Connecting To Your Roots!
A few months ago, my husband and I made an epic trip to Greece. His parents were Greek and had both immigrated to Canada in the 1950s. While his mom had never gone back, his dad had made a few trips but sadly, Phillip had not had the opportunity to go with his father.
We made the decision about a year ago that we would go in 2017 and so I got to work planning the trip. We knew we were definitely going to his parents' hometowns but the rest was fairly open. It was exciting and slightly nerve wracking to plan a trip to a country that we had not been to before but with the help of family, some friends, a couple of travel apps and a travel agent, we got our 3 week itinerary figured out!
We landed in Thessaloniki, which is the main city in the north of the country. We were beside ourselves when we got there with the idea that we were finally in Greece and the city did not disappoint. We spent 2 days exploring and discovering great little markets and restaurants along their boardwalk area near the water. It was amazing to see Phillip in his parents’ country, speaking the language and communicating with everyone. He says now that his Greek was clumsy but he did a great job!
A few days later, we picked up our rental car and headed to his mother’s hometown of Florina. We could not believe we were on a road trip! Florina is a beautiful town, situated in a very picturesque mountain setting. During our stay there, we spent a lot of time talking about his mom and her brothers and sister, imagining them as children and teenagers, walking along the streets that we were traversing. It was incredible.
Perhaps my most special memory of Greece was when we visited Phillip’s father’s village of Skopia, which was not too far from Florina. We decided to pop in to a small grocery located in the village square to see if there was any recollection of Phillip’s father or his family. A man who worked in the shop spoke to us for a few minutes, then took us to see another person a couple of doors away who spent a couple of minutes chatting with us as well. That gentleman then took us next door to talk to some more people and lo and behold, we met one of Phil’s second cousins!
Over the course of the next few hours, Phil met cousins he had never met before or had not seen since he was a young child. We saw where his grandparents and some other relatives had lived and then we had a wonderful dinner with his family. They were hospitable and lovely.
The rest of the trip was just as wonderful – we visited a resort area called Halkidiki where we met another of Phil’s cousins who he had not met before. We then went on another road trip all the way to Athens and ventured to Crete, Santorini and Mykonos as well – what an extraordinary 3 weeks!
When I was planning our trip, I knew it was going to be special but I don’t think I realized just how special. Greece was beautiful, there is no doubt about that and the people are fiercely proud of their country and their heritage. Seeing Phil connect with family, feel a bond with people he had never met and then become emotional when we left them, even though we had only spent a few hours together, were all moments that will stay with me and with us for a very long time.
To all of you in the Shades of Influence audience, I encourage you to do some travelling and to spend some time exploring and connecting to your roots. You never know what you will find or experience!