Mykonos is one of the places that receives the most direct sunlight in the world. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with it or the above normal oxygen levels but when you’re on the charming island everything heavy seems to disappear. I don’t know if I realized it while jumping from the seventy-foot @PrinceYacht greek vessel into the glistening blue waters with my friends or if it was the first amazing feta filled dinner I had to clinking wine filled glasses, but Greece has this not so subtle way of stealing your heart. It’s almost like spending the best summer of your life with a girl that you know will slip out of your fingers eventually but it was such an incredible time you’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Greece will always leave you wanting more because Greece is generous. Generosity is everywhere. The sunsets are generous… they seem to simply have more colors than anywhere else. If you’ve ever seen them in Santorini then you know that they’re so magnificent they awaken a bit of ache for a longing of heaven because whatever it is you’re watching is otherworldly, as if God was showing you glimpses of what’s to come up there next. The food is generous with its flavors and its abundance; round from the ground and plump from the vine. The people are generous but for them it arises from sincerity and cultural pride. That means they trust you, they give you their best, no hesitations… you are family. Just like that? Yes. They don’t know you and they open their homes and lives. Especially in this disconnected, I’ll text you back two days later generation, this type of authentic look you in the eye, let’s sit down and talk culture is truly rare and refreshing. People share meals, not appointments.
As we filmed Global Child and I asked my Greek soon to be friends what made them most proud of their culture, inevitably I got this word “Philoxenia”. Remember it because it’s important. “Philo-xenia”: Philo comes from the word brother (example: Philadelphia the city of brotherly love) while Xenia means stranger. So, in essence, it means the “stranger is my brother.” Xenia is also the ancient Greek concept of hospitality, the generosity, and courtesy shown to those who are far from home. Ever want to make a Greek smile? Memorize this word: “Philoxenia”. They might not speak English but they’ll know what you’re trying to say.
I remember watching the news years ago in reference to strikes and a flimsy Greek economy and then walking the streets of Athens months later and realizing: “Wait a minute, these people invented democracy, the Olympics and many of the Hellenistic elements of western civilization. They had one of the most important empires ever known to humans and they’re proud and brave.” You know what they also are which is even more important? Kind.
After spending two weeks filming, I returned once more because I’d become good friends with Evangelia who owns one of the best hotels I’ve ever experienced in Delights Mykonos. She invited me as her personal guest. My friend Katerina who runs MykonosTopVillas and a beach clean-up charity invited me to ride on a yacht and spent a couple of days showing me around, Oh! And she graced Camila my co-host and I with an incredible Villa for our stay. My friend Sotiris in Athens took me to visit an orphanage with his two best friends and taught me how to use my camera as we photographed downtown Athens; possibly the most historical place on earth. Tryphon and Erica the best photographers in Santorini organized a special dinner at Andronis one of the top ten restaurants in the world and introduced me to Estate Argyros, the best winery in Greece! Yiota their marketing director invited me to visit Santorini yet again, gave me a gorgeous villa for a week and a car that I accidentally nicked and they covered that bill without me even asking because I was their guest. George from Astra Suites (the best hotel in Santorini) hosted us in their award-winning honeymoon suite in Imerovigli and on and on… The Sea Jets department comped all of our fairy tickets to multiple islands for two trips; my friend Thimios convinced me to explore a bit of Crete with him where we met Athinagoras owner of the epic Royal Marmin Bay who organized a cookout with all his cousins and we danced under the full moon at Elounda Bay and feasted on mountain lamb! I can’t forget about Katerina who worked for Mykonian Mare and hosted me for an unforgettable week! Effie who took me to Chios and taught me about Masticha or Eleni who left me the keys to her beautiful apartment in Athens for the weekend! Honestly, I can’t mention everyone but to my Greek people I love you all!
Look… when you want to visit Greece you will not go wrong because it’s one of the most extraordinary romantic places on planet earth; Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, and Athens. But at the end of the day, the genius of generosity is that there is no better way to make a lasting impression on people than by being generous. What if we could all be more like my Greek friends? I’ll tell you what… the world would definitely be a better place and we’d all have more genuine friends around the world. “Philoxenia”. I was a terrible student in High School and I may have failed Latin, but I’ll sure remember that word for the rest of my life.