It was some years in the past throughout a brutal winter in Bosnia that I first realized of the existence of the distant Greek island of Ikaria. Previous to the pandemic, Sarajevo was considered one of my common stops as I pursued a lifetime of frenzied worldwide itinerance, eschewing a set residence and, extra importantly, avoiding my execrable nation of beginning, the USA.
On this specific go to to subzero Sarajevo, I alternated between falling on ice outside and sitting in my condo footage of summertime scenes on the web. And it was on account of the latter pastime that Ikaria entered my consciousness, by way of a spate of articles extolling the island’s rugged magnificence and the extraordinary longevity of its inhabitants.
A Guardian dispatch from 2013, for instance, starred 100-year-old Gregoris Tsahas, who loved a pack of cigarettes and quite a lot of glasses of crimson wine per day, trekked 4 hilly kilometres between his house and his common café, and had by no means as soon as been sick minus a bout of appendicitis.
A 2012 New York Occasions Journal essay relayed the story of Stamatis Moraitis, who was both 97 or 102 years previous, and who had returned to his native Ikaria from the US within the Seventies after being identified with most cancers. He recovered with no type of therapy except for gardening, winemaking and enjoying dominoes previous midnight with pals — and proceeded to survive all his American docs.
Nobody has pinpointed the exact secret to Ikarian endurance, however it seems to contain a mix of a sluggish life, social camaraderie, olive oil, wild sage tea, goat’s milk, out of doors labour, afternoon naps, therapeutic winds and sexual exercise into previous age — to not point out the sheer exquisiteness of the bodily atmosphere. As if that weren’t adequate, it will get even higher: Ikaria is understood domestically because the “crimson rock” in reference to its communist tendencies, which solely intensified in accordance with the island’s service as a spot of banishment for Greek leftists within the mid-twentieth century.
I, myself, was not terribly involved with making it to 97 or 102, however I did discover the prospect of immortal wine-drinking island communists singularly inspiring. After operating round in a tizzy my complete life, I figured I ought to most likely decelerate and see the way it was actually meant to be achieved. My first try to go to Ikaria in 2020 was thwarted by the coronavirus, however on June 12, 2022, I arrived by ferry from Athens within the small Ikarian coastal village of Armenistis.
My plan was easy: I used to be going to take one month to chill out, kind myself out and change into a supremely tranquil one who — nourished by goat’s milk and communist vibes — took fixed naps and skim books by the ocean.
Issues initially seemed promising. The terrace of my attic condo supplied a large view of the Aegean Sea and of a cove beneath, the place the water comprised a mind-boggling array of shades of blue. I went on hikes via the hills, smelled the smells of island vegetation and flowers and drank half-litres of selfmade wine on the taverna, above which lived a person who about 90 and was typically swimming or tooling round on his motor scooter.
The person had lived in New York, he instructed me, and invited me to swing by his farm down the highway for some apricots. A youthful Ikarian — who had additionally tried his hand at life in America and promptly repatriated himself — commented wryly to me: “Ikarians are very unhealthy at capitalism.”
Sadly, it shortly grew to become clear to me in Armenistis that I occurred to be fairly good at it. Though I wished to sit back out, indoctrination dies onerous. I successfully started making use of a capitalist mindset and work ethic to leisure.
It was inadequate to sit back on the seashore with a e-book; reasonably, I needed to be the best possible seashore e-book particular person ever, emanating grace and concord with the serene backdrop at the same time as I raced to fulfil my each day web page quota. I needed to concurrently be one of the best island hiker, island plant smeller, taverna frequenter, sea swimmer, and so forth, regardless of absolutely recognising the counterproductive nature of my strategy. Leisure grew to become a chore and/or competitors and the vicious cycle was solely strengthened by my rising agitation at the truth that I used to be, clearly, failing to chill out.
I used to be additionally acutely conscious that this was a grotesquely privileged type of torment — and that the overwhelming majority of individuals on this planet couldn’t spend their time being neurotic in paradise. At any time when it appeared that I’d not full all of the myriad duties I had assigned myself for the day, I skilled coronary heart palpitations of the kind that had outlined my teenage years within the US. Again then, the necessity to excel in any respect tutorial and extracurricular endeavours to achieve completely “well-rounded” standing on faculty purposes had achieved a quantity on my nervous system.
On June 29, I attended considered one of Ikaria’s famed panygiria — feasts that honour saints and that always final all evening. These festivities weren’t suitable with my schedule, given my behavior of waking previous to the morning time to really feel that I used to be beating the remainder of the world. Nonetheless, off I went to the village of Pezi, up the mountain from Armenistis, to have a good time Saints Peter and Paul.
I opted to hitchhike, and was first picked up by a Norwegian couple in quest of a fuel station after which by a younger Greek man on a bike. He swung calmly round mountain curves because the solar set over the ocean, and I dug my fingernails into his shoulders and emitted yelps of various decibels.
Tons of of individuals had been already on the out of doors celebration, consuming goat meat, ingesting native wine and dancing to music equipped by a tireless four-person ensemble. Concentric circles of dancers spun round and round with palms clasped; off to the facet, a grey-haired man executed an brisk leap to the encouragement of a person and lady crouching on the bottom in entrance of him, clapping.
At first, I hung again, wallowing within the existential ache of getting no tradition, group, or, I made a decision, even identification, except for being a cog within the capitalist machine. Finally, nevertheless, I’d had sufficient wine that none of this mattered, and I broke into the outer circle, grabbing a hand on both facet of me. Round we went at dizzying pace, as I held on for expensive life and felt preemptive nostalgia for this second of fleeting eternity.
I attempted to depart the panygiri at one o’clock within the morning however was knowledgeable by the Greeks at my desk that I’d by no means discover a experience at such an early hour. I lastly left at 2:30am and was escorted midway again to Armenistis by three males in a automobile. Two ladies in one other automobile took me the remainder of the best way.
The following day, I developed a large rash that started below my proper arm and prolonged down my facet and throughout my again. I rushed to the closest factor to a pharmacy in Armenistis, which additionally served as a barber store and the place I had bought a seashore towel with an enormous lion on it. The daughter of the proprietor took one look and pronounced it the work of the Ikarian white moth, which, she mentioned, I should have come into contact with on the panygiri.
In response to my subsequent petrified query, she checked out me with a combination of amusement and utter seriousness and responded: “After all you’re not going to die, you’re in Ikaria.”
The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.