On my Write, Travel, Transform trips, I always begin by talking about some core attitudes that make traveling (and traveling in a group) more successful. One of these attitudes is flexibility and letting go of irritations and a second is respect for peoples' differences. I also ask people to take a risk every day. It can be a small risk, one that would be invisible or insignificant to others--like attempting a greeting in Greek, striking up a conversation with a local person, or trying an unfamiliar food. Or it can be be something bigger--sharing something intimate in writing class or going on a solo adventure. When I was explaining this concept to the group in our first orientation session, I gave the example of eating olives. All my life, I've hated olives. Don't ask me why. I pick ... [Continue Reading]
National Geographic has called Milia Mountain Resort, our first home in Crete, one of the world's best Ecolodges. In the 1980s, when many Greeks left their villages to ride the wave of tourism development along the coast, two local friends took to the mountains of Crete instead. Their vision was to restore an abandoned medieval village and turn it into a retreat based on living in harmony with nature. Tassos Gourgouras, the owner, has created an off-the grid stone village and this is where we arrived yesterday. We are staying in spacious one-of-a-kind ancient stone apartments complete with fireplaces, eating our meals in a huge rustic dining hall. They grow all the herbs and food, raise and slaughter their own goats and chickens. Everything is organic and incredibly delicious. They serve ... [Continue Reading]
I love the rhythm of our life here in Millia. I love being in one place for four full days, waking up to yoga and writing class every morning and then sharing lunches and dinners together, sitting at the broad wide wooden table with different seatmates at each meal, getting to know each other while savoring the fresh local food. Yesterday afternoon at 4, half of our group took a cooking class in the basement, in Millia's second kitchen, adjacent to our writing room. We filed in, put on aprons and washed our hands with olive oil soap. It was hard to believe that such a luscious oily soap would ever wash off our skin, but it did, leaving my hands clean, my palms soft and pliable. When we were all ready to begin, Tassos, who owns the place, began his instruction. He wanted us to know ... [Continue Reading]
This morning, as homework, I asked my students to write an ode to our home for the past four days, Milia Mountain Retreat. This is the ode that Jean West from Port Orange, Florida wrote: Even though I arrived when you were busy, quick hands extended fragrant coffee and toothsome cookies, making me feel as if it was a homecoming instead of a visit. You embraced me between arms of limestone and slate like my grandmother, earthy and earnest, and caressed me with herb-laden breezes and butterfly wings.