Love Your Shoes, Love Your Hat!

What to pack? What to leave behind? What to pack where? Carry-on, or Personal item, or checked bag?

“Be prepared” is the quick answer. When ten of us joined Carol and Mika on the 2017 fall Goddess Pilgrimage, one of us arrived without her luggage. Without Mika and Carol’s insistently pursuing it with the airline, Nancy may not have had any luggage at all. Finally, five days later, the airline delivered her bag to our hotel. Nancy handled it all, but was quite relieved when her things arrived.

That experience brought up a tricky question about luggage. In 2017 it was suggested we bring only one large suitcase (as well as my “personal item”) which is what I did that year. I assume this was to keep things simple and to fit all of our luggage in the bus. Additionally, each time we transferred from one city to another, we had to move all the luggage we brought with us.

As a former flight attendant for TWA, I’m conscious of how much we value our belongings while on an extended trip. My own 2017 Pilgrimage began after I learned of a serious cancer diagnosis. I had six weeks to get a passport and do everything else to prepare. I asked a lot of questions about what I’d need on the two week trip. Sometimes the answers seemed generic or vague. I’m writing this to answer questions you might have about how to be prepared. Of course, this is all my personal opinion.

Your hat and your shoes may be your most precious items. The intense sun can be overwhelming even in the fall. Protecting you head and skin from that heat makes sense. Touring the sacred sites and exploring the caves, and later going to dinner together all require lots of walking—sometimes on uneven ground and often on hard surfaces. Bring comfortable, sturdy shoes. Perhaps do some “training” at home for these long days with lots of walking.

Read and study the books and videos sent by Mika and Laura. The more you understand before you arrive on the island, the easier it will be to understand all the information we’ll be exposed to. The various pieces of information will offer “pieces of the puzzle” that makes the whole picture of life in ancient Crete come into focus. I found Carol’s book Rebirth of the Goddess to be a wonderful resource. The blog posts from Carol are an easy way to step into her mind and allow you to return to her words often.

When we gathered that first night we were given the details of our itinerary. The notes for each day included a list of necessities we’d need for that day’s activities. For example, one day might read: “Uneven ground, sun, bring headlamps, bring swim suits”. We were told that all our things would be secure on the bus throughout the day.

Our luxury touring coach became our home-away-from-home. Luckily I’d brought a sturdy tote bag to carry all I’d need for that day—especially extra water. Consider bringing a tightly sealed drinking cup and another container for water refills since, at times, we have access to clean spring water. This bag (or back pack) stayed on the bus packed for all the day’s activities.

The days can be long and meals can be later than expected. I found snacks of fruit, nuts, or energy bars to be helpful. I used another smaller crossbody bag for phone/camera and water when we left the bus.

Our impromptu rituals at various sacred sites often included libation offerings of honey, milk, wine, and/or water as well as offerings of fruit, nuts and seeds. Transporting the offerings and then cleaning up can be messy. I found that carrying a supply of small plastic bags and some moistened wipes to be helpful.

What do you need to pack and what would you like to pack? Some women prefer to travel light and manage to do so no matter where they’re going. Others, like me, are challenged to stay within the airline luggage restrictions. Laura and Mika have said they plan to use Carol’s template for the pilgrimage, so I’m assuming my comments based on our 2017 fall pilgrimage could be helpful information.

The landmass of Crete is large enough to have its own weather zones, which change as you go north and south, or east and west across the island. We will spend most of our time in central and eastern Crete, but we do change altitudes often. Some of the caves can be chilly. Mountain top shrines are often windy and colder than the plain below.

Crete is a mixture of lowland and mountainous regions. Weather in Crete is affected by the ridge of mountain ranges which run east to west across the island. Weather and temperatures vary, influenced by those changing altitudes. Some days are quite windy, especially near the sea. Yes, average temperatures in October are 74 F (24 C) day, 61 F (16 C) night, but may vary widely from these averages.

Days are hot, evenings can be cool—especially in the mountains or along the sea coast. Layers are essential. Cotton and linen slacks with a variety of tee shirts and light jackets served me well. Others worn easy care travel clothes. I’m bringing a heavier jacket this time because of those windy days. Before the trip, I searched for the perfect hat with a wide brim. My treasured hat has a chin cord which helped keep it on my head in the wind. It also folds flat for easy packing.

Each evening we gathered as a group to review our day and to share our thoughts. Some evenings we did dress up some and eat together. Other nights we were on our own.

