Tuesday, April 18: I didn’t set out to blog again, but life landed me here. Right here. At this blog that I started ten years ago on the brink of turning fifty, of our month in the rice fields of Bali. Now, at the ripe-young age of sixty, I am in a similar state of awareness of all of my blessings.
Jump ten years into the future, skip due west from Indonesia to the continent of Africa, then due north, across the Mediterranean Sea, and now, here we are in GREECE! From the island of Bali to the island of Santorini! I am looking out at the Aegean Sea, in Oia, Santorini – part of the Cyclades islands of Greece. I am in awe. My view is beyond words. The water is still, and while it’s 8am, the island seems still asleep, and I am feeling incredibly at peace.
In the 16th century BC, there was a devastating volcanic eruption here, wiping out a civilization and what had been a big, round island. What was left of Santorini is on the caldera of the volcano, crescent-moon shaped with rugged cliffs. Over the years, it developed into the quintessential white-washed, blue-domed island that one might think of when they think of Greece. It was the Greece I had in mind when I chose to come here, and it is worlds beyond my imagination! I’m looking out at rocky cliff masses dotting the sea, completing the outline of what was once a circle. In the middle is a little mountain that is supposedly the still-active epicenter of the volcano. Like, what-the???
We woke up this morning in Athens, Greece at 3am to catch a taxi to the Athens airport for a 6am flight to Santorini. The flight itself was quick….maybe 30 minutes in the air. Then a guy met us at the airport to take us to the picturesque town of Oia. He stopped his car abruptly and picked up another guy, Admir, and then we were all dropped off at the foot of a cobblestoned stairway. Admir carried our two big suitcases….up the stairs to more stairs as we began our ascent into the fantastical town of Oia. White-cubed homes on top of other white homes, mish-mashed together with no rhyme or reason it seems, tucked in between a maze of uneven stairs and cobbled stones. Rooftops transformed into exquisite patios overlooking the Aegean Sea. “Keep up!” “Remember this landmark or you’ll be lost once I leave you,” our guide instructed, deadly serious. I asked him if I could help with one of the suitcases and he practically laughed at me. I soon saw why. We huffed and panted to keep up with him as he climbed, with both suitcases on his shoulders, up and down, and around stairs and structures, until we reached what is our home for the next 7 days. Pano Meria. An original “cave-house”, literally built into the cliff of the caldera, and renovated into a very cute stone house. First impressions. Oh my f*cking Lord. Incredible. Mesmerizing. All of it, even the precarious effort to keep up with Admir. It was all just like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants when Lena arrives in Greece. Just like it. Except not on donkeys.
I am profoundly reminded of my first morning in Bali, ten years ago. The first morning at our bungalow in the rice fields, I was the only one to wake up early, jet-lagged but beyond excited to sit out on our porch and stare in awe at our surroundings. I am exactly the same here, like… deja vu. Kai and Megan crashed on the bed the moment our host finished welcoming us and explaining how everything worked. Me? I was like, how can you sleep, when there’s all this before us??! I explored every marvelous inch of our home for the next week, unpacking and organizing, nesting, and then, making myself an espresso from their espresso maker, and buttering a piece of the fresh homemade bread that they had for us and will be delivering to us every morning. I grabbed my laptop and came out onto our private patio overlooking the sea, and breathed in the reality that is this gift before me. An epic trip to mark my sixtieth. I can’t believe we’re here. There’s so much to discover on this island for the next 7 days.
We flew into Athens five days ago – and while I was excited to see some of the history with the ruins, I had no idea how much I’d love the city. We airbnb’d a flat above a Starbucks (where we never once purchased a coffee, since we had our own espresso maker with amazing coffee in our flat!) in the middle of a fabulous, lively area with restaurants and tons of outdoor seating, gelato stores and bakeries, old churches, and a marketplace of streets and streets of colorful wares to buy. So much like Bali, but a different local vibe. While it was magnificent to climb up to see the Parthenon/Acropolis that stood on a hill in the middle of the city, what was even more striking to me was how there would be ruins as old as 700 BC, spotted here and there in the middle of the cosmopolitan city! Locals walking by like it was no big deal. I mean, the earliest civilization was here in Greece. And the evidence uncovered is astounding. Like whoa.
I got to choose this destination. My wife and sisters surprised me with a ‘trip-fund-me’ that they organized behind my back to be able to do this bucket-list trip. So it’s even more special that many of my friends and family contributed to get us here, and really, doing this blog is for y’all. I had at first planned to go to Machu Picchu in Peru, a destination I’ve dreamed of for years. But a violent, civil war broke out earlier this year between the government of Peru and some guerrilla groups, and foreign travelers were prohibited to enter the country. So the next choice, after some serious discerning, was Greece. No regrets here, AT ALL.
Our tribe of three. I love these guys. We are all three in good places, which is a remarkable feat of timing and the grace of God. Kai’s excitement elevates my excitement. She was over the moon in Athens – literally vibing with the city and the marketplace, roaming into dress shops, checking out every gelato store that was on every block, breaking out into Mama Mia(Abba) songs, and most importantly more carefree than I’ve seen in a while. My heart melts every time she (usually too cool for moms at home) grabs my hand in excitement while we walk through the marketplace. She has announced that she is ‘contented’ several times on our trip, and that’s an amazing thing, in more words than I can express. When my family wakes up and gets a full glimpse of where we’re at, they are going to FREAK at this fantasy world that we get to play in for the next week. I’m humming. Did I say, fresh-baked bread delivered every morning? I’m so blessed.
Megan and I are managing all of the stressors of traveling by planning ahead and going with the flow at the same time. We’re taking good care of each other, sharing in the responsibilities, etc. My hope here, in Santorini, is that we’ll all find our rhythm, continue to feel the contentment of life lived slowly and simply. I’ve already found my spot to write, play guitar, dream, right here on our patio overlooking the sea. I wish this kind of peace for everyone.