Late Saturday night, I arrived back home from a two-week trip to Rome, Athens, and Santorini. The fact that I was not only able to go to these three places, but enjoy them, at five and a half months pregnant, is a miracle.
The trip initially started out as a a trip to visit my sister, Laura, in India. Though India was my main focus, I wondered if booking 2 round-trip tickets (one from Mexico-Italy and then the other from Italy-India) would somehow be comparable to buying one round-trip ticket from Mexico to India. Why Italy? Since becoming Catholic, I’ve wanted to visit the Vatican again, but couldn’t justify a trip to just Italy. I was thrilled when after weeks of checking ticket prices, it was essentially the same price to stopover in Rome for three days and then continue onto India as it was was to fly straight to India. So, obviously, I chose the former.
I booked this trip in July, right around the time our baby was conceived. I mentioned before in a previous blog that we kind of figured it would take months for me to get pregnant. Haha, God said. Here I was, all set to go to India at 5 and a half months pregnant? In the throes of early pregnancy sickness and exhaustion, traveling solo all the way there just didn’t put my mind at ease. And I’m not the kind of person to be scared of solo travel-I love it and have found it’s one of the times I most feel like myself. Unsure of what to do, I decided to wait a couple of months before making any kind of decision.
One day in early fall, I got an e-mail from the airline whom I had booked my Italy-India flight through. My original flight had been canceled, and the new option they were giving me was only going to give me four full days in India, hardly worth it. I ended up asking for, and was given, a refund.
I felt horrible about not being able to see Laura. I really don’t know when I’ll be able to see her next, and that makes me sad and guilty. As hard as it was to admit, though, I also felt relieved. The timing just didn’t feel right to go to India.
This left me with one round-trip ticket to Rome. I decided to forge ahead with my plan to travel to Europe, praying that everything I was reading about pregnancy would be true for me, too: that the 2nd trimester is when you’re going to feel the best. Still, I tried to recruit someone to accompany me, still not entirely comfortable with traveling alone for two weeks. I also thought it would be just plain awkward to be the pregnant girl staying in hostels by herself. My other sister, Hannah, ended up deciding to travel to India and then meet up with me in Rome. I was thrilled.
Since I now had two full weeks to spend in only Europe, I looked into possibly going to another country after I spent a few days in Rome. I couldn’t get one country out of my head: Greece. Greece is the country I’ve wanted to visit more than anything else in the world, since The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was released in 2005. However, I think I’ve always had this fear that actually visiting Greece would disappoint me, that all of the times I’ve dreamed about it in my head would leave me disillusioned when I traveled there and it was actually just prettier in the movies and in pictures.
So, one Sunday morning, sitting on the couch in my pajamas and literally this close to buying tickets to Portugal (Cristiano Ronaldo may or may not have sparked my interest to go to this country), I came to terms with my Greece fears. Portugal would be the safe option, no doubt, and it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal if I didn’t love it. But Greece? If I went and didn’t like it, it would have been 11 years of hopes and dreams down the tubes. Taking a deep breath, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to just look for flights.
I tentatively searched for a flight from Rome to Athens. Including taxes, it was shockingly cheap. Affordable accommodation options in Athens were also plentiful. Okay, but it wasn’t just Athens that I wanted to see. It was Santorini. I looked into a ferry option from Athens. It was more expensive than I was comfortable with and was also going to take hours. Not expecting flights to the island to be any more reasonable, I was shocked when they were. They were really cheap. Like, the round-trip flights from Rome to Athens and Athens to Santorini were going to be cheaper together than the one reasonably-priced flight from Rome to Portugal and back.
Still convinced that accommodations were going to be outrageous, because they often are on islands, I was also pleasantly surprised that I could stay four nights at a small hotel for the same price as most hostels. It even included breakfast. So I bought the flight from Rome to Athens, and then excitedly purchased the flight from Athens to Santorini. I booked the hostel in Athens and the hotel in Fira, Santorini’s largest town. I was going to Greece.
Our life is about to change drastically. Even though I have visions of strapping our little girl on my back and traveling the world as a family, I know it might not be financially or logistically possible for a long time. Maybe that’s why this whole trip felt like such a gift, definitely something I didn’t deserve or turned out so great because of anything I did. God gave me the most energy and least nausea I’ve had throughout the whole pregnancy. I saw some of the world’s most beautiful sights with Hannah. And I felt (and saw!) our girl kicking like crazy on every single flight from Mexico to Santorini and back. That’s the biggest miracle of all: that I, having the chance to enjoy one of the things I love most in life-travel-was able to do it while carrying another life inside of me. I could have never orchestrated any of that on my own, and was reminded of that fact when I saw the first light of dawn at St. Peter’s Square before an early morning mass and marveled at the New Year’s Eve fireworks over the Acropolis and watched the sunset in white-washed Oia (fictional Kostas’ hometown). Thank you, God.
Here are some pictures, if you’d like to see: