Thursday, August 23, 2018

Here We Go Again—A Traveling Writer

Traveling to Greece, solo travel, writers

This Week

Social Media seems full of pumpkin spice lattes and laments for summer to end. Has everyone lost their minds? This summer has had its share of fire and floods, but on the other side of October lies blizzards and cold.

While I stood in line purchasing a couple last minute items for my workshop in Greece, everyone else was making back-to-school purchases. I didn't make eye contact and kept my big mouth shut because Nobody Wants to Hear About My Upcoming Trip to Greece! 

Packing Tips

How do regular mortals pack without needing eight hours and weeks of preparation? Since I'll have to haul my own bags on and off flights out on the blistering hot tarmac, up and down crowded ferry steps, and up flight after flight of wide steps in ancient hillsides, I have plenty of inspiration to pack light. Its the implementation that's the trouble. 

A Mental Floss blog had the best tip I've read in a long time. It said that we pack our fears. What if I need this? What if it gets cold? Who doesn't do that? I take a small suitcase and a carry-on stuffed with the things I absolutely have to have when (if) the airline loses my luggage. That fear cautions me as I pack. Carry on those adapters! Carry on your glasses! Carry on that bottle of Prelief

Even though I'll be gone for a month, I'm taking only four lightweight dresses and three other outfits. That's it. Everything is versatile and can be changed up. I feel like I've earned a Girl Scout badge for it.

Books I've Read Lately

PERSUASION by Jane Austen. Somehow I never read this before. Austen books are thinking books, but in a fun and entertaining way. They're fluff on the outside. This one is an old maid (27) dealing with the man she wanted to marry in her youth (21) coming back into her life. It's not written like books are now—like a movie—it's written in what's commonly referred to as "telling", but it allows the writer to put real depth and commentary into the story. It was good, if you like deep stories.

GHOSTED by Rosie Walsh. California girl Sarah meets Eddie while visiting her parents in England. They have seven days together and learn more about each other than people with seven years. Eddie disappears. As Sarah tries to find him she realizes she doesn't know as much as she thought. This book surprised me, and as a writer myself I have to say not many books surprise me. Nice summer read.

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr. This is possibly the best book I've ever read. I listened to it on Audiobook and went right out and bought a hardcover copy. I can tell you it's about a little blind girl in France during WWII. I can tell you it's about a German orphan boy who becomes a Nazi soldier. That doesn't go far enough. This book shows you how small people matter, and how good people can do unspeakable things. It is brilliant. It won a well-deserved Pulitzer. Boerr is a brilliant writer and a lot of work went into this novel. Read it. It's going to be a movie, but that will be akin to someone telling you what Van Gogh's Starry Night looks like. Some things you have to put your eyes on yourself.

Starry Night by Van Gogh

Today I put The Alice Network by Kate Quinn and Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate on my Kindle for my trip. I'm still debating what paperback to take, but I'm leaning toward The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. 


The truth is I thought GF was a fad. Despite having had an autoimmune disease for over a decade now, I didn't pay attention to gluten free until my symptoms became downright miserable. This has been a game changer for me. I cannot believe the difference. All symptoms have lessened by about half.

It's more than not eating bread. Gluten is in everything. It's in salad dressing. It's in your hibachi dinner. It's in miso and soy sauce. Cutting it out takes effort. It's worth it if you have a problem. 

As far as sugar-free, I'm working on it I swear. 


If you're on a flight that has meal service, you can request a gluten-free meal (or another special meal). Order it ahead of time on the website (at least 24 hours ahead). It's usually under Special Service Requests. According to the Delta website (which I'm flying this trip), you're to mention it to the gate agent and again to a flight attendant when you board. I think they'll all be annoyed if you do. I'll just take a banana and apple in case it gets messed up. 

Since I'm flying out of a small airport in New York State I have several connections. I leave New York for Greece early in the morning. First I fly to Detroit. Yes. That's the wrong direction, but I don't make the flights. Then I fly BACK TO NEW YORK. HAHAHAHAHA. It's a different airport though. After that I fly to Athens, Greece. 

