This is part one of a two-part series of our trip to the Greek islands. The following are excerpts of Kyle’s travel journal. Enjoy!
Today we boarded a plane in Seattle bound for Greece by way of Amsterdam and then Athens. We’re on our way to bear witness to the marriage of two great people whom I’ve known collectively for over 30 years. Life has been crazy leading up to this trip with bachelor parties for Greg and Dylan, helping the bike shop with 70.3 training group as well as my own training for Seattle to Portland, and working on the basement. For right now, all we have to worry about is enjoying every moment.
I haven’t flown out of the country with Andrea since our honeymoon in the Riviera Maya. Sure, we’ve had a lot of adventures from home base but this will be a whole new experience. The compulsive side of me has expectations and plans but who knows what the Mediterranean has in store for us. In two days we’ll be scuba diving for the first time ever. My only experience with scuba gear is in a pool in Post Falls for an hour in 7th grade. We’ll spend some time getting used to being underwater, followed by some one-on-one instruction before testing our skills in the sea. I plan to bring home some great footage from my GoPro and diving light, which I’ve never put to use before.
Saturday is when the ceremony will take place and since the guest list is small, I imagine we’ll all chip in to help somewhere. Blaine will be the officiant, Andrea will be wandering around capturing the moments through her lens, and I will most likely be capturing the moving pictures. It’s a big deal to be a part of such a huge moment in two people’s lives, and yet I’m sure it hasn’t become apparent just how much it will continue to mean. Andrea and I were married in front of about 120 people and I still recall just about everyone who was there. The night was perfect, but we didn’t get to have very many intimate moments with each guest like we will in Greece.
Even as I imagine everything now, and grow more excited, I have no idea what this trip will bring. I can only hope it will bring friends together, feelings of love, a renewed spirit and memories we’ll never forget.
We arrived at the airport in Heraklion late Thursday night. The villa was still about 110 km away, a 90-minute drive at least. After considering our options we decided to rent a car since a taxi would cost about 90 euros. Turns out we weren’t the only ones that came to that conclusion as there would end up being four other vehicles at the villa. The road was very windy with some pretty fun hills and switchbacks. When we got to the villa we were greeted by the majority of the wedding party, sans Blaine and Cody. Everyone else had arrived early and had been drinking and socializing for a couple of hours. We toasted with Raki, but then were very ready to sleep. We had been awake for nearly 30 hours straight.
Friday we woke up early, had a quick breakfast, and prepared for scuba diving. Our taxi driver, Alexi, was one of the dive instructors from the school. He’s a Russian citizen that spends his summers on Crete and winters in Thailand.
The dive center was at a resort with a full bar, pool and private cove on the northern coast of Crete. We signed our waivers, went through a less than brief safety speech and then jumped into the water and donned our wet suits and tanks. The instructor ratio was 1:1 and we all spent some time going through underwater breathing techniques and pressure equalization. My instructor, Stephan from Ireland, spent about 30 seconds before ushering me out to the sea floor.
After descending the first 15 feet, I struggled to equalize the pressure in my right ear, but eventually I found relief. I brought my GoPro and a dive light to try capturing some new footage. Stephan kept it in his pocket and only let me use it at certain stopping points through out the dive, which was probably smart considering the only three things I had to worry about, pressure equalization, breathing, and remembering to look around, turned out to be nearly overwhelming. There was so much aquatic life but it didn’t become obvious until we stopped and Stephan pointed things out. Everything was so tranquil and moved in slow motion. Beside the GoPro we paid for a photographer to capture the experience. The pictures turned out great, but the dive turned into a posing session for about 30 minutes, and it turns out I wasn’t the only one bothered by it. Kelsey was having a rough time not having control underwater and became frustrated with being led around and forced to pose. We spent about 50 minutes underwater and reached a depth of about 33 feet.
We ate a few snacks and waited to view photos. Then we headed back to the villa and lazed around the pool until dinner. Ms. Rumi, our lovely Bulgarian caretaker for the villa, prepared a huge dinner of chicken, pork, a couple salads and some potato dishes followed up by dessert, which was some sort of fried pastry with a flan style custard.
We were still digesting dinner around the pool when Blaine and Cody arrived around 12:30 a.m. We stayed up to share stories for an hour, after which I had no problem falling asleep.
It was warm early. I woke up around 5 o’clock on the morning of Greg and Kelsey’s wedding, full of energy. Andrea and I watched the sunrise from an old bell tower behind our villa and then I went for a 5 mile run. It was hot and the road kept winding back and forth up to a pass which led to one of several other villages that dotted the Cretan countryside. It felt good to run again, which hasn’t been the case for a couple years. When I got back to our temporary abode I jumped in the pool to chill off and then spent 15 mins stretching.
Ms. Rumi was preparing a breakfast buffet for us and everyone rolled out of bed at different times. We spent the morning socializing and telling more travel stories. We had wifi, but everyone was pretty content with the company in the villa. None of our responsibilities at home or beyond that day mattered.
Greg and Kelsey wanted a very simple, wholesome ceremony and had not coordinated any plans other than dinner, but everyone seemed to take on some responsibility for making it a perfect day. Ms. Rumi popped in and out several times to reaffirm what time dinner would be served. Several of the women collaborated, tending to some of the more customary wedding traditions like arranging flowers, building an alter out of the white canopies that sat above each bed (to keep the mosquitoes at bay), arranged the seating, and prepping Kelsey for the evening.
As the ceremony grew closer I could feel the energy growing. I remember, before our wedding, just wanting to be alone with my thoughts. I didn’t have any hesitations, I just wanted to be sure to take everything in. So the two hours leading up to the big event I left Greg to his thoughts and used the time instead to prep the cameras and converse with the rest of the party that weren’t shuffling about.
The time had come and everyone’s preparations came together beautifully. Someone asked where Greg was and someone else answered that he was taking a moment after speaking with his father. When he came out to the rooftop terrace he was composed and ready, excited. Then someone either shouted or whispered “she coming,” I really can’t decipher which from memory. The music started and there she was in the doorway, beaming.
The ceremony was short and the exchange of written vows brought everyone to tears.
I had been charged with capturing video of the ceremony to send to family and friends who couldn’t be there. Greg made it clear he didn’t want editing to get in the way of my enjoying the night, but I knew if I could get the video uploaded and sent off I could breath a sigh of relief. It wasn’t 30 minutes after the link was sent out that Keri (Greg‘s mom) got an email from Lisa (Greg’s sister) who watched the ceremony with Keri’s parents. Keri’s father wanted to be in Greece with us badly but was not mobile enough to handle the trip or the terrain. So when Lisa sent a picture of them watching the ceremony together it was like they were there. I can’t describe the feeling it gave me to see Keri’s emotional reaction, having made it possible for her father to see Greg and Kelsey’s wedding. She gave me a big lingering hug.
In truth, the wedding affected many more people than just our party. Ms. Rumi had apparently been watching from the doorway. We found out the next day that she had told the whole village of Amari about the wedding and they all wanted to know how everything went. It was the first American wedding in this small remote community. That night we took a picture with Ms. Rumi and she made us promise to send it to her.