In a year when the 'staycation' became the new normal, my family and I decided to head to Greece for some sun and a change of scene. We didn't anticpate the adventure that awaited us and the lessons to be learned. 
We were one of the few British families that decided to go abroad in summer 2021. Our friends were heading to the Norfolk Broads, Devon and Cornwall or were planning elaborate camping trips around the UK. We, on the other hand, decided to take a risk and get out of the country, just for a couple of weeks. Our friends looked on in masked horror as we booked our trip to the sun. "What are they thinking?!!" 
We both felt like we needed to escape the cabin fever of our home after 18 months of being confined to barracks. I’m self-employed and my husband is a, now home-based, Financial Advisor. During the first lockdown, most of my work disintegrated and my regular trips to client site ebbed away like dirty bath water down a plug hole. Any work now had to be delivered on Zoom or Teams, so my, once retreat-like, office became more of a prison. My husband’s company shut his office and so he too was shackled to his home office and a stream of virtual meetings that meant hours at a desk.  
I think it is fair to say that this experience had changed our perspective and we needed time away to re-set. We both felt exhausted from the virtual merry go round and needed to get off, just for a short while. We decided to head to Rhodes, Greece for an all inclusive fortnight. This wouldn’t have been our usual choice but we wanted something easy and even used a travel agent for the first time in years. My husband completed the necessary paperwork and off we went. Intrepid explorers in covid masks. 
After an uneventful journey, we arrived at our hotel in Rhodes Town. All seemed fairly normal apart from mask wearing in communal areas and the use of plastic gloves, of all customers, in the restaurant. This slightly bizarre state of affairs became normal very quickly and we didn't let it stop us enjoying our stay. It was amazing to feel the sun on our skin, to walk on the beach and feel like our only agenda was relaxation. We set out on having a low-key holiday with the sole intention of recharging our batteries.  
As our vacation came to the last few days our eldest daughter complained that she had sore eyes and cold-like symptoms. We immediately did a lateral flow test and it was negative. We were relieved and assumed it was a cold. A couple of days later and we were due to have another lateral flow test to get the necessary documentation to come home. Two nurses visited the hotel and conducted the testing. My huband had his test - negative, my youngest daughter - negative, me - negative and then my eldest duaghter. It was positive. We looked at each other in horror. They did another test - positive again. Panic set in but we tried to keep calm. I could see the tears in my daughter's eyes and my heart went out to her. The nurses calmly told us that they needed to do a PCR test and send it to the lab. They tried their best to console my daughter but there was a feeling of the inevitable. We were advised to go back to our room and not leave until we had the test results. As my daughters had been sharing a room, we thought it best that our youngest came in with us and our eldest stay in the other room on her own. This was such a hard decision but we didn't want to increase the chance of infection. This would have been our last night on the island, but instead of sipping cocktails and taking in the sights, we would be watching the clock and our phones for test results... By 1am we knew. She was positive. We wouldn't be going home tomorrow.  
We were now in a state of ignorance. What would happen to us? When? Would a rapid-action force smash the door down, grab us, bundle us into the back of a van in hasmat suits and take us to a top-secret facility? We didn't know. We informed the front desk and ask that they inform the manager. They were very kind and compassionate and said they would deal with it. They also said they would bring breakfast to our rooms and not to worry. We packed and awaited the call and at 12.30 it came. "Get your things together. A special taxi is coming to collect you and take you to the covid hotel." We were informed that the Greek government would pay for our accomodation and food during the 'extended stay'. My eldest daughter was legally obliged to quarantine for 10 days and my youngest for 7. My husband and I did not have to quarantine, but clearly had to stay with the kids. 
The view from our balcony - fig trees and vines 
We made a swift and discreet exit from the resort and were driven twenty minutes away to a hotel under the flight path, near the airport. Clearly, this hotel had been comissioned by the government to house tourists needing to quarantine. There was an abandoned sadness about the place. The pool was empty and cordoned off, the reception staff were behind thick plastic screens and clearly wanted us to get to our rooms as quickly as possible. Our eldest had her own room next to ours and by this time she was unwell. She felt like she had a bad cold, couldn't taste anything and was very lethargic. She has type 1 diabetes and we were worried how covid would impact her blood sugar. We were told that we had to stay in our rooms for the duration of our stay. When we entered our room, reality hit home. This wouldn't be an extension to our holiday. There wouldn't be fun around the pool or cocktail hour. There would be quarantine. Anyone who set foot off the premises would be fined 5,000 Euro. The locals knew this was a covid hotel and would call the authorities if anyone 'escaped'. 
Our room was 'basic' and reminded me of the sort of place I holidayed as a student. It was a bit grubby and sad and not somewhere you would choose to spend 24 hours of every day. Luckily, we were on the ground floor and we could see the mediterranean and the Turkish mainland from our window. It was a beautiful view. We could look but not experience it. Honestly, it felt like a cross between a lepper colony and Big Brother house.  
The first twenty four hours were the worst for me. I had to realised that I had no control over the situation and I would have to make the best of it. I felt anxious and cried several times throughout the day and night. This was a no frills experience, as it should be. There was no tv available, apart from Greek programmes and BBC World Service. Initally, all I could see was what was wrong with the situation. The dreary room, the itchy blankets on the bed, the lack if stimulus, the shady balcony, the lack of freedom. After 24 hours I decided to use my time wisely - I read, listened to lots of podcasts and reflected whilst I had the time. When would I have a week to think about myself, my future, what I want for myself, my family and my business? Maybe this experience was a gift in disguise?  
As the week progressed I experienced life through a new lens and this fresh perspective will stay with me for a long time. What did I learn? 
1) There is so much kindness in the world - If you listened to the news, you wouldn't believe this statement but what we experienced during our trip told another story. The kind nurse who tried to soothe a frightened teenager, the restaurant staff who brought breakfast to our room, the employees in the covid hotel who went shopping for us to get some items to make our stay more pleasant, the hotel gardener who picked fresh figs and grapes and gave them to us as a random act of kindess. We experienced much kindness from our Greek hosts and that made such a difference to our experience. For that I am grateful. 
2) My kids are amazing, resilient and positive people - I was inspired by my daughters during our extended stay in Greece. My eldest was sick and felt dreadful but kept mentally strong, even though we weren't physically in the same room. My youngest was locked in a small room with my husband and I with very little entertainment. She could have quite easily sobbed for a week but instead chose to be cheerful, playful and tolerant. My kids were both a case study in positive mindset and for that I am grateful. 
3) Time is a gift - At the beginning of our quarantine I was frantic about re-arranging work commitments and not being able to get home. This situation was gifting me something that I needed but didn't know I wanted. This extra time helped me think and reflect without distraction. It was just me and the view - no agenda, no deadlines, no priorities. For that I am grateful. 
Usually with my blogs I try and give you some points to think about but today I just wanted to tell you a story. Take from it what you will. Am I sorry that we went to Greece? No. It was an adventure and I learned a lot about myself, my family and life. For that I am grateful. 
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