Heat = Sea

Olympos was hot. Walking outside immediately caused sweat to pour from my body. Sitting in my room was an option, but only a kilometer or so away was the sea.

And, that was a better option.

Arlene and I strolled down the small road to the sea, dodging cars and trying to stay cool.

On the way, one of the shops sold frozen bottles of water, so we grabbed those up quickly.

After paying the entrance fee to the park, we continued our quest to the beach surrounded by Roman ruins.

Finally, there was an opening in the rocks and there, before us, was the vast blue Mediterranean — along with thousands of people, crowded on top of each other, fighting for their piece of the sand and sun.

We found a little spot and dropped our stuff, and then submerged ourselves in the water.

I expected it to feel refreshing, but instead was greeted to bath-water-warm sea.

Not great. But, it’s the sea. I can’t complain.

We swam and relaxed in the water for awhile, while around us was buzzing with life.

Men on little fishing boats dropped anchor in the water, producing beer from coolers. Women walked on the sand, selling grilled corn. Picnics popped up on towels. Couples laid leg-over-leg.

This place was alive.

Even if it was crowded, even if the water was warm, even if the sun beating down on us was nearly unbearable, the energy emitting from the people-covered beach was undeniable.

After a few hours, Arlene and I called it a day, heading back to Kadir’s and the free dinner, followed by drinks and the club.

Of course.

Blog Turkey

To be, or not to be … topless

The women surrounding us on the beach had one thing in common: they were missing their swimmer tops. And not the least bit shy about walking, running, jumping in the rolling waves of the Mediterranean without being covered.

Going topless on a European beach.

It’s on my bucket list. But, could I really take off my top on a beach loaded with gorgeous bodies? I wasn’t sure.

True, I had come a long way from locking myself in a bathroom in Budapest to change into my swimmers, but taking off my top in public? The thought alone made my heart race and my insecurities about my body swim to the top of my mind.

I knew on the train from Alicante to Barcelona to meet my friends that the moments were counting down until I would be on that beach with those half-naked people.

And, then suddenly, it was the next day and Tina, and her two girlfriends, (Gemma and Jen) and I were walking from the hostel to the beach in Barcelona, meandering through the colorful and tasty market on our way.

D, my mind toyed with me, are you sure you are ready for what you are about to do?? Do you really want to go half-naked in public?

We got to the beach. I dreaded sitting down.

Bucket list … bucket list … bucket list …

The four of us planted ourselves on towels, and to avoid taking my top off, I quickly went into the water to kill time.

Eventually, I had to get out of the water … had to face my fears.

“Let’s do it,” Tina had said, taking off her top.

One down.

Then, Gemma did the same.

They were still alive.

Suddenly, it was my turn. I untied the string around my neck and then …

I sat there.

Motionless.

Staring out at the vast sea of people. Most of them only wearing bottoms.

Boobs of all sizes. Bodies of all types.

I remained frozen, hands gripping the bottom of my top in a permanent state of almost-removal.

Inside, I had a fight raging … brain against insecurities.

D, who cares? Look around … no one is judging. No one is even looking. Well, that guy is, but who cares?

I tightened my hold on the bottom of my top.

It’s now or never. Damn, I could sure use a drink. Any other excuses to not take off my top? Nope.

I closed my eyes and pulledĀ  my black tankini over my head.

Then, it was off.

The earth didn’t stop moving. A crowd of people didn’t gather around me to point and look at my naked upper-half. Life kept on going and no one even noticed.

I looked down. Yup, there were my boobs … in full view of, oh, everyone. And, it didn’t matter. Instinctively, I went to cover the girls with my arms, but then decided not to.

If I was going to do this, I was going to do this. No cheating.

I lathered some sunscreen on me because the last thing I wanted was sun-burnt bits and laid down.

I closed my eyes.

And relaxed.

You know what? It felt absolutely great. Freeing. Liberating. In America, breasts are meant to be covered. Americans by nature are so much more conservative than our European counterparts … but I wasn’t in America. I was in Spain … my favorite place … the place I wanted to make my home … so topless is a part of the culture. And, in order to live somewhere, you have to embrace the culture.

That day, on the beach, I embraced it.

I even got bold and marched myself into the sea to feel the water wash over me in a completely different way.

I emerged a different person, more in touch with myself, more secure of my body, more empowered. It felt great.

I had that smile on my face that I love to have on my face.

I could do this again.

Next time, there will be no hesitation.

In fact, maybe next time will be a nude beach.

Right.

In fact, I have every intention of doing it again. And, the next time, I won’t hesitate.

Blog Spain Travel

Why are we going in circles? And other errors in sea navigation

“OK,” I breathed. “Follow my lead. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Left. Left. Left. Left. Awww, shit.”

Isabelle (one of the writers on #blogtripf1 and my new and amazing friend) and I had stuck together when we arrived to the Mediterranean Sea and were greeted with an array of kayaks, boards and catamarans.

And now, after alerting everyone we had to share a double seat kayak, we were stuck in the sea, paddling in circles. Plunging our oars in tune, out of tune, not at all, just to get to the island a kilometer away.

Despite our best efforts, we were not getting anywhere. Unless you count going to the left, left, left, then right, right, right.

It was frustrating. It was funny. You would think we could have paddled out to the island with little difficulty. Everyone else had made it look so easy, but nope.

There we were, just spinning around and around.

Had my dad been there, he would have laughed at his daughter trying to kayak. He has taken me before, in the Chesapeake Bay, but I apparently learned nothing about operating the large fiberglass boats of annoyance.

After 30 minutes of trying and quitting and trying again, Isabelle and I were towed to the island.

Yes. Towed.

“We are not kayaking again,” we both agreed, strong-arming our way onto the catamarans for the next leg of our little boating adventure.

The catamaran ride was bliss compared to the kayaking. The wind in our faces, the gentle splashing of water coming up onto the boat. I loved it. It felt like a mini-vacation.

We spent a few minutes at another beach, and then once again, strong-armed our way onto the catamaran again.

This time, it was different.

Isabelle, Elisa (a sweet teen writer) and I jumped onto another catamaran and headed back to the dock.

We were about half way when the winds kicked up, sending water into our faces, soaking us. Around us, white caps crashed, sails bellowed.

Elisa’s hand gripped mine as we were attacked by water and wind.

“It is OK,” I said. “Nothing is going to happen.”

But, there we were, on this tiny little boat, a thin sheet of material separating us from the sea.

If we flip, we are close enough to swim to shore. We all have life jackets on. But, I really didn’t want to flip. Or fall off. Or anything other than walk off that boat.

We flirted dangerously with the rocks jutting from the dock while a group of staff ran into the water to steady our boat.

And, then we were out. Back on dry land.

“That is not normal,” one of the boaters said. “That wind came up from nowhere.”

Isabelle and I looked at each other and smiled.

Kayaking? Been there. Done that.

Blog Spain Travel

My first glimpse of Africa

I picked 14 K on the Brussels flight to Kigali on purpose. I wanted a window seat and to spread my legs out in front of me. I never get the chance to sit in the first seat in the economy class, but this time, the Plane Gods were on my side.

The trip to Rwanda from Brussels is a long one. It takes nearly as long to get from DC to London. But, damn, it is an amazing view. The flight takes you over Germany and its swirling fields of green, and Italy and the mountains still capped in snow, and then on to the vast blue of Mediterranean.

And, then there is Africa.

Africa Blog Rwanda Travel