SANTORINI, 2017. We arrived in the Greek town of Oia past 10pm. It was a cold, windy December evening, and because it’s off season, the village was as dormant as the volcano it overlooks. As in most destinations, we tried to find our booked room as soon as we got off the cab.
Carrying our heavy suitcases, we negotiatied the winding downhill cliffside path to the location that Google Maps marked as our lodge. It was dark, quiet, almost eerie. When we got to the spot, we found nothing but closed, empty houses. There was no signage anywhere and no one to ask. We kept on looking and almost reached the base of the cliff, no progress.
A google search revealed that one has to drop by the office at the entrance to the village. We were not informed at any point during the booking process. In fact, we even messaged the management after booking to highlight that we would be arriving late. They didn’t mention that bit.
We decided to climb back to the top of the cliff —- still carrying luggage —- and headed back to the information office. It was a steep ascent. And mind you, I have a medical condition that can easily be aggravated by heavy lifting. The information office turned out to be closed. All of the establishments were closed. And there was NO ONE around.
Resigned to the very real possibility of sleeping outside, we crossed to the taxi stand. It was almost midnight. The temperature was lower than my spirits. And the wind was whistling as though a dementor would come out any time. I opened my suitcase, doubled my outerwear, and wrapped my neck with another scarf.
Feeling incredibly guilty, he kept on apologizing because he was in charge of booking our accommodations for this trip. “It’s perfectly fine if you’re mad at me or upset with me,” he said. “This is my fault. I’m really sorry.”
But I wasn’t mad or upset. I myself was surprised that I wasn’t. I was just really tired. We came all the way from Malta and connected in Athens to get here.
I tried my best to still catch some sleep. Every 30 minutes, the wuthering wind would pull me out of slumber. In between naps, I caught a glimpse of something written on the wall opposite me. But because it was dark and I was too tired, I couldn’t make out what it was.
In the morning, the staff finally arrived, apologized profusely, checked us in, and delivered breakfast. We slept the entire day.
When we woke up, we walked back to the taxi stand where we stayed the night before. I could finally see what was written on the wall. It was a lyric to a J Cole rap song, and it read: “We ain’t picture perfect, but we worth the picture still.”
I couldn’t agree more. The whole time, I wasn’t thinking about how I should complain or who to blame. All I could imagine was a picture of the two of us, locked in a warm embrace at a taxi stand in a strange land. And somehow, I could still smile.
When you travel together all the time, mistakes like this are bound to happen every now and then, but I’m always thankful that even in the coldest winter nights, someone is there to hold my hand. And sometimes, that’s all the warmth I need.