Santorini (Epilogue) | 5. The Art of Living a Life without Regret

I know that I’ve been postponing this for quite some time. A part of myself refused to say an official ‘goodbye’ to Santorini—thus, I found it difficult to actually sit down in front of my computer and write this last part; the epilogue. Finally, I’m writing this from Almaty, Kazakhstan, somewhere in the midst of the mysterious charm of Central Asia. An encounter with someone here a few days ago reminded me of a conversation I had with G inside the car on my last day in Santorini, when he drove me to the airport.

It’s all about living a life without regret. A life worth celebrating.

“I love my job, I love what I do. I get to talk and meet with a lot of interesting people,” said G that cloudy morning. “But I don’t like money. Really, I hate money. That’s why I spend it. I travel around the world and spend loads of money. I even invite my friends to come along with me. Then I go back here, without money, and start working again. But it’s been an amazing life. You know, if I should die today, I have no regret. The business is running well, I know that my family will be alright without me. My father, my mother, they are doing fine. And I am happy, Hanny. If I die today, I will die happily. I will die a happy man.”

The following week, I received a reply from AP about the thank-you note I’ve written for the great meal and the great service I’ve experienced in his tavern. “Honey, I’m really happy because you’re the proof of all the hard work and efforts we make everyday to be everything-perfect! We see our customers as friends first,” wrote AP. “We’re learning, from generation to generation, to give our best. To be hospitable. And to do everything with love. One baklava is waiting for you, so come again as soon as possible!”

And what about those guys who came up with the lovely Atlantis Books in Oia? If you’ve read their stories in my previous post, you’ll see that it all started with nothing but love and passion.

If there’s any secret ingredient to live a life without regret, that must be it. Love. To do things that you love, and to do things that you might not love that much with a lot of love. It’s about seeing people that you love happy and content. It’s about radiating the love inside of you, which in turn will make people around you feel accepted and comfortable. You do not judge. You do not compare. You do not count. You have no fixed plans. You seize the day and grab the opportunity. You never wish that you said ‘hello’ because you always do. You connect. You smile. You laugh. You flow. You love. You live.

Should you have the opportunity to visit Santorini one day, please come and meet these gorgeous souls who understand the art of living a life without regret:

  • George Katsipis | Villa Evgenia Hotel in Fira, Santorini. Ranked #1 of 25 specialty lodging in Fira by TripAdvisor (that’s what love can do). If you’re at the reception area, look for an owl postcard on the customer’s board: that’s mine!
  • Alexandros Passaris | Petros Fish Tavern in Oia, Santorini. Enjoy the tasty grilled fish while admiring the sunset view by the ocean.
  • Oliver, Craig, Tim, Maria and Chris | Atlantis Books in Oia, Santorini.


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Santorini | 4. Romance in a Bookshop

Wherever I go, I always find myself being drawn by tiny old-looking bookshop. Of course, gigantic bookstores like Kinokuniya or Taipei’s 7-storey high Eslite are amazing and jaw-dropping. But there’s always something romantic about a small bookshop. You can sense this personal touch, you can more or less gauge the characteristics of the owner. All the things he/she sell is a reflection of who he/she is: the title of the books, the way the bookshop is decorated, the shelving system, the items being displayed behind the window, the way he/she greets people… each and every little details convey a story.

Santorini holds two precious little bookshop I adore so much. The hidden jewel (just like what its name suggest), Atlantis Books in Oia and Books & Style in Fira—not far from the bus station (the owner of the bookshop is the one who gave me Karagkiozis wooden puppet as a gift, and I gave him a bottle of Vinsanto as a parting gift before I left).

Atlantis Books is a true hidden treasure. You could miss it easily as you walked by those colorful tiny shops in Oia’s alleyways. But I always think that I’m a bookshop owner in my past life. Books are calling me. Bookshops are my sanctuary. And that’s how I found Atlantis Books that windy afternoon, climbed down the stairs to their magical blue door, and as I stepped in, I realized: heaven must look like this.

When it comes to books and reading, I love it the traditional way. Looking at those crumpled cover, caressing the flipped pages, reading the notes written on the side of the page with a pencil, laughing at the coffee stains, smelling the damp paper—vintage books get me high! And Atlantis Books is heaven because they have these vintage collections and some classic’s first editions. True gem.

The story behind this bookshop—as appear in their official site, is even more romantic:

“In the spring of 2002, Oliver and Craig spent a week on the island of Santorini. The land inspired them and there was no bookshop, so they drank some wine and decided to open one. Oliver named it Atlantis Books and the two laughed about how their children would run it someday. In England, Tim took Craig for a walk along the Sussex coast. Craig told Tim about the bookshop and Would he like to build it. Tim said Great!

For a year the idea percolated as Craig and Oliver went about graduating from university. Around his thesis deadline Craig called Chris and talked about the bookshop. Chris said Can I come?

An email from Jenny went like this: Maria and Craig, I’m introducing you both. Maria, Craig’s going to Paris in December and thence to Santorini. Craig, Maria is from Cyprus and is English Literature & bookshop employee extraordinaire. Love you both, J.

The four boys and Maria devoted six months to saving money, finding books, settling debts, writing and reading and thinking. Tim borrowed a van named Danny. Will offered to design a website and a wave logo and said Could I come along.

New