It’s the type of summer you see on your friend’s-friend’s Facebook page, having stalked them one lonely and fairly bored night fueled by a little bit of wine and lot of exhaustion. The kind of Instagram worthy photos that feel so far from your own reality. It was sun and sea and wonderful company and fortunately this year, it was all mine.
Having spent ten months in the grime that is North Philadelphia, this summer I was lucky enough to hop back on a plane and head to Skyros Island, a 45 minute flight north of the Greek capital of Athens. I’d got a job as a ‘work scholar’ for Skyros Holidays at Atsista Bay, where I’d committed to three months of cleaning toilets and sweeping yoga areas in the glorious Greek sunshine with an array of some of the most wonderful people I could ever imagine meeting.
Skyros Holidays offers a holistic vacation experience for those seeking the escape of the mundanity of everyday life; they offer a wide variety of courses, from yoga to windsurfing to personal self-help programs and writing courses. By all accounts it was my very own piece of heaven plopped ever so perfectly on the edge of crystal clear water and surrounded by expansive pine forest. Working for three months was bliss in this place.
I joined the majority of staff and guests living in small bamboo huts, mere seconds from everything the site had to offer. Head out of the gate and down a dirty, rocky, fairly lethal path and you find yourself on the perfect secluded cove. Affectionatley named Dead Goats Beach, this place came to be the most phenomenal piece of land and water I could imagine. Head there at just the right time in the month, when the moon sheds next to no light on the still water, submerge your body and you’ll find yourself surrounded by glowing phosphorescent plankton, igniting with every move of your limbs. Isolated living has its perks, we would lie on our backs amongst the glowing sea life and watch the sky alight with stars. It was just like this I saw my first ever shooting star. The little beach became a haven for everyone, for the guests who stayed just a week and the staff who were in it for the long haul. We all found our little spot of solace under that night sky.
Heading up the hill from the land of huts, sweeping views of mountainous forest and endless ocean greeted you for your morning yoga. Atsitsa’s charm is in its ability to absorb everything brought to it. The hope and heartbreak of its staff and vistitors is taken by the wind and shared equally as you inhale and exhale through 7am sun salutations or 5pm trapeze lessons. No one person is truly alone in Atsista; as I cleaned the 8th toilet of my morning I knew that in a few short minutes I would eat and drink with people I could never have possibly met in any other place, people that would welcome me into their homes or adopt be as their own for a few short hours as we spoke of life away from the paradise island. These people exist all over the world but to be fortunate enough to have so many in one place is simply the magic created by Skyros Holidays.
Working in paradise was no easy task; the mornings were early and the weekend hours long. Cleaning toilets or washing dishes for hours on end wasn’t exactly what I planned for my summer but when you finish your shift and the open water or shining sun is just waiting for you, it’s hard to hold a grudge. We’d hire mopeds and explore the island, drink cocktails on our days off or hike through crumbling pine forest for hours and hours to find an untouched shipwreck. I wouldn’t want to have been anywhere else.
I may have been sweaty for three months straight and looked a little crispy at points, but I met lifelong friends, learnt lifelong lessons, and understood why people are happy on this weird and wonderful planet.