Jennifer Barclay writes in her memoir, Falling in Honey, that she has been "looking for a Greek island. If I were going on my own, maybe I'd just take a backpack and trust serendipity."
Her love affair with Greece began at school in England, where she studied Ancient Greek, blossoming with holidays on the islands and then staying to teach English. "Coming to Greece was not just about a job, I knew that. I was having the adventures that life should be about, searching out what my life was supposed to be." Later she found Tilos, an island "eight miles long and a few miles wide. The population is somewhere around 500 depending on the season, the people far outnumbered by thousands of goats roaming wild."
After her early marriage ends quickly and a long-term relationship hits the rocks, Barclay is in her "mid-thirties" and realizes it is time for
the Gifts to Self [to] begin. I am suffering from more than just heartbreak. I've been putting up with my work and home situations because I thought they were temporary. I need to replace the plans I had with him and come up with new ones. Now that there's truly only me to consider, what do I want to do and where do I want to be?
Many people can relate to this predicament, but not everyone has the courage to sit with their feelings and find a path forward. These gifts allow Barclay to transform from "moping" to "a warrior princess." Barclay gives herself three gifts: "Freelance Fridays," "a vow of celibacy" and "a month in Greece."
Greece has always been a place of rediscovery for Barclay, but she wonders, "Can a Greek island be a good cure for love?" Many of us waver between travel as a crutch to escape or for transformation. Her month in Tilos helps her gain perspective: traveling without her moody boyfriend, John, whether the ATM works or the ferry is late, she only has to consider her own emotions. She is on Tilos to realize her ambitions and regroup. Time on the island allows her to heal her heart and remember what she likes away from the everyday of the office and the pain of her relationship ending.
Barclay shares her questions: "Will Tilos bring me back to life and make me stronger? Can I find some sort of peace and happiness and figure out my way forward? I don't know -- I'm just filled with excitement about having a whole month here." She does not have all the answers, but she is ready to search and discover. "In my new home, I can glimpse sea or mountains from every room. Heromeh. I am happy."
To take care of herself, she swims every day and enjoys the sunshine, the birds singing and the view of the mountains. She is on a quest during "this month in which part of my mission is to remind myself of who I really am... and therefore what I want."
Her month is restorative and her life evolves "Sigasiga. Slowly does it." She is able to appreciate her accomplishments and start again. Her journey and tale bring her back for "my Tilos Triathlon: an hour's walk, an hour's dancing and an hour's walk home again (with a quick swim)." Barclay's tale does have several more twists and turns for you to discover. Her desire was to live on an island. What is stopping you from making your dreams a reality?
As Barclay says: "Everyone can find their own Ithaca or Tilos, wherever it is. Pick an island, any island... Sometimes you've just got to commit and go for it."
Take the time to savor her splendid story and find the inspiration to give yourself a gift that might change your life.