writing residency

Don’t Send Help – I’m Alone on an Island in Greece Eating Olives

The most important question I had to ask myself?

“If I eat a ton (metric, not metaphoric) of olives daily, will I die?”

Everything else was a no-brainer—and a surprising amount of hard work.

See, I was all set to move back to the Greater Boston area this spring. My sister and niece (and her husband—my brother-in-law is pretty fantastic, but the other two are the ones who really hold my fixation) live about an hour outside the city in a little New England town I like to refer to as Republican Stars Hollow (I’m not sure the family enjoys that moniker).

I had a deposit and an application in on an apartment complex that was basically brick-and-beam lofts in a converted mill, overlooking the river (aka my dream living space). I had appointments to look at a few co-working spaces in Boston. I bought a ROUND-TRIP TICKET when I left for Oaxaca, Mexico in January. The plan was always to return to the US.

My plans were to settle into an actual home base.

Silly Elisa. Life rarely goes as planned.

As I started getting closer and closer to the date, my anxiety started building. I was stressed with the business, and coupled with my fibromyalgia, I was having flare-ups, if not full-on illness, on a bi-weekly basis. Well, anxiety/stress/fibro/bacillary dysentery (that last one really knocked me on my ass).

Was I really ready to put my suitcase in the back of a single closet, for a time unknown? In a place where the only people I really knew were my sister and her family? To make that “the place” that would be “my place” for years to come?

Of course not.

Living on the Road Forever?

Now, I’ll be the first to say that I am not someone who sees themselves nomading about the planet forever.

In the quiet stills of my day and the fleeting moments before sleep takes over at night, I yearn for a home base.

A place to hang my little “Stay Humble – Hustle Hard” typography print that travels with me. A place to set up a desk that stays a desk—with a monitor and a permanent microphone arm and drawers. A place with cookware and baking sheets. A place with family and friends that I could see day after day, without having to constantly meet new people and form new connections (while desperately grasping at the plumes that still lingered from those who had come and gone before).

But … not quite yet.

So when the brilliant Jane Beresford (former BBC producer and current Tropical MBA Podcast guru) posted an intensive experience on a quiet little island in Greece, I was like, “Yes. Please. How do I sign up and where do I pay?”

Ok, I wasn’t quite that eager to crash into a decision that upended approximately eight months of prior thought and planning.

As Pinterest quips, I’m not a ride-or-die chick. I have questions.

  • What would be the type of work that I could do on the island? I find that islands are great for certain deep work, but not so great for, say, launching a new podcast that involves good wifi and crystal clear Skype quality.
  • What was the place really like? Is the town a typical resort town of touristy crap or more like an Under the Tuscan Sun (Greek, instead of Italian) lifestyle?
  • Snakes. What is the snake situation? I and Indy hate snakes.
  • Were the pictures she uploaded all last summer real, or did she somehow find stock photography and convince us all she stayed on the most idyllic Aegean island ever, while actually uploading files from a greasy knock-off Mickey D’s?

Jane was quick to reply and get me in touch with the owner of the resort offering the deal. She also explained that the best work to do here was writing and other creative projects. Things you could do for many hours, with or without wifi, happily and focused.

I emailed a bit with Eleni (the owner) and finally got on Skype for an interview. She had questions as well, and I appreciated her similar not-ride-or-die-chick mentality. What would I be working on? Would I be cool with quiet island living? Would I like to pay in cash (Euros) or by bank transfer? The important things.

Less than 48 hours later, my plan to go on a tour of the apartment complex on May 13th was replaced with a one-way ticket from Boston to Greece on May 8th (just one week after I flew back to the US for my niece’s first birthday).

You Can(’t) Get There From Here

In Maine, there’s a common phrase (and I imagine elsewhere, but it’s really common there): “You can’t get there from here.

Meaning if you look at a map, it might seem like two points are close enough to be able to travel between them easily enough. Back in horseback riding, farm and field days, that might have even been true—but not now.

With the roads and terrain, the distance between two points no more than 5 miles apart might be an hour or so in travel. You simply can’t get there from here without some serious detours and inventive navigation.

