 15 English lads and myself crammed into the van, how the van wasn't confiscated or the lads were done for drink driving I have no idea.
After a wild three days at the Pink Palace, we were toasted. It definitely lived up to its reputation as a cheesy party destination: toga parties and drinking games etc..... We decided to make our way to Ios, which was the other side of mainland Greece, a very long drive away.
We arrived in Ios in early June 1996. I knew a lot of people there from previous years. I got some work after a week or so. This time, I was working security in a liquor store with a crazy guy from Manchester who used to deal Acid and Ecstasy to the customers. The liquor store was called "The Mad Dog Off License" the customer used to sit outside and get wasted before they hit up the clubs, all sorts of crazy shit went on outside the Mad Dog. The owner was a pretty wild middle aged Greek woman who I think just employed us to drink and play backgammon with her all night. It was perfect. Drink whatever you wanted, get paid and play backgammon.
Doug got a job in Disco 69 where I had worked the previous year and Tim never worked .
We spent three months on Ios living in a camper van with no air conditioning. Some nights we'd have up to 20 people partying in the van till the early hours of the morning. The van was a meeting spot for most of our friends on the Island. It used to get so hot inside. We used to buy bottles of ice water and put them under our pillows when we went to sleep to keep us from melting :)
We'd wake up sweating and hung-over. O Man, It was brutal, but it was fun.
A few of our friends lived way up in the village. It was party central. I remember one time they had a BBQ and a Brazilian friend of ours made some caipirinha (A Brazilian Punch)and poured it into three different buckets, two buckets were pure caipirinha and one was mixed with Acid. They never told anyone till after it was all drunk. You can only imagine how crazy things got. I remember one Irish guy dancing on top of a bar table in the middle of the village six hours after the buckets were emptied in a pair of speedo shorts screaming at the top of his lungs. I seriously thought he had lost it, but he came around before the night was out, thank god.
When the season ended, about ten of us headed to Turkey. Although I didn't have much money, my friend Doug who would sell ice to the Eskimos assured me we'd be fine. We can sell jewelry on the beaches to other tourists he said. Again, I said "F#*k it, I'm in."
After a few days in Turkey, we found a jewelry wholesaler and with the little money we had, we bought some cheap jewelry (Indian and Turkish silver) and sold it out of a backgammon box to other tourists. At first I had a hard time selling to anyone, and then I wouldn't even try selling. I'd just introduce myself to tourists on the beach, offer them a game of backgammon and a joint and tell them my travel story and plans and at the end of the game 80% of them bought something. I wish I kept a journal because I met so many cool people. After a month travelling through Turkey, we decided to check out Israel. We got some cheap flights from Turkey to Israel and ended up in a hostel in downtown Tel Aviv. I got a job laying sprinkler systems in an apartment complex with some guys from New Zealand and Sweden who we were also travelling with us. After we saved some more cash, we travelled to Sinai in Egypt. Sinai was beautiful, super inexpensive and some of the best snorkeling in the world. We detoxed there for a month before sailing up the river Nile on a felucca boat for a week. It was amazing. We used to have to jump off the boat while moving with a rope tied around our waist to have a wash. You'd get sick if you washed in still water because there was so much bacteria in the water. We'd set up camp at night next to the river. We'd have some dinner and then smoke out. It was bliss. Enough of the Middle East, next stop was Amsterdam.
This adventure of my life thought me it's best not to push a hard sale on someone. You're best off building a relationship with someone first, building rapport. Even if it's only 20 minutes over a joint and game of backgammon it's a lesson I still hold close today"
Something I also learned is that. Saying yes, opens up opportunities. It just takes a little courage to make the leap. So long as you keep your eye on the goal, you'll be fine.