Stresses of the world don’t really arrive HERE I feel lucky staying here

I’m not stressed anymore. I’m really glad to have a job and I’m happy at the same time. I’m not sure it’s the perfect job for me, to be honest. But I feel lucky and I’m happy, and that’s what matters. I don’t have anything standard to do, apart from my job.

Yes, I will definitely stay here. I feel lucky staying here. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up here, I know the place, the people. It’s a nice place, it’s quite … I love the feeling … Yes, it’s definitely safe. The only thing, I don’t like to think, for the moment, I don’t feel that ... When I want to leave the island … I don’t know what’s going to happen inside me if I don’t have the chance to leave … For a week, a few days, for a day … To go on a boat, to go to the mountains, anything. When I finish the job for the summer, I have that feeling that I want to leave for a few days. Go to another place, relax my mind and body a little bit. And then, I’m really happy to be staying here. You know, many people are coming and saying it’s far away from city, you don’t have many options, you don’t have this, you don’t have that, it’s not working for me … For the moment, I don’t think I need something for my life. And if I want to do something, I can find it. There are things to do here. Fishing, snorkeling, painting. There are things to do, you just need to find it within yourself.

I take care of a house owned by a famous designer from England. They have a house on Corfu, too. I work in the house for a few hours every morning, and when they are here, I work whenever they need me. He does all kinds of design - objects, transport, planes, graphic design, apple watches … If you saw him, you wouldn't have guessed. That’s the thing I love. It’s not their first intention to show off that they are famous and rich. They are quiet people. That’s what I like.

My first dream was to be a dancer, but I never had the chance to learn here. That’s something I still keep in me, and when I see someone dancing, I love it. It’s not that I’m jealous, it’s just that I can still see myself dancing. When I turned 18, what happened for me was that I felt I have to take my life in my hands, not depend upon my parents anymore. I still feel that way. Even when I was studying and had no money, I preferred to ask friends. I never asked my parents, because I didn’t want them to think their kid didn’t have any money. And dancing was too expensive. So I didn’t do it.

I went to Melbourne to stay with my cousin for 6 months. I tried a few things and they tried to help me a lot, but again there were money problems. They were asking a lot of money to study and I had to study in order to stay there, and the schools are so freakin’ expensive. Or, I would have to get a job, which is not easy to find. I could stay for few years, but couldn’t live there. What I remember was going to the park and looking at the sky, and I could only see the sky, nothing else. It felt very strange, I could see no trees, nothing but the sky, and I felt so small.

I left Ithaca for a total of 5 years. After Melbourne, I came back here, then went to Germany and back here, visited London and Romania for a short time. But I have settled down here. I have no regrets. Honestly, I’m really happy to live here.

After the crash in Greece, I lost my job and I was really stressed. So now I work for that family. When they are here, I work as long as they want, sometimes 5 hours, sometimes 12, it doesn’t matter. I’m there for them. When they are not here, I work 5 days a week at their house, supervising, doing some cleaning, little bit of gardening. And in my free time, I spend it doing things to my house, friends, going hiking. One of my favorite places is up the mountain, there’s a nice view. I’m not getting bored. I don’t feel the island is boring.

Now that the summer is coming and if my father has to go on the boat, I’m definitely going with him if I’m not working. Our boat is our palace. The whole family has great memories from the boat. Years ago, we’d go out every single weekend. I loved it. I wish we could still do that. Now, I mostly help him with translation, because he doesn’t speak English. And it’s also pleasure for me, swimming, snorkeling. No diving, my father is diving.
I have a few friends here, but I can not say that they feel like I do. They’re dreaming of something else. And it’s not because of the island, it’s because of jobs. They studied something and they really want to follow it, and here they don’t have a chance. That’s the reason they don’t really feel happy here.

I have good friends away, they are dreaming of something else, trying for something better according to them. I just show them the way I feel. I don’t try to convince them to stay. What I do with the friends that are here but are not happy and don’t have the opportunity to leave, I try to encourage them to see things differently, to think differently, to see the good side to being here. I had a friend who was also a hairdresser and we were talking about doing a salon together, with hairdressing, massage … But she got married and is lives in Italy. She has a child now. That was the main plan.