That’s pretty much how my trip to Greece went. Hypothetically, it was straightforward:

  • Airport Direct bus from Portland, Maine
  • Red-eye from Boston (Logan International Airport)
  • Oslo Airport (Norway)
  • Berlin (Schönefeld Airport, Germany)
  • Thessaloniki International Airport “Macedonia”
  • Overnight in Avalon Airport Hotel
  • Mytilene International Airport
  • Taxi ride through the mountains to my new home along the sea for two months #silverlining

Easy enough, right?

I know, it looks like a pain in the ass. But honestly, having traveled from the US to SE Asia for the past six years, I’m kinda used to such ridiculous itineraries.

Since I’m not such a bootstrapping hobo these days (I think the official term is “bootstrapping entrepreneur” or “digital nomad”—which makes it sound more like I’ve got shit figured out or something), I even included that overnight stay at a local airport hotel, rather than sleeping on a cold airport floor, hugging my Minaal backpack, tied to my suitcase, so no one steals anything. Growth.

The Real Trip from Portland to Petra

You should know that one particular moment in this trip involves me standing in an airport crying.

Big, fat tears that aren’t even a part of active crying, but an overflow of emotions bottled up inside one’s body that your little tear ducts can’t control any longer.

You should also know that in the past seven years of living on the road, I have broken down crying in public maybe five times—and one of those times involved having emergency knee surgery when my leg almost had to be amputated for a blood and staph infection.

The trip started casually enough. At the bus station, I went to the counter with my email confirmation to get a paper ticket (‘cause transportation systems in Maine are currently running on 2007 technologies) and tags for my luggage. After a two-hour ride down, I walked into the airport.

That’s when it … turned.

Norwegian Airlines, You Done Me Wrong

In my time spent traveling, I’ve come to depend on many heuristics and observations. Including “there’s no need to freak the fuck out until the locals do.”

People who live and work in an area are used to things deviating all the time. That’s their daily life; it doesn’t always go as planned. If it is really bad, you see the panic in their eyes and actions.

As I walked up to the Norwegian desk, I noticed what seemed like a pretty significant problem. With two hours until international boarding, the line snaked through the temporary pole-and-pulley-rope maze, out into the main aisle of the airport, past two more airline entrances, and almost out the door. For a single flight.

Now, I bring up the “no need to freak the fuck out until the locals do” rule again, because the next thing I noticed was the clerks at British Airways taking pictures with their smartphones and then making calls from their desks. Soon enough, fancy administrative people from Logan were adjusting the lines and telling everyone standing in them that we needed to make room for the other passengers to access their airline ticket counters.

Because we are obviously all civil engineers, trained in the skill of crowd organization and flow.

As we didn’t move (or even inch) forward, it became obvious what the problem was. Though Norwegian had four counters open, one was for sales/support, one was open with a note that they would close at 8:20 PM (it was 6:40 PM) but with no one there doing anything, one was for first/business/priority class boarding, and one sole little counter was trying to process an entire Boeing 787 airplane’s worth of passengers.

As I mentioned, I am not an engineer with extensive crowd organization and flow experience, but I figured out pretty quickly this was probably not a very efficient system.

Finally, at 7:50 PM, I got to the agent, after the administrative gurus came back and demanded they open a second counter.

She weighed my checked suitcase and attached the luggage barcode strip. I noticed immediately the OSL instead of BER.

“My flight is straight-thru to Berlin; the layover in Oslo is less than two hours.”

“Yes, but your luggage cannot fly straight-thru. You will have to claim and re-check your bag in Norway.”

“But I’m on the same airline.”

“Yes, but you booked through Kiwi.com. The flights are not connected.”

“Isn’t that more of a technicality? Can’t you update in your system that my flight is actually straight-thru on the same airline—your airline—from Logan to Berlin?”

“No, that is not our policy.”

*Elisa sigh*

“Ok. Thanks.”

“Do you have any carry-on luggage?”

“Yes, this bag.”

“Please place it on the scale.”

Dutifully, I put it on, and it was obviously underweight. There was elation and cheering throughout the land (in my head).

“You need to weigh all your cabin luggage.”

“What?”

