Santorini: A Week in Paradise Changed My Life

I’m so excited to tell you about Santorini, and how this trip came about. Let’s just say it was very spontaneous. It’s somewhere I wanted to go from the time I read Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants as a young teen. So it was about 5:30 am on a  May morning in 2017. I had been up most of the night with a miserable bout of insomnia. I was randomly scrolling on my phone when an e-mail from Local Milk Retreats came through. I have followed Beth’s travels around the world for years and when I opened the e-mail to see she was hosting a photography and small business travel retreat in Santorini, I KNEW I had to go. Like, it was not an option to not go. I gulped at the price, but said f*ck it and ran downstairs to tell my husband about it. He was in the shower when I burst in like, ‘hey, so you might think I’m crazy, but we need to go on this trip… and we need to buy tickets RIGHT NOW!” This is hilarious because I am, apparently, a bit impulsive at times, and he is, most definitely, not. Like he’s ultra risk averse. But never mind that. I convinced him it was the perfect opportunity for us to get our feet wet in travel again. We hadn’t traveled in 2 years due to a traumatic experience and the mental health struggles that followed. I simply had no energy to plan a trip. But the beauty of travel retreats is that someone else does the planning. I knew from the moment I saw this opportunity that I was going to Santorini. It was happening. And guess what, I bought tickets that morning. I literally get giddy reliving that morning’s events. And turns out I knew what the hell I was talking about. That trip literally changed my entire life. No- it brought me back to life. I had been walking dead for 2 years.

The excitement from committing to the trip to Greece fueled my energy and zest for life. I began to plan what else we would do in Europe. The retreat was 5 nights but I needed more time than that on the Island so I booked hotels for before and after the retreat. Then, I decided flying all that way for just one week was crazy, we needed to go to Paris too. Booking a flight from Santorini to Paris was a pain in the ass and more expensive than I wanted, but it was Paris. It was happening. But more on Paris another time. Today is all about Santorini.

I have to tell you that I was so excited about this trip that I told every person I encountered over the coming months leading up to the trip that I was going to Santorini. About half the time people I told (who had been there) said how ‘overrated’ it was and that 8 days was way too long. I was way too polite and would justify the length by saying we would be very busy with the retreat activities and workshops for 5 days when I should have said, ‘what the hell do you know, anyway?’

Here is what I have to say to anyone who calls Santorini overrated, ‘Whatever dude’.

You see, the trick to being a good traveler is to choose your destination and time of year very wisely.  I imagine, just like anywhere, during peak tourist season, Santorini is miserable. It’s a small, very popular island. June- Aug. seem to be the highest season for tourism. We went mid September, and it was the perfect level of busy (with the exception of Oia at sunset thanks to the awful cruise ship hoards).  Okay, enough chatter onto the actual trip part!

Arrival

We arrived a day before the retreat started, and I chose an adorable pension I found via airbnb for our one night stay. We were close enough to walk to Oia to see the Caldera. We saw the cutest kitty enjoying some seriously fresh fish on our way up the road. By the time we got to the caldera I was over heated which was remedied by gelato and prosecco. So all good.

The Retreat

We took a cab to the villa where the retreat was hosted. Holy cow. It was stunning. We were greeted by these beautiful creatures who carried our luggage up the seriously steep incline to the villa. It was literally up a mountain. On foot or via donkey were the only ways up.  We had a welcome cocktail party using mixers from WithCo craft cocktail mixers based in Nashville. Next time I’m in Nashville I plan to pick up a couple of bottles of the Bouquet flavor. It mixes like perfection with gin and tastes like heaven. Check them out!

I think my absolute favorite part of the trip was swimming and eating at Amoudi Bay. If you walk past the restaurants and hike around the cliff you come to a sort of secret swimming spot. The water is crystal clear. It’s a popular jumping spot, and I even jumped from the cliff! One of the major life changing moments for me in Santorini was being the first to jump from the cliff. Traumas in my life had conditioned me to live in nearly constant fear. 2 years of therapy was helping me to unlearn that conditioning and cliff jumping (something I was totally afraid of) really drove home the message that I do not have to be afraid. Life is beautiful and joyful, not scary.  #nomorefear

The path to Oia from Amoudi Bay

I learned so much from Beth about photography, business, and life in general on this retreat. She inspires me in so many ways and her retreat boosted me to get my business going. I’m so grateful I was able to attend this incredible retreat. Beth doesn’t host many retreats anymore as life has her busy with many other things, but one of my goals is to start hosting travel retreats in the future. It’s going to be incredible! Click the image below to sign up for my e-mail list with travel resources coming your way once a month or so.

The pure beauty and peace I felt in Santorini gave me hope that I could get back to the me before the pain. The me without constant heartache. It showed me that life is beautiful and that beauty outweighs the pain if we let it. I truly believe that saying yes to an opportunity that seemed so far fetched and out of my reach (an expensive vacation to my dream land?!) and turning off the negativity gave me new life. I hope you choose to say yes to the beautiful opportunities in your life and that you find all you are looking for too.

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