I love to travel, and I especially love traveling to other countries. There's a certain rush you get through being in a place so different from everything you have ever known. Your senses are utterly and beautifully overwhelmed, constantly taking in everything you see, hear, taste, experience. You meet new people, learn how they live, and revel in every second spent in the place they call home. You may even dream of making it your home, if you're like me. People talk about wanderlust like it's a fleeting urge or a dreamy idea, but for me, it's inescapable.

Recently, I was at an all-time travel high, and I've been dying to get that feeling back ever since. Spending three weeks in Greece for my honeymoon was, in short, the best experience I've ever had. We spent a week in the volcanic island of Santorini, followed by a few weeks of island-hopping and endless adventuring through thousands of years of history, culture, and of course, lots of food. Greeks are some of the most hospitable, genuine people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I'll spare you every detail of the trip, but I will say this: If you get the chance to go, don't wait. Just go.


Fresh-caught octopus is sun-dried in the street in the small fishing village of Naousa. (Photo by Amanda Smith Ryan)

I'm a big proponent of the Mediterranean diet for its health purposes and its belief that good company and conversation should be at the center of every meal. In Greece, everything revolves around the family. Almost every hotel, B&B, taverna, bakery, and convenience store we visited was owned and operated as a family business, which is something we've nearly lost in the United States. Greeks traditionally lived off the land, using only the produce they could grow and the animals they could catch. While modern food transportation has changed this, the majority of Greek cuisine is still permeated by what's fresh, local, and easily accessible. That means there are lots of olives, tomatoes, fish, and grapes (mostly in the form of wine). I could tell you more, but instead, I'll show you:


In Greece, you order whole fish by the kilo. That means the restaurant owner shows you what they caught that day, you take your pick, and then they grill it simply with olive oil, lemon, and herbs. It doesn't get fresher than this! (Photo by Amanda Smith Ryan)


Modern/traditional Greek fusion: Lamb ribs with lamb liver terrine, fava puree, and Vinsanto reduction. (Photo by Amanda Smith Ryan)


Rosé wine is nicest when enjoyed practically on top of the ocean. In the background, the traditional white-washed island architecture is illuminated by a gorgeous Greek sunset. (Photo by Amanda Smith Ryan)


The octopus that was sun-dried earlier in the day is grilled for dinner. (Photo by Amanda Smith Ryan)


A Greek "meze" plate: Falafel with yogurt dip, fried sesame cheese with tomato chutney, grilled halloumi with pears, bacon-wrapped figs stuffed with feta, hummus and pita bread. (Photo by Amanda Smith Ryan)


Greek coffee and a massive plate of Greek yogurt and fruit for breakfast. The owner of this cafe fixed us our meal herself, and then asked to sit down and drink her coffee with us. We talked for over an hour. (Photo by Amanda Smith Ryan)

One more bit of advice: When you travel, don't be afraid to get off the beaten path. Get out of the resort towns and away from the bustling tourist streets. Rent a Fiat Panda and cruise around an entire island in one day. Eat where the locals eat. Talk to them, and soak up every bit of knowledge they have. Take risks; be adventurous. You'll be amazed at what you find.

Now, I'll get off my soapbox and share some simple Greek recipes from our site, so you, too, can fall in love with Greece. Happy travels!

Greek Lamb Chops and Mint Yogurt Sauce
Credit: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Cindy Barr