I’m pleased to welcome Jennifer Barclay, author of Falling in Honey: How a Tiny Greek Island Stole My Heart, to the blog today as part of the Falling in Honey blog tour! She’s here to tell us all about what she learned while traveling. You all know that I went on a 6-week European vacation a couple years ago, and I came away knowing more about myself than I thought possible. Traveling really does force you to discover yourself, and I will never ever stop doing that. So, this guest post has me written all over it! Before I turn the blog over to Jennifer, here’s a little bit about her book!
The Best Gifts in Life are the Gifts We Give Ourselves…
Breathtaking ocean views, tranquil beaches, delicious food, and warm-hearted people…these are just a few of the reasons why Jennifer Barclay loves the Greek islands. But her dreams of living there full-time seem out of reach, until a break-up turns her world upside down.
Jennifer realizes she is responsible for her own happiness-and decides to cut back on work, stay out of relationships, and vacation for a month on Tilos, her favorite Greek island. Life becomes instantly sweeter, and she resolves to uproot her life to Tilos. But then the strangest thing happens…
A glimpse into life on a tiny Mediterranean island, Falling in Honey is a testament to the power of being good to yourself.
Lessons I Learned While Traveling
by Jennifer Barclay
Three years ago, I came to live on a tiny Greek island in the Aegean Sea. It’s an island many people have never heard of – it’s called Tilos, not far away from Rhodes and the shores of Turkey. It doesn’t have an airport, though there are ferry boats most days connecting us with other islands. And it’s magical.
The book I wrote, called Falling in Honey, is about the journey through the two years of my life that brought me here, and it’s full of things I learned along the way. I’m going to tell you about a few of them, and please let me know if you agree…
1. Pick an island, any island
As a teenager and in my early twenties, I travelled a lot around the Greek islands. For a year after university, when I couldn’t find a job and didn’t know what to do, I went to Athens to teach English for a year; and on the weekends or holidays, I’d just take my backpack down to the ferry port and pick an island to explore, trusting to serendipity. That way I learned what excited me, and it was rarely the ‘must-see’ sights. Often it would be simply a walk alone across an island where I’d sit in a deserted field looking out to sea, with just the sound of goat-bells around me, and be amazed that I’d discovered this myself.
Finding your own way in life is important. I’m delighted when people read my book or my blog and it inspires them to come to Tilos. But I also say ‘Pick an island, any island’ – and I’m saying, too: find whatever it is you want to do in life and pursue it, however unconventional it is.
2. Enjoy the Open Road
That first year when I lived in Athens, I was constantly meeting strangers. People were forever coming up to me and talking to me, offering help. That, coupled with teaching English, helped me get over the bookish shyness I’d had since I was a kid. One evening as I was strolling near Syntagma Square, a man from the faraway Greek island of Crete started asking me how I liked living in Athens, which in some ways was a bit of a crazy place at the time. He made me laugh, saying he didn’t need to buy cigarettes any more as he could breathe bad air for free. ‘I like the rubbish. I like fighting people for my position on the bus,’ he said, and made me think how much, like him, I liked the random, bizarre excitement of my new life. Every day was an adventure.
3. Happiness Is Easy Sometimes
The summer after my year in Athens, when school broke up for the holidays, I ended up in Santorini and landed what I still think of as one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. It wasn’t exactly what I’d trained for when doing my degree in English at Oxford… All I was doing was cleaning rooms in a hotel in Oia – but I’d get up in the morning and put on the swimsuit that became my chosen work uniform, walk out into the sunshine and gaze over a vast expanse of deep blue, the view people pay thousands for, and I’d feel incredibly lucky. I made friends with Kyriakos, a Greek man who ran a cosy little bar in the village, and one afternoon he told me, ‘Happiness is easy sometimes.’
It’s something we often forget. But when I first brought myself to stay for a month on the island of Tilos several years ago, I woke up and looked up at the blue sky, and thought it again. I could see the blue sea from the bathroom as I was brushing my teeth, and the sweet smells of the bakery next door would waft up onto my terrace tantalizingly. Sun, sea and spanakopita – happiness is easy sometimes. ‘This might be the cleverest thing I have ever done,’ I thought.
4. Life is too short not to reach out for what makes you happy
After that first month on Tilos, I knew I felt energised by being able to swim in the sea at lunchtime, and walk up onto a hillside that was fragrant with wild herbs in the evening; eat delicious local vegetables and olive oil, yoghurt and honey; gaze up into the blue sky at eagles, or millions of stars and the Milky Way by night. I knew I could find a way to adapt the kind of work I do in order to live here, so I could actually live amid these spectacular natural surroundings. I could do it – I could live the adventure.
Life then threw in a few complications.
But over the course of those two years, two people I cared for became fatally ill. They wouldn’t get to live their dreams any longer.
I still could. Life is too short not to reach out for what makes you happy, and take action to make your life better, in whatever way you think might be right for you.
Thank you for the opportunity to share these thoughts today. Do post your comments, and if you want to read more, please check out my book, Falling in Honey: How a Tiny Greek Island Stole My Heart, published in North America by Sourcebooks (and in the UK and ANZ by Summersdale). Or just come over and check out my regular updates on my blog.
And whatever you do, reach out for what makes you happy. Happiness is easy sometimes. Enjoy the open road. Pick an island, any island…
Wow. I know where I want to go on my next vacation! Thank you, Jennifer, for igniting (or re-igniting, in my case) the travel bug in us all. I love that you showed us yourself, and am even more excited to read your book now! It’s sitting on my Kindle, calling to me as the rain pours outside my window. I need a little sunshine and happiness!