Once in Athens I'll stay a couple of days. I'm debating if I can walk up to the Acropolis in full-on ninety plus degree weather to visit the Caryatids again. I love those ladies. 

Next stop after Athens is a flight to Skiathos. If you watch this video of tourists standing beneath landing/taking-off airplanes in Skiathos, well, you'll get a real taste of Greece tourism. 


Skiathos is a touristy island. It has great beaches and a lot to do. Normally I get out of there fast. This year I'm hanging around a bit to do some writerly things. I'm a really bad liar because I can't even think of a single example. Fine. I'm meeting a couple friends and we're going to eat olives and talk books 24/7. When I leave Skiathos it will be by ferry.

My destination is Alonissos and my writing workshop there. It's quieter and I mean it as a compliment if I call it old-fashioned. It's my blue heaven after all. 

Author, S.R. Karfelt
For the next month I won't be on social media other than to post photos to Instagram and, if I can get blogger to trust me from Greece (and not to go into Greek which I cannot read), I'll post some blogs. 

If you're going back to school while I'm there, or if your kids are, I want you to know that eventually you'll get out of school (and so will your kids) and Greece will be right there waiting for you too, like it did for me. Enjoy summer while you can. It's so very fleeting.

So it's okay if you stop with the pumpkin spice crap already, okay?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Nobody Wants to Hear About My Upcoming Trip to Greece—But I Can't STFU About It

skiathos, skopelos, athens, karfelt, the shire, writing, finding your voice
The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt 

Sometimes dolphins follow the ferry.

In a bit more than two weeks I leave for my annual trip to Alonissos. Currently I'm annoying the stuffing out of my husband with it. Since I stay a month, everything that I won't be here to do must be done NOW. Right. Now. 

When I return we're having much-needed work done on our house. That means getting all of that organized and ready NOW too.

With vacation approaching like the ping of an ice-cream truck, you can probably imagine how organized and together I am with preparations and scheduling. I can imagine it too. If only it were anywhere near the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants truth. 

At night I can hear the sound of free-range cats and dance parties drifting up from the port. 

My office now looks like the inside of a fairly clean dumpster that's been stuffed with the contents of a library. To expect that to ever change is delusional. It's my method (she says with a straight face without blinking), but I need to organize all the books I'm writing, update everything and get it all in portable and travel mode. Chargers and adapters and flash drives need fished out and readied. Bills paid. Contractors contracted. Schedules prepped. Flights, hotels, and ferries arranged. All the things in order NOW.

I never even knew I liked olives in a seaside cafe beneath a full moon.

It's quite a journey from here in the shire to that quiet island in the Aegean. Each click of the mouse prepping travel plans brings back memories of the place. The race to prep for vacation always makes me long to be there and done with hectic preparations. 

Do you ever stop in the middle of vacation prep and wonder if it is even worth the effort? Alonissos is. 

Sometimes I dream I'm floating around the island. In the air.

Vacation float is why we all go through the hassle of going. It takes time to achieve vacation float. I wish everybody could feel it. The world would be a better place. All the hassle and prep to get to Alonissos is why I stay so long. It takes me three days of travel to get there, but keep in mind I live in the shire and we don't have high-tech things like direct flights. It once took me three days to fly home from Nashville. I think I can drive there in half a day. 

Most people here will decide between flying and driving based on which is faster. DC, Portland, Boston, heck—Orlando, you weigh flying time against driving effort. Driving often wins. There are always connecting flights here. Connections are uncooperative slippery bastards. 

Retsina is an insidious Greek wine with a pine flavor that will bind you to this land. 

There are usually only two airports that connect to the shire's. When you get to your gate coming home, you often know half the people there. It's a small town. Not only do I recognize faces but I could make an educated guess whether they've been to China on business or visiting a grown child in Colorado. I adore that about living here, and I'm a transplant. But when it comes to travel, small town life requires patience.

I'll leave here on a Friday morning and get to Athens on Saturday morning more than twenty-four hours later. That's if all goes according to plan, best case scenario. I spend that Saturday in Athens because I'll be exhausted and I can't get a flight to Skiathos until late anyway. 

