This is an updated version of a diary entry I wrote in Athens during September 2016, shortly after leaving Eden.
Greece is an amazing place! I felt comfortable and relaxed, but also inspired to think about which way to go next and what I might be able to do in future — looking back, I was still running high on adrenaline from the show and the circumstances of my departure.
Even at the time, I knew I was too excited and bouncy, and starting to drain the people around me. Plans for travel and adventures raced through my mind: A good friend owns a farm in Canada where I could stay and work; I could teach at another friend’s school in China; or spend time in Finland with my ice hockey connections.
My excitement was clouding my judgement and controlling my thinking, but I wasn’t being practical. Those ideas would take resources, and I was desperately short of funds after Eden.
It took a conversation with my dear friend Mark de Rond to ground me. I’ve spent a lot of time with Mark over the last few years, and after sharing the experience of rowing the Amazon river he has come to know me better than anyone. He is also a wise and brilliant man, unfailingly selfless, and I trust him to always tell me the truth.
Mark suggested a pragmatic and inspiring new direction, pointing out that there was plenty I could do in Greece to help others over the next few weeks and months while waiting to understand what happens with Eden. Not ‘adventure’ in the way that I had been thinking, but Mark urged me to seek a less self-absorbed (and costly) experience.
I discussed the notion with my partner’s mother. She nodded thoughtfully and made a call to a family friend in Hydra, who regularly goes to Lesbos to help with the young children that are coming across from Turkey daily. She kindly offered me accommodation, support, and safety in an area that I don’t know, so we could both find out if I was cut out for the work
That evening at a barbeque I was introduced to two young children from a local children’s home, who insisted I show them videos on my laptop to explain my experiences. I did this, gladly as I’m very proud of many of my adventures. I was then asked to help prepare food and so I dragged the kids into the kitchen to get involved. The language barrier was a challenge so body language was vital as we got our hands dirty making vegetable burgers — and some sneaky cookies while the adults weren’t looking.
I was delighted to see smiles and confidence start to show on their faces, as they copied my actions, adopted my hammock as their own, and I even let them in on the secret handshake that Raf and I use (we have a secret handshake!).
Work to inspire children is a wonderful thing, and small interactions can make huge developmental changes in their outlook on life. I’m acutely aware that these can be both positive AND negative and that’s a huge responsibility.
I was decided, the next chapter would not be more hiding out with friends, or the Continuing Adventures of Anton. I would immerse myself fully into Greece and use this period of my life to on to understand human need more than personal need. The coming months would be the time to continue my journey of self-improvement and start to understand the world a bit more and hopefully help in some way.