Ever since I can remember, I have craved adventure. Whether it’s getting lost in a foreign city or meeting new people, being able to dive right in is exhilarating. I can thank my YaYa (grandmother” in Greek) for this streak of spontaneity.
If you were wondering, I have absolutely no Greek in my blood whatsoever. My YaYa is actually a Polish, Jewish woman from Brooklyn, New York. Greece is just her favorite place in the world. I know it sounds a little ridiculous, adopting your favorite place’s culture and language. But for YaYa, it is a way of life.
She has lived a life full of wonderful adventures and experiences, traveling to more than 63 countries. She is fluent in five languages (and claims she can get by with French if she needed to.) She spent three years working on a cruise ship, gallivanting through different countries, meeting lifelong friends and creating memories she could share with her children and grandchildren. Which, spoiler alert: She did.
YaYa claims I’m her favorite grandchild because she was traveling the world when I was born — she says she has to compensate some way for missing the first four months of my life. But her traveling is why we are so close. I used to lay in bed when I was little and listened to all the wonderful stories she had, from breaking plates in Santorini to getting lost in the canals of Venice. YaYa helped me form my own bucket list of all the places I would go and see.
My first time out of the country, I made my way to Asia — China to be exact. I was nervous, anxious and excited. The purpose of my trip was to teach English on the border of North Korea along with a few extra days to explore Beijing. On our first day exploring the Forbidden City, it was sensory overload. I remember climbing up the deteriorating steps of the Great Wall, turning around to see a city of history and culture. This was the moment I knew I wanted to travel the world. From then on, I have made my way to eight different countries: Italy, France, England, China, India, the Cayman Islands, Spain, Croatia, and I plan on adding four more to my list this upcoming summer, including Greece, of course.
Telling my YaYa I would be making my way to southeastern Europe to her favorite country, not only made her day but her year. While she is planning my trip day by day and spamming my Facebook wall with travel articles about Greece, I can only think about how excited I am to experience the place where the person who gave me the travel bug caught it herself.
I don’t see myself stopping traveling anytime soon. As my YaYa says, the thought about being alive and not traveling — it’s not in my blood.
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