“All your cabin luggage. Please add your laptop bag.”

“But that’s a personal item.”

“It is all included.”

“I’ve never heard that before.”

Silence. Straight lips. Stare down. *Another Elisa sigh*

I added my laptop bag—and went over the weight. By half a kilogram.

“Do you have any food in there?”

“Huh?”

“Food. Do you have any food you can take out?”

“No, I’m going to eat on the plane.” (Another point that comes into play later in this saga.)

“Technically, you need to pay another $60 for this overweight luggage here, and again in Oslo when you re-check your bag. I’m going to waive it just this once, but they may charge you in Oslo. You really need to be more considerate.”

“Ok, sorry; thank you so much!”

I mean, thank you so much, but also, can I just get on my fucking flight? I still have miles of security theatre to go through.

As anyone who has flown an airline this screwed up at the counter knows, you rush through to get to the gate in enough time to sit there and wait, because they have to delay the flight to get everyone else through and load the luggage.

Of course, they don’t announce the delay. The screen still mocks you, saying “On Time,” even though your plane should have taken off 40 minutes ago. You watch the minutes get eaten up, 60 seconds by 60 seconds of your precious “re-check your luggage in Oslo” window.

Finally, we boarded. An hour late.

After we had reached our cruising altitude and the seatbelt sign was turned off, the captain made his typical, “Hi, and welcome to the next seven hours of your life” announcement.

“For those of you who purchased in-flight meals before take-off, we will be serving those momentarily. For those of you who did not, you can order snacks and beverages through our state-of-the-art in-screen system, right from your seat, with a credit card.”

The counter agent needs to learn the upsell. Lecture me, then waive my luggage fee, but don’t ask if I want to purchase a meal when I say I’ll eat on the plane? I get you were trying to rush this line of ridiculousness through, but if you have the time to condescend to me about how half a kilogram is going to crash the flight, perhaps you have the time to take a quick gander at your screen and say, “Oh honey, you aren’t eating anything.”

As soon as the plebeian class was allowed to order their food, I scrolled through the options. Everything was “check with the crew to see our availability.” I checked, nothing was available. Other than a tuna salad wrap (all the no) and a couple of questionable packaged salads (even more no). Still on prescription-strength probiotics post-Mexican dysentery, I opted for a bag of pretzels.

Though wishes were made that the captain would be able to make up for some of our delay along the way, the winds or some other unseen force of Lokian glee stopped that from happening.

I brought my itinerary to the flight crew, who were actually useful humans, at about 4:45 AM, and noted the tight connection—with the recently discovered hell of re-checking my luggage. They also observed my karmic fate in Row 39.

“But that doesn’t make sense. Both flights are with Norwegian.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Why didn’t she just override and send your luggage straight-thru?”

“I don’t know; she’s your counter agent.”

“Well, she’s not my ticket agent. My ticket agent would have been smart enough to send your luggage straight-thru.”

“I like your ticket agent. My ticket agent sucks.”

A solution was determined. They would move me to first class about 25 minutes before we landed, just before the plane begins its descent. The first class cabin was barely occupied, so there was plenty of space. That way, I could just run off the plane immediately and find the ground agent who was responsible for connecting passengers, and they could help me get through the various checkpoints quickly.

Getting By in Oslo with No Thanks to The Jerk on the Ground

There are few things I loathe more than an airport sprint for connections.

My Oslo sprint was not helped by the fact that being in first class did not mean I actually de-boarded first. Though announcements were made again and again to allow people with connecting flights off first, no one listened. The exit was actually behind business class, so there was an entire six rows of eight seats at the door before me. And the flight attendant charged with de-boarding did not hold economy back to let first and business class passengers off.

In what can only be described as the ejaculation of hundreds of little sperms rushing through a single opening with absolutely no pattern to reach their final destination, the chaotic crowd splooged out.

I rushed to find the ground agent, who pointed me to a man directing passengers into immigration lines.

“Excuse me, I have a 12:15 PM flight to Berlin, and need to re-check my luggage.”

“What?”

“Um, I have a 12:15 PM flight to Berlin, like in 45 minutes, and I need to re-check my luggage.”

