Hana Truscott is a creative non-fiction writer building a repertoire of life experience. In 2010, after seven years of travels throughout Latin America and Africa, she set foot on European soil; there, in the romance of the Greek islands, the wanderlust of this story was born. Although Hana had no real intention to stay in – or return to – Europe soon after that, she now ironically finds herself living as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a Macedonian village – five miles north of the Greek border. You can find more of Hana’s travel adventures on her blog. Follow her on twitter @HanaTruscott.
I laid back on the cool cement roof of the castle, watching for shooting stars in the late night sky. After a long, packed week of graduate classes in Athens, I felt relieved to kick back under the stars and just be. Beneath me, the Art Maison’s Castle of Oia (the oldest and most picturesque village on the island of Santorini) jutted out on a precipice high above the throngs of the Aegean Sea; a sea that had already swallowed up any signs of a horizon, suspending me in the center of an endless black orb.
I thought to myself, “I’m on top of a castle. In the Greek Islands. Counting shooting stars. With a handsome Greek man beside me. Can it get any better than this?”
Laughter. Beside me, peals of contagious laughter erupted from Stavros* and Theo*, lifelong friends bonded by the adventures of being raised on the beautiful “caldera” (volcano) island of Santorini, 200 miles south of mainland Greece. I had tagged along last minute on this Santorini side-trip with my classmate Nicole. She and Stavros were good friends from travels past, thus Stavros and Theo were eager to show us around the island. They led us to the heights of the castle roof by way of a cobblestone labyrinth on the side of a steep cliff, weaving through a dim maze of hotels, shops and white-washed churches with brilliant blue domes.
“I’m on top of a castle. In the Greek Islands. Counting shooting stars. With a handsome Greek man beside me. Can it get any better than this?”
By day, Oia was the scene of postcards, reminiscent of movies like Mamma Mia and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. By night, it was a whole new magic. The throngs of tourists that flock daily to the castle for the famous Oia sunsets had long since turned in for the night.
Sitting there on top of the deserted castle, with the tall, dark and handsome Theo next to me, I couldn’t help myself. Despite my history of sparingly doling out affection and rarely making first moves, I boldly kissed him. The moment was timeless. Before I knew it, dawn was breaking and, as if to affirm the magic of it all, Theo’s eyes glowed green against his dark features in the dim morning light. What a glorious sunrise.
Two days later, Nicole and I found ourselves in a local dive shop near Fira looking to rent snorkeling gear. A charming dive master from Hungary was giving me and Nicole a hard time for not making time to scuba-dive during our trip to Santorini, despite both of us being open water certified. The thought had never crossed our minds. As we tried on snorkel gear, another dashing dive master, this one from Italy, chimed in with promises of sunken shipwrecks if we would agree to an open water dive.
We had already missed the scheduled morning dive and I was flying out the next afternoon, so finally I half-jokingly asked “Fine, what about a night dive?” Dive master’s Zoltan* and Adriano* looked at each other in pleasant surprise, told us we were crazy, and then turned to the store owner in what sounded like an animated bartering session. After several minutes of intense back-and-forth Greek banter, Zoltan and Adriano announced that the two of them would take the two of us on our own personal, VIP night dive; an apparently rare circumstance for Santorini dive shops. We would leave in four hours.
Nicole and I agreed to the dive. We trusted our gut (as we always do when traveling), which told us that this was both a unique and low-risk opportunity since it was through a reputable dive shop and we had each other. Then we set off on our snorkeling adventure and made it back to the dive shop with a few minutes to spare. Zoltan and Adriano fitted us with wetsuits and then we set off for the old Armeni port, 350 meters below the cliffs of Oia. We arrived to the small port at dusk. The tour traffic was all but gone for the day, save for a majestic ship sailing silently into the sunset.
“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the depth of it as well.”
As I prepared to enter the water from the port’s concrete stair ledge, my eyes followed the caldera cliffs before me from the water to the sky. High up on the precipice I could make out the Art Maison’s Castle I had been on two nights before, this time by light of the setting sun. The four of us swam out towards the ship to begin our VIP dive. As we descended to the sea floor, Zoltan quietly took my hand in his, and we set off for a romantic night tour of sunken shipwrecks and sea creatures. What a glorious sunset.
American author and poet Diane Ackerman said “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.”
I say “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the depth of it as well.”
*names have been changed.
Words and photos: Hana Truscott.