On a Greek island but no, I'm not a Shirley Valentine

Even on an island in the sun you have to learn to make lemonade when life throws those lemons....

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I can almost hear people now, looking at the photo and thinking 'lucky bitch what does she have to moan about living on an island in the sun'. I agree wholeheartedly I have nothing to moan about at all but in being here I have learned so much none of it what I expected.

I came here last year, my thinking (never my strong point) was that if I flew the nest before Teenager when the time came for her to go to uni (this year) I would be well used to living on my own and she would be used to doing things for herself that the whole empty nest syndrome would pass me by in the blink of an eye. Oh how wrong I was.

I called it my grown up gap year in Crete. Actually that should read as failed grown up gap year as I spent more time flying back and forth than I did here. In fact I took 21 flights in all (one of them even solo but that's another story) and I think beloved Teenager got sick to death of me returning all the time.

Living on your own here isn't all sunshine and sun tan lotion, it can be lonely and at times I have wondered just what the hell I was playing at.

Friends laughingly suggested that I was trying the whole Shirley Valentine thing, you know heading off to the sunshine and finding that handsome Greek to show me round the island on his brother's boat and all that.

There has been no handsome Greek to sweep me off my feet, my feet have been firmly on the ground far more than my often ditzy brain would imagine. I have learned to cope with things I never thought I could. While Teenager has had to learn to cook and deal with the intricacies of the washing machine et al back home, I have had to deal with the practicalities of life here in a foreign land.

It didn't start well. I trusted someone with my money to do work on my tiny rented apartment and got well and truly ripped off. It took me nine months to get my money back and meant that I didn't have the cushion of cash that I had been banking on to live here.

I had to learn to live a frugal lifestyle. I couldn't act like a tourist going out to the fancy harbour bars and quaffing cocktails, I couldn't go out to eat very often and when things broke down and I neaded help I couldn't just get someone in to fix things.

I had to let go of the dream I had had of living here. That was the dream that had me scribbling away on the beach writing a best selling novel during the day and enjoying a marvelous social life in the evenings with lots of friends going to fun places.

Hmmmmm, while I did scribble away on that novel every day on the beach I have yet to get a book deal and have in fact started to rewrite the whole thing, the whole social life fantasy never really happened and I found myself with a very odd assortment of friends that I'd never have at home.

I have ended up living quite well on 8 Euros a day and that includes my daily frappe coffee on the beach, a couple of glasses of wine at a local kafeneon that no self respecting tourist would be seen dead in and all my food. I buy my veggies from the market and once a month hit the nearest big town for supplies.

I have had to learn tolerance of other people, accepted people as they are, had to get out of my comfort zone and let go of my a lot of the beliefs I'd buit up over the years.

I've learned to have fun and laugh at the simple things. Be content with what I've got and eventually let go of the resentment and 'why me' feelings I had about being ripped off and other things that went wrong.

i've coped in situations that just months before would have had me a sniveling wreck heading for the therapist's chair and I've been able to stand on my own two feet for the first time in my life.

I may well have had a few wobbles but I am still standing and I'm back here in Crete again, older, maybe a wee bit wiser but younger at heart and with a lot less baggage to hold on to. When you are out there having to cope whether you like it or not you do find a strength you never would have thought you had. The crippling anxiety that stopped me doing so much in life wasn't half as powerful when I just had to man up and do something. There was someone inside of me, that fun loving younger me that was there long before depression and anxiety took over, that person finally had a chance to come out and I think that was because all the rubbish, the expectations, the 'this is who I am' stuff had to be thrown away just to get by.

So while I never did find that handsome Greek as dear old Shirley did in the movie, like her I found deep down inside the girl that used to be me.

Karon Grieve

Author, presenter, mother, surviver

My degree comes from the good old university of life, all 58 years of it. I'll be writing about life (mine mostly) and how I've got by as someone who has battled depression and anxiety to varying degrees since their teens. While my view may not be yours I hope sometimes it will resonate with you.


Go to the profile of Malgorzata Glapiak
over 3 years ago

Hi Karon, I can totally relate to your experience. I just spent a month in Crete doing work experience. Whether it was the air, sea or the fresh organic food, don't know, but something inside me clicked (again) and made sense. I came here with a broken heart (not caused by a guy, but life in general) and definitely found some healing. It was really hard at times for me, with the whole culture shock and language barrier, plus being away from people close to me. But I loved it and it definitely made me stronger and opened my heart to new things, That's why I'm heading back there or Kos, haven't decided yet, to work in the season. Well, good luck meeting that Greek guy, you never know... :)

Go to the profile of Karon Grieve
over 3 years ago

Hi Malgorzata,

I'm glad you love Crete too and found it healing. If you do come back here let me know.

K x

Go to the profile of Malgorzata Glapiak
about 3 years ago

Hi Karon, 

Where abouts do you live in Crete? I'm currently staying in Rethymno.

M xx