Another passenger came up behind me, listening to the conversation and looking for guidance, as he was on the same flight. (Though Norwegian, bless their souls, checked his luggage straight-thru. He was able to order a pre-flight meal as well. I was in awe of his magic.)

“Well, you two should get in line then. You’ve let all these other people get in before you.”

My jaw still hurts from the place it slammed into the floor.

Twenty-five minutes in the immigration area, chatting with my new travel buddy, trying to not freak the fuck out (no one else seemed to be, other than the other connecting passengers getting duly screwed as we had), and I was through.

Commence sprint.

I got out of the airport arrivals area, ran up the escalator, then down the entire length of the departures area to the Norwegian desks.

“I … have … a flight. 12:15 to Berlin. My Norwegian flight … flight from Boston delayed … have to re-check my bag. Help,” I managed to wheeze out, bent over, hands on my knees as I gasped for air.

“Why didn’t they check your baggage straight-thru?”

You know … THAT IS A REALLY GOOD FUCKING QUESTION.

“Because I booked through Kiwi.”

Norwegian, being (I assume) the majority of the flight business at the Oslo, Norway airport, has massive rows of check-in kiosks and self-check luggage counters. The line agent ran me over to a check-in kiosk and noted with absolutely no emotion, “Well, we’ll see if you even have time.”

Opportunities. Take Them. Make Things Happen.

It was in Norway that I punched Loki in the face and re-claimed some of my travel karma.

The check-in worked, the agent rushed me through my baggage check, then ran me over to security, and put me through the priority line to get me to the boarding area quickly. “I’m sorry there were such problems, and I do hope you’ll fly Norwegian for your next international flight.”

We’ll see, buddy.

There was no line as I sprinted to my gate and handed them my kiosk boarding pass. They eyed my carry-on, but said nothing and ushered me through.

As I settled into my middle seat, I noted the other empty seats and thought I might have an entire row to myself.

Nope.

Instead, my travel buddy from the immigration line came rushing onto the plane and smiled as he approached the row. “Looks like we’ll be flying together. Do you want the window seat or should I take it?”

I spent the next two hours talking with the adorable self-taught programmer who was heading to Berlin for a conference. He had finally settled in Detroit after a decade of backpacking and working odd jobs around the globe, but was missing the thrill all over again with this trip.

We landed and walked together to baggage claim. Here, I tried to get online to let my family know why no one had heard from me in almost 24 hours (oh, Logan’s wifi wasn’t working, either) when they anticipated a text check-in much sooner.

Stupid, stupid technology bubble. As I typed away furiously, I didn’t notice my programmer wander off. I looked up … and he was gone.

As I saw my luggage come tumbling up and over onto the conveyer, he sauntered back to wait for his. In a daze, and only half aware of this trip to hell’s total destruction of my flirting skills, I hefted my suitcase off the belt and smiled at him. “Well, it was great traveling unexpectedly with you.”

“Yeah, you too.”

What happens when a shy and slightly awkward writer tries saying goodbye to a shy and slightly awkward programmer she just had a great conversation and time with?

NOTHING. NOTHING HAPPENS IN THIS SITUATION.

I swear, in those 30 seconds my soul floated above my body and tried to shake me silly, but a soul is a non-corporeal entity and can’t actually grasp onto a physical object.

“Umm, have a good conference and time in Berlin.”

“Thanks. Hope you have a good time on a beautiful island in Greece.”

“Thanks. You too. I mean … uhhh … bye.”

Smooth, Elisa. Smooooooth.

I may or may not have Googled his name with the phrase “iOS Developer Detroit” to foolishly see if I could find him online. I may or may not have found him on LinkedIn. I definitely did not send him a message, ‘cause that officially goes from a fun meet-cute to a girl-is-a-stalker scenario.

Opportunities, kids. Don’t let them pass you by. Otherwise, you will be standing just outside the exit of an airport in a foreign country, looking for a wall to bash your head against.

RyanAir (Interestingly) and Avalon Hotel are the Only Painless Parts of this Travel Saga

I had to re-check my bag again in Berlin, but since I was on a different airline, I understood.

