My last summer before graduating college, I was in full-on “I have no idea what I want to do with my life” mode. And instead of actually figuring it out, I did the most logical thing a twenty-some year old could do—I went to Greece.
I spent the summer riding ferries over turquoise waters and buses over rolling hills. I hiked to ancient theatres and temples on seaside cliffs, and rode donkeys down to hot springs. Most importantly, I tasted beautiful mixtures of spinach and feta pies paired perfectly with aged wine.
And through all these experiences, it was the cuisine that taught me the most.
My life started to breathe again when I arrived on the peaceful Greek island of Kea. There I had the opportunity to visit Agalia Kremezi's culinary school. Kremezi is a former-journalist- turned-cookbook-author that holds her school at her vine and flower covered home. There I learned how to make a variety of Greek foods and I learned that no meal is complete with a wine glass that is anything less than half full of Restina. Most of the ingredients used for cooking were straight from Kremezi’s garden or from other local farmers. It allowed you to taste the true flavors of the land and experience the culture of the people around you, making it a genuine food experience.
We spent hours cooking and then we spent hours talking. We talked about everything ranging from communism to men. We laughed, ate, and laughed some more without a care in the world about what was going to happen next. It didn’t matter. We were here and we were happy.
Americans tend to go out to eat because we’re lazy and want to save time. Grecians go out to eat to have rich conversations and remember every bite. After spending time in a country that prided itself on local flavors and culture, I was soon back in a society that cared too much about the cheapest and the fastest.
I realized that before I went to Greece, I was stuck in that mode too; I wanted life to be dropped into my lap in a neat package that came with a free kids’ toy. I wanted it to come fast and easy, but while in Greece I learned that it doesn’t matter how fast you accomplish something, as long as you love it along the way and savor every bite.
Maybe going to Greece to get over my quarter-life crisis wasn’t the most logical of choices, but the food, the culture, the people (and admittedly a lot of wine) cleared my head. Running away from your problems probably isn’t the best way to solve them. However, travel is the rare case in which going away helps you come back. It reminds me of who I am at my very core and my place in this world. Travel brings me back home.