Unpredictable and Happily Surprising Paros

I was only planning to stay in Paros for one night. I had left Syros with the idea of heading to the beautiful Santorini the next day and was frustrated with the ferry for running out of space. What was I going to do in Paros? I had never even heard of this island and although I knew it wouldn’t be a bad place to stay (because a Greek island could never cause any torture), I was at a loss for what it might bring me. Alas, I kept an open mind, booked a hostel and sailed away. 

I’m reporting to you now from a cosy traditional restaurant along the rocky shoreline on my 6th day here. I guess I found things to do after all! I decided to stay for an extra few days and take a course to get my PADI open water diver certificate. I will make sure to write something very special tomorrow about my experience with scuba diving because it has been an incredible experience. 
I have Chloe to thank for that. 
Chloe’s hometown is in Malaysia. She greeted me with a huge smile and a hand shake the second I walked into my room at the Young Inn. She couldn’t stop herself from jumping to tell me about her experience diving over the past few days. She beamed and raved about the instructor Andy who was so patient and understanding while she took her time learning. Her eyes lit up when she spoke about the creatures they saw and the depths they reached. Do you want to know the most inspirational part about this story? Chloe didn’t know how to swim. She had learned briefly 3 years prior and since then had no reason to. This was a huge step for her, a massive risk. I was very interested in going myself after hearing of her experience but I also expressed my slight fear about the possibilities of what could go wrong underwater. She told me right away that I needed to go for it. Her words were “I want everyone to know that if I can do it, anyone can do it”. The deal was sealed as soon as she spoke. I sent an email to Blue Island Divers in Antiparos requesting Andy as an instructor and headed there the next morning. 
Chloe’s inspiration didn’t stop there. Her story is one that I connected with on a personal level because it’s similar in a lot of ways to the path that I took with my life last Fall. Chloe was living a life and dream that wasn’t her own back in Malaysia. It wasn’t making her happy and she didn’t feel like it was something she was doing for herself. Maybe for her parents, maybe for someone else. Her real dream was to become a pastry chef in France. For many, that may seem like something completely unreachable but with those thoughts in mind and a lot of courage, she left everything behind and headed to Paris to do just that. She studied there and got the credentials she needed to reach her goal. Now she’s living the life that she’s always wanted. She’s working at a bakery and loves what she does every day. I was blown away by her vibrant spirit and go getter attitude as well as her intuitive nature. She was able to pin point my zodiac sign casually as we were walking down the street. During a conversation we were having, she told me “I know, I know because you are a fish. You’re a Pisces.” No questions asked. I loved her enthusiasm and bright smile. She is a very special person and I hope she keeps following her heart. 
ImageImage My Paros days were filled with trips to the beach, photographing around town and eating desserts every day. The people here still fit that island personality that I love so much. I went to a restaurant the other night and didn’t have enough cash with me to pay for my meal. I told the waiter I would take a quick trip to the ATM and he laughed and said “No, no come back tomorrow or the day after or next week, whatever! Here’s a free glass of wine. Sit back, relax and enjoy it. My life wouldn’t change if you had paid or if you don’t.” And then a cat jumped up on my lap and settled down for a nap. I am not kidding. Where else can you find that sense of kindness and trust? Only in Europe. 
 The day that Chloe left, a blonde haired girl came walking through the hostel gates right past her. She introduced herself as Maria and was staying in the bed beside mine. I invited her to go for a walk around town that evening and she gladly accepted. Maria comes from Sweden. The two of us found a sandy spot on the beach and it became our “secret location” where we spent the next few nights chatting at sundown. As the beautiful sunset went down over the ocean, we became great friends. We talked about everything you possibly could with someone you just met and then we went beyond that and talked about more. We slowly realized that our views about life, our outlook on people and our attitude towards almost everything was exactly the same. On top of that, we liked the same music and we both couldn’t stop eating. A perfect person to have around. I was awe struck at her ability to keep this positive attitude about everything around her through the incredibly challenging times she has faced throughout her life. She handled herself with such grace for someone who had every reason not to and it was incredible to watch. Between the two of us, happiness poured out when we were together. Often we would be lying on a beach or eating a meal and she would look at me and say “Life is good. It’s really good.” I loved how we could share insane laughter one minute and tears the next. I was glad that I had ended up staying longer in Paros because we had four days together and I’m happy the world introduced me to such an amazing person. It was sad to say goodbye but we knew it wouldn’t be forever. Perhaps I’ll be booking a plane ticket to Sweden next year. My twin will be missed in the mean time. 
ImageDuring the times when I wasn’t diving or incredibly exhausted from it, Bianca and I shared some great times too. This young lady works at the family run hostel I was staying at. Just to give you a quick little run down on this place, it is the perfect spot to rest if you ever visit this island. The buildings have that classic blue and white style and are situated in a little garden area, almost like a community centre. Daniella, the owner, has the cutest little boy I have ever seen and he’s always running around with the stray cats or climbing trees. Little kittens are always wandering around the area and I’ve even become quite close with one of them who decided to sleep with me last night. Since I booked my extended stay fairly last minute, Daniella said I was able to sleep upstairs where the laundry was. I was expecting a room but instead, it was just an open space, almost like a balcony. Anyone normal  would be booking another place to stay but I was extra excited to be sleeping under the stars and grateful that she was generous enough to offer me a place to sleep. For the last few nights I have fallen asleep in the open air with a kitten curled up beside me and a blanket placed over me unexpectedly in the middle of the night. That’s the kind of hospitality that I appreciate so much and it almost brings tears to my eyes. ImageImageSlept here under the stars for the last two nights. It was perfect! 
Bianca studies tourism back in her hometown in Switzerland because she adores travel and languages. In fact, she has done four different internships over the past four years. The more I talked to Bianca, the more I found that she had such a wide variety of interests and so many options as to where she wanted to take them in the future. We figured out that we both loved the Arts and would find ourselves singing from time to time. Last night, we sat in the doorway of reception and she taught me phrases from three different countries. I wish I had more time to spend with her because I know she showed me a side of her that she doesn’t let many people see. We spent an evening talking about forgiveness and I will never forget the moment where she looked at me with tears in her eyes, laughing uncontrollably and took a step towards a new stage of her life, one where she left that negativity in the past behind and decided to look forward to the world of possibilities before her. Girl, keep up that passion that you have for the everyday things that make you excited! Thank you for sharing with me. 

Image I will miss the small town feel of this place. The relaxing nights and walks along the beach and harbour will stand out in my mind. I don’t even think clouds exist here since every day has been filled with a clear blue sky overhead. Between the friendly and trusting restaurant staff and the workers at the bakery and a favourite jewellery store by the port, I had such an enriching time here in Paros. Although I wouldn’t want to spend this long in one place again, I’m convinced that I was here to meet all those beautiful people and have those important conversations. I hope I made a difference in their travels like they did in mine. I’m itching to move onto the next step, an island called Ios. Famous for its partying and…partying. We’ll see what that brings. 

Keep reading soon for a post about Scuba that I am dying to write about! 
On to the next one! 

One thought on “Unpredictable and Happily Surprising Paros

  1. Dearest Sam: What a wonderful adventure you are having and how great that you are able to share it with everyone in both amazing pics and words. I have been to Ios ….. it is a favorite memory of mine. Enjoy the incredible beach there and the amazing town. Lots of Love, Auntie Lori

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