With no issues, I got my boarding pass, re-checked my bag, and made it through security to the inner sanctum of the boarding gate area. All thanks to the generous support of RyanAir, a notoriously diligent rule-following airline in Europe.

There, I found food. Glorious airport food. A court with dishes as far as the eye can see.

So what do I get? A freshly made chicken Caesar salad with a cappuccino.

‘Cause when you haven’t eaten anything more than pretzels in 24 hours, have spent a week’s worth of adrenaline in 45 minutes sprinting through airports, need to drown your misery from letting adorable programmers slip out of your grasp, and don’t know when or what your next meal will be—you should totally get a fucking airport salad. What was I thinking?

My flight from Berlin to Thessaloniki was a simple flight; as I walked out the departure exit, I could feel the corners of my lips tickling my ears in an all-consuming grin.

Greece. I made it. Almost there.

The Avalon Hotel had watched for my flight arrival and sent a driver to pick me up outside. He even lifted my ridiculous 20kg luggage into the trunk, out of the trunk, and to the front desk. For the first time since Portland, I didn’t have to touch that thing and check it anywhere.

I got to the hotel at 8:30 PM, exhausted. My plan was to throw my luggage in the room and head down to the hotel bar to grab a late dinner. But the bed looked so comfortable and the hotel had a “Welcome Drink” mini-bottle of Greek wine waiting for me.

Putting on my jammies, I poured myself a glass and snuggled under the covers. Logic would have to wait.

The (Not) Final Stretches and Real Travel Drama (‘Cause You Haven’t Read Anything Yet)

The next morning, the shuttle was pre-arranged to bring me back to the airport at 6:30 AM.

This was a good two hours before my flight, and though the front desk person told me I probably only needed an hour for a domestic flight to the island, I wanted to be smart. Better to sip coffee lazily at the gate than attempt another sprint through checkpoints and lines.

At 6:32 AM, I heard my room phone ringing to alert me I was late as I worked to shuffle everything out and rush to the elevator—someone else was in the shuttle as well, and needed to leave now. In less than 60 seconds, I checked out and signed a bill that could have indentured my servitude, for all I know.

I just wanted to get to the airport and onto my flight. Five more hours and I’d be in my seaside apartment, catching up on work, and preparing to call Gina (CYC’s Managing Editor) to see what I had missed.

When we got to the airport, I again found a line with … issues.

The issues for this flight were tour groups on the Astra Airlines Mykonos-Mytilene trip—many tour groups with a complete inability to queue correctly and approach the counters in any semblance of order. As they rapidly and excitedly shouted to each other in boisterous Greek conversations (that should not happen that early in the morning), I crossed my arms and tried to go to my happy place: a quiet, idyllic island resort on the Aegean Sea. And I’m a morning person.

I finally got to the counter myself and handed the agent my passport. She typed in the info, uttered maybe 10 words to me, then printed my boarding pass and sent me on my way.

Boarding the plane, I again found myself at the back, but since this was a two-prop puddle jumper, there were doors at both ends. I settled in with my Kindle and simply waited to land.

As we approached the island, I stared out at the blue sea and cliffs. Houses seemed to stack on top of each other, the exact image you see in every piece of stock photography that accompanies Greek vacation stories.

The captain came crackling onto the loudspeaker (a system from at least the 80s, if not earlier) and gave the usual spiel. I couldn’t understand him, but I had heard the same story in different variations hundreds of times before. Instead, I stared out the window, transfixed by the scenery.

We bounced along the tarmac (prop planes do not land easily) and I was giddy. Jumping up with a number of other passengers, I exited out the back, focused on what was to come. All that was left was to get my suitcase, meet my driver, and take a scenic 75-minute drive over mountains and through villages.

I wanted nothing more at this point than to get to a space I could call “home,” even if only temporarily.

Standing at the baggage claim, I watched the last passenger claim their last piece of luggage. But I didn’t have mine. How? How had I made it through all of this only to be delayed again? Now. When I was so close.

At least I was at the airport of my soon-to-be stay, so I figured the worst that would happen is that they would find my suitcase eventually and either deliver it or request I come back to the airport to get it. A few days without the bulk of my clothes and major personal items (I always travel with at least a few days worth of clothes and travel-sized toiletries in my carry-on), and maybe a couple of additional cab rides.

