I adore the ocean. The first time I really recognized this fact was Spring Break 1997 when I went to Panama City with a group of friends and my then-boyfriend. He and I got in a big argument (as we were prone to do) and I stumbled out to the beach, crying in the dark.

As I sat there, processing the argument, I began to calm down. I stared out into the black nothing and wondered what was out there in the big ocean. (Turns out, Mexico and Cuba!) I vowed I’d live by the ocean one day.

I do live by the ocean (well, 20 minutes away), but I don’t visit it nearly enough. So I enjoy it when I travel. The irony is that I don’t tend to plan beach vacations (with the exception of going to Maui last year) because I feel like they’re frivolous. All that laying around on the beach when you could be exploring!

Slowing Down on Perissa Beach in Santorini

utopia guest house perissa beach

I decided to split my week in Santorini in two: the first half I spent in the sleepy village of Megalochori and the second half on Perissa Beach. This black sand beach is on the southeastern end of the island. And despite what I expected, it wasn’t overcrowded in late June.

The first afternoon, I walked the long strip along the beach. Delighted with the unusual black stones on the beach, I slipped off my flip flops and walked down to the water. Halfway there, I realized I’d been stupid: walking on hot black rocks in the afternoon sun is never a good decision! But there was a woman sunning herself nearby, and I was too proud to race my way to the water (and I’d left my shoes by the road), so I continued to saunter nonchalantly down before sinking my burnt toes in the water.

I didn’t make that mistake again.

Later that evening, I decided to take advantage of the free beach chair I got with my room rental at Utopia Guesthouse. Once I settled in and ordered a delicious beachy cocktail, something interesting happened.

I began to relax.

I stopped thinking of all the things I wanted to see and do. I watched the waves. I watched women of all body types march around in skimpy bikinis without a self-conscious thought. I read my book.

Then I got in the water, and just like I did in Nice, I laid back and surrendered to the ocean. The rocks didn’t clack-clack in the same way they did in France, but they had things to whisper: give your worries to us. You have nowhere to be but right here.

I only spent a couple of hours on the beach that day, but it set me up for a routine the rest of the week. Every day, in the morning and the early evening, I’d plop down in my chair and just be.

It was heaven.

The Moon Over Perissa

strawberry moon

One evening, after returning from a daylong tour, I walked along the beach and noticed people looking out toward the ocean, pointing and taking photos. I turned and saw the most incredible moon hanging large over the water. It was a sweet red—not deep and bloody like a Blood Moon. It turned out to be a Strawberry Moon, which I’d never heard of.

I sat down on the beach and admired it as it rose in the sky, shrinking in size. The photo doesn’t do it justice; it was much darker in the sky and the moon was, of course, red. But I remember that night in my heart!

The Magic of the Beach

view of perissa beach

I often look for lessons and takeaways from my travels. When I hiked the Dolomiti, I was clearly looking for healing and closure from my divorce. On this trip, I didn’t have any trauma to heal from (hooray!). So I wasn’t sure what I wanted to take away from my trip to Greece and Croatia.

After dropping into the cadence of beach life, I realized that was what I needed. Remembering how to let go of the hold that expectations for my life have on me and just be.

The trick is keeping that lesson close now that I’m back home!