Friday 18 October 2019

Roslyn Dee: 'In the search for happiness, 'less is more''


Idyllic: A view of the small, beautiful Crete town of Paleochora where locals cherish the kind of life it offers
Idyllic: A view of the small, beautiful Crete town of Paleochora where locals cherish the kind of life it offers

Roslyn Dee

Most of the time we just think too big. Better job, more money, bigger house, expensive clothes, the latest iPhone, long-haul holidays...

We're always chasing the next big thing, imagining that it will somehow bring happiness or even contentment or, at the very least, show that we have somehow 'made our mark' in life. Whatever that means. So instead of conserving what we've got and taking pleasure from that, we blight our lives by chasing rainbows, only to discover, of course, that that elusive pot of gold isn't just elusive; it actually doesn't exist. 'Less is more' is something of a hackneyed mantra and yet, so often, it is so very true.

I am in Greece this week, staying in a small town that I have been visiting for more than 30 years. And when I say small, I mean small, for the population of Paleochora in south-west Crete is only around the 1,600 mark.

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And I've been observing, as I always do when I potter around this little oasis of a place, the way the locals live their lives. Yes, Paleochora's population gets bumped up with visitors every summer, but it's not a manufactured summer 'resort' - it's a real, working town. And those who call it home cherish the kind of life it offers them, prizing it above rubies, or Michelin meals, or anything that a Prada wardrobe or the newest Mercedes could offer them.

It's not a backward place. The restaurant and apartment and shop owners have a living to make, and make it they do. They have businesses to run, properties to maintain and families to educate. But they are not defined by their work - it is a means to an end, a way of assisting them to live a stress-free, family life.

A number of the elderly inhabitants have never been any further in the world than the city of Chania on the north coast, a couple of hours' drive away through the mountains.

Even my friend Manolis Sfinarolakis, now in his 50s, and a man I've known since my very first visit here, rarely leaves the town. He runs his small hotel, cycles around on his bicycle, talks to life-long friends on the street or in a local café and lives his life quietly and happily with his wife and his young son. Everything he and his family needs is within reach.

If he decides to freshen up his hotel rooms for the new season he walks straight across the road and around the corner to the hardware shop to buy his paint. No weekend trek for him to a Greek Woodies to buy supplies. Not for him, either, the daily work commute through traffic hell. His work is where he puts his feet when he steps out of bed every morning.

It's a small life. But a good one.

For what's not to like about a life that affords you the opportunity to be your best self, to live as part of a community, and, within a two-minute walk of your house, to be able to get your hair cut, buy all the fresh food you need, see the doctor, get a tooth filled, go to church, or a parent-teacher meeting, and buy a book, or a dress, or a hammer and nails?

And maybe it explains something else too. For if you take a wander in the beautiful, little cemetery in this small, Greek town, you'll be struck by something as you walk among the flower-strewn graves. That so many local men and women lived well into their 90s and beyond.

So less, it seems, is definitely more - in all the ways that really matter.

Irish Independent

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