The airline crew was perplexed as to where my luggage could possibly be, though one other passenger also seemed to have lost hers. Obviously, our stuff had somehow gotten misrouted in the luggage repository in Thessaloniki (or whatever you call the big handling area for all the suitcases getting put onto and taken off of planes).

As I was describing my suitcase to them, a baggage carrier came rushing over, dragging two suitcases. He shouted something in Greek to the attendants, and just like that, I magically had my stuff again!

I wheeled it out the departures door and stared at all the hotel logos and passenger name signs that flooded the exit. None of them listed my name. Not after two trips up and down the line. I wandered back into the airport and asked if there was a phone I could use to call Eleni, as I had no idea how to get in touch with the driver (his number didn’t work when I tried calling to explain my lost luggage delay).

They informed me there was no airline phone I could use. I tried the public payphones (airports and transportation centers, the only places on the planet public payphones still exist), but could not figure out how to dial out. Finally, in a desperate attempt, I tried to get on the airport wifi to see if I could somehow call through Google Voice or something.

That’s when I noticed the bars. Somehow, the pay-as-you-go Telcel SIM I had bought in Mexico was working (on a roaming network) in Greece. I dialed Eleni’s number and heard her voice.

“Hello, this is Eleni.”

“Hi Eleni, this is Elisa. I’m at the airport, but the driver isn’t outside. Is it possible he left? I was delayed after my luggage was misplaced.”

“I don’t know. Let me call him to see what is happening. I will call you right back. What are you wearing so he can find you?”

“I’m not sure if you can call me back. I’m actually not sure how I’m calling you right now. I’m wearing a black sweater and red scarf. I’ll go wait outside at the taxi area again, and try calling you if I don’t hear from you in 10 minutes.”

I went back outside to stare at the slew of people, none of whom were waiting for me.

This is Where it Gets Good Bad

After 10 minutes, I called Eleni back.

“Elisa, what airport are you at?”

“What do you mean ‘what airport am I at?’ I’m at the airport the plane landed at. Mytilene.”

“Elisa, the driver thinks you might be on Mykonos.”

I remembered the weird flight information on the screen at my check-in and gulped. “How is that possible? I must be at the right airport; the plane landed here.”

“Elisa, please just ask.”

So I turned around to a group of three young women and asked if they spoke English. After a bit of a sneer with rolling side-eye (how is that a physically possible thing?), they confirmed they did.

“What airport am I at?”

“Mykonos.”

Remember How I Told You I Cried? It’s Coming.

“Eleni, I’m at Mykonos. Oh my God, what do I do?”

“You got off the plane at the wrong airport.”

“How does that even happen?!” Never, in all my years of travel abroad and domestically combined, have I ever experienced a plane that makes stops at various places along the way, without a timely dissertation at every checkpoint to make sure you know your itinerary.

“It is—” At that moment, my Mexican SIM decided it had no more roaming minutes left to give.

Back inside the airport, I looked around at the world unfolding in a new kind of slow motion. I was at the airport on the island of Mykonos, which I was now learning has absolutely no connection to the Mytilene International Airport, on the island of Lesvos.

I walked back towards baggage claim, to the only people I knew. Somehow, I managed to catch the agent’s eye as the one-way doors closed behind a departing passenger.

She came through and looked at me, thoroughly confused.

“I think I know why my luggage was misplaced. I’m supposed to be in Mytilene.”

The shock on her face mirrored the emotions I had been trying to keep buried deep inside as I figured out how to fix my colossal blunder. I could feel them surging up as I continued.

“I’m so sorry; no one ever explained to me that the same plane would stop at two different airports. That I wasn’t supposed to get off the plane when it landed at first. If someone had told me to wait until the second stop, I would have waited until the second stop. I’m so sorry.”

She led me over to the exterior sales office for the airline and opened the door to grab her phone. As she turned back around to me, I couldn’t contain it any longer.

