I spend a lot of my life inhabiting and thinking about islands.
Last weekend I was on a tiny island in a big Maine lake at our family camp, a place I recreate and sleep, often deeply. But this time, heavy on my mind was another island near and dear to me, Great Abaco in the Bahamas, where I have guided and photographed 4 spectacular SwimVacation weeks. We made friends like family there, and the wait to hear from them after the cataclysmic damage wrought by Hurricane Dorian was worrisome and heart wrenching. I finally spoke with each of them, safely relocated in Nassau and Florida, all sustaining unimaginable loss of homes and family members. As I jumped in my car to make for the airport in Boston, I registered relief for their safety, and the temporariness of everything.
Everything is temporary.
The good, the hard, all of it, temporary. It’s the only constant we can count on.
Perhaps that’s a little brain achingly deep for me, at this moment, sitting at a picnic table outside of our Greek charter company office, catching up on paperwork and blogging whilst I wait for our yacht to be readied and Richie and Lisa shop for this week’s adventures. Still, it’s something to hold on to as I prepare to make the most of every moment this week and the next, in the clear, azure welcoming waters of the Ionian Sea.
En route to here, I stopped at another island, much larger and known as England where I had an inadvertent adventure with a driver awaiting my arrival. We chased each other in large circles around the chaos of Heathrow Airport until I finally decided to stand still and let him find me. He did. He found me with the mountain of baggage I travel with for SwimVacation and our (temporary) nesting on the yachts we call homes at sea. It was some hour in the middle of the night as driver and I made our winding way across London to the Gatwick hotel where Richie and Lulu were waiting for me in their sleep. I arrived, begged a pounder for a luggage cart off the front desk lady and made my way to the lift and the second floor hallway to our room.
Side note: European lifts and hotel hallways are not made for the monstrous luggage of even a tiny American (me).
After another trip down to the desk for a spare room key, I dragged myself and the entire luggage cart into the room and woke only Richie. I scarfed a piece of pizza they saved me before hugging him.
Solo travel tip: When traveling alone and with 4 huge pieces of luggage, you pull luggage carts right into your room, especially when you have a pre-dawn departure. I do this. You may think it’s selfish of me to steal a hotel luggage cart and have it sleep in my room for the few hours I have before leaving, and I can live with that. I’ve learned this the hard way, and now it’s my SOP to make solo travel easier. Take it or leave it, that’s how I roll (my luggage).
Jet lag has me digressing.
Before dawn, Richie, Lulu and I hugged it out and made our way to Gatwick and waded with the throngs of travelers it holds. Bags checked, we boarded for the first of many Greek Islands we will touch this week, Preveza. I stepped off the plane into brilliant sunshine – quite a contrast from our arrival last year in the fringes of the “Medicane”. We grabbed the bags (they beat us off the plane!) and jumped in a taxi which brought us across water to another island, Lefkada.
On the way to our apartment we passed remnants of ancient fortresses and walls from a long-ago golden civilization. More evidence that everything, even the most powerful and influential of things, is temporary.
Evripidis met us at our apartment. We were here last year for his daughter Mia’s first birthday party, and it was lovely to see his family again as she approaches two.
And now, for my favorite part of the story of getting here.
Last year, we arrived late morning Friday, set up (temporary) house in our apartment and hit the town to begin acquisitions and preparations. Delightfully, the entire village of Lefkas SHUTS DOWN from about 1-4 pm. Closed, shuttered, don’t knock, don’t call, buhbye. So, we did what any savvy traveler would do: we went home to have a nap. I have been working my tail off for the last 8 weeks or so on several projects large and small in addition to prepping for this trip, and one day in mid August I realized in my fatigued stupor that the light I was looking toward was The Friday Lefkas Nap. You know you are tired when you’re looking forward to a nap that is several weeks and an entire ocean away. So this year, we taxied to apartment, meet and greet with sweet Mia, ordered gyros for lunch (delivered, thank you Stavros) and into my jammies horizontal for THAT NAP. Ok ok, I devoured my gyro in bed like a beast and got tomato seeds on my sleep shirt. No matter, I slept like the dead for 3 solid hours. I woke up in a tzatziki mouthed haze. Richie and Lulu slept too, and we all felt a little better for it. It didn’t disappoint, that Friday Lefkas Nap.
We wandered the streets of old Lefkas. Looked for an electric hand mixer (not yet), checked out several tavernas and made it to the water in time for a velvet sunset. Stunning. The air exactly body temperature. Everything, just right. Settled into the same taverna we enjoyed so much last year, and tucked into a table full of mezzes. Dips, and cheeses and olives and little fishes and big baked beans and tomatoes tomatoes tomatoes. There was wine. I cherish these nights with our crew – family, really – on the eve of a trip. We are buzzing with anticipation and lists and fatigue and the romance of a place we haven’t been in a while that feels like home. We talk about the things we’ve been up to since last time, and the work and plans for the weeks ahead. It’s a special and unique kind of time. It’s just ours, and it bonds us into the seamless team we need to be to give our guests our best.
So. Now I sit on our yacht, Caretta Nana, a 45 foot, 4 cabin brand spanakopita new catamaran that will be my home for the next two weeks. Richie and Lulu are doing the remainder of the shopping. As they drop bags and bags of provisions – honey you should be jealous of, yogurt better than any Greek stuff you’ve bought at home, tomatoes to make you weep, olive oil you’d beg to bathe in (you get the picture), I catch it and organize it. I organize towels and bedding and gear and stuff and more stuff, I track down charter folks and get extra stuff and bring it back to the boat and organize that too. I drink lots and lots of water as prescribed by Richie and Lulu who will not let me desiccate on their watch. In between all of this catching and organizing and water swigging I’m writing it all down here. The blogging helps me process this thing we do, and allows us to share it with the folks at home. Maybe most of all, it’s a record of what is going on, on this little boat, among these little islands, and an attempt to make permanent something that as everything, is only temporary. We have a temporary fantastic time ahead of us. The best and most fantastic way to make the most of it is to immerse fully in what is right now. The sweaty preparations and the delicious food and swims to come. All of it.