All I knew was that I was in need of holiday that involved sun, sea and good food. I couldn’t shake Greece from my mind, even though I had never been. I was planning on an all-inclusive trip with a friend who could no longer join me so I had to think of options for going alone.
The costs of an all-inclusive deal for one person were astronomical and I knew, in my heart that it wasn’t what I was really after. “Have you thought about going somewhere else?” a couple of friends asked when I lamented over my Greece plans falling apart. I couldn’t shake the sense of being drawn there, like Odysseus to the Sirens.
“If you want to go to Greece, you should just make it happen”, said another friend and I thought, you know what? She’s right!
I thought of everyone I know who has/had been to Greece and contacted someone I know spends a lot of time there. The only thing she could think of was that the Kalikalos centres in the Pelion region would be finishing their seasons and there might be opportunities to go there to help pack up centres.
I contacted Jock to ask about availability and five days later I was on a plane to Thessaloniki.
It turned out that the week I was Kalikalos Kissos, there was one final workshop, so packing down the centre wouldn’t begin in earnest until the following week. Nevertheless I had a wonderful week working as a staff member.
At first I found the idea of living in community daunting. What skills could I possibly bring to the table? How would I be useful and not get in the way?
After the initial worrying, my fears were set aside. It felt so easy to become part of the community. I really enjoyed working together on kitchen tasks like making breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not being a cook myself, I was able to learn a lot of new skills, especially as one of our group turned out to be a Cordon Bleu trained chef! It was a great opportunity to live so closely with other people who have different values and ideas, all working together towards the same goal.
Other tasks involved keeping the property and grounds in tip top condition, gardening, taking down the unused tents and helping with admin duties like registration and petty cash. A key lesson I learnt is that work can be fun, especially done collectively.
Every afternoon we were invited to go one of the three beautiful beaches, a fifteen minute car journey away. Staff are given one full day off a week. I had originally planned to go to the beach on my day off but instead took advantage of the beautiful mountain landscape and village of Kissos and went on a long, relaxing walk, looking out across the Aegean Sea.
The weekly “Taverna Night” was a great chance to meet people from the other centres and learn what everyone has planned between now and next May when the centres resume their workshops.
As the week progressed there was definitely a sense that the season was coming to a close, which was high-lighted as people left and more and more wildlife and nature encroached on the centre.
My wonderful week at Kalikalos was only enough to get a glimpse of what the centre is capable of when at full capacity and the range and breadth of workshops on offer.
I definitely plan to return again for much longer. Until then, I carry the sound of the cicadas and gentle waves with me.
Sophia C. — London
I spent five weeks at Kalikalos this summer – three weeks at Alexandros, a week at Kissos and a week at Anilio.
The toughest by far was Alexandros. The centre itself is very comfortable – the group room is airy and light, with a pristine wooden floor. The bathrooms are wonderful – in fact all the rooms are very nice, thought I didn’t much fancy the tents. And you can walk to the beach and to the local beach resort Agios Yannis rather than needing a lift by car.
I was working as an Facilitator in Residence, so I was offering sessions, running the odd group workshop and also doing at least two and a half hours a day working in the community. And attending a staff meeting each day as well. There was a lot to do, but that was fine. What I found tricky was how stressed the core staff are – the slightest problem became a big drama. As a guest, you would hardly be affected by this, but as staff… it was very challenging. Of course, we all create our own reality, and I am also responsible for this situation, and what was good for me was having to stand up for myself – that was my gift, my learning.
Second I went to the Kissos centre – on the edge of the village of the same name. It’s a stunning village – more beautiful than I had anticipated. I enjoyed being able to wander around there, and also to visit a magical sacred pool about 20 minutes walk down a track into the woods. I was at Kissos as a guest, doing a raw food week which was interesting. Included in the price was a personal growth workshop each morning – but that was not so much my cup of tea. Not that I don’t like personal growth – I live in Totnes and am practically addicted! But the style of what we did and the facilitator jarred for me. However I enjoyed my time at Kissos, and I felt appreciated and acknowledged by Jock, the founder of the whole project, who invited me to come back and lead a workshop next year.
And then I went to Anilio, which turned out to be my favourite of the three centres. It’s much scruffier than Alexandros, but much more relaxed. I had stimulating conversations most evenings, made some lovely connections and had fun. I was doing an art workshop which I also enjoyed – four hours making art every day is a treat for me. Anilio is run by two women, Pip and Julia, and I think it is their level of emotional intelligence that makes the place work so well. I also liked the fact that it was in more of a natural setting – they have perhaps a couple of acres of land and there are lovely places to hang out like a yurt and a ‘sanctuary’… and I gather that next year there will be some kind of treehouse or platform.
It’s now my last day, and I won’t really know how my stay at Kalikalos has affected me until I get back into my daily life at home. I won’t pretend that it hasn’t been challenging, but I believe that has also been very growthful. I have had to speak my truth and stand my ground more than in my daily life at home, and that has been really good for me. And I feel immense gratitude for the opportunity to grow in this way.
I think for me the downside to the project is that beach time is usually 2.30-5.30 and that is just too hot for someone fair-skinned like myself. So my trips to the sacred pool in Kissos were my most nourishing experiences in nature, rather than going to the beach. If I were to come back and run a workshop… I would love to find a way to get to the beach earlyish in the morning, or early evening… where I could gradually go golden brown rather than red like a lobster in the afternoon Greek sun!
One of the things that inspires me about the project is that Jock started it with very little money. None of the centres is owned by Kalikalos – all the properties are rented. This of course brings its own challenges – rents to pay, negotiations over repairs… But it also demonstrates that it’s possible to create an amazing project like this with minimal capital. Financial constraints needn’t be a limitation.
I also appreciated the balance of work and personal growth. Work is grounding for me and it is also a magical experience when you feel clear with other community members and clear about what you are doing. It can then be an experience of being while you are doing, of expressing your love in the world and of belonging and participating. I think this is what many of us come here looking for… and Kalikalos affords an opportunity to try to do this, and also to clear the blocks that get in the way.
Sapphira de la Terre lives in Totnes where she offers groups and 1-2-1 sessions using EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique. She specialises in embodied spiritual awakening, feminine empowerment and conflict resolution in community. www.sapphira.com.
Written by Anya Owen – a semi-Scottish student from the “mainstream”
When I first spoke of my plans for the summer, my friend recoiled. “You’re going to a commune?” he said.
“Er, not really.” How could I explain this properly?
It’s true – the ethos of the Kalikalos network is really hard to explain, especially to people who haven’t experienced it before. I always have trouble articulating its goals, without drawing on the “homeopathic drumming circle” image that usually comes to mind whenever I speak about it. The holistic ethos can be quite scary, apparently.
I learned this on my first night in Alexandros. A guest had brought her Diet Coca-Cola to enjoy at the dinner table, and she was genuinely shocked when she learned that Diet Coca-Cola contained harmful ingredients. Genuinely. She didn’t like the idea that her drink wasn’t considered healthy. Of course, health is only one of the underpinning values of the Kalikalos network, operating alongside the values of sustainability and community.
Community is a strange thing. Why is it so strange, really, to eat together, cook together, laugh together, in all moments of the day? Why does it make me uncomfortable when I learn that we have a shared responsibility to take care of our surroundings? Why is it so foreign to me that I could share my feelings, of all things? Yet, it does not feel strange at all. Not here, anyway. Here, it is the norm to explore together and laugh together, and it is the norm to be democratic in our interactions. It is very normal to want to take care of the environment around us, and to want to take care of each other. The compassion in this community is integrated in every movement, in every action.
It’s quite refreshing.
Hopefully – after my ten weeks in paradise are up – I can learn to integrate these values in my life back at home, in Glasgow. Health, sustainability, community.
I can try to articulate this with all my might, but really, maybe it would be better to invite you to join in, and you can see for yourself.