The Art of The Hierarchy of Needs in Athens.
Athens started off with me crying over a towel.
Now, I need to preface the above statement. I arrived at the hostel in Athens at around 11am, after not sleeping for over 24 hours…or bathing…and I hadn’t eaten in a long time. The hostel was located in an area that had “character”. The hostel was on the 5th floor of a 10 story building. I was so exhausted and my bags felt so heavy I thought if I went up the 5 flights I would most likely roll down the stairs after passing out from exhaustion. The staircase was also a winding staircase so it would be super easy to roll down. I decided to take the little elevator, with the sign “2 PERSONS ONLY!!” on it. Apprehensively, I got onto the elevator and pressed “5”. This little elevator zoomed up at a speed I have never felt in an elevator before. Even though the elevator was going at the speed of light, I felt time was going slow. Slow enough for me to freak out, assume I was going to crash through the ceiling of the building, and die while simultaneously shitting my pants. I, very aggressively, started to press the “STOP” button. The elevator stopped…at the correct floor…I wasn’t dead…and I didn’t shit my pants.
When I walk into the hostel, I was greeted by a little funny looking older man wearing a baggy suit and a bad toupee. As he is checking me in, he pulls out a rather large ledger book, that I am sure dates back to 1920, and has me sign in. He puts the ledger book away, and pulls out a box full of keys. One by one he takes each key out trying to find #20. As I stand there watching him, I remember not being angry, or frustrated, but rather amused at the whole situation I was currently in. After finding my key, he shows me around the hostel and showed me to my room. I met the two girls who were currently in the room. Monnie, a lovely Hungarian girl, and I talked for awhile about travel, and life. I told Monnie I was an artist, when she asked if I was a student. I gave her a business card (me trying to be professional?), and Monnie then looked at my photos. This is has always been awkward for me…a stranger is looking at my work for the first time, and I am sitting here…I smell like ass…and I am seconds away from crying due to being so fatigued… Monnie proceeded to give me one of the best complements I have received. If I remember correctly, Monnie said “Your photos make me feel…something…whoa”.
After some more time talking with Monnie, I told her I was going to take a nap. I laid down, and dozed in and out of sleep for about one hour. When I “woke up”, I experienced one of the worst panic attacks I’ve had on this trip so far. I realized I didn’t feel safe. I also realized I didn’t have a towel, and that is where I lost it. After some pretty intense crying over a towel, I had a calming breakthrough.
“Ellen, you haven’t slept in over 24 hours, you are hungry, and you smell like ass. Go ask the little man for a towel. He probably has a towel to give you. Then shower, take a nap, and then go eat”.
“Okay…” I said in response to myself, while wiping tears off my cheek.
I took my own advice, and in the order I advised. I got a towel, I showered, I laid down for another couple of hours, then I went and had the best dinner I have had in a long time. I can look back at the towel moment, laugh and appreciate it. I appreciate it because I realized in each new city I travel to, my hierarchy of needs restarts. I didn’t feel safe because I had no sleep, no shower, and no food in a long period of time. The towel represented security, and without a towel I had no security. While Rome taught me to care for myself, that knowledge was first realized in Athens at the same time I was learning to enjoy myself.
Rome was fueled with such an electric emotional intensity, that Athens became the “rejuvenation” my emotions and body needed. I laid in the sun. I ate the most delicious food. I bought some shorts. I started to enjoy myself.
I decided to move through Athens as if I were in a movie. Which, honestly, is some of the most freeing fun I’ve had with myself. In a weird way, I stopped giving a damn.
One night while eating gelato, I realized that the couples sitting on either side of me were kissing and sharing their gelato. Instead of feeling lonely, or “Oh how I wish I had someone to kiss and share gelato with *sigh*”, I found this moment rather humorous. Also, that gelato was super tasty, and I sure as hell wouldn’t share it…more for me!
While walking around the flea market streets, I met a Jamaican man named Earnest. Earnest was celebrating with a Jamaican Peace and Love festival at the nearby square, and trying to raise money for this orphanage his church was sponsoring. They gave out little bracelets made by the orphans. Now, after Rome my “bull shit” meter was on high alert. Earnest never came across insincere. We talked for sometime about Greece, Travel, and mothers. Earnest told me how much he loves his mom, but I am sure it’s not as much as I love mine…(hi, mom!). Earnest gave me a pink, blue and green bracelet. Earnest asked me to put a wish into the bracelet, which I did, and then Earnest put a prayer into the bracelet. The bracelet may or may not be made by actual orphans, but I could careless about that. The bracelet represents a connection I made with another human being. I haven’t taken the bracelet off since it was put on. The bracelet reminds me to stop, connect and listen to another person/myself. Because of that I will proudly wear this bracelet.
On my last day in Athens I danced up Mount Lycabettus. I am not joking or exaggerating…I danced my way up Lycabettus while listening to the Black Keys, and the Inherent Vice soundtrack. I showed Lycabettus who’s boss when it comes to breaking it down, and Lycabettus got served. When I reached the top, I spent sometime taking in the views, and then danced my way back down. Later that evening I went to Syntagma Square, and I continued to dance. I was walking on the edge of fountains, running and jumping over benches, spinning around light poles like Fred Astaire, and I felt free.
Athens taught me that once I care for myself, I can fully start to enjoy the wonderful person I am.
I finally, for once in my life can say, I honestly enjoy the person I am, and am excited to see the person I am becoming.
Below are a selection of photos from my trip to Athens. Enjoy!
As always, please feel to contact me here with any questions or comments! All feedback is appreciated.