Oh my goodness have I got a shock for you all. Yep, you guessed it. As the title of this blog suggests, our family is soon to become three, we’ve waved goodbye to Greece and moved back to the UK.
Hang on. What? Wait a minute. I know what you’re thinking…Weren’t they happily settled in Greece living a dream lifestyle that so many people envied? Weren’t they eating spinach and cheese pies for breakfast in the sunshine with a smug smile? We were indeed, but we’ve spun life on it’s head and made some huge decisions. Keep reading for pregnancy news, our departure from Greece, new challenges and how supermarket ‘Greek style’ feta cheese is a crime against humanity.
Why we’ve left Greece…
I know it’s a lot for you to take in, but back at the beginning of November 2020 we left Greece, packed up our car and drove back to the UK across Europe. There are multiple reasons for our decision, so I’ll try and cover them all:
- Firstly, like everyone else in the world, the last year has been tough. We’ve felt really isolated away from our friends and family and the thought that we couldn’t get home in an emergency was horrible. Usually we’d have welcomed streams of friends and family to come and stay with us throughout the summer, but this year has been very lonely.
- On top of feeling lonely, there’s been the financial pressure too. We managed to make ends meet but only by making a sacrifice and spending time apart whilst Mr SN travelled back to the UK for work. With no eligibility for the furlough scheme in Greece and England, it was a real stress to make enough money to survive, plus being apart didn’t suit us at all. We’re best friends and hate to be separated.
- Although we did really well and made enough money to see us through, we could foresee the 2021 tourist season being a disaster too, so our financial struggle wasn’t over.
- We could foresee the virus and the consequences of it lasting for a lot longer than people were anticipating. In our opinion, jobs, travel, tourism etc aren’t going to bounce back overnight. This left us with a lot of uncertainty.
- Finding out I was pregnant changed our whole world upside down and we (I in particular) wanted family and friends more than ever. I worried that without the support of loved ones, I could become depressed. Similarly, I didn’t like the thought of our child missing out on the close relationships with our families. My sister is pregnant too, so our children wouldn’t have seen each other very regularly.
- We’ve always talked about creating a community of like minded people, which is much more difficult to bring to fruition with a language barrier in the way. We were/are still craving the feeling of being part of something with meaning, whatever form that may come in, e.g a community swap shop, a tree planting program, a commune, running workshops etc. Also, we knew that by living in an isolated location in a foreign country, we were unlikely to be able to fulfil that need.
- We dreamed of creating our Cretan lifestyle in England.
What Greece has taught us…
In so many respects we found what we were looking for in Greece. We now know that a simple life really does make us happy, as we suspected it would. The only thing missing were the people we love. Without realising it, Greece was in many ways an experiment, a dress rehearsal, to see if our dreams and ideas could work. We needed to practice what we preached and by moving to Greece it was attainable and achievable.
Now, armed with heaps of knowledge (made through copious mistakes!) we’re able to apply these principles to our next venture. We don’t regret a single thing; living in Greece for two years was one of the best experiences of our lives. Some people will think we’ve failed, but we view it as the next chapter. We’re not the sort of people to sit still, and in reality our life in Greece was never going to last a lifetime – there are too many other adventures to conquer, plus change is necessary for growth. Mr SN and I need constant challenges and a changing horizon.
“Living in Greece for two years was one of the best experiences of our lives.”
Greece has taught us how little we value material possessions and perfectionism and how much family means to us. Living in Greece has given us a confidence that can’t be erased. Having returned to the UK, we’ve noticed how scared people seem of the smallest things. The Greeks couldn’t care less what they say or do, they are genuine, they shout and live with passion. I think everyone should do two years in a rural Cretan village, it changes your mindset for the better and makes you more carefree. Let’s shun socially accepted practices…what’s so wrong with drinking raki from plastic cups at 10am as we peruse the village shop? Why can’t children drive pick-up trucks…Okay, I guess I can see the reasoning for that one, but I’m totally okay with the raki.
Living in Greece wasn’t just about: Geraniums, olive groves and goats. It was about the people, learning to live in the moment, enjoying the simple things, the strength of family and community, traditions, pride, passion…and lets face it, the weather and food are blooming amazing. It’s a beautiful disarray of haphazardness…we will always love it.
Life will never be the same for us, Crete changed us for the better. I now put tahini on my toast and look at garden snails in a different light. Silly rules are for breaking, a bit of corruption is fair play, parking cars in the middle of the road is a great idea and minimum wage in the UK seems like a fortune.
