Why going to Crete has made me a better traveler

Why going to Crete has made me a better traveler

Today marks four weeks since we’ve arrived on Crete. A place like any other, but secretly it’s been a destination from the start on. Meaning, when we finally left the Netherlands mid-November after having overcome the trouble with our engine, the weather was already getting so bad that we knew we didn’t want to take an indefinite time heading south. No, we had to get south. We really had to. If you know us and if you know the way we travel, you know we normally don’t do destinations. But alas, being south had become indeed that: a proper destination. In particular, we thought about Crete, since it’s the furthest south in Greece you can go and relatively easy to reach – and the overnight ferry ride’s not too expensive either. So, Crete it was going to be. For the coldest winter months, that is. We had no idea, however, when we were going to be there. I mean, it’s not only a long drive (especially when you’re driving no more than hundred kilometres an hour), there’s also many interesting countries in between. We didn’t just want to skip those.

Then again, like I said: the weather was getting worse. Even in the more southern parts of Europe. During winter we envy people with a fixed van construction instead of a pop top roof like ours. It’s not only a hassle but the canvas makes for little heat to stay trapped inside. Luckily we had gotten ourselves an insulation ‘scarf’ (to wrap around the pop top canvas) right before we left, so we weren’t as scared about any possible cold as before.

Cold is only cold when you think it's cold

Looking back, we’ve taken almost two months to end up on Crete. That’s so long, I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d have told me in advance. Already in the beginning we withstood rain and freezing mornings to explore the beautiful natural park of Kassel, Germany. Right then and there I learned that cold is something you define yourself. As with anything else in life, perhaps. If I don’t let that nagging feeling about circumstances in, it simply doesn’t exist, it seems.

So, we drove on and of course we were eager to continue and follow the sun. On the other hand: we spent almost two weeks in an amazing campsite near Split in Croatia. We were the only ones there and the owners were so very kind to us, even making sure we could get a check-up at the local dentist. The first days the weather was unbelievably kind as well, we could sit outside in the sun while it was only about nine degrees Celsius, thanks to a total lack of wind. The following days it was quite stormy and we even had to move away from our beloved spot right next to the see, because we were getting it big time. But the incoming winter weather got us to appreciate the endless hot showers even more and besides, the hefty wind made for a quick dry of our freshly washed clothes.

How can so much have happened?

Leaving the Netherlands feels like at least half a year ago, if not longer. We’ve met so many people and experienced so many new things and different cultures. This part of Europe is really very different from the west. How can this have happened in less than two months? Did time actually slow down? I mean, I even worked quite a bit and I always took time to relax, too. How can this be?

The current situation couldn’t be more different. In the four weeks that we are on Crete we’ve spent a week in each spot on average. Instead of making each day count there are now often days that pass quietly, with nothing much special to offer. Because we’ve reached our destination. There is no laid out journey awaiting us anymore, only the path we choose from now on. Like it was before: everything is possible, we can do what we want.

Becoming less restless on Crete

I am happy that this feeling of ‘having to get somewhere’ is gone. We did it for our own good and I am happy we did, because living in a van is doable under cold conditions but fun is something else. Spending nights in the mountains with official temperatures dropping to at least minus eight degrees Celsius made for an interesting adventure which we allowed to last even a good two weeks, but after a narrow escape out of the suddenly snowy area we’d had it. When people talk about wintery cold as a nice thing, they don’t actually mean the cold. What they’re actually thinking of is being huddled in front of a comforting wood stove and drinking mulled wine, enjoying the company of a hot water bottle in bed, those things.

Yeah, embracing the kettle after making tea was pure delight during these days, I can tell you that. But in the end the cold takes its toll on your body, makes your muscles feel all stiff and your mood all clouded. And who do you act out on when no one else is around? Exactly, it was about time for some well-deserved warmth.

On reaching a certain balance

When we took off, in the beginning, in October of 2016, I was aiming for some kind of perfection. Although I didn’t want to call it that. To me, it was like chasing an equilibrium that you might discover when listening to yourself carefully. Like, the exact way of living that suits you and only you.

It doesn’t work like that.

There will be times I’m chasing something, and there will be times that I won’t. There will be stressful times and there will be relaxing times. There will be moments I work a lot and moments I choose not to, or simply don’t have any work available. It’s not about flattening the waves; it’s about surfing them. I’m sorry for the cliché I must have picked up from someone else. I mean, I don’t even surf.

Instead of thinking: gee, these last two months must have been good, but also awfully fast paced, given the fact that we are really taking our time to settle down, I try to think: this is just what it’s like. Sometimes I live fast, and sometimes slow. Balance is not a fixed situation, but merely the outcome of all combined.

Or, what if I’m just hibernating?

She was a dirty girl

She was a dirty girl

Olaf de Sneeuwman

Olaf de Sneeuwman