Three days of travel, checking and re-checking my luggage (so help me god, if you comment that I shouldn’t check luggage when I travel, I will blacklist your damn IP address and enlist the wrath of my most evil SEO friends to wreak internet vengeance on your virtual soul), unrestful sleep, sprint connections and missed connections, a pack of pretzels, and a pre-packaged salad in expendable calories finally came spilling out.

I wasn’t crying. There were no noises or sniffles or anything. Just huge tears, puddling in the area under my eyes and dribbling down my cheeks.

Wiping my face with the back of my hand, I whispered, “I’m so sorry. I never cry. I hate emotions. I’m just … it’s been … I’m so exhausted. And so hungry.”

Later, as I sat in her office with a coffee and more pretzels, and a much drier face, waiting to hear back from the airline office, she smiled at me. “This happens occasionally. They announce it on the plane, but not everyone hears or understands. Especially since you were standing with the tour group and we thought you were a part of it. But you are really the nicest person that I have ever helped with this problem.”

“Well, there’s really no point in getting upset, is there? I’m off the plane, with my stuff, on the island of Mykonos. Yelling and freaking out doesn’t put me on Lesvos in my apartment. It’ll all get sorted out, I’m sure.”

Mytilene International Airport—Take Two

I used the sales office phone to call Eleni back and let her know the airline was working to help me.

“They will see if they can get me on another flight to Mytilene from here. If they can’t do that, they will fly me to Athens, and then from Athens to Mytilene, on another airline.”“When is your flight to Mytilene?”

“It might not be until tomorrow.”

“Do you want to stay in Athens a couple of days? You can stay with me; we can have champagne and look out over the city. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this.”

“That sounds nice. I will see what they figure out, and let you know.”

Within an hour, the agent had me on the new airline’s trip from Mykonos to Athens to Mytilene, at no cost to me. To apologize for the craziness of it all.

“So you just need to get on this plane, then transfer in Athens, and they’ll get you to Mytilene. If you need anything before you head through security, I’m just next door at the departure terminal. But once you go through security, you can’t come back and find me. Okay?”

I deserved to be treated like the unaccompanied 7-year-olds that need constant supervision on their journey. I was so tired and hungry that I didn’t even care. It was sweet.

At the new ticket counter, the agent asked if I wanted my luggage to go straight-thru to Mytilene, and I swear, I almost leapt over the counter to hug her.

My new flight was in a mere 40 minutes, and my layover was in the same terminal at Athens, and only two gates down, 30 minutes after landing. Another hour in flight and the plane began to descend. If I had tears or any capacity for emotion left in my body, I would have cried again.

The driver (who made the 75-minute trip to-and-from four times that day) was grinning and hugged me as I almost ran to him. Sitting in the back seat, I sank into the leather and stared out the window.

Finally, it could all begin.*

What’s Next?

That brings me here.

To a beautiful seaside resort on a cliff, on the north side of the island of Lesvos, overlooking the Aegean Sea.

Where my next seven weeks will be spent writing and creating. The CYC team is ready to manage the day-to-day business, and I couldn’t be prouder. Every day, I hike two miles into the town of Petra along a beach trail and meet my new favorite cafe owner for near-intravenous hot black coffee and speedy wifi. In the afternoons, I jump in the infinity pool at the resort to do some laps, and then bask in the warmth of the sun, reading my Kindle. Nights are filled with dinner and wine on my balcony, in my apartment on a quiet island in Greece, which I didn’t even know I’d be on three weeks ago.

I’m not sure exactly what will “come” of this experience, even though everyone keeps asking.

When I had my initial call with Eleni, she asked me to tell her what I would be working on, to figure out if it would be a good fit with the space. I had a brilliant plan of everything I’d write and create, but if the trip here reminded me of anything, it is that life doesn’t always go as planned.

All I know for sure is that there will be a lot of olives.

*You didn’t think it was that easy after the final airport, did you? I got to the resort, settled into my apartment, rushed down to the cafe to grab dinner while they were still open, and realized I had left my cell phone in the taxi. Hanging my head as they called Thanassis to ask if he had it, I proclaimed, “I swear, I’ll be much better tomorrow. I’m not always such a high-maintenance hot mess.” So far, so good on that promise.