The Time I Went to a Party Island and Didn’t Party

I didn’t write this, but I could have: this is totally my MO. Sometimes you just don’t WAN’T to do what everyone else is and that’s okay.

There are many places on the globe that are famous for partying. Miami, Ibiza, Ko Pha Ngan, Vegas, and Rio, to name a few.

And then there’s Mykonos. Perhaps not as world-famous, but among the Greek backpacker circuit, it is THE party island.

The road to Mykonos

My college BFF and I studied abroad our junior year — I in Paris, and she in Florence. Though we majored in partying and eating that semester, we also completed intense minors in struggling with French/Italian, combating cultural differences, and actually studying.

As our reward, we decided to travel to Greece and Turkey once classes were over. Have fun and let loose on the Greek Islands, then get cultured up in Turkey. I could barely contain my excitement.

Those Greeks better get ready; this was going to be CRAZY!

Exciting, amazing, beautiful, it was. Crazy, it wasn’t. As we ferried through the stunning Greek Islands, we kept waiting for that one omg-you’ll-never-believe-what-happened night. Sure, we’d eat, drink, and be merry. But we never tore up the town like we had envisioned doing — as any 20-year-old fairly uninhibited chicks should be apt to do.

We were tired from school, and broke from living in Europe. We also had missed each other so much during the semester that just being able to spend time chatting or hanging out together in the evenings was excitement enough.

One night, as we laughed about our lameness, we came to the realization that we had been waiting for Mykonos. Of course! That, after all, is where the parties happen. The all-hours clubs, wild hook-ups, and trays of shots. That’s why we hadn’t gotten crazy yet — we were just waiting for the ultimate place to do so.

It’s time to party!

A few days later, we arrived in Mykonos. This was it. We were going to party like it was 2007. (Wait, it was.) We were going to go to a real live club and stay out dancing ALL NIGHT LONG. At long last, the lives of two small-town girls were going to be just like an AC/DC song.

Most of the hostels were full, but we eventually found a cute little room to rent. We set our backpacks down and hurriedly headed out for dinner. The sooner we ate, the sooner we’d be making all of our spring break dreams come true!

Because being a college girl is awesome, our waiter gave us a free bottle of wine with our meal. (Looking back, this has now been the start of many failed nights out.) Tipsy and full, we headed back to our room.

Time to pick out our clubbing outfits! Get our dance on with sexy Greek men! Hell yeah — bring on the gap-yeared boys with accents!

But, as we started to get ready, we realized our hearts weren’t in it. As pathetic as it sounds, we were tired. We’d traveled all day and eaten a big meal and just… didn’t feel like it.

Could we really skip the Mykonos club scene?

Really, who goes to Mykonos and doesn’t party? What would we tell people? What would we say when the “cool people” at the next hostel asked us which club we went to? Most pressing of all: would we regret it?

We hemmed. We hawed.

Then, we found “Red Dragon” on TV. In ENGLISH. (Any seasoned traveler knows how exciting it is to find something on TV in English. And to find something you actually enjoy? Amazing.) It was over. We settled in, box of wine on the night stand, with the all-night parties going on around us.

Travel is about choices

I’ve traveled a lot more since then. Both with my friend and without her. There are always times that I wonder if I’m skipping something I’m “supposed” to do, times I’m afraid I’m not “making the most” of my time, or times that I feel guilty for “missing out” on some sort of opportunity.

You know what, though? Some of those times, including that night in that little Greek hotel with my BFF, drinking wine and assessing Edward Norton’s (everlasting) sex appeal, are some of the best travel memories of my life.

As I’ve grown, and as I’ve traveled (often simultaneously), I’ve realized that, most of the time, travel isn’t what you expect it to be. Most of the time, it isn’t what others expect it to be, either.

So leave “musts” and “shoulds” and expectations behind. Travel is about choices. And your choices are good — because they’re creating the memories YOU cherish with the people YOU love. As long as you’ve got those, who cares about anything else?

Susan has been working ungrownup seasonal jobs and traveling the world since 2008. She’s passionate about sharing adventure travel and the seasonal work lifestyle with everyone. Catch up with her on her blog, Travel Junkette, or on Twitter.

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16 thoughts on “The Time I Went to a Party Island and Didn’t Party”

  1. I’m planning a big summer trip, going to Mykonos actually, and I’m so glad I read this post. I often come home with a million regrets about what I should have done, seen, experienced. But I always have a great time. Thanks for this post!

  2. Anything to do with Edward Norton (and wine) is worth it!! I probably would have skipped the partying and stayed in for the movie, too 🙂
    There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ about travel. It’s a personal journey and each moment is something unique for each person. It’s wonderful, too, to just catch up with friends and enjoy time together. Something I learned from my favorite guidebook author is to expect to return to a place in the future and not fret about the things I may have missed this time around. So far, that’s been good advice and I have managed to revisit some places for a second chance. Maybe you’ll get another chance someday to party in Mykonos!

  3. I’m with Marco– unplanned parties are usually of the best variety! Glad to see it’s possible for people to go to Mykonos without partying 🙂 lovely article, thank you

  4. Great post! I can so relate to this, Susan! The same just recently happened to me in Paris: I was visiting a friend who I hadn’t seen in almost year. We had all those plans about dressing up, going out, and checking out stylish French guys. But we ended up talking, laughing, and eating in her tiny room every night. Although this is not how a guide book suggests spending your nights in Paris, for me it was perfect. The only thing I regret is dragging that second pair of superfluous fancy shoes all the way to Paris 🙂

  5. Great post. I know exactly what you mean. Martin Buber said “all journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware”.

    Either you travel knowing exactly what you want to do or you travel to discover what you want to do. Most people however travel with the intentions of doing what they are “expected to do”. Probably end up dealing with a bunch of whaaaaaaaat you went there and didnt do that, but as you rightly said who cares about the “musts” and “shouds”, travel to find yourself and let the experiences find you. However it is often better to have some sort of an idea of what you would like to do before you get to a place :p

  6. I had to comment on this one– really enjoyed the post and identified with some of what you wrote about studying abroad. Traveling and exploring can be tiring, and even though study abroad did afford some epic nights out (or at least they seemed so, back in 2008) some nights in were just as memorable. Specifically, my good friend and I traveled to Prague for New Year’s. We planned on enjoying our first New Year’s Eve in a cosmopolitan European city. Instead, exhausted from the cold and terrified by our Soviet camp-style hostel, we hunkered down in the room, barricaded the door with the desk, and ate 12 different kinds of chocolate. That was a great New Year’s Eve.

  7. Great post, Susan! I hate that feeling of, “I’m in Tuscany, I should be hiking through olive trees right now” when you’re really just tired from travel and want to watch bad 90s movies. I agree that we should leave the “must-sees” behind and just see what happens.

  8. I’m a firm believer in partying accidentally, wherever that may be. It’s natural to feel burned out and I’ve gone to many a place, ended up being cultural and sleeping through the night, regardless of the locale’s reputation. Then there’s the contrast; places I didn’t expect to meet awesome people and crazy nights.

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