Greek Island lifestyle — Content I have gathered from the wide internet world. Enjoy
More and more scientific studies are coming out on the subject of living a longer and healthier life. The ones that strike home to me emphasize napping, eating and attitude. These all apply to the Greek island lifestyle that I lived for many years.
The most well-known longevity study is from the Greek island of Ikaria. There the percentage of residents over 90 is 10 times the European average. The report outlines what the older islanders did throughout their lives versus what their younger relatives and the rest of the world do now. “Fish, fruit, vegetables, legumes and tea shield the cardiovascular system. Moreover, daily use of olive oil is beneficent to sexual activity. And, if added to the moderate consumption of coffee, and an afternoon ‘siesta’, these form the ingredients that may compose the secret of longevity,” the researchers said. (They also throw in that genetics and physical activity may have something to do with it.)
Another relevant report shows that napping at least three times per week for at least a half-hour was associated with a significantly decreased risk of death from heart disease. This study involved more than 23,000 Greeks aged 20-86. Part of the traditional Greek culture, especially in the islands and especially in summer, is to have a quiet time in the late afternoon, usually meaning a short sleep. As part of an overall focus on reducing stress I have found this a particularly pleasing way to stay healthy.
There are countless studies and reports about the benefits of eating healthy foods. Much more often than not healthy foods are those consumed close to where they are grown. In other words if you live where you can easily obtain locally grown meat, vegetables, and fruits it will pay dividends in a better functioning body. This in turn makes it easier to be happy and have a positive outlook. I might add that very modest amounts of red wine are considered a health food as well.
The final study I want to emphasize is a recent one that sought to quantify an elusive factor in all the other longevity studies, that of attitude. Sure enough, it found that a positive attitude appears to be more important than low blood pressure and cholesterol level in adding years to your life. We all know stress and anxiety wear us down quickly. So if we expend that same energy in maintaining a positive, happy viewpoint, our efforts towards a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle become more efficient. *
Personally I identify with these three approaches because while living on the Greek island of Paros I did my best to practice them. I ate vegetables from my neighbors gardens and lamb that the week before was frolicking in the pasture next to my house. In fact we competed with the sheep by occasionally gathering wild greens from the fields. All this was complemented with olive oil that we watched being harvested and processed. As well as imbibing a little too much of the local wine. Of course as expats we did our best to fit into the culture by taking quiet time each afternoon; usually at a nearby beach.
My conclusion from these reports and others that I have read is that the key to longevity is to live an integrated lifestyle. Not everyone wants to live on a Greek isle. Yet each person can chose to create an environment in which each aspect reinforces the others. Take time for naps, time to seek out and prepare local seasonal foods, time to enjoy the activities around you. All of these will give you more quality time on earth.
Originally published in a now defunct internet newspaper.
*More on happiness at Hedonism is Healthy
Many of our most enduring memories of living on Paros come from our trail hikes both into the interior and along the coast. Yet reliable information about the trails on most of the islands is hard to find. See our brief bit about Paros trekking
Now for four Cycladic islands that has been remedied with a new authoritative book. This guidebook offers 35 day walks across the four Cycladic islands of Paros, Naxos, Amorgos and Santorini. Each island offers a unique walking experience and the walks range from easy 4 km town tours to 16 km hikes visiting remote peaks in wild interiors. This is the first guide to feature the new 50 km Naxos Strada, which is introduced as a series of five day walks.
“Independent hiking is a healthy social-distancing-friendly activity, and a great way to enjoy the Greek countryside. Even the most popular of the Cycladic islands retain a bucolic atmosphere in their interiors and have extensive networks of traditional paths – once the main thoroughfares for farmers and shepherds.
‘The guide’s English author Gilly Cameron-Cooper and her husband Robin lived in Athens in the early ’90s, where Gilly worked as a journalist and travel writer. Ten years later, they gave up demanding London jobs and “downshifted” to set up a walking tour business based out of the island of Naxos. They later added programs of guided and self-guided walking trips on Paros, Amorgos and Tinos.
What’s in the book?
‘More than 300 kilometers of walking routes – enough for several weeks of exploring – including the 52 km, coast-to-coast hiking trail ‘Naxos Strada’. In fact, it’s the first book to publish it. There are detailed route directions, with insights into what you see along the way (including wildflowers, landscape features and archaeological sites). Practical travel information, maps and route summaries help you plan your vacation in advance, and there are about 200 color photographs as well, and some Greek language tips.
‘All four islands have networks of traditional paths, landscapes ranging from dramatic to gentle, and interesting stories to tell. Together, they give you the whole, intense Greek experience.
What makes each of these islands unique?
‘Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades, with the most wonderfully diverse landscape, scattered with traces of ancient history. There are mountains of marble and granite, broad inland vales of olive groves and farmland, year-round streams, and unspoilt stretches of coastline.
Amorgos is remote, insular, and sensual, with a stark, rugged beauty and dizzying cliffs plunging down to the beautiful waters that inspired Luc Besson’s film The Big Blue. It also has the most potent aromatic shrubs in Greece.
‘Santorini is sensational for its volcanic rim that rears up from a sea-filled caldera, for a Bronze Age city excavated from layers of ash, cave houses cut into cliffs, and for interesting ways of growing tomatoes and grape vines on barren, waterless land.”
Quotes taken from article in Greece-Is.com
A look at travel advice
As I browse travel sites on the internet and read questions I try to answer what I can in order to share our knowledge. Also I enjoy and learn from other’s answers. Just last week someone wrote to say they were planning a three week trip to Greece. What should they look for? what to avoid? which islands were best? any tips? Someone else wrote back the perfect answer. “I recommend the Lonely Planet Guide Book. They take about 750 pages to answer your questions.”
We are glad to help with specifics such as ferry routes, rates, good places to stay, eat, local buses, what things should cost and the like. Yet each visitor is different; there are no bests. No one likes to suffer the consequences of a mistake, yet having an adventure turns an ordinary day into a lifetime memory (Ask Karin about our Samaria Gorge experience!) A little discomfort from stretching your boundaries is good for the soul, I believe.
My major advice to prospective travellers is to have a good attitude and everything else will fall into place as it should. You may not walk the most direct route to your destination but you will learn, experience and grow more by not trying for pre-packaged perfection. Besides plans never work out anyway. I once advised one enquirer that if he needed his connections to be precisely on time, don’t come to Greece.
Finally, we have all heard the number one travel advice: Pack light! This month I finally met someone who follows it. Experienced travellers who were here for a week with only what the rest of us would call a day pack each. Well done, Doug and Maryrose.
Speaking of best, here is what I wrote about choosing your Greek island: https://hubpages.com/travel/Best_Greek_Island
Excerpt from July 2002 Newsletter
Despotiko is a delightful side trip from Antiparos, which itself is a delightful side trip from Paros. However, since its main attraction is an active archaeological dig and reconstruction from ancient Greece, I have detailed the island on our sister site Visit-Ancient-Greece: Despotiko