What is coming all the time to my mind now is I would like to have a family. I have a feeling I really need a child. I love kids. I used to do a lot of babysitting and I’m still doing it if someone wants. My boyfriend and I have been together for three years now. He’s younger than me, 22. Sooner or later I’m going to have one. This is what I’m dreaming of now.

As long as I’m working, I feel relaxed. I don’t care about money, but it makes me feel safe and I can keep going with my life. I just need enough to do what I like. Quiet life. I’m not asking for palaces, just a small house, a family, and to live in peace in this place. That’s what I’m dreaming of now. And I hope I’m not going to change that.

In Ithaca, there are so many trees and herbs around, and nobody knows about them. That was one of my thoughts, to collect herbs and maybe make oil, or sell them to the market. There are so many things we could do, but nobody cares. Even people my age. We should care about what is around us and make a better place for all of us. It is a good place to hike – to visit it all, not just the town hall and what you see in the pictures. If only people cared a little more about this place. Even me. I would like people to see the resources that we have here. We could plant trees - lemon, apple, we could have any tree that we wanted, but nobody does anything about it, even at their houses. It’s something nice to wake up in the morning and pick your own fruit and vegetables. One day I want my own garden. Not that I won’t buy anything at the market, but to be a little bit sustainable in a way.

Ithaca is alive because of tourism. The season is too short. People are coming in July and August to swim and eat at the restaurant, and that’s it. We need to expand the season to 6 months. Give people reasons to come in November, December, February. We need to think about it and turn this island into something else. We can do it. We need to think – what is good to do in Ithaca in November? Why do we shut our businesses down after August? If we need the money, why don’t we think of things to expand the season? Like in November after the first rains, there are mushrooms here. We can teach visitors to pick mushrooms, or grapes in September.

So, what keeps me here is that I feel really calm. When I leave and I’m coming home, I can’t wait to see the island. I feel safe here. I’ve got family next to me, which is really important to me … Having my family, friends, relatives … This is really important to me. This is how I was raised, to be close with family and friends. I’ve got 20 close relatives here. A lot of us on the island are related. We get together regularly, it can be every month, sometimes every week, we join each other at the table.

Of course different places are different, but it’s me. It’s the same me on Ithaca or in London or Paris. There are different things to do maybe, but the person is the same.

Honestly, my only fear, and I hear about it a lot, I’m reading about them, is disease and getting sick. Because I see many things happening, even to friends and close people, and I think you never know what’s coming tomorrow. And I’m a just a little stressed out about that. I’m talking of physical health of myself, of my family. Ithaca is a very small island with only 2,000 inhabitants. We often hear when someone gets cancer, or has a blood problem or heart attack. When I turned 23, 24, I started to feel a lot of stress. Before, I was not worried about going to a big city. I was really enjoying myself. Then something happened, after I came back here. In a way, I’m really happy and calm, but I care about what is happening to people next to me. I’m talking about health problems. I try to change my thoughts, because sometimes it stresses me out a lot. Like to wake up in the morning and think, is my heart pumping good? That’s not a good way to wake up. I don’t want to think like this. I just spend time with friends and family and try to stay positive.
I like watching TV a lot, but not news. I care what’s happening in world, of course, but about Greece, I don’t want to hear a thing. It’s sad news all the time. Things with Greece are not good, everyone knows that. I don’t want to turn on the news. The world is experiencing big challenges, and so is Greece.

Living in Ithaca keeps you away and you’re not so worried. No matter what is happening in the world, not many things are changing here. World stresses don’t really arrive here. Yes, we’re connected, but only the good energy comes here. Not the bad energy. We keep it away, the bad energy. I think most of the people think Ithaca is a place to be protected, a place to be and stay safe. People are coming to stay, some of them older, some younger. In the last 5 years, I know or have heard about 15-20 people who have moved here to get away from big cities.

Released by MED Land project / photography, audio conversations, editing: BB / self-portrait: Gioula Noutsatou/ on-location team: Gioula Noutsatou, Marko Vodanović, BB / research: Nejc Jordan, BB / transcript: Diane Kulpinski / text edited by: Tadej Turenšek/

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MED Land project Bojan Brecelj