Travel Before the Internet – a Miracle in Athens

You’re meeting some friends in Athens. The hotel where you planned to meet is closed. So, you Facetime, Skype, or Facebook message them and come up with a new plan. So simple. But it wasn’t always that easy to travel before the internet.

 The tale begins in Italy…

…where one fair maiden traveled alone en route to the city of Athens. She marveled at the sinking city of Venice and cried at the way-too-brief glimpse of stunning Florence because, sadly, there was no room in the inn. So she ventured further south to the stunning city of Rome where she shared a room in a dumpy inn with some random Scottish bloke she had met on the coach, for there were very few rooms available in Rome.

The bloke was sweet and kind but spoke in a language she had never heard before, something called “Scottish-English”. The maiden nodded her fair head politely and “uh-huh’d” but truly had no idea what he was saying.

A few days later, on the overnight coach to the Italian village of Brindisi, the fair maiden slapped the creepy Italian stranger who tried to grope her milky thigh in the dark of night. Travel was difficult for independent maidens.

Meanwhile, a beautiful raven-haired maiden traveled through the land of the Germans with Mother, sipping warm, dark ales in smoky German pubs and enjoying the Feast of the Bratwurst en route to the city of Athens.

And finally, two level-headed (yet a bit naïve) young maidens flew directly from the Land of Big Apples to the city known as Athens. They stumbled their way to the chosen inn…and there was no inn!

Oh s**t! they exclaimed in horror. “What shall we do now?

Since two heads are often much better than one, the level-headed maidens took out pen and papyrus and approached the small café next door to the closed inn.

May we write a note on this papyrus and attach it to your large cork wall?” they inquired of the café-keeper.

And so they did.

Meanwhile, back in Italy….

After slapping the Italian pervert on the train to Brindisi and frolicking with some Aussies on the sunny island of Corfu, the fair maiden made her way to the city of Athens where she stumbled through the city to the chosen inn. And it was closed!

Oh s**t!” she exclaimed in horror. “What shall I do now?

The fair maiden wandered into the café next door and fretted over her next move. She was blonde, after all, and not the brightest star in the night sky. As she twisted a lock of her fair hair, her sad, blue eyes skimmed over the large cork wall in the café, and…

Holy crap! A note from my wise friends!” 

After reading the note, she dragged her heavy satchel to the newly appointed inn where she embraced the wise maidens with happy tears of joy and relief.

Later that night, the clock on the wall was nearing the hour of midnight and the three young maidens began to wonder aloud whether the raven-haired-maiden would have the same good fortune. As the clock struck midnight, there was a knock at the door … and the raven-haired maiden appeared as if by magic!

And so the four naive maidens hugged and cried with relief at the miracle that brought them all together in the city of Athens.

Serendipity in Athens.

The following day they boarded an ark to Santorini where they rented scooters and bathed topless on the sun-drenched Greek beaches.

Santorini Biker Gang

Travel Before the Internet

Yeah, that really happened. It was the mid-80’s, a really “bad hair” era, and we were young and naive. We had a plan to meet in Athens but no Plan B. The internet didn’t exist yet and traveling was much more of a challenge. Here’s a look back…


Recently I cleaned out my “stuff” and was forced to part with my beloved collection of Lonely Planet guidebooks. Guidebooks were our main source of travel information back in those early days, but they were heavy to pack and sometimes out-of-date (like in Athens). It hurt to donate my collection to Goodwill but now they’re all conveniently available as Lonely Planet e-books – weightless and up-to-date.

Guidebook collection


Before ATMs were invented, traveler’s checks ruled. Ugh! I hated them but I also hated carrying large wads of cash. Now, I carry one debit card and a credit card for emergencies. I actually arrived in London last week with exactly $20USD in my wallet and hit a cash machine at Heathrow Airport.

Another convenient option is a prepaid travel card, which allows you to add value in the currency of the country you’re traveling to. The card can be used as a debit card, is more secure than cash, and saves you on exchange rates and other fees.


Before cell phones – payphones. Ugh. Finding a working pay phone, figuring out the country codes, getting the correct change in foreign currency – all were a total pain in the ass. But cell phones were not even a dream back in the 80’s so pay phones ruled.

(The Brits have now turned some of those iconic red phone booths into ATM machines!)

London phone booth
London phone booths – today’s ATMs


Once up a time, people actually sat down and wrote postcards! But then finding a post office in a foreign city and transacting in a foreign language was always a challenge. When my Grandma died a few years ago, I found a large stack of postcards she had saved from all of my trips over the years. Today Instagram and Facebook provide instant postcards and snapshots. (Unless your poor Grandma isn’t yet on the “interweb”.)


People we met on the road often became great friends for the moment but rarely friends for life. We usually exchanged addresses but didn’t follow up. Today, I have many Facebook friends from trips and random encounters around the world. I’m actually hoping to meet up with one of my Hanoi travel friends in Bath soon, thanks to the magic of Facebook!

Also, if you get lonely on the road, you can use the Travel Buddies app to find people to hang out with.

Travel Deals!

Hotel shopping back in those days consisted of walking from one dumpy hostel to the next, comparing their rates. Today, comparing hotel prices and finding deals on Hotels Combined is so much faster and easier! And for great flight deals, try Skyscanner – possibly the best invention ever!

Other great sites for travel deals: Travel ZooThe Flight Deal, Vacations To Go, and many, many others!

Kids today – you have NO idea how easy you’ve got it! Enjoy the magic of travel and please – send your Grandma an actual postcard! You won’t regret it!

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Travel Before the Internet



(Banner Photo on Visualhunt

(Guidebook Photo credit: Kerri Lee Smith via / CC BY-NC-SA)

(Phone booth Photo credit: via Visual hunt / CC BY)

(Postcard Photo credit: wallace39 ” mud and glory “ via / CC BY-NC-SA

(Hotel Photo credit: via / CC BY-NC-ND

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