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Five things I've learnt from living on a Greek island

A chance conversation led author and photographer Claire Lloyd from a hectic life in London to the Greek island of Lesvos, where she finally found what she was looking for - a sense of peace and the return of her creative drive

by Psychologies

1. STOP AND LISTEN

I’ve learnt that all people have a story to tell if you are willing to stop and listen. Walking around the village I find people want to stop and say hi. They want to share things with you, their thoughts their food and a laugh. It’s always worth stopping and tuning in.

Now I am more aware of this I tend to use it further afield, in big cities. It’s amazing what you can learn about people.

2. BEING IN NATURE

I didn’t realise the importance of the outdoors and nature was for me until I went to live on Lesvos. I was brought up in Australia where as children we were encouraged to play outside, we also played a lot of sport.

When I was a teenager the sport continued and I added trips to the beach every weekend with my friends. It was a ritual no matter what the weather to meet up at the beach. The boys would surf and the girls would swim and hang out. As I moved into my twenties I spent a lot of time travelling in a kombi camper van with my then surfie boyfriend. We would camp out and cook under the stars - it was wonderful. When I left Australia for London in the early 1980s my life changed completely and I put things I loved – the big outdoors, the surfing trips the beach and the camping – on the back burner. I really did deprive myself without realising it.

Moving to Greece has reminded me to get out there, walk, swim or just sit in nature and listen to the birds. Looking up into the vast night sky with its twinkling stars reminds me of my size in the universe.

3. DOING ONE THING YOU LOVE EVERY DAY

When you wake in the morning I think it’s worth thinking of at least one thing a day you love doing and setting aside some time to do it. Even if you feel you are to busy you can always make time to do something you love. The benefits are vast and it proves to yourself, you’re worth it!

Since I've lived on Lesvos I seem to be busier than ever. I have written, designed and photographed a book. My partner artist, Matthew Usmar Lauder, and I care, rescue and re-home dogs and cats – which is incredibly time consuming and demanding. We have a guesthouse and there are the every day tasks that no matter where you live you can’t escape. I now realise just how important it is to make time to do something you love even if it’s just laying on your back and looking at the sky for 10 minutes a day.

4. LEARN SOMETHING

Do something you have never done before. My choice was learning to speak Greek. Now this well and truly takes me out of my comfort zone. Language has never been a strong point. I have always been strong visually and I find language incredibly hard. Because of my visual strength I find reading the letters much easier than anything else.

I am also a perfectionist and only want to do something if I can do it really well. I have had to learn to relax a bit with my Greek. There are days where I am so frustrated I could cry and on the odd occasion I do. But then there are other days when it’s joyful.

Thanks to my beautiful Greek teacher Elpida, I am now coming to terms with the fact that there is no rush, there are no exams and I can take it as slowly as suits me. I am determined and I will not give up.

5. FURRY FRIENDS

I have never been a huge fan of pets. I loved our cat Sooty who came into our lives when I was 11, and also a cat called Kitty who adopted Matthew and I when we lived in Notting Hill, London. I have never had a dog.

Since living here in Greece my life has completely changed. Matthew and I have found ourselves caring, loving and re-homing the many waifs and strays that have come through our gates over the last 7 years. We have sent dogs as far as Chicago and as close as Holland. It’s an enormous job and there never seems to be an end to it.

I have really benefited from all of the furry friends that have come our way. Animals are so undervalued and are the best friends in the world, their love and loyalty is unconditional. I get so much pleasure keeping up with the dogs and their new owners. To see them happy and loved is the best thing in the world especially since some of them have come from the most appalling conditions. My pristine clothes are now always completely covered in dog and cat fur, my friends laugh but I would not have it any other way.

You don’t have to live on a Greek island to benefit from any of the things I have learnt from actually living there. Perhaps what I have found may act as a shortcut for you to implement into your own life. I’m not suggesting a language it could be dancing lessons, painting or cooking classes. If it’s not practical to own a pet then visit someone who has one and enjoy getting to know it. Think about what you love and find time whether it be 10 minutes or an hour.

Find tIme for people, especially your friends. The most important thing though, is to live life and live it with enthusiasm and love.

My Greek Island Home by Claire Lloyd (Clearview, £25) is published on 21 April

Photograph: Claire Lloyd

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