I was asked recently how my lifestyle enables me to do the 2 month trips that I’ve been lucky enough to do in recent years. There is no short answer to that but I’ve tried to put it as succinctly as I can. Nafplio did play a part in how I made a big career change so returning here is quite significant.
In the years that I’ve been travelling to Greece I’ve always had a dream that one day I would retire here. Whenever I’ve visited Greece and to some extent other destinations, I’ve always had a question at the back of my mind. ‘Could I live here?’ No matter how much I have fallen in love with a place, the answer has very rarely been ‘Yes.’ Until I came to Nafplio that is. Why Nafplio? Although I eliminated many places for practical reasons ruled by my head, Nafplio grabbed me by both my heart and my head.
When I was in Nafplio six years ago, it was quite a tumultuous time in my life. To be more specific, my work life. I had never been a particularly ambitious person and climbing the greasy pole had never been my thing. However, I had always been driven by doing work that was rewarding and in some way contributed to making a difference. I had been very blessed to have worked in several jobs that did exactly that. At the time I was working in economic development and involved in projects that were aimed at increasing employment and skills for the local populace. I had led several projects that I personally found very fulfilling and had been successful. At that time I loved my job and commuting into the city every day was never an issue.
Over time, working for a large local authority began to change. Government cutbacks meant that we were subject to three restructures in five years. We had to apply for the jobs that we’d been doing for years, competing against our colleagues for reduced job positions. My role was safe but the same couldn’t be said for colleagues who were either put into redeployment or downgraded. It wasn a very challenging time.
Sitting alongside the changes happening at work, I felt as though I was changing too. Then 57 years of age I began to feel that I no longer ‘fitted.’ I didn’t fit within my team, I didn’t fit in the job. There is also something about reaching a certain age as a woman where you can begin to feel invisible and disregarded. I know that this is a ‘thing’ not just experienced by me and I was definitely feeling this.
A career that had been a passion and a pleasure became over time, a place of pain and misery. There were days when I would just sit at my desk and cry. I felt helpless and couldn’t see a way to change the situation.
Being the practical and pragmatic person that I am, once the restructures began I threw every spare penny I had at my mortgage. By the time things had hit rock bottom, I’d practically paid the mortgage off. I just had a feeling that the restructures weren’t going to be the end of it. My health was beginning to be affected and there reached a point when I just couldn’t face going to work anymore. Being off work wasn’t in my nature and although I was relieved to be out of the toxic environment, being at home doing nothing wasn’t sustainable.
I returned to work in the new year. Local authorities have protocols in place to ‘support’ their employees and to protect themselves. I was sent for counselling sessions to ensure that all the tick boxes were checked. Back in the office, I was given really mundane projects to work on. Nothing too taxing but that made the days drag. I used to look forward to the weekly counselling sessions as a break from the office environment. The counsellor was wonderful. The first few sessions were painful and emotional as I had the chance to express everything and anything that I had been feeling. We really bonded and the final few sessions were positive and uplifting. During my last session the counsellor asked me what I planned to do. I didn’t have an answer. I was absolutely powerless to make any changes at work and my gut was telling me that I really didn’t want to be there anymore. “Do you know what? my counsellor said. “You should just leave.”
Anyone who has worked for the public sector before will know that leaving is not easy. Not when you become used to the decent salary and generous pension. But I wasn’t a ‘Lifer’. I’d only been there for 13 years plus some time on secondment. The seed was sewn.
By Easter, I’d booked a three-week holiday to Greece with my husband. I’d always wanted to be in Greece for the Easter celebrations and had spent some time researching where to go. This trip started Athens from where we travelled by bus to Kardamyli. After a fabulous time in Kardamyli we headed off to Tyros where we spent the Easter holidays – an utterly unforgettable experience. After Tyros we headed over to Nafplio. The trip ended with a stay on Poros and Aegina and in all was a journey of significance. There were defining points throughout including meeting several inspirational people – all detailed in the blog, but I digress.
In Nafplio, standing at the top of Palamidi Castle I remember looking across the landscape and absolutely falling in love with it. The mountains, the greenery, the orange groves. It all added up to perfection. That was how Nafplio pulled at my heartstrings. Thinking about it at a later stage with my head I came to the conclusion that Nafplio had everything. Easy access to Athens, right on the coast, a good public transport hub, a town small enough to make connections and friendships, cultural events throughout the year, lots of opportunities to engage in creative and artistic pursuits, – the list goes on.
As we left Aegina on the ferry back to Athens, I knew that my decision was made. For the first time in a year, I was looking forward to my return to work. I’d spent the weekend talking it through with Peter who had been nothing but supportive of what I was about to do. That first morning back in the office I handed in my letter of resignation. I felt as though a massive burden had been lifted and I can quite honestly say that I have not regretted the decision for one minute and I have never looked back.
Several months later I was back in the Peloponnese with my daughter, both volunteering for a refugee charity in Patras. Having had the foresight of paying off my mortgage before I left, I didn’t need to rush into finding another job. That trip was also quite a significant one and gave me the opportunity to see another side of Greek travel that some people may turn a blind eye to.
Over the following months, I volunteered with different projects and immersed myself in creative pursuits that brought me a lot of joy. Rediscovering myself and doing things that I loved was all part of the evolution.
Towards the end of the year, I saw a post on Facebook looking for someone to join a small UK-based travel company. The applicants didn’t need to have experience in sales but they did need to have good knowledge of Greek travel. I knew instantly that the job had my name written all over it! The rest I shall say is history. More than four years later I still work for Hidden Greece and it’s a job that I enjoy very much. In addition to being able to create interesting itineraries and wonderful holidays for our clients, I work flexible hours from home. The other added advantage is that I can travel whilst working too, all thanks to my trusty laptop. Of course I no longer had the income stream that I’d been used to I do have a much better work and life balance. That is something that you can’t put a cost against.
Six years later I have finally made it back to Nafplio – a long overdue trip. It will be interesting to see if Nafplio pulls at my heartstrings the way that it did the first time. Although Brexit has realistically made retiring to Greece an impossible task, I can still dream. And hope!