Today’s Guest Blogger is my “hide the body” friend, Jennifer! You have heard me gush about her a few times on this blog. Today I am giving her free range! She is the CEO and Founder of her company Explorature Travel and one of the most kind-hearted people I know! Enjoy! – KJ
I was recently thinking about friendship and how much it has in common with travel. When you think about it, they can both push you to do more (sometimes merely by force), learn more, see more, and become more. Now, I’m not talking about the everyday kind of friend. I’m talking about the knows-your-soul, finishes-your-thoughts, and makes-you-believe-you-can-rule-the-world-even-on-your-darkest-day kind of friend. The one who sees in you what you can’t see for yourself.
For those who don’t know me, I am Jennifer Stuart, the owner of Explorateur Travel. You may have heard about me from KJ’s posts in Greece. I gave up my career and traded it for one carry-on piece of luggage and two months in Europe and she was cheering me on every step of the way. I’m the lucky gal whose best friend traveled four flights and 26 hours to see her halfway across the world. Who does that?! Soulmates. That’s who.
When KJ told me that she was coming to see me, my first thought was, “yeah…okay.” But when she actually booked the ticket, I went into a planning tailspin. That’s me: the planner. I plan every meal, every connection, every experience…practically every moment. That is not KJ.
And that is actually why we work.
I’ll share with you how I planned, and then I’ll tell you how our trip actually went down. Here are my top tips for creating the perfect itinerary:
· Build the shell: Get the major logistics out of the way. For us, we had specific dates that we had to follow. I booked the flights, checked ferry times, and planned the route through the Greek Isles based on transportation.
· Pick the accommodations: This is the trickiest part…especially when traveling with someone else. Everyone has a different style of travel. I like apartments when traveling, but I knew that KJ had predominantly used hotels. So, I ended up picking a mixture of the two to balance luxury with the budget. We were able to pamper ourselves at the beginning and end of the trip, but enjoyed using a kitchen in locations where we were staying longer than a day.
o Here is a rundown of where we stayed in each city:
- § Mykonos: Myconian Ambassador
- § Naxos: This Airbnb
- § Santorini: This Airbnb
- § Athens: Electra Metropolis
· Select your activities: Based on who you are traveling with, you will want to handpick experiences that jive with their priorities. If someone is looking for a relaxing vacation, you may not want to plan a full day of walking tours (plus, some people hate being part of a tour group). It is important to have open conversations about budget, time, and expectations beforehand so that no one ends up frustrated before the vacation even starts. The most important thing? Remember that not everything has to be done together! If you’re with someone who needs to rest, and you want to go-go-go, do your thing…they’ll (most likely) be there when you get back.
· Pick your restaurants: Based on where your activities will be, search for the best restaurants in the area. I don’t mess around when it comes to food. I want to know where my meals are coming from, I want to get pumped about them, photograph the heck out of them, and then reminisce on how amazing they were for the rest of my life (but..actually).
So I did it. I built the trip and sent KJ way too many emails about it. She ignored them, because she knows that it will all shake out and be alright. I needed the plan to feel settled, and she felt more settled without being tied to a schedule. We were both right.
What ended up happening was that all logistics worked out (except for a canceled ferry) and we stayed in the places that I had picked. What also happened is that we also stayed out until five in the morning in Mykonos, found (unplanned) incredible restaurants on Naxos, met locals in Santorini, and went site-seeing in Athens (on a schedule). We complimented each other perfectly.
KJ pushed me to let go and I pushed her to see more.
Our travel style is exactly like our friendship. KJ was my biggest fan when I decided to pursue my passion. She helped me let go of fear, social expectations, and a career that had taken nearly 10 years to build. I pushed KJ to see more: more in herself, to know that she is an inspiration to others, and that nothing and everything about her is perfect. So when you think about it, the travel wasn’t the hardest part of our journey. The hardest part was finding someone who you can truly be yourself around, drop the B-S, tell them the honest truth, and cry over two liters of wine at dinner with….who does that?! Soulmates. That’s who.