Recommended Travel Writer; Storyteller

éna mageftikó óneiro (An Enchanting Dream) 

I debated traveling to Elafonissi Beach for hours. The three-hour drive, crowds, and possibility of little to no pink sands weighed my decision. The road at 6:25a was quiet as made my way north watching the sunrise on my right. Forgetting where in the world I was geographically located, it threw me a second to see the sun coming up over the ocean. The scenery of this drive alone is worth it. I don’t remember ever seeing nature at sunrise before, but my soul could get used to it. I hook west, the town of Chiana in my review mirror. The roads wind deeper and deeper into the hills as I drive through dozens of small towns. Each town promising free parking, wifi and homemade goods for sale. A tunnel carved into the mountain with a one-way street intrigues me and I giggle like a school girl with a crush as I pass through. The darkness inviting me in the further I go, tempting to frighten me just before the light from the opposite end comes into view.I take the car out of gear and coast as I make turn after turn. Sharp left, sharp right. All the while praying that there are few people, plenty of parking and pink sand when I arrive. Time stretches on, matching the road and my bladder screams a little louder. The ocean comes into view on the last pass and I confirm out loud to the open space of the car that the drive was definitely worth it. My last right turn takes me into a dirt road. Slowly I advance until I can go no further.

Elafonissi Beach

Just enough pink sand to see and make the trip worth it

Less than one hour after arriving at this beach is swarming with bodies. Every palapa is taken, people arguing over whose are whose and families yelling at each other about needing to be here sooner in order to sit together. In the water, beyond the chaos people snorkel, play volleyball and lounge on inflatables in the calm shallows. There are no waves here, just ripples on the surface that change with the direction of the wind. The air is dusty and I can feel it on my skin as it blows by. A flock of birds calls out overhead taking my line of sight to the heavens. I soak in the sun and argue with myself about which beach to see next!

An hour later and I’m making my way clear across the island, winding in between small towns littered with tourist traps and shopping. Hippie Beach is famous for its nudism and caves that cradle the shore. I bought two beers on the way in and was rewarded with a takeaway coffee cup full of bar snacks. I sit on my circular beach spread enjoying the scenery and the eclectic group of people on this beach. It’s refreshing really. A few topless old women, tons of artisans selling crafts, their hair knotted in dreadlocks. Families are blowing up floaters and the cliché beautiful girl with a matching body running her dog along the beaches edge.

slug-bug vans were both painted on the walls and present around the beach town
Matala (Hippie) Beach

Gortys is an important part of Grecian history. Not only for Grecian legends of Gods fornicating but for its role in judicial advancements for equality. The legend of the town, as it were, tells of Europa, the first Queen of Crete, originally admired the glory of the white-colored beast, which was Zeus in disguise among the herd in hopes of gaining closer access to the beauty that stole his heart. Europa mounted and rode the animal, but Zeus entranced by her beauty kept running. The story suggests that Zeus jumped into the ocean with Europa atop his back and swam to the island of Crete. It was on this island, in Gortys, that Zeus allegedly had sex with Europa under a tree after manifesting into human form from the bulls. The tale ends with Zeus painting the sky with the glorious form of the white bull that united their love in the stars. We know it today as the Taurus constellation.

Legendary loves aside, some of the first manmade laws regarding woman’s rights, such as the ability to divorce and work, were written here in Gortys. The whole island of Crete is covered with ruins of dozens upon dozens of civilizations, fortresses, temples. Whole mountainsides can begin to take shape into an ancient tower complete with a Greco-Roman guard on duty, staring at the sea if I let my imagination run wild. I drive past another monastery and recall being told about how the first Christian church on the entire island of Crete was also built right here in Gortys.

Gortys archaeological site

The parking lot for the archeological site is riddled with fallen structures, now only rubble, overtaken by nature. One could almost miss it hidden in the wild olive trees. The cicadas more than sing, they roar thunderously and in unison. The sound reminds me of thousands of Maracas shaking in the trees. The harder the wind blows the louder they play. Sun-scorched grasslands, massive boulders, vineyards and winding roads. Small villages appear behind old monasteries with one-way roads weaving like a snake from one end to the other. A five-minute drive (or less depending) puts us through each inhabited location and we’re on to the next making our way to Perevelli Beach. A hidden gem where the sea mixes with the runoff of a freshwater river that extraordinarily supports a palm tree oasis.

Twenty minutes driving on an unpaved, and equally uneven, road reveals the horizon levitating over the oceans end. Laughter fills the car as we bounce along like springs in a mattress as The Black Keys serenade the beginnings of the afternoon. Close to three hours on the road to reach this section of the island and we’re likely to stay for an hour if that. The exploration of our journey took the majority of what was slotted as “free time” for the day and we must leave ample time for our return. It’s worth it, though. Always worth it.

Bridging cultural gaps one mile at a time
Psiloritis Mountain driving
Chasing the enchanting sunset

The gratitude I feel for the day, the opportunity, the courage, the health… The gusty winds begin as I stare out at the sea. A breeze catches my face making love to my bare lips. I squint, using my eyelashes to trap the dust that accompanies the rush of fever. My relationship with life and the experiences I dare to create within are blossoming into a full-fledged romance. Still, the experiences I have had become a catalyst for doubt-per usual-and I hesitate mid-thought. As hopelessly as I’d like to fall head first into this romance my quest is one of fulfillment and foundation. Both elements needing their own intrinsic and extrinsic balance.

Watch the video of my time in the Cyclades and #SUBSCRIBE to the Bag Lady Meredith San Diego YouTube channel for more videos!

Meredith San Diego; Cyclades

Bag Lady (besides being the title of a great song by one of my favorite female artists) has always been a term of endearment for my style of travel-always carrying too much. Over packing synonymous with my first name. One friend would joke, "if I could hear you coming down the hallway, bag lady!" Another replies with disbelief and hysterical laughter when I proudly proclaim that I successfully packed one 'carry on' sized bag for a two week adventure. Obviously organized, structured and planner are frequent adjectives to describe me. And I genuinely agree unapologetically that these three elements help keep me balanced in life. That is until well...life, or the opposite actually. Consider what it might be like to have the earth shatter from under your feet like a dropped egg plummeting to the ground helpless to its demise, bringing you to an abrupt halt and leaving you in a million pieces from the fall. Yea... that's what it felt like when my Mother, life coach, and best friend in life and all things international travel, took suddenly ill and passed away while I was serving my country overseas in the U.S. Peace Corps. Both my Grandmother and my Mother, the two rocks in my unruly stream of life, taught me that positivity and laughter go a long way. The harsh reality that nothing really goes "according to plan", however, left me ambivalent about what I'm called to be and who I was shaped to be and ultimately pitted my mind against my heart. After I lost her none of the "plans" we'd made were to come to fruition. In the months after her passing I would ask myself some tough questions-as I do- and encounter a profound silence in response. Over time one solitary word would come to me from the saddest place in my heart, GO! So I will.. Now I travel to feel her. To find her in the smiling face of humanity. To keep moving forward with my journey of being a positive change in peoples lives through cross cultural experiences and adventure in places I never thought I'd be inclined to go! Meeting my own travel goals while meeting the truth that time and letting go of all the bags I carry will heal my shattered heart while helping me plant my two feet back on solid ground.

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