Mid December 2020 something shifted in me. Maybe it was Covid, maybe it was because I had turned 50 earlier in the year, or maybe it was the tiny puppy Lydia found under a dumpster and that has ended up living with us. Whatever it was, something propelled me to go online and look for a rental house in Greece. This made no sense at all since I had accepted a teaching position at an international school in Santiago, Chile, just a couple weeks before, and would be heading across the world in less than six months. I reminded myself that the job in Chile was the one I had been working towards since I started teaching 10 years ago—great school with great pay—a sensible career move full of security. Nonetheless, I went ahead and googled “rental house Greece” just for kicks.
Last summer—the first under Covid—my family and I had spent 12 days in Greece on the Pelion Peninsula. I had chosen it because it was accessible via car from Sofia, it wouldn’t present too many border-crossing problems, and it was new to us—we usually went to the Halkidiki Peninsula. I found a quaint house within our budget and we loaded up the rental car and drove six hours south - mostly on major highways.
As soon as one crosses the border into Greece, olive trees begin to dot the landscape, and an hour into the country we finally had a view of the sea. We stopped in Thessaloniki for lunch, gorging ourselves on squid-ink pasta and stuffed squash blossoms. Back on the road with full bellies, we skirted along Mount Olympus, home of the Gods. The last hour of the drive was on twisted mountain roads overlooking the Pagasetic Gulf. The road took us through villages with architecture inspired by the Ottoman occupation. We immediately fell in love with the diverse landscape, and felt like we had arrived in paradise—a lush green rugged landscape bordered by turquoise waters.
So, it was only natural that I’d look to the Pelion when, six months later, I went on my whimsical rental-house search. There were only a few rentals there, but one in particular caught my eye: a small one bedroom house down a tiny dirt road—actually, more like a path. This wasn’t your stereotypical postcard Greek house with white stucco, stone paths, and blue shutters. Just a simple concrete house built in the 1940s nestled next to an olive tree with a few potted geraniums in front for some color. What I really couldn’t get over was the price and proximity to the sea. One month’s rent is less than you’d spend for a night in a mid-grade American hotel and it’s literally a two minute walk to the serene waters of the gulf. Sure, the nearest town is a 30 minute drive along a very curvy road. The town isn’t exactly a bustling metropolis, and most folks would scoff at its dearth of amenities, but it does have a weekly farmers market and a shady central square with plenty of tavernas.
As for the house? It kind of lacks amenities, too: The only heat source is an inefficient fireplace and there is no view of the sea from the humble abode. None of those small details kept me from obsessing over the place, looking at the listing pictures a couple times a day, finding the exact place on Google Earth, zooming in, zooming out, imagining all the hikes I could take through olive groves from my front yard, or the kayaking trips out to the islands in the Pagasetic Gulf—imagining a different rhythm of life altogether.
But reality brought me back to my senses. We still had two years of college tuition to pay. We had to think about health insurance for the family and saving up for retirement. After all, neither Jonathan nor I have any kind of inheritance coming our way, and we aren’t exactly sound financial planners. We just work and pay our own way—always have. Nonetheless a seed was planted, and at the time I had no idea how fertile the soil was for this idea to grow.