RHODES, Greece- My wife has her external battery plugged in. I’m looking at it. It looks like a canister of lipstick. A little yellow light indicates that it’s charging. It used to be mine. I ordered it on Amazon for ten bucks. It’s from China and, if established patterns are anything to go off of, it will probably explode someday.
I went outside and repaired the holes in the front yard that my daughters made pretending to be archaeologists.
We’re leaving Rhodes and I am sad. My wife is sad too. My kids are also sad. Nobody wants to leave.
I came to Greece to hide out for a month. Asia was getting a little too loaded — so much information to collect, not enough time to process it all. I needed a break. So I went to Rhodes — an island off the coast of Turkey where I don’t really have many established research interests. It was my plan that this would enable me to sit back, look out the window, and just write, finish videos, and get caught up. I had my quota at Forbes to clear, a feature for The Guardian, a short article for Modus Magazine, a short doc about fishermen in Penang, and, yes, the New Silk Road book.
I did this work — well, a decent chunk of it — but didn’t really have much time to look around. While this was fully by design, it still didn’t sit well with me — as I was packing up and getting ready to leave I thought of all the projects that I didn’t do. I really could have made some videos about small town Greek island life, there was an interesting barber / artist in Ialysos, a handmade, traditional leather goods manufacturing operation down the road …
But I always feel like this when leaving a place no matter what.
Collecting content is always a trade off. For each project that you go out in the streets and collect content for you essentially commit to sitting in a room to process it into articles, videos, and books. The processing always takes more time than the gathering, which is the underlaying irony of travel writing:
It’s mostly done in a room, alone.
If you don’t go out into the streets you don’t have a story but if you don’t sit in the room you also don’t have a story.
There needs to be a balance, but I don’t believe anybody has has ever found it yet. All traveling writers complain about this.
The car is packed. Everybody is ready to go. I’m standing outside the house ready to lock the door. Where is Petra?
“She’s inside doing yoga.”
“What do you mean she inside doing yoga? We’re leaving.”
“She’s stressed out about going.”
Petra freaks out a little on go-days, but after we’re into it she calms down into this sort of lucid state and starts looking around and engaging whatever’s around her. She’s good at this.
The rental car deal ended peacefully. I feel a little foolish. I wrote this right after I picked the car up:
This deal was sketchy from the start. Not only was the price over twice as cheap as everyone else –$225 for a one month rental — but everything about what was happening told me to expect some kind of scam.
After meeting the guy who runs the company my confidence did not rise at all. In an odd move, I opted to get additional insurance. It was pretty clear that I would not be getting my 1,200 Europe deposit back if I didn’t. Also, the guy promised that if I got the insurance he wouldn’t even look over the car when I returned it — that was his big selling point.
Greeks have this interesting way of communicating where it’s virtually impossible to know if they’re scamming you or if they’re just Greek. The booming voices, exaggerated arm movements, and incessant attempts to ensure you that the deal is good all seem very similar to the moves that you would normally attribute to conmen and rip-off artists anywhere in the world. However, in Greece people talk like this when discussing the weather.
I called up the rental car company the day before and explained that my flight wasn’t until 6pm and I asked if I could bring the car back late. They guy said no problem and that he would give me three hours for free. When I returned the car to their station a guy came out, didn’t look for any damage, got in the driver’s seat, and drove me to the airport.
Exactly like they said.
Read Petra’s take on this.