Bring an umbrella and a raincoat. On the 2017 Pilgrimage we had only one day of rain. However, when I looked at weather conditions for the first two weeks of October in 2021, I was surprised to see rain for six of the fourteen days. If you’re depending on an umbrella for shade or for rain protection, make sure it is sturdy. One woman had the strong wind turn her umbrella inside-out.

No big box stores, no large pharmacy, no laundromat, no large grocery stores. We are often in isolated rural areas, but even in the cities, you will not have access to the commercial options you may expect. This requires thinking ahead to various possibilities.

Bring any medications, expected and unexpected, that you might need. Pack them in your personal item for ready access should your luggage arrive late.

Laundry service is not available. Bring a universal sink stopper so you can wash by hand. I found the flat rubber circle type to work well. Bar soap won’t spill when traveling.

If you’re counting on the traveler’s trick of hanging wrinkled garments in the steam of the shower to remove wrinkles, bring a lightweight hanger or two. No irons were available, and the hangers were not removable from the coat racks in our rooms. Some hotels were equipped with small refrigerators, others were not.

I had read that often hotels do not provide wash cloths. This was accurate on our 2017 trip making me glad I had packed a few wash cloths.

The beaches are usually rocky making water shoes a desirable addition. As noted, your own beach towel and a beach coverup are important additions to your packing list.

Phone charger and International Travel Adapter
Universal Power Adapter Look for an adapter to charge your phone and other devices. Find one labeled for use in EU Countries and with USB options.

Currency: I made a chart to serve as a “cheat sheet” to help me know how much 10E would be in dollars (or whatever currency you are familiar with), 20E, 30E, 50E and 100E. This was a useful guide in calculating the true cost of an item. A supply of cash is useful for meals and snacks and other small purchases. Larger establishments do accept credit cards, but cash is vital most days.

EU currency comes in different colors and sized for each denomination of bills. Learning about the currency before leaving lessens the stress.

Before leaving the U.S. I found a local bank to convert dollars into Euros because cash may not be readily available during our trip, or ATMs may be out of funds. Converting to EU currency before the trip gave me a better, that is, less expensive, exchange rate. Of course, I did not pack all the cash I had in the same spot. I did have credit cards as an option. Do notify your card company in advance of your travel plans.

Travel insurance: I’d never purchased this product before. But found it useful since I had to make a claim. The company I used, and will use again, was Tin Leg. (I have no financial ties to this company.)


Travel documents:
Treat your passport like a precious object. My passport was locked in luggage in the hotel room most days we were out touring. I was advised to take a color copy of my passport as a backup as well as a copy of my medical history and my plane ticket should either be needed. This felt like a useful precaution.

Personal item: As designated by the airlines, this is the only bag guaranteed not to be taken from you—unless it is too large to be stowed under the seat. Size restrictions vary. Carefully consider which air carriers you will be using and their size restrictions. To be sure, go to the airport before your trip with your bags and place them in the “sizer boxes” provided.

Your personal item may get quite heavy as you consider all the “must-have” items. Hopefully you will be able to stack your personal item on top of a small carry-on as you move through the airport or transfer from hotels. Moving your luggage will be your responsibility most places.

Carry-on: Your carry-on may or may not remain in the cabin with you. If the overhead luggage bins fill, the airline employees will force you to place it in cargo. Sometimes it is “gate-checked” and returned to you at the next destination. Other times it will be sent to your final designation. This is vital to know because any truly important item, like medications, should be packed in your “personal item”.

Most often, a small carry-on will remain with you. I see it as the back-up for my larger bag. I’ve carefully considered items I deemed necessary—like water shoes, hiking shoes, head lamp, etc., as well as night clothes and one or more change of clothes to be packed here. This bag is an “insurance policy” should the larger bag be delayed or not arrive at all.

Main luggage: In anticipation of this trip, I found a suggestion I’d like to share. If you are traveling with a companion, consider this plan. Each of you can pack a day’s outfit of clothes belonging to the other person in your luggage. If your bag is lost or late, your companion will have a set of your clothes ready for you.

Shopping: Each day is carefully scheduled. Shopping time is limited. If you see something you really like, do not assume if will be there later. Cash for large purchases may give you a slight discount. Having items shipped home is usually an option at larger businesses.

Traveling together in Crete on this extended road trip was invigorating. I’m hoping these suggestion will be useful to each of you. I look forward to our time together!

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