Mary Shearer was humbled to find Greeks who could not speak English.
"I think as Americans, we think we own the world," Shearer said. "I really felt we were the minority, and I think that's a good feeling to have -- that we're just a dot on the map."
Shearer was one of 19 Colorado Northwestern Community College staff members, students and area residents who instructors Kathy Simpson, Mary Karen Solomon and Kathy Ross accompanied on a 10-day trip to Greece this month.
The trip ran from March 15 to 26 and included six nights in Athens, three nights on Mykonos island and one night on Santorini island.
"I think there's a lot to be said to tap into another culture and not be invasive," Shearer said.
She feels the CNCC tourists did just that.
Simpson said the residents of the areas they visited were welcoming. And while former trips have included participants being refused service for being American, the trip to Greece was filled with kindness.
Solomon cited a four-hour discussion she and Simpson had with a jewelry store owner, who offered them tea and sweets while they chatted.
One Greek man stopped CNCC student Alyssa Macomber to tell her she resembled Aphrodite.
"It was really a fulfillment of what you thought of Greece," Solomon said.
She was impressed to see sites she'd seen photographs of.
"They were larger than life," she said. "They were incredibly more beautiful than you would ever imagine."
Simpson and Solomon chose Greece for this year's trip -- the women have been organizing trips for six years -- because of the educational opportunities in humanities, literature, art and architecture.
Destinations included the Acropolis, Temple of Zeus, Agora, Oracle of Delphi and museums.
Simpson and Solomon began hosting the trips through CNCC as a way to allow residents to travel with guidance. Previous destinations have included Rome, Paris and Prague.
"We have a lot of people who want to travel and don't have an easy way to do it," Solomon said. "And we can help with that."
Six CNCC students took the trip for three credits. This is the first year the college has offered the trip for credit.
Those students kept a journal while overseas and will write 10- to 12-page papers.
Some activities, such as bus tours, are planned as group events during the trip. But Simpson said she also allows those on the trip to have "free days."
"I think you need to find your own experience and not be herded all the time," she said.
And while planning such a trip is a lot of work for the women, Simpson and Solomon say they enjoy making the vacations possible.
"During the trip, people kept coming up to me and thanking me for putting this together," Simpson said. "I said, 'We're happy to be here, too.'"
"We would have stayed longer if we could," Solomon said. "We would have liked more days."
Simpson and Solomon are already considering ideas for next year's trip. One possibility is Italy.
Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or firstname.lastname@example.org.