The environment is what keeps me going here. What you see around you, the mountains, the sea, the rocks, the nature, I feel very connected with it….more than with the people. Of course you connect with the people as well, automatically, but this is why I started walking.
When I came to Ithaca 13 years ago I started doing guided walks, because I love walking and the island is good for that. Ithaca was always known as 'the home of Odysseus' and people I walked with asked me about that. I immersed myself in the Odyssey and realized the importance of it. Not only for Ithacans and the Greek identity but also for every individual, as the story of the Odyssey is symbolic of the life journey. I made a special Homeric tour to bring the story alive and to show people how archeologists in the past have been looking for proof that present day Ithaca is actually the same as the island Homer describes. Some Ithacans actually believe they are descendants of Odysseus.
People who visit the site will expect some explanation, about what are these ruins? There isn't one and that's why I'm doing this tour. The excavations have stopped since 3 years and the professor died. Another mystery is that nobody ever continued. My guess is that there is some kind of power struggle going on, not only a question of money. Hopefully someday we will find out more. So if we consider this the home of Odysseus, it's the experience of being here, with this incredible view of the bay, over which Penelope looked out waiting for her husband to come back.
Some of the things I do don’t resonate with the local community, like my art. I don’t get much response here I’ve had several expositions here, in my garden, in the community center, in galleries….I put posters everywhere to advertise….but the locals were not very interested. They didn’t no how to deal with my art. But I got a lot of response from visitors. You don’t want to keep it all to yourself. You want to show it.
I lived in different countries as a child and tried to find similarities in people everywhere. My idea is that we’re all connected. The organization of a country doesn’t matter to me. As long as I can be with the people, on the same level, it’s ok. The friends we have had mostly lived in foreign lands. They speak English and may be of Greek heritage but also have other influences. They have looked around, have been around. Those are the people I can relate to more.
Being surrounded by sea, I don’t know how to explain this. I spent some time here and then went back to the Netherlands and I noticed I missed the sea. Of course we have sea in the Netherlands, but here, the sea is very important. It’s a calming but also very changing thing, always changing. There’s a flow that makes you go with it. Though I’m not a sailor or diver, I want to be in the sea, swimming, that feels very good. So to have the sea close by, I can easily walk down to get to it. When I leave my door, I’m in nature. That is a luxury. I can be alone and silent and that gives me peace, space in my head and inspiration of course. In nature, I’m communicating and I feel at home.
Some ideas that seemed harmful to the island haven’t worked. It’s difficult to build an airport. There’s no flat land and I’m glad about that. There are lots of Greek islands that are totally focused on tourism. And we also have a focus on tourism here, but there are still patches of villages and families living traditionally. They make their living a bit from tourist activities but they’re also harvesting olives, etc. I think it’s important that that continues. Any development that is not intrusive or harmful to the environment is fine with me. There are lots of villas with swimming pools and the tourism board says this is what people want. But there’s not enough water and the sea is just 5 minutes down the road.