So it went with this retreat. At Knossos, we discussed the link between the minotaurs and vulvas (the site’s most famous frieze apparently depicts just that). By the sea, we listened to Haynes talk about Medea and what might move a woman to kill her children. I chatted with the classicist about “archeo-gaming” (using video-games to explore the ancient world), shared stories about Heracles while treading water in the sea with a couple from Australia, and got a little bit misty-eyed when our guide talked to us about the lives of the lepers on Spinalonga which she described as merely “yesterday” in the context of history. At dinners we talked about mythology, but more too: 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 made together, the words we whisper to loved ones, the way we say goodbye.”
How often do you get to do those things with strangers? To learn about their lives and their views? It struck me often how valuable the experience was in that regard. Surrounded by these people who’d been shaped by a common interest, I was presented with models of how to grow up, how to behave, how to live. It’s different to spend time socially and as an equal with people of another generation than it is to chat to a parent or boss, and to do so in a foreign land where the social divisions between us were at their weakest was a powerful experience.
Boring? Absolutely not. I’ve returned from my “old people’s holiday” feeling like my horizons have been broadened like never before, like I have found a community and gained new friends and returned a better, wiser, more experienced person. You rarely find that by a pool on the Costa del Sol.
How to book it
Travelgems’ 2023 retreats will cover a variety of themes including philosophy, culture, nature, yoga, dancing, pilates, fitness, spirituality and mental health. Retreats take place across Europe with venues confirmed in Tuscany, Switzerland and Crete, plus more to be announced. Prices range between €2,400 and €4,980 per person for a 6-10 day retreat, inclusive of accommodation, activities, talks, and food – but not flights.
When on holiday, do you enjoy lying by the beach or do you prefer to sight-see and explore? Join the conversation in the comments section below