Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Falling in Love

A friend once gave me a framed quote by someone named Judith Thurman, printed on face of a card with a picture the sun setting over two hills, and a road running off over the hills.

"Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you've never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground."

I’ve experienced this before, the longing for a place far away (or maybe not so far away) that I’ve seen in pictures, or read about. A place that I know I just have to visit, or else my life will not be complete. Some places came pretty close to fulfilling my expectations: Cairo, Cape Town and Istanbul. Then there were others which were interesting or beautiful in their own right, but with which I just didn’t feel that “soul connection”. Rio de Janeiro, Burma, Madagascar.

But there is one place, or more accurately a group of places, where I have always felt at home and blissfully happy when I visit, and that is the Greek Isles. I’ve visited Mykonos, Santorini, Hydra, Ios, Paros and Aegina and loved them all (although Santorini is beautiful in a painfully exquisite way and will probably always be my favorite place in the entire world.)

It is with this knowledge that I have decided to quit my job and move to Crete for six months. I have never been to Crete. But I have been reading about her, and looking at photographs of her, and I am head over heels.

OK, it’s not as irresponsible as it sounds. I’ve still got some of the proceeds left from the sale of my house four years ago, the portion that hasn’t gone towards botox treatments, exotic trips abroad, a wedding, expensive restaurant meals and wine dinners, my small but high-end wine collection, gifts for high maintenance boy-toys, or the bottomless pit that has been the stock market for the last few months. I’ve actually still got enough savings left to take this “sabbatical” and have a cushion of about three months to find a new job and apartment upon my return.

As for the inevitable (and reasonable) question as to why I would quit a perfectly secure, decent paying job….well, I’m just not into it anymore. My formerly stable, conservative company has been bought and sold three times in the last two years. We are now part of one of those big corporations, and I never wanted to work for a big corporation. My co-workers with whom I’ve shared the last 10 years are leaving for other opportunities. I’m pretty sure I could make a salary of about 20-30% more if I exit this industry, which relies heavily on bonuses as part of their compensation structure (and those aren’t looking to be very healthy for the next several years). The bottom line is that everything is changing, and now seems like as good a time as ever to do this thing that I’ve always dreamed of doing before starting over at a new company in a new industry where I’ll most likely be condemned to two weeks of vacation per year for a while.

This is actually what prompted me to start this blog. I’ll be living in the small, traditional village of Drapanias in the northwest part of Crete, and I anticipate having a lot of free time. Since I’m not an EU citizen, I cannot legally work in Greece, and although I plan to do a lot of hiking, reading, traveling to nearby destinations and perhaps some volunteer work at one of the animal shelters on the island, I know that I’ll have many quiet opportunities to put my thoughts and experiences down so that I’ll be able to go back and read them again some day. I guess there will also be some friends who will check in with me via the blog from time to time. And maybe even the occasional unsuspecting stranger/victim who happens upon it…

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