Lemnos, Lesbos, and Chios Greece (as well as my stateroom on the ferry European Express as we power across the Aegean towards Turkey)
22 August 2012
The only U.S. Presidential Candidate to ever have lived in his car is Dennis Kucinich. I always like Dennis. I use his name like we’re buddies, but in fact we’ve never met – though I did meet one of his campaign aides in Turkey once – but that’s a different story. The point is, I’ve never met him but I still feel familiar enough to call him Dennis. That’s because, he and I share a common bond. No, I haven’t run for President of the US … yet, but I too once lived in my car.
That shared bit of history makes me feel a certain brotherhood with Dennis and I’m certain that he would agree. Those of us who are so dedicated to pursuing a dream or doing our work that we do so at the cost of house and home, are a certain breed. It’s a point where a lot of people would give up on their dreams, take a soul sucking job doing manual labor, move into some kind of shitty housing, and lose the thread – and in the process, probably lose the dream.
Dennis had a dream of public service. To a certain extent, so did I. I wanted to write a book about how you can live a good life without having a soul sucking job. That book, Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagobond – kept me moving forward when I was waking up with ice over the top of my sleeping bag inside my old VW van in Washington State. I absolutely knew that it could be done, I knew that somehow I could have a life of travel and luxury without having to sell my soul. I stuck with it, wrote the book, and with varying degrees of success – I walked the walk.
I admit it – sometimes I stumbled. I took jobs, I rented places to live, I had relationships, sometimes I cried and sometimes I laughed in surprise and joy. I remember holding that first ticket to China in my hand and wondering – “Is this real?” as I looked at the van I’d been living in for 40 weeks. Magical.
I remember sitting on the balcony of the most expensive hotel on Maui while wearing a fluffy white bathrobe and eating a room service breakfast a few years later and thinking – can this really be me? Can this last? Actually, it didn’t…
But now, ten years after writing that book and shivering through those Northwest nights, I’ve just left the most luxurious hotel in Thessaloniki, Greece – The Excelsior. An incredible executive suite, the most impressive breakfast buffet I’ve yet encountered, and after a day of exploring this ancient city of Thrace – I boarded a ferry, looked around at all the passengers trying to sleep in lounge chairs and went ahead and booked a cabin where I slept soundly, had a shower, and enjoyed what would have been a miserable night of uncomfortable sleep. As I look around at all the bleary eyed, uncomfortable passengers who did what I would have certainly done just a year ago – I feel great.
The ferry has just pulled into the ancient port of Lemnos (not to be confused with another ancient island Lesbos – home of the Lesbians) and the last two weeks were spent sailing on a yacht around the islands of the North Sporades – known as a playground for the rich and famous – and for the second time now – a place where friends and I could relax, escape from the world (a little bit, I mean except for email and writing and – hey wait, that is my work) but you get the point. Somehow, I’m able to come to the Aegean and not only work on my tan, build my sailing skills, eat in wonderful little Tavernas – but also able to get my work done. Every day. I work every day.
That last bit might surprise you. In the last ten years, there has rarely been a day when I didn’t work. The difference between me and some slave is that the work I do is my own. I’m working on my life. I’m working on my future. I’m working on my business. I’m working on myself. Every day. While I’ve had jobs in the past ten years – I don’t particularly count those as work – they were drudgery mostly. Work is important. Do the work.
As the ferry heads towards Chios, my destination, I am tempted to jump ship at Lesvos and wander through the ancient streets of Mytilene – one of the oldest cities in the world (inhabited since the 10th century B.C.) but settle for some seaside walks near the port while waiting to head off to Chios where I’ve learned that fires have forced the evacuation of ten villages and every hotel that was available is now full. I’m glad for that cabin on board now as it has given me the chance to sleep most of the day and come nighttime lit by Greek fires raging on Chios – there may just be no sleep to be had. But like a moth, drawn to the flame, I move onward. I only hope that somehow I can assist.