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The art of living

How to enjoy yourself? I must be a fairly serious person if I ask myself this question on a regular basis. Or at least, I used to ask myself this question a lot when I was younger. I was never sure how, exactly, to have a good time.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like growing up in the north of the Netherlands but somehow, I always knew, there was a lot more to enjoy on this planet called Earth than a town called Groningen. So as soon as I saved enough money for a vacation abroad I flew to a beautiful island in Greece with my best friend in tow.

Once I landed in Greece it didn’t take long before I met a local guy. This Greek guy became my first love and taught me how to live the good life. We were a couple for four years and, although I promptly fell out of love with him when I met my current husband, he taught me how to live life to the fullest.

It’s hard to describe what was so attractive about his approach to life. For a long time I thought maybe I wasn’t really happy because of him but because of the Mediterranean surroundings we were in. For the first few years we constantly traveled Greece and Italy, so the setting of our romance could not have been better.

But ultimately I realized that the reason behind our good times together wasn’t the good weather or the food—it was the way in which we enjoyed it all. We were pretty broke, but we spent everything we had on special experiences; lobster dinners under the stars, hotel rooms with a view of the sea; cocktails with nine different types of liquor. We dyed our hair bright colors, camped on beaches, and never worried about the future. Ever.

This Greek man lived life so intensely he often skipped sleeping altogether. The first weeks we dated he worked twelve hours a day as a salesman and then partied with me the other twelve. Many times he’d fall asleep as we were talking or driving, rub his blue eyes, smile from ear to ear, and continue doing whatever he was doing.

I saw that his lifestyle, which was all about getting the most out of every day and every situation, endeared him to everyone else. To know him was to love him. When he served his mandatory year in the military—which he deeply resented—he allegedly became the first Greek soldier to ever convince a commander to let him travel abroad for vacation (to visit me).

Even when he was most enraged, he was still a pleasure to be around. Like that time when a cheap airline told him his carry-on bag was too full. He put on every single piece of clothing he had in his suitcase while standing in the middle of the check-in area, complaining loudly for everyone to hear. It was really funny and I honestly don’t think anyone minded the spectacle.

These days are well behind me but I think of them fondly. Sometimes I have a knee-jerk reaction that urges me to take the next plane to Greece or Italy. And I think of ways in which I could totally make that happen. But then I think a little deeper and remember that the art of living (wait, is that a title of a Buddhist book on my Goodreads list?) has nothing to do with being in the Mediterranean—that just happens to be the place where I learned how to have fun.




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