Every once in a while, we get lucky. Really, really lucky. An opportunity presents itself and we grab the bull by the horns and we take a leap. I have not been many places in my life. Growing up with six children in our family did not offer my parents the opportunity to travel much because it was too expensive. After we got married, my husband and I spent twenty years building a business and that meant putting every dime that we made back into our livelihood.
We have taken our own children on several trips and it has been wonderful, but even those trips have been few and far between. As the time has passed ever so quickly, somehow you put it on the back burner and say things like, “hopefully we’ll get there someday!” But somehow it never happens. My husband had the opportunity to go to Europe in high school and play soccer, even our two oldest children have had the opportunity to travel to Europe with school and we sacrificed to make that happen, because we know all too well that if you put it off, somehow it doesn’t seem to come back around. My husband and I have been lucky enough to go to Mexico and the Dominican Republic, even if it took us into our forties to get there, but never to Europe until now.
This past month we had the opportunity to travel to Greece with six of our great friends. We chartered a beautiful boat and sailed the islands. We left our children, and our business, and let the water lead us to the most beautiful places I have ever seen. So now for the lessons that this amazing country taught me.
We had no itinerary and no agenda. Our family said things like, “you don’t have a plan for where you’re going?” Nope! “You don’t have a set schedule of where you’re staying?” Nope! “Aren’t your worried about pirates?” Ha, that was hysterical to me! We got on that boat and we left our cares behind. The first thing that I had to learn very quickly is that no one is in a hurry, literally no one. When you sit down to eat, it is going to be an event, one that takes time. What this gave me was time to be present with my husband and my friends. It gave us time to talk and laugh until our cheeks hurt. The service was very attentive, but once your food came, they left you alone and expected you to savor the moment. And savor we did!
The people were so kind and catered to anything that we needed. They told you what looked best on you as you shopped, and gave amazing recommendations for off-the-beaten path places to eat and drink. Each evening we gathered and decided on where to head the next day. We mapped our journey as a team, planned as a team, and worked together to go where the water led. Some of my favorite moments were anchoring in incredible coves, cooking dinner on the boat, swimming in water that was crystal clear and ten shades of blue, and renting scooters to travel up into the hills and truly see the magnificent islands. We fought very strong winds to moor the boat, and managed to pull it off every time, and I watched as my husband dove into a bay to unlock the anchor when it got snagged. He was awesome.
We left the stress, the mundane, the hassle, and the load that we bear on a daily basis behind, then we breathed in the experience. We would get to an island and I’d say, “this is the most beautiful place I have ever seen” and then we’d get to the next and it was my new favorite. From Athens, to Aegina, from Spetses, to Poros, my heart was full.
The Europeans do not care if you are fat or thin. They embrace life in a way that we need to do more of. They wear whatever they want and do not apologize for anything. They eat and drink to their hearts content without a care in the world. I was able to eat bread and pasta without any itching or feeling awful, as I usually do, because they don’t allow chemicals in their food that we allow in the US. Everything was fresh and made to order, and the food was absolutely fabulous everywhere we went. I embraced my body and my mind for the first time in a very long time. I couldn’t dry or straighten my hair, so it was a curly mess. I didn’t beat myself up for being imperfect. I laughed more than I have in years, and felt totally and completely at peace. When was the last time you felt like that, or have you ever?
The lessons we learn from traveling to other places are countless. It doesn’t matter if you travel to Europe or a state park, just go. Leave your worries behind. Wash your clothes in a bucket, let them dry in a breeze. Eat all the cheese and drink all the wine. Swim in the cool water. Make love under the stars. Skinny dip in a cove. You’re not too old and it’s not too late. We can’t take our money with us when we die, and if we don’t jump at the opportunities that are presented to us, then we will miss out on the greatest moments of our lives. I may not remember which islands I visited and what made me laugh so hard that I cried, but I will never forget how this trip made me feel.
I will never forget that for a few weeks I was totally and completely relaxed. I will never forget the time that the eight of us had together embracing the people and their culture. I will never forget that my children also worked as a team at home to get to their jobs and get their younger brother to all of the places that he needed to be. I’m grateful, deep down to the pit of my stomach grateful, that we put ourselves first for once. I hope we get to do it more. We don’t know how much time we have on this earth and I for one am so glad that I was schooled by the lovely people of Greece. I will treasure this magical trip forever. And that is all.