Our journey back from Greece…
Within two weeks of making our decision, we were leaving Crete. We could foresee the borders shutting if we didn’t act swiftly, and there were lots of loose ends to tie up, most notably finding a home for our dear, beloved chickens. Thankfully our wonderful neighbours took them on and they continue to live a heavenly life in the Cretan countryside.
We packed up our car, obtained passports for the cats and dogs, paid outstanding bills, put winter tyres on the car, and got stuck behind a flock of sheep. As the sun began to set we wandered around Villa Theodora reminiscing about our wonderful Cretan adventure, before locking the door and heading for Heraklion to catch the ferry to Athens.
Sometimes you have to make a drastic move if you want things to happen. Half hearted ideas aren’t going to get you anywhere. You need to kickstart the process, and then a chain reaction of events will lead to new opportunities. Waiting for something to fall in your lap won’t happen, you need to chase it down.
Settling back into the UK…
First things first, you will not find anything about my thoughts and feelings on the virus here. If I’m tired of it all then you must be too, and I suspect that you read this blog to escape.
Settling back into the swing of the UK has been strange, not just for us, but for the animals too. Dora-dog thought that walking with pedigree-types around the park were behind her, Ivy the puppy saw grass for the first time, and the cats, Nancy and Ruby, are bemused by the lack of olive trees to climb.
We’re living in my parents annexe and my sister, her friend and my parents live in the main house. It’s busy and chaotic…sort of like the Waltons, minus the porch and swing seat. The little things notice the most, like the fact that the mail arrives at the house, rather than the customary visit to the local kafenion to collect it, and it’s peculiar to flush paper down the toilet. People queue without even talking to each other and pay a fortune to park the car. We’ve still got Greek license plates on our car, so we’re taking full advantage and parking Greek style, where we see fit…£1.20 to park in town? you’ve got to be kidding…none of the shops are open…send the parking ticket to Crete.
We’re on a mission to find our simple lifestyle here in South East England. It’s the place we ran from because we couldn’t find what we wanted, but we’re back with determination, ready for the challenge.
Baby Sidestepper is on the way…
Right, enough of the melancholy, let’s get down to the exciting stuff, I’m very excited to tell you all that I’m 5 1/2 months pregnant with Baby SN. He or she is due in mid June and we can’t wait to become parents. I’ve been very reluctant to tell you until now, as it seemed like I was tempting fate, but having just had my 20 week scan, everything is looking healthy and normal, and for the first time in my life, normal is exactly what I’m looking for.
It’s incomprehensible that it won’t just be Mr SN, the animals and I for much longer, but as the weeks pass and I feel it moving and kicking inside me, it’s becoming more real. In a lot of respects, it’s given us even more determination to create an idyllic lifestyle, not just for us, but for baby SN too.
What does the future hold?
We’d like to invite you to the next chapter of our lives. This is not the end of our adventure, this is the beginning of the next phase. From this point we’ll be searching for our Greek lifestyle in the UK, along with the impending arrival of a little baby. We’d love you to stick around and help us out, we need your support and opinion. I know that some of you read this blog purely for an injection of Greece, and I understand that I can’t satisfy that anymore, but I can assure you that we will never settle for ‘normal’ and this blog will continue to be a quest for a simple life
Our dream is to live alternatively in the UK. We want land, animals, sustainable living, community, a work life balance and plenty of homemade cake. I want goats and sheep, Mr SN wants to keep bees and make honey, I want to make my own feta cheese…’cause the stuff in the supermarket here is disgusting. It’s a crime to call that stuff feta when you’ve had the real thing. Real feta is creamy and moist, not dry and overly salty. Sorry, rant over.
I know, I know, I’m a dreamer, this isn’t possible, we should grow up, get a mortgage and worry about putting the dustbin out on the right day. But that’s not us, we won’t give in, I refuse to conform. I want my child to know what living in Greece is all about.
I’ve been so worried and scared about informing you of our changes. I’ve envisaged you tutting, rolling your eyes and never looking at this blog again, but then I remember how lovely you all are. You’ve supported us and encouraged us with everything we’ve done so far. The easy option for me would have been to abandon this blog altogether and leave you wondering what happened to us, but I couldn’t do that. I feel excited for everything to come and I hope that you can continue this journey with us.
We’re at the end and the beginning, but I’ve learned a hell of a lot along the way. Most notably that: a) You should always make your dreams a reality, b) You can’t live for other people’s expectations, and c) travelling across Europe with two cats, a dog, a car sick puppy and a little baby in your tummy is easy…as long as you have a Mr SN by your side.
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