After three years of lockdown, I venture to say that more than a few of us are pontificating the pondering of placement of our toes back into the vacation pond. Having just returned from Egypt and Greece, I can safely say – it’s time to get back on that horse, or in my case, camel.
My saga began three years and two weeks ago. At that time my spouse and I were packing our bags for a long-planned excursion to the above-mentioned countries. We were more than excited. I had even learned words like Hatsheput, Memnon, Sobek and Haroeris (Egyptian names ain’t for sissies!).
Then, just like that, COVID sent that dream slamming to a shutdown.
Flash forward to fall 2021. Things were beginning to loosen up and we were chafing at the bit to once again become global explorers. Our plans reignited in earnest.
We plotted, planned, schemed and contacted our previously used travel agent, only this time purchasing trip insurance with a COVID inclusion.
Everything was going along smoothly and then two weeks before our trip, I began to get cold feet. A bump in COVID cases sent me into a tailspin. What if things shut down again while we were abroad? What if we couldn’t gain access to the COVID tests needed to traverse countries? What if we caught COVID in Egypt? Would I be there until I mummified?
I began to feel that this whole trip was a mistake – so much so that I confided in a friend who travels that I was thinking of cancelling. He explained that he had experienced the same feelings while planning a recent trip to Portugal and Spain. He went and miraculously made it back to U.S. soil in one piece.
I was reassured enough that before we knew it, we were dozing on an airliner headed over the great blue sea.
After 18 hours of flights, we landed in Cairo, a bustling metropolis of 19.2 million inhabits. Based upon what we saw, they appeared to all live within the same three blocks.
It was total insanity. And, it was amazing!
There are no words to describe the awe you feel perched upon the back of a camel as you meander by the Great Pyramids of Giza. Nor, do I fail to stop smiling at the visage of the Sphinx, sitting regal and austere for well over 2,500 years.
From there, the Egyptian sites cascade like dominoes in slow motion: the cruise on the Nile; the Temple of Philae; Kom Ombo and its Temple of Sobek & Haroeris; the enormously tall Temple of Horis; the Valley of the Kings with its intricate underground tombs; the Luxor Temple and vast Temple of Karnak.
We needed a COVID test to enter our next destination, Greece, so our tour guide arranged for a doctor to come to a restaurant where we were lunching to swab our passages (yes, this doctor made “restaurant calls”). I was amazed at the can-do attitude of the Egyptians, and, yes, we tested negative.
In Greece, we visited Santorini with its hillside villages topped by roofs that look like Hostess SnoBalls; Mykonos’ iconic windmills and meandering mazes of white-laden streets; and the ever-watchful Acropolis in Athens.
Just thinking back to what we experienced takes my breath away…
Back to my tale. As we quickly learned, we were not alone in our quest for adventure. Everywhere we went we encountered English-speaking tourists – most from the U.S.
Talking with these strangers who quickly became friends, was kind of like that scene in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” where all the people climb up Devil’s Monument, seemingly called upon by aliens. Only this time, it was the sites of Egypt and Greece that summoned them.
We spoke with people spanning from Northern California to the East Coast. It was like we were all long-lost cousins as we shared our adventures and decisions that led to us to once again travel. All of the differences we experienced at home were non-existent. We were simply Americans on holiday, enjoying the sites.
One evening, we were dining on the plaza overlooking the bay of Mykonos. It was a beautiful, mild evening. As we sat feasting upon seafood, I looked at the parade of families, couples and friends strolling the beachfront promenade.
I was suddenly overwhelmed by emotion as I realized each of these travelers from countries all around the world had been through the same things we had recently. The stress, the pain, the losses, the uncertainty of a world changed.
But, that didn’t stop them from enjoying that evening, that place, and each other. They smiled, laughed and gorged on gelato.
The memories are still fresh in my mind. I realize, we may go through many things in life, but some remain solid and the same. The Great Pyramids, The Sphinx, these ancient reminders tell us of the passing of time, the good and the not-so-good. I’m glad I hopped back on that camel. It makes me feel that the good will always be what we remember most.
And with that, I end this as “Poolside From PS.”