A Greek Maze
I am in Greece, in a nice little village called Tsilivi, tucked away in the north-east corner of the island of Zakynthos. The island was mentioned both in the Iliad and the Odyssey – the first known European literature – by the famous Greek poet Homer, who is believed to have lived some time between the 12th and the 8th centuries BC. I had studied Homer’s poems in university, but I have never been to Greece before; this is my very first visit.
I am doing all the traditional things that most tourists do on vacation – sunbathe, eat, sleep, relax and not worry about any schedules, calendars or deadlines.
Every morning I wake up to the sight of the Ionian Sea on the horizon, of the “mainland” (as everyone calls it here) behind it and the rich abundance of olive, lemon and date groves, intermittently interrupted by the roofs of numerous hotels, private houses and unfinished or abandoned constructions.
Every day includes walking down the quickly-becoming-familiar narrow asphalt roads; passing dozens of restaurant owners and servers, persistently inviting passers-by to try their food; chatting with several acquaintances who are turning into good friends; going to the beach and taking hundreds of pictures of the beautiful surroundings.
If someone comes to Tsilivi expecting traditional chalk-white stone buildings with blue domes or any other classic Greek tourist attractions, they might be disappointed – this place does not have any temple ruins dated 5th century BC.
What it does have is beautiful beaches with strikingly clear, bright-blue water, lots of places to try traditional Greek food and an endless amount of Greek hospitality. It’s the kind of hospitality that makes people break all the rules for you (Do they even have them here?) not for any fear that you might complain to the manager or might not leave a good tip, but out of their sincere desire to help you have the best time of your life.
While walking the little village roads of the island; smiling at the horses peacefully grazing in the locals’ back yards; marveling at the natural beauty of the untamed nature and feeling drunk at the strong fragrances of the blooming wild flowers, I cannot help but wonder why I feel more at home here than in Las Vegas, where I am currently living in the US.
I’ve been away from home before, and I know that one is supposed to be very clear about what is temporary and what is permanent in their lives, with the vacation site being the former, of course, and their home place the latter. I catch myself having reversed feelings about these two places, as if by some kind of odd mistake, I am looking at them in a mirror.
I’ve now lived in Vegas for more than five years. I have a stable job there and many places and people at whose sight I rejoice, but I can’t get rid of the “living-out-of-the-suitcase” feeling that I’ve always had there.
I do not have much furniture or even clothes or shoes back home and I’ve got zero desire to obtain any, just like a tourist would not be stocking up on any of those items; yet here, in Tsilivi, I’ve been feeling much more grounded, more rooted, more at home after having spent only a few days in this new place.
As more time passes, I suddenly realize that the answer to my puzzle is in the question itself, as it very often is: I feel more rooted here because I am – I am more rooted in myself!
With little on my mind, I have stopped living from my head and returned to being alert, to being present, to perceiving the world through my senses, to living from my heart.
I have felt deeply the beauty around me and relaxed into it, became one with it, and while doing it, I have found home in this little Greek village on the Ionian Sea, and I have found home in myself.
I’ve discovered the blissful joy of being alive, of being me, of simply being. In the land of ancient gods, I have found my own heaven!
The only question remaining is whether I will be able to take it with me back to Vegas…