Greece (Skopelos)

Casual Chaos: A Ferry Tale

This is the ferry we took from Skiathos to Skopelos last weekend. You can see a red semi-tractor trailer driving out of the ship’s hold. This photo was taken from our apartment that overlooks the Skopelos harbor.

We had to pay attention. We had to think.

Traveling to new places can make you appreciate or at least think differently about the rules and procedures of your own country. And when it comes to safety procedures, sometimes I think the United States tries too hard to keep people safe. We’ve gone so far in the name of safety (and in the name of avoiding lawsuits, too) that Americans no longer need to think for themselves. That wasn’t the case on the Greek island of Skiathos last weekend.

Last Saturday, my husband Mitch and I took a 30-minute flight from Athens over the Aegean Sea to Skiathos Island, the smallest of three isles that compose Greece’s Sporades Islands. After a three-minute taxi ride down dusty, narrow lanes from the Skiathos Airport to the harbor, we confirmed our passage at a ferry ticket office and then made our way across the crowded main street to an assemblage of casual chaos.

The port of Skiathos as our ferry departed from the harbor.

The noonday sun beat down on the dusty parking lot filled with tourists carrying luggage and others just out for a weekend excursion. Music from the row of restaurants drifted from across the busy street, an incongruous backdrop to the hectic activity of the dock.

As we approached the crowd of waiting passengers, a young man was backing up a semi tractor into the lower hold of the ferry. He craned his neck left and right to peer into his rear view mirrors, guiding the tractor cab in reverse toward the gaping hold of the ferry. He jostled and bumped his way onto the ramp, clearing the opening on both sides and above by less than a foot and then disappeared within the ship.

A lighthouse on the southern tip of Skopelos Island.

About two minutes later, he emerged with a fully-loaded trailer of goods. Brushing his sweaty forehead with one hand and steering with the other, he maneuvered the rig, first in drive and then in reverse, to the edge of the parking lot near where we stood. And then he did it all over again, four more times to be exact.

All the while during his performance, a stream of disembarking ferry passengers had been descending the staircases along the side of the hold. A quiet procession of bag-bearing zombies, they inched down the staircase, watching their feet with each step, one step at a time. Once they reached the last stair, they wandered across the tractor’s loading area, where ferry workers, professionally dressed in white shirts, ties and dark trousers, ushered them along, guiding them out of the path of the semi that was soon to emerge from the ship.

Pulling into Skopelos Town, the largest city on Skopelos Island.

It was very casually run for being so chaotic. There was no yelling. No running back and forth. Just a toot of the semi’s horn when one man stopped in the middle of the path to check his phone. Just an occasional raising of a dockhand’s arm to direct people along and keep them out of harm’s way.

We talked quietly between ourselves about how different this would be in the states. There would be a beep screeching from the semi tractor every time it backed into the hold. There would be traffic cones arranged to keep the area clear.  Passengers would likely be contained in a holding area off to the side. But not here. Here, apparently, you have to pay attention and watch.You have to think.

Finally, with the ship’s hold empty, it was time for passenger boarding. We fell into a line and inched up the yellow-painted staircase where we slung our bags into loosely formed stacks and onto odd-shaped ledges and shelves that lined the stairway. There was no exchange of baggage receipts, no record that we had dropped off a bag at all. It would be our responsibility to retrieve our luggage when we descended upon reaching our destination. When we arrived in Skopelos, we would have to remember and pay attention. We would have to think.

Ascending the stairs, I placed my new, shiny wheeled carry-on onto a wobbly stack of suitcases and thought about how differently this procedure would be handled back home. There would be tags to keep track of or a ticket to scan. Thought would be taken out of the process. Without a doubt, I would get my bags back, but I wouldn’t have to think to make that happen.

“Leave here. Get later,” I heard a Greek ferry worker say to some passengers climbing up behind me.

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An even closer view of Skopelos as our ferry entered the harbor.

Thank you for reading! My husband is serving a three-week artist residency at Skopelos Foundation for the Arts on Skopelos Island in Greece. I’m along for the ride, writing and posting and otherwise enjoying my summer off from teaching middle school English Language Arts. Follow this blog for more articles and find me on under Parenting, Education, and Travel.




Life lessons Memoir & Narratives

The freedom that men enjoy (even though they may not realize it)

#MeToo is long overdue, but I still want more.


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Photo: Ryan Holloway on Unsplash


One afternoon in my early twenties, I went to a local lake. Alone. I was approached by two young men as I lay reading a book on a dock. They didn’t harass me, but our exchange was uncomfortable.

One morning about a year later, I walked through a quiet city park. Alone. I was followed and approached by a man in a car. Nearly stopping as his car cruised by me, he made deliberate eye contact, and drove on. Click here to read about that experience.

One late afternoon several months after that, I went for a run through my neighborhood. Alone. I was flashed by a man on foot. He passed by me, and I ran in the opposite direction. About a  month later, I had changed to running about an hour before dusk. One Sunday, he flashed me again from an adjacent alley as I ran by. Alone.

All of these occurrences happened many years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties. Even though they’re in my past, there’s one thing I still experience frequently: fear.

There are a handful of activities that I fear doing alone. Taking a hike is an example. Seriously, I just want to hike alone.

A few miles from our house, there’s a wilderness refuge and sometimes I just want to take off, drive the fifteen minutes north, exit off the highway, descend the tree-covered lane to the parking lot, get out of my car, and hike. Of course, my husband or one of my kids would go with me, but occasionally, I just want to go it alone.

Not safe. Not smart. You never know what could happen. You never know who you might meet – a young couple, a pair of women, a man, three men – on that trail that crosses a babbling creek, then narrows to a winding path before snaking up a steep hill to a pioneer homesite surrounded by a few gravestones.

But I don’t go. I stay home. There are some things I simply won’t do alone. If you’re a woman, you understand this. Maybe you feel it instinctively or maybe, like me, you’ve been approached, followed, watched when you were alone. If you’re a man, you may not even be aware of this freedom that you have to venture out alone.

So when I read these days about #MeToo and how women are unifying and being heard, I remember that, despite the charges, firings, and destroyed careers that signal a monumental shift is occurring for women, I still must be careful when I’m out alone.

I must always be aware of my surroundings. I must vary my routine or make arrangements to go with a friend or just cancel. I must bend myself around the bad behavior of men, most of whom are more powerful and stronger than me.

Yes, #MeToo is good, justified, and long overdue; however, I want more. I want the freedom that men enjoy. I want to go anywhere I want. Alone.

Thanks for reading. Click “like” for this post so others will find it. Anyone feelin’ like I do on this topic? Have a different view? Leave a comment and let’s talk.