When travelling, there is one phrase you hear so often it almost becomes as part conversational structure as a greeting, or an enquiry into your wellbeing; ‘you’re so lucky.’ It’s usually followed by ‘I wish I could do what you’re doing, instead I’m stuck in (insert name) being boring.’ To this I usually respond, internally, that you can do what I’m doing, just do it. Sacrifice and compromise what you must in order to do it, and then just do it. But that’s another vent for another day. When one is living/working on a Greek Island, the ‘you’re so lucky’ phrase increases in frequency and, yes, largely for good reason. But nothing is ever perfect, and whilst from the outside looking in, travelling looks like a permanent fairy tale, here’s a little secret; it isn’t.
Travel is thrilling but it’s also exhausting. It’s permanently extraordinary but it’s also scary. You make friends you will never forget, but there are also times of loneliness. It’s one glorious shock to the system after another and that can be overwhelming. You get sick. You get scared. You do stupid things. You miss home. Travel is something you do because you want to. Because you choose to. Yes, the luck of being able to is involved – physically and financially able, although the latter takes discipline and sacrifice to achieve – but ultimately, paradise is only ever found if it is sought. And it is the seeking that is the challenge you take up when you buy that plane ticket, pack that bag, wave goodbye to your family and friends for an indefinite period of time and start to write your own fairy tale.
The Santorini police station is a small, whitewashed building with one computer, one fax/printer and a rather large wall of haphazardly arranged folders. Next to the station is the ‘secretary’ room – two desks and a couch. I know this because last week I spent a morning there after my room was broken into and camera and phone stolen. Two nights later, after breaking into a friend’s house in a neighbouring village, they tried to get back into mine. And so I found myself standing in front of two retro-uniformed officers who, between them, spoke ten words of English, and we all know what my Greek is like. An incredibly serious Chief, who gave deep thought to every word he spoke (which may be because he couldn‘t speak English and I can‘t speak Greek) dictated the (handwritten) report whilst gazing pensively out of the window, one hand behind his back. The young whippersnapper (rather strapping whippersnapper, actually) to whom he dictated, scribed with diligence whilst translating what he could to me. Following the half page report being finished and me signing a form I understood nothing of, relying on the whippersnapper’s translation (‘were you birthed in Sydney?’) I was told to return in 7 days, when my report would be ready. Presumably the report is rewritten in the secretary’s room by one flustered ‘secretary’. I presume this because, when I returned after 7 days, my report was unprocessed and the secretary (male, no English) was flustered. I have since collected the report (no ID necessary) and begun the tedious process of lodging a claim and finding a new place to live.
I know you’re all waiting for me to get to the part about happy endings. To get to the assurances that as difficult as it is sometimes, travel is the best thing you will ever do. So here we are. My happy ending in this particular little plot-twist is I am moving into a beautiful old cave house covered in bougainvillea, in another village, with a view over the whole of Perissa and Perivolos. I’m moving in with excellent new friends, the kind you travel to make. I’m experiencing a new village and I’m getting a quad bike. It’s a new adventure, and that’s my happy ending. For now.
Ultimately, you learn to take the good with the bad. The lost with the found. You learn that even living on a Greek island isn’t endlessly idyllic. And you learn that travel isn’t purely a fairy tale – it’s more of a genre mash-up; adventure, occasional horror, comedy and a touch of romance thrown in for good measure. And you wouldn’t have it any other way.