So it went on with this retreat. At Knossos we discussed the connection between minotaurs and vulvas (the site’s most famous frieze appears to show just that). By the sea we listened to Haynes talk about Medea and what could make a woman kill her children. I chatted to the classic about “archeo-gaming” (exploring the ancient world with video games), told stories about Heracles while he was treading water in the sea with a couple from Australia, and got a little bleary-eyed when our guide spoke along us about the life of the lepers on Spinalonga, which they described as “yesterday” in the context of the story. At dinner we talked about mythology, but also about our careers, our relationships, our families and friends.
“We are our words,” said one of our guides, local historian Ioanna Glypti, as she finished her tour of Knossos. “Buildings and numbers tell us facts, but what matters are the jokes we share, the memories we share, the words we whisper to loved ones, the way we say goodbye.”
How often do you do things like that with strangers? To learn about her life and views? I have often noticed how valuable the experience was in this regard. Surrounded by these people, shaped by a common interest, I was presented with models of how to grow up, how to behave, how to live. Spending time socially and face-to-face with people of a different generation is different than chatting up a parent or boss, and doing so in a foreign country where social differences between us were at their weakest was one impressive experience.
Boring? Absolutely not. I’ve returned from my “old folks vacation” and I feel like my horizons have expanded like never before, as if I’ve found community and made new friends and come back a better, wiser, more experienced person. That’s rare to find at a pool on the Costa del Sol.
How to book it
Travelgems 2023 retreats will cover a variety of topics including philosophy, culture, nature, yoga, dance, Pilates, fitness, spirituality and mental health. Retreats are taking place across Europe, with venues confirmed in Tuscany, Switzerland and Crete, with more to be announced. Prices range from €2,400 to €4,980 per person for a 6 to 10 day retreat, including accommodation, activities, lectures and food – but excluding flights.