A life of endless traveling. Sounds great, doesn’t it! We travel around the world, see unique places and astonishing destinations, every day is different and time doesn’t seem to exist. We don’t have many possessions (everything we own is in our backpacks) so we don’t have much to worry about. A dream! But changing places everyday eventually gives us an overload of sensations. It’s sometimes good to stay for a while in one place and give ourselves the time to absorb rather than superficially seeing everything from a distance.
I started to need a break. In the past five years of my travel life I had the habit to stick around in a place for a few months. It gave me the opportunity to get to know my surroundings. HelpX is an excellent way to do this. With this community you can stay everywhere in the world in the home of people. In exchange for a few hours of daily work they give you food and accommodation. You often learn new skills and experience a different way of living. It’s also a great way to learn more about a country and the culture.
Through the website of Helpx we found a nature park in Crete (an island of Greece) where the owners needed help caring for the animals while the park was closed. They needed helpers who could work independently and didn’t mind to being alone and living in a caravan. That’s exactly what we were looking for! We contacted the owners and two weeks later we took the ferry from Athens to Crete.
The nature park Biotopoi is located just outside the Cretan city Rethymno. It is surrounded by mountains, olive trees and has a fantastic view on the Aegean sea. Biotopoi is a small park where visitors explore the exotic fauna and flora of Crete. Our task was to maintain the park and care for the cats, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, chameleons, turtles and iguana.
We were living on a little cloud. At seven o’clock in the morning we woke up with the sound of the crowing roosters. The chickens and cats were already waiting for us outside our caravan. While feeding the chickens, we heard the cheerful wheeking of the guinea pigs. They already knew their breakfast was getting served soon. What a great way to start the day when you’re being greeted like this every morning! The chickens laid many eggs so every day we made ourselves a fresh omelet. The only one who was a bit moody in the morning was our neighbour Freddy. He lived in the van next to our caravan. Every time I would bring him fresh lettuce with apples and avocado, he tried to bite or whip me. A good thing I didn’t want to cuddle him. He needed time to get to know me. Not everybody loves strangers like I do. Oh, did I forgot to mention Freddy’s an iguana?
We lived peacefully in our own rhythm in the park. We enjoyed the fresh sea breeze and the isolated life. We were nearly the whole time alone, with the animals as our only companions. Quality time in nature! Nothing beats the silence and the purring of two happy cats on your lap. The only thing that disturbed our peace sometimes, were the sneeze attacks of Myti. The poor cat had a chronic nose infection (that’s where she got her name ‘Myti’ which means nose in Greek) and whenever she sneezed, we had to watch out not to get covered in green slime. It definitely caused a lot of laughter, ugly faces and extra laundry!
Daily routine in Biotopoi was simple and brought me out of my mind and back into my body. During the first days in Crete it seemed like a part of myself was still somewhere in Europe and had to catch up with me. By staying in the same place for a little while, it felt like I became myself again. One of the daily tasks was a good practice to return to the here and now: hunting for grasshoppers! The chameleons in the park lived in a big cage and always had enough plants and flowers to eat. But every now and then they needed some meat. Their favorite dish was grasshopper but those insects are smart enough not to jump into the cages. Armed with a little butterfly net we searched for grasshoppers in the olive tree fields. It was hard to detect them in the long grass. If I wasn’t focused, they cheerfully jumped by me and then I had to disappoint the chameleons. I discovered a new mindfulness training: the grasshopper meditation!
No matter how our daily life looks like, it’s important to sometimes take a break from it. A busy job, a family, studies, traveling,… How fun or hard the daily activities are, they can ask a lot of energy. It’s good to stop in between and allow ourselves to process the external input. And if you don’t like to sit quietly in a chair or meditate, try to catch some grasshoppers! I’m sure you’ll practice mindfulness with a smile!
How do you like taking a break?