In Athens I can walk up to the Acropolis and visit the Caryatids.

Sunday I'll catch a flight to Skiathos. It's a short flight on Olympic Air. I saw Skiathos listed on one of those scariest airports to fly into sites. By scary what they mean is awesome. 

Watch planes land from the rooftop seating of Sofia's Family Restaurant in Skiathos, as the sun sets.

You can eat anything you like at Sofia's because you burned all those calories climbing the steep winding steps of the alleys to get there. Sometimes I don't linger in Skiathos until after my workshop ends. If I'm running behind schedule I share a taxi with strangers from the Skiathos airport and we race straight for the port to catch a ferry. 

There are different kinds of ferries. The hydrofoil skims over the water and the trip is fast. I prefer to take the giant slow one. Its so big the hull is full of trucks and cars. There are several decks. It takes hours of gliding through the sea and stops on Skopelos first. 

Skopelos is where the Mama Mia island is located. It's absolutely gorgeous. The first time I went to my workshop in Greece I couldn't believe my luck. Skopelos makes a cameo appearance in my book HEARTLESS. What were the odds that I'd be next door to it at a writing workshop the year it came out?

Water foams white and arctic blue like peppermint breath mints as the ferry slices the Aegean. I sip cherry juice wearing a straw hat.

The reason I like my slow approach is it's my transition time from busy me to human being. Sometimes I'll meet other writers with the same destination on the ferry. We'll know each other even if we're strangers. A few times I've made friends with other solo female travelers also shunning the more popular islands, in search of the stillness of the Old World that lingers in hidden lavender patches and olive groves of Alonissos.

If I'm very lucky I'll find my float somewhere in the long hours of introspective writing time that's coming. Occasionally I'll sense its approach as my shoulders relax, my breath deepens, and words evaporate from my lips to nest in my fingertips. 

Sure I write all the time, but on Alonissos I write with paper, pencils and magic. It's delicious.

This will be my fourth year attending the WRA workshop. I know the shape of the island from a distance. The ferry will curve outward before turning to approach the big dock. Around me people will hurry to gather their belongings. We'll all lumber down two or three floors into the bowels of the ferry to gather bigger luggage. 

Docking is quick. Trucks and cars disembark alongside people, flooding the Hellenic Seaways dock with chaos. The woman who runs the pansion I stay at meets me at the ferry. She's clever and quick and looks like movie star. Her voice is accented with the strong undertones of hard Greek, "Kali-sperra, Steph-an-ie. Welcome, welcome home." Beside her is the powerhouse who runs WRA. It feels like coming home, and in a way it is—it's my writer home. Like a turtle I carry my writer home on my back at all times, but also like a turtle I remember where I discovered it and long to return every year. 

The beaches are white with salty stones from the sea. I melt into them.  

I get why nobody wants to hear about my trip. Life isn't fair. Holidays are a luxury, especially Greek holidays. My husband has to stay here and work. My kids have nothing to say about a trip their mother takes that is more epic than their young adult vacations. That just goes against the natural order doesn't it? Even writing friends who've attended the workshop in the past don't want to hear about it. No one can go every year. Eventually the pilgrimage ends. 

We pack up our float and hope the airline doesn't ruin it before we get home. I strongly suspect I harbor quite a bit of float within. It just takes quiet to find, and I can't quite find quiet in the chaos of my busy home life. 

Cicadas blast eardrums as we lean knee to knee reading aloud. We talk faster, racing the ferry before it docks and drowns all other sound.

finding your voice, writer's voice, travel, WRA, women reading aloud
S.R. Karfelt

Yet I've had the privilege of being in this place and the honor of meeting some of the most amazing women I've ever known as we write together. Each year we raise each other up. Each year my writing voice grows stronger. Bitch Witch. Nobody Told Me. Each year my speaking voice grows stronger too. 

Perhaps I've now given you a glimpse of why I can't shut up about my amazing float story. Perhaps you have one of your own? I hope you do. If so I don't think you should STFU about it. I think you should share it too, don't you? As a wise woman once told me, don't be afraid to speak even if your voice shakes.