I have been all over the place – not only in terms of countries, but also in terms of my energy. I cannot decide anything. I don’t know how to handle this new freedom to go wherever I want. Most people think, oh I would love to take time off from work and travel and do anything I want. Well, when it happens it is overwhelming and a different story from when I daydreamed about it while sitting in a dark cubicle. My decisions are mine alone and no one will be traveling with me once my friends leave.
The only book I brought is the Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. I feel like Sabine when she discovers that she finally reached her ultimate goal. Her burden and drama that came with this were not one of heaviness but of lightness. Sometimes the lightness is too much to handle and it becomes unbearable. That is what I feel like. The lightness of being free is too much. I can do whatever I want to do. There are no limits. I can sit in the wonder of some of the most beautiful places in the world, but I am not happy right now.
Maybe it is so hard, since I am trying to reprogram my logical, left brain that plans. I want to use my intuition, follow my heart, decide, and then go. Often the best things in life happen when we let go of control and the plan and just see where fate takes us. I live for ‘spontaneous coincidences’ that happen in life and in the end all weave together to create something fabulous.
Let’s back up a few weeks and go to the villa in Umbria where I was with my friends. The struggle inside still exists so I avoid it and opt to do nothing. I cannot seem to use my logical brain or my intuition. But, I had to decide. Italy was winding down and I had no plan. Thursday came around, we leave in two days, and I still had no plan. I changed my mind three times that week, first I was going to Greece, then not, then Croatia, then not, then sailing in Italy, then not. I asked for a sign. My sign came after too much white wine at the pool and I went inside and booked a ticket to join my friends in Greece.
After an early morning flight from Rome to Santorini then waiting in Santorini for seven hours, I finally arrive in Folegandros. My bags are heavy, I already unpacked things in NYC before I left, sent a bag back to the States with my friend, and still I have too much stuff. There was a saying that I saw while in Chamonix – Travel far, pack lite, and live long. Damn toiletries.
I arrive at the port after being herded on and off the ferry like cattle. I judge the island. I don’t like it. It is brown and there are no green trees. Why do we make judgments so quickly? It really limits how we interact with people and places. Anyway, I check in, my friends tell me to meet in the third piazza for dinner. As I walked through Chora that first night, I felt good. The town has an interesting vibe. Let’s see.
Sunsets are beyond what words can describe. They are so spectacular that the evenings revolve around the sunset. Drinking Campari and orange, my friends and I would watch the dazzle in the sky. We would laugh and make scenes since we were often quite loud and just having fun. The day came and my friends left. As they said goodbye, their advice was, “If you get lonely, call us, if you get sad, leave.” I feel both. Sad and lonely, so now what do I do.
The sun still rises and sets and I have to figure this out on my own. I feel out-of-place. Everywhere around me are couples and families. To change things around, I decide to leave the place where we always sat and instead watch from the hilltop. I sit and take in the beauty, but am lonely again. I make a promise to myself that by the time I leave Folegandros, I will sit alone and watch the sunset and be happy with the beauty, the silence, and my own company. We need to be our own best friend and be comfortable with being alone.
Over the next days, I am still restless. It is Tuesday and I plan to leave on Sunday and just stay five days. I need something spiritual. Yes, that is the answer to my problems of being restless. I frantically search for flights to India and Bali and am looking for yoga retreats or something to force me to find spirituality or something like that. Meanwhile there is a little voice telling me to be patient, be still, rest, relax. I sleep so soundly and wake up at 11 am each day, twelve hours. Hmmm. Clearly I am very tired, my body is slowing down, and this island is magical is some way. My mind races again. Be patient. My intuition – relax. Pam’s voice – go to India, there you will find it. Intuition – stay here, patience. Pam’s voice – just get a drink.
Almost two weeks later and I am still on the island. I cannot leave. I met a wonderful woman on the boat tour and we became instant friends and she introduced me to her friends. It changed everything. I was so busy searching for spirituality and peace that I failed to see what was right in front of me. Amazing waters, beautiful beaches, wonderful people, good food, a donkey, and a dog that looks just like Ingrid. I call the dog Hobo Jack and just when I need him he appears. Each time I see him, my heart skips a beat and I realize how much I miss Ingrid. She sent that dog to this island to make me feel bad…there are not too many dogs here and the one is a shorthaired pointer. Go figure. While looking for a new spot to watch the sunset to better deal with my loneliness after my friends left, I walked down to Punta Square and guess who was there taking in the beauty? Hobo Jack. I pet him, he put his head on my leg, and together we watched the sunset.
Right outside my door is a path to the town church that is high on the hill. I created my own ritual and my own spiritual space. Each morning, I walk to the top of the hill and do yoga. My mantra for the fifteen minutes walk up is – you are where you need to be, just be. That becomes ingrained in me, and the restlessness of going somewhere else stops. Along the path, there is a donkey that I say hello to each morning and sometimes feed. There are also men along the path who are working and painting the already white walls even whiter. I say good morning and the one man told me with a smile, “It is not good morning, it is kalimera.” I smile and repeat it and each day we practice a few more words. The donkey comes towards me each morning when I call him. I created a ritual and found my peace high on top of the mountain overlooking the beautiful sea and the island. I did not need to go to India. Nothing can bring me peace, but myself. It comes from the inside and the key to life is to find it wherever you are. Even deep under the sea.
I am the luckiest girl in the world. Climbing mountains and diving in magnificent seas. There is beauty in both places and not only natural beauty, but also good-looking guides…again. The gods are with me when it comes to my guides and diving buddies. The dives offer magnificent walls, bright colors of orange and purple, schools of glistening fish, and intense, deep blue waters. I feel the lightness again, it is bearable and I am full of light. I am actually flying under the water. My body feels free and I am thankful to enter this underwater world once again. I feel comfortable and not afraid, since it has been quite some years since my last dive. There is a peaceful feeling and a silence that one can only have under water. There are no words to exchange, only signs with hands and eyes. All you can hear are the deep inhales and exhales and the sound the regulator makes. We swam into a cave, turned around, and looked out into where the sun was shining down and turning the water at least five shades of blue. I stopped breathing. The beauty of what I saw and the feelings were overwhelming and the moment took my breath away. Kefi once again.
Weeks fly by. The hotel where I am staying is great and I also become friends with the owner. The souvlaki place knows me and when I walk in they make my chicken gyro with extra tzatziki. When I walk by restaurants, the owners say hello. I have friends. We hang out. Our conversations are quite meaningful and deep. I like this about the Greek people who I met. They are not afraid to open up and question things. I learned to Greek dance, or somehow already knew how to do it. I feel like I have been on this island in some past life or something. Everything is familiar to me. Including the people I have met. My friends gave me a Greek name. Partali. According to google it means someone who has been for long in the army and no more complies with orders. My army was ‘corporate america’. I like it.
However, logical brain kicks in and I had planned to go to Croatia, since that was on my list and I wanted to explore that part of my heritage. I had also been pushing off this yoga retreat that I signed up to do on Hvar Island. I struggle. My heart says stay here all summer. The explorer part of me wonders what else is out there. On a whim, I buy a ticket to leave. My one friend does not believe I am going and he asked what my heart was saying and I knew the answer, but left anyway.
My last sunset. I wore my red dress, went to the normal bar, and sat at my normal table. All around me were families and couples. Just like everyday. This time, I was glowing with pure happiness. The waiter comes over and told me that I really looked beautiful and was shining from the inside. I was so happy to hear that, since that is exactly how I felt. I watched the sun go down, alone, and thanked the island for its magic. Everything was perfect.
Why did I leave such a good thing? I was so happy. I would walk from Chora to my favorite beach and cry tears of joy. I had Kefi everday. It felt good to be on the island, since there was an energy that recharged my soul. Had a social life, met wonderful people, knew the beaches, had my yoga, the donkey, and Hobo Jack. The answers to why I left are somewhere deep inside and if I ever write a book, I will need a few chapters to explain. I guess it is always good to leave on a high note and who knows where the summer takes me. The wind just might blow me back to Folegandros.