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On a warm summer day this summer, I was sitting in my backyard, sipping coffee and scrolling through social media. Like so many of us, I was comparing my life to everyone else’s. Then, I experienced a terrible feeling that teenagers nowadays refer to as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Some of the people I went to high school with were posting amazing pictures of themselves backpacking across Europe. They were visiting so many countries! Their Instagram accounts were flooded with pictures of France, Ireland and Scotland. I was “genuinely happy” for them. 

If I had the chance to go to Europe, I’d go to Greece. Surrounded by four magnificent seas, the nation is made up of hundreds of islands, clear water and sandy beaches. The people are known for their friendliness and hospitality, and the nation offers an incredible ancient culture, diverse food options and stunning landscapes. The flight time from Toronto is approximately 10 hours, and a round-trip will cost you about $1,200. The best time to visit Greece is during Spring Break or after August—that’s when all of the tourists are usually gone, it’s not that hot outside (during peak heat season in July it gets to over 45 degrees Celsius!) and Greek people celebrate many of their festivals, such as Ancient Olympia, in the fall. 

Some of you might have reservations about Greece. I know, you think that the nation is facing an economic disaster and right-wing nationalism is taking over the country. The GDP is down by 13 per cent since 2008, it’s likely to fall another seven per cent this year and everyone’s jobless. However, the economic state of the nation should actually be a motivating factor for tourists like you and me. Compared to other financially ruined nations such as Portugal and Spain, which attract millions of tourists, Greece gets approximately 25 per cent less tourists annually. By going there, you’d be helping the local economy, thus performing a public service. 

If you look past all the bad stuff, you’ll see that Greece is the perfect place for a 20-something-year-old: everything’s cheap, there’s a ton of history and the night-life is amazing. 

Food and local attractions are a bargain: check out the Acropolis of Athens, a temple dedicated to the Gods built in the 5th century BCE. After that, take a selfie with your friends by the Parthenon, Athens’ defining landmark. My favourite museum by far is the National Archaeological Museum of Athens—all of the monuments of Olympia are stunning. Definitely see all of the touristy stuff and museums; however, don’t be a complete n00b. If you’re there, it should be go time. I’d visit all of the craziest places, and you should too! 

Definitely choose to stay at The Pink Palace in Corfu. Painted fully in pink and situated by the sea, this magnificent building is infamous for its parties and drinking. The hostel has a ‘booze cruise’ event in which the majority of party-goers dance naked and play drinking games. Additionally, weekly toga parties, happy hours and theme nights in which you can dress up as characters from Greek mythology attract thousands of tourists annually. The Pink Palace has received universally positive reviews on TripAdvisor. Users describe it as “the best place by far!” having a “pretty sweet complimentary dinner plan.” Beds are “amazing with fluffy pillows.” Indeed, the hostel has over 300 beds and there’s a good chance you might not end up in yours. Just saying...

I like concerts and history, and I bet you do too—lucky for us, Athens has combined our interests into the perfect stadium: the Technopolis. Situated in a refurbished natural gas plant in the city’s former gasworks and dedicated to a Greek composer by the name of Manos Hatzidakis, the building has been a major cultural and entertainment venue since 1999. The stadium has a 19th century feel to it and it feels amazing being there. Who wouldn’t want to feel like a factory worker during the Industrial Revolution? The Technopolis holds annual concerts, live events and is also home to a museum. Before going, check the venue’s events calendar—there’s a good chance your favourite European band is playing there! 

The Drunk Sinatra bar is definitely on my list for the night. Go back a few decades by listening to soul and jazz music in this downtown bistro of Athens while gazing at a giant photo of Frank Sinatra. How cool is that? During the 1960s, Frank Sinatra had a major following in Greece, especially after his 1962 concert in Athens. At the time, his style of jazz and blues captured the imaginations of central and southern Europeans with songs such as “Fly Me to the Moon” and “New York, New York” becoming known by many people. Americanism came to characterize change and hope—a desire for a better tomorrow. The spirit of Sinatra looms at the bar (not literally). Breakfast, brunch and dinner are all served here as you go back in time. 

Lastly, on your way back to Toronto, do not forget to visit Astir Beach. Located in Glyfada, the beach is one of the most popular in the world. At this beautiful seaside destination, the aesthetic harmony of the blue sea surrounded by the green leaves of the palm and olive trees are sure to catch your eye. With no shortages of picnic areas, cocktails and world-class DJs, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world. The beach is open year-round, 24/7. 

Greece is a neat place, with boundless attractions and opportunities. Get a group of your friends (first make some at U of T, which is hard to do), save some money and once you’re done your undergrad career, go to Greece. You won’t regret it!   

... if you still have the urge to backpack across Europe and other Continents (after visiting Greece, of course), our team at the newspaper put together a list of the most popular routes to take (courtesy of StudentUniverse Travel):

London to Amsterdam 

In this spectacular train journey, you’d visit: London, Paris, Rome, Florence, Munich and Amsterdam, all in the span of 14 days.

Rome to Amsterdam  

The next popular package is 23 days long and it utilizes train, bus and metro. It’s well-suited for travellers wanting to see Eastern Europe, as you’d visit Krakow and Prague as you make your way through Italy, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

London to Istanbul 

This plan utilizes the train through Central Europe en route to the Middle East. In 25 days, you’d visit: London, Paris, Zermatt, Vienna, Bucharest, Sofia and Istanbul.

Auckland to Wellington  

I know, this isn’t Europe. However, this seven-day trip is one of the most popular in the world. The lineup has tourists make their way through New Zealand by private bus and visiting: Auckland, Raglan, Lake Taupo national parks and Wellington.

The most conscientious backpackers usually spend around $70-100 per day in Western Europe and $40-70 per day in Eastern Europe. 

Traditionally, hostels offer backpackers the cheapest accommodations. In London, Paris and Amsterdam, hostel prices range from $20-45 per night. 

HostelWorld.com is a great booking site to start your search, but don’t forget to visit Airbnb.com to see if any rental apartments are available too! Lastly, CouchSurfing.com is a popular and free way to travel throughout Europe.    

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