(*Note: This is not my usual style of an entry for this travel blog. Read it as if you were reading a page from my diary.)
I’ll always remember the days we drove around Corfu Island – my first time and first place in Greece.
You suggested a rental car to check out beaches, mountain tops, vistas, villages. We hadn’t rented a car in more than a year. In fact, my driver’s license back in the U.S. has expired. Such is the life of an early retired budget traveler – roaming from place to place always on public transportation; never returning to a home base; always moving on, moving on.
Since I couldn’t drive, I sat back and enjoyed the scenery as our carefree spirits passed through places. We had no daily time limits for our three-day car rental. We had no constraint of routes and stops on infrequent public buses.
With something new around every turn, I almost never thought about my future – our future – if the cancer returned. I put friends who are struggling and dying of cancer out of my mind. I put all somber, black, ugly things out of the way somewhere. I tried to stay in the ‘now’.
We didn’t bring up some of the challenges we face. We didn’t address the hurtful exchange in that last argument. Instead, we mostly stayed in the moment, kilometer by kilometer, curve by curve, village by village, driven by desire to escape into new places.
I could write about which beaches we liked best, or which village offered the best view, or what restaurant offered the best deal on our travels around the island. But I’ve decided that’s not as real anymore as trying to describe and connect with the memory of the feelings I experienced on this part of our travel adventure. Underlying it all: gratitude.
On day one we saw beautiful beaches – some with smooth rocks, others with glistening golden sand, others with giant dunes that were fun to trek up. We stopped for lunch in the party-central spot of the island, tame at the dawn of autumn. You got comfortable with the clutch on steep, uneven mountain roads; I flipped through the Greek radio stations that filled with car with foreign sounds we somehow understood.
I swam in the sea with no top; I shivered a bit at the wind hitting my wet skin on the last day of summer. I felt alive, and grateful. But strangely, not happy enough.
Around the same time we were in an old graveyard with sea-view vista, my friend with cancer died. Breast cancer killed her. I wouldn’t learn of her death until the next morning. Yet, somehow, I knew she had died. She had been social-media silent for two days — unusual for her.
On day two, first thing in the morning, news of her death. Second thing on the second day of our driving island adventure, my resolve to relax more, to forget more, yet to be wide awake more. Jodi would have liked that. And so off we went, driven again by that desire to get to new places. I took her soul and held it close to my heart as the sun got higher and we added more distance to the odometer.
We drove through old villages with stop lights to signal just one lane of traffic through narrow passages. We caught our breath at vistas that made our eyes pop. We tasted raw olives because we were curious, and with bitter tongues we walked along cliffs to watch a churned-up Ionian Sea below. A storm was coming.
We had a snack at a small cafe and watched windsurfers fly and splash in gusts so strong it was difficult for me hold out the phone for silly selfies with our wild wind blown hair. We saw turquoise bays and giant, straight cliffs, and endless rows of olive trees. We joked around, we were silent, we just were.
At dusk we asked for directions from a lovely elderly Greek woman with one gold tooth in a village so small it wasn’t on our paper tourist map. She guided us in Greek with hand gestures and grunts to the road that led to the island’s tallest peak. From there, on that high spot, we watched the sunset and the moon rise with a view of the island all around us, Albania to the east. The dark revealed stars and planets.
On the third day we drove around the last bit of the island, in chilly drizzle from a storm system. We shared more experiences of discovery, we shared laughs. We stopped at a restaurant in the smallest little beach cove and ate lunch outside. I wore the socks and sandals get-up of a retired woman; you had reading glasses to see the screen of your camera that you pointed this way and that. In the wind and light rain we parked the car at an overlook and we took a nap because we could. If we sound old to any reader, I have not properly captured how young-at-heart these days made me feel.
We stopped for a chocolate ice cream sundae at a cafe in a town because it was too late for coffee and I needed a rest stop. We used the wifi to find a road we on Google maps that we could not find the day before. We went up that elusive road that revealed another gorgeous sunset view over the island and her endless range of olive trees along the Ionion Sea. We both slept well that night.
I will always remember that happy and healthy time on Corfu Island in Greece, and be grateful for it, and for you.
This is not my usual style of an entry for this travel blog, since it has no real useful information to anyone besides me – to help me remember these days. So, thanks for reading anyway.
The pictures below are captioned with some information, and our car rental was with TP Car Rental. Really nice guys. We were charged 90 euros for three days, which was a good deal for the shoulder season.