Many of those who saw me in Greece this summer know that I spent virtually the entire time there – almost eight weeks – with only one pair of shoes: Crocs, to be exact.
My determination not to overpack was rooted in lessons learned from previous trips – such as in 2005, when I foolishly packed a suit because of a wedding that I was to attend. Turns out, the only other people wearing suits were the groom, and the bride’s father. Also in past years, I packed pairs of shoes that I wedged in nooks and crannies of my suitcase and wound up not even touching…until I returned home!
Typically, I travel to Greece in the summertime, and for pleasure. On a cool day, the temperature is in the 90s (Fahrenheit). Why on earth would I want to be clad in shoes, socks, and long pants? Even the judges in Greek courtrooms, who are more “dressed up” than the lawyers, typically wear short-sleeve shirts (almost always royal blue, for some reason) with the collars unbuttoned and ties loosely draped around their necks.
I spend most of my time on Greek islands that I have visited countless times. I am very familiar with the dress code: there is none. The only work-related task I had planned was to stop by our Athens office and see everyone – and I was sure they wouldn’t mind that I would not appear donning a jacket and tie. In fact, given the sweltering Athenian August heat, if I had shown up like that they probably would have thought that the sun had fried my brain!
Downsizing the luggage is not a new concept for me – I’ve been doing that for years. But I realized that even a high-quality all-purpose walking sandal by Merrell or Teva is not really all-purpose. I learned that the hard way, by wearing them to the beach, and sometimes walking in the water with them still on. The saltwater ate through the cloth part of the material and made them look like a toothbrush that should have been replaced a year ago.
So, this time around, I invested in a single pair of Crocs, which cost about $30 in a department store here in Central PA – they cost closer to $45 in Manhattan, but, then again, everything is more expensive there. I chose a neutral beige/pewter color, which matched with my entire wardrobe reasonably well. Basic, all-rubber Crocs – with an optional rubber flap that swivels to fit snugly behind the ankle, or can stay on top of the shoe, turning the Croc into a “convertible” opened-back slipper. The great thing about these particular types of Crocs is how comfortable they are. No breaking in is required: no blisters to slow you down during the first couple of days of walking in them.
They are also great in the water, if you happen to venture to beaches with slippery wet rocks (and there are plenty of those in Greece!). The rubber soles grip very well to rocks, which make the Crocs ideal shoes for hiking, and even hunting for sea urchin among water-based boulders.
After about a month of nonstop walking (including a daily two-to-three-mile speedwalk), the soles of the Crocs had worn out considerably. I was afraid that my only pair of shoes would develop a hole in them – maybe even while I was on one of my longer hikes in the middle of nowhere! I regretted not having brought along an extra pair back from the States, and discovered that on some islands – like Chios – “real” Crocs were not even available. Only the “knock-off” imitation brands, and those cost a measly 5 euros! The main problem was the color: jet black, midnight blue, or snow white. The last choice was out of the question, as I would have looked like I had two pieces of Styrofoam packing strapped to my feet. I chose the midnight blue as the lesser of three evils: it’s a perfectly fine color, but it clashed with a lot of my clothes – so, I wore those judiciously, during the days at the beach, and saved my “formal” pair for the evenings.
I got a lot of mileage out of the 5 euro I invested in those knock-offs. Ten days’ worth of walking on the rugged Greek terrain. I had another week-and-a-half left on the trip, so I figured another pair would suit me just fine. By then, I was in Rhodes, and bought another imitation pair – only to discover that not all knockoffs are created equal. The latest pair of “Crocs” gave me blisters, making me pay for my supposedly clever thrifty packing. Now, Rhodes did have real Crocs for sale, for a whopping 50 euro a pair, and in those same three colors: black, dark blue, and white. Haven’t Greeks heard of neutral colors?
By the time I found those, the blisters had healed, and I figured there was no sense in buying an expensive pair of Crocs that I would practically never wear back home. The second knockoff pair came in handy, as it gave my original real pair some well-deserved rest. I wore the good pair of Crocs back home – and they are still going strong!
Lesson learned: bring two pair of real Crocs along to Greece – it’s the only footwear you’ll ever need!