Solo on Santorini
Being single can be awkward enough on normal days. Yet, being a not-so-normal single gal, I've opted on two occasions to travel solo to Santorini, arguably one of the most romantic destinations in the world.
During my visits to Oia, I sit at restaurants and cafes, enjoying the local cuisine or sipping a glass of wine, as the service staff and paired-off tourists glance at me with curiosity, bewilderment and, sometimes, even pity.
Of course, when I respond to such inquiries by explaining I'm on a writing retreat or doing research for an upcoming novel, the looks of pity melt away and their curiosity is not only satisfied but heightened to a new level. Some choose to forget about the small talk they'd been having with their partner in order to spontaneously rope me into a game of 20 Questions. The other day, one local shopkeeper became so excited to discover the purpose of my visit that she hugged me with great enthusiasm, as if she'd just met her favourite celebrity.
On top of all this, as a single, foreign woman, I seem to be like catnip for the single Greek men spending the season slaving away doing double shifts seven days a week at the countless restaurants in town. Coming across me alone at a table in Oia's only bar is like their reward at the end of a hard day, and they take full advantage of the opportunity.
Or, at least, they try. (smirks)
It's not that I don't like all of the attention. In most moments, I relish being the oddball tourist on this island, free to wander the town without someone in tow. But my status, it seems, and the reaction to it is becoming almost as cliche as the couples I see walking around town and stuffing their faces on every terrace.
There are the newly-married couples, whose constant public displays of affection make me feel like I'm being forced to watch a really cheesy chick flick. The couples celebrating their anniversaries in Oia are far more tolerable, but still off in their own little, lovestruck worlds. Either that, or they've spent a fortune on the celebratory trip, eating at the best restaurants and staying at the most swanky villa rentals, only to spend most of their shared moments on their cell phones or tablets instead of actually enjoying each other's company. This is always sad to witness.
The newest cliche to arrive on Santorini is the well-to-do, soon-to-be-married Asian couple that flies all the way to Greece to have a jam-packed pre-honeymoon complete with portraits in formal wear taken at every single vista point around Oia.
Lastly, of course, are the couples that arrive via a giant cruise ship anchored in the caldera. These retirement-age couples, and even a few who look like they should be back at the retirement home instead of on uneven pedestrian walkways in Greece, arrive on tour buses in packs and clog Oia's main drag by walking along at a glacial pace.
As the standout, single tourist in Oia, I watch all of these stereotypes go by or dine next to me each day. And as they flash me yet another look of pity, I smile to myself and think of how glad I am to be single and free in the most beautiful place I've ever seen. I don't need a man sitting across from me in order to enjoy my meal, or one to put his arm around me to help me realize how glorious the sunset is; I come here to find peace, and peace is exactly what I find.
P.S. I fully acknowledge that possibly facing 40 years of trips like this, during which I have no one to talk to, share meals with and fall asleep next to, is a rather lonely way of life. Perhaps I should reconsider the value of having someone in tow.