“Don’t put pressure on yourself to come out of lockdown with a six pack – your body is already beautiful. And remember, tzatziki goes with everything

BY KELLY-ANNE TAYLOR

To bring a little light to lockdown, I’ve been hosting themed evenings for my flatmates inspired by countries we’ve travelled to. To replicate the Greek islands, I laid out beach towels, cooked a BBQ and blasted the Mamma Mia soundtrack.

The unusual mid-April sunshine made the fantasy feel mildly more realistic. Dancing wildly to Super Trouper and lining our stomachs with tzatziki brought a happiness back to our house that had been quietened by lockdown. 

You see, last September I went Greek island hopping with my best friend, Katie. On reflection, I think the adventure gave me a few tips that have helped me during these unprecedented times, tips I’m going to share with you…

Santorini – Enjoy the small things

The “Everything is right on time” – The Universe sign hanging in our hostel seems ironic. A mild kick-in-the-teeth given that Katie’s backpack isn’t right on time – it’s still in Gatwick airport. But, as the bare-footed, smiling receptionist welcomes us with a beer and asks if we’d like to join yoga on the beach, the lost luggage doesn’t seem so important. 

Our bright orange hostel overlooks the black-sanded Perissa beach and is at the foot of a path that takes you to Ancient Thira, a mountain-top ruinous city. The Greeks don’t seem marginally phased by our baggage crisis – we made it here, didn’t we? Katie and I live out of my backpack, sharing summer dresses and bikinis. And, as we sit sharing a tiny beach towel watching the sunset, nothing could possibly detract from the beauty of the island. 

We eat at a family-owned restaurant that serves the largest portions of Greek salad and moussaka I’ve ever seen. The waitress plies us with course upon course, eventually finishing with baklava and rizogalo (a cold rice pudding). Katie and I sit, chatting for hours, sipping their locally sourced white wine and enjoying the light-breeze that accompanies our sea view. 

I feel an overwhelming gratitude for the laid-back atmosphere. No one rushes us. We sit and enjoy every mouthful of our long dinner. It reminds me that small things can give you so much joy – a delicious meal and uninterrupted conversation with a friend. 

Naxos – Love thy body

When Katie and I arrived in Greece, we had only organised accommodation for our first night. After that we had no plan: we just knew that we needed to be in Mykonos in 10 days to catch our flight home. 

We caught the ferry to Naxos and booked an Airbnb as we crossed the Mediterranean. We caught a cab to Glyfada beach and arrived at our apartment, which had a spacious balcony overlooking miles and miles of clear, blue sea. 

Glyfada beach is a popular spot for nudists and before long, Katie and I were lying topless, letting the sun tan our bodies in their entireties. I had initially felt self-conscious stripping off – another life lesson from the Greeks – but everyone was in the nude (and I mean everyone) and nobody batted an eyelid at anybody else.

Seeing wrinkled skin, stretch marked bellies and the slight sag of a well-fed tummy, helped me see the beauty in our bodies. I lay there, relinquished the self-hatred I carry with me, and let my body be free. 

Mykonos – You have no control

Mykonos is beautiful. It’s quintessentially Greek with its spindly, cobbled lanes and stark white buildings against a backdrop of endless sea. And, it’s also fantastic for LGBTQI+ partying. Katie and I have an absolute blast at Porta Bar, where trashy pop meets sweaty dancing bodies. 

We wake with roaring hangovers to a call from Santorini airport who are sending Katie’s (finally arrived) luggage to Mykonos via ferry. As we stand baffled by the ferry postal system, we ask the dockworkers where we need to go to claim our luggage. We are told that when the ferry arrives, we need to run on, ask the staff onboard for the backpack and get off the boat. The ferry has a four minute turn-around-time – that is our window of opportunity. 

In absolute confusion, as soon as the ferry docks, Katie and I sprint past hordes of people and begin searching for her bright purple backpack in the luggage compartment. The ferry crew run with us, desperately trying to help. I lose sight of Katie and a man pulls me towards the exit, shouting that I must leave immediately as the ferry is departing. I jump to land as the ferry pulls off from the port and am met by a rucksack-less Katie…

Feeling defeated, we get a call from Santorini airport saying there has been a confusion and they have sent the rucksack back to Gatwick Airport. Somethings are just meant to be.

The Greek Islands – Lessons learned

Looking back on this trip during lockdown has helped me, in some ways, to look forward. It reminded me of some invaluable lessons I learned – don’t jump off a moving ferry, being one – and gave me hope for future adventures.

Relinquish control, we don’t have any of that anyway. Don’t put pressure on yourself to come out of lockdown with a six pack – your body is already beautiful. And, remember, tzatziki goes with everything. 

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