We came to Crete for two reasons. Firstly it was to escape the impending winter, far south enough that it is just about the last place in Europe to see reasonable temperatures as December fast approaches. The second was that after five months of contemplating our future we finally had some goals, and it is much easier to achieve goals when you have some stability.
I am not one for metrics. I hardly ever run races, I never carry a watch, I always struggled at work to relate KPI’s (key performance indicators). It’s odd, at school I loved exam results and report cards – if I’m honest with myself it was probably because my marks were generally pretty good. Perhaps it was when I grew up and realised I was more of a small fish in a big (real world) pond that metrics lost their enamour. For me, the feeling of exposure is analogous to walking naked through a crowd, those failings you work so hard at to hide are out in the open there for all to see. Putting a ‘measure of success’ on activities tends to suck the fun into the ‘Goal Vortex’.
I recently skimmed through the only motivational speaker’s website that I have ever related to. To paraphrase, ‘Goals Are Awful’. You either don’t achieve them and feel like a failure, or you do achieve them and realise that they didn’t actually make you happy. Please don’t assume I am not ambitious, I really am, but defining exactly what my ambition is in and then focussing on that has always been a challenge. I was the kid that did a lot of things pretty well – the extracurricular queen that played the clarinet, joined the school orchestra, took up the saxophone, jazz band, individual sailing, team sailing, netball, school work…the list goes on. But was I ever passionate about any of these, like truly one track minded? No.
I have a new test for passion. ‘If you were to be famous for something, anything, what would it be?‘ all the while remembering that to be famous you have to be an expert, truly top in your field, which means you do nothing else. Some notable examples could include Kim Kardashian, who spends all her waking hours on social media, or rugby super star Richie McCaw, who if the trailer for his movie is anything to go by thinks about nothing but rugby. So have you thought of anything? For some people I know this would be easy, my mother is one of these people, law is her vice (I think my lack of focus likely keeps her up at night). But for me I get nothing. Nada. if I ever do anything enough to get good at it, I soon start to despise it. My engineering degree is case in point.
So Crete is is perhaps less about goals and more about seeking improvement in three things. Running, yoga and bread baking. I possibly should have defined success – but given I’ll never be back in Crete for a month I figured it would be a waste to not enjoy it.
Carrying seven kilograms and having to run 25km or more each day just to reach your bed is not conducive to improving speed. It tests endurance and builds stomach strength when you run straight after lunch, but speed work it is not. We are lucky enough to be staying in Crete’s highest plateau (Lasithi), surrounded by mountains on all sides. We are peak bagging everyday, making up our own trails as there is nothing marked. Our weekly day off summits consists of uphill intervals to build lung capacity and epic thighs! I am actually doing some very loose measurement of my intervals (i.e. how many intervals can I do) and I am reasonably confident I improved on last week’s. I say reasonably because I didn’t actually write anything down and I’m relying somewhat on memory and gut feel.
We are also doing a 30 day yoga challenge, thanks to Tim Senesi an American youtube babe, in preparation for yoga teacher training in January. If I can do an unsupported headstand before I leave I will be one happy camper – something I have been half-heartedly working on for about three years. But for now I am satisfied with the five press ups I did this morning.
And everyday we bake bread. Jeff diligently keeps a spreadsheet of our parameters and progress while I offer verbal encouragement. We are improving, now comfortable with a standard french loaf, and starting to experiment with flavours and snack foods to sell in our bakery. So get ready for some taste sensations!
Sometimes it’s hard to see my progress without keeping score, it can seem like everyday is much like the last. Who knows if I will leave Crete a fast runner, ready for yoga teacher training, or primed to start a bakery. Almost definitely not. But I will enjoy the journey, how could you not living the lazy version of Cretan village life.
Written by Rosie
Also published on Medium.