As they say in Greece, “Life is better on the island.” I never really understood this phrase until I had the chance to experience it for myself. This past weekend, my cohort of study abroad students in Athens traveled to the little island of Hydra. After getting up at 5 am and traveling on a ferry for an hour, we could no longer contain our excitement. Once we stepped off the boat, we were overcome with various emotions: amazement, awe, curiosity, joy, and gratitude. Life seemed to already be better on the island in every way: food, sights, and adventure.
The food was exquisite. We ate at a tiny restaurant for lunch, which sat right over the water. The view was amazing, and it was enhanced by the Greek cuisine we were served. In Greece, eating is more of an entertaining activity. People are expected to sit for several hours while enjoying four courses and the presence of the people around them. It has given me a new appreciation for friends and for the beautiful scenery. They brought us a traditional Greek salad, bread, Spanakopita and cheese pies, pasta, and finally our main course. I could’ve left the island satisfied right then, but this was just the beginning.
The sights were indescribable. Bright colors popped and collided in many different ways, making the island look like something off of a painting. Everywhere I looked, I was surrounded by the cool, crystal blue waters from the sea. When looking at the mainland, the homes and building were stacked as if they were climbing on top of one another. With every step, there was something new to look at. No picture could ever capture the beauty of the island, but we all tried.
Finally, adventure is everywhere on the island. First off, there are no cars. We walked everywhere – even though donkeys were another option – and it let us get lost in the small town. We found quaint, family owned shops and bakeries that could be rated five stars. We talked with the locals and were introduced to a tiny preview of their everyday lives.
The biggest adventure we had that day put us out of our comfort zone. We couldn’t go to an island and not swim, but how we got to the beach challenged us. We had to jump off of a small cliff in order to get to the best place to swim. There was no way we could get hurt; the cliff wasn’t that high and there were no rocks at the bottom, but it was still terrifying. One by one, my friends took the jump, until it was only me standing up there. The sense of jumping into something unknown frightened me. Finally, I stopped thinking about it and ran off the ledge. Once I hit the water, I immediately felt like I accomplished something. The adventures from that day will be some of my best memories from Greece.
I cannot wait until I am able to travel to more islands and experience the many things that await. My first island trip was successful, and I am now in love with Hydra and everything about it. It was bittersweet to return to Athens after such a perfect day, but thankfully I now truly understand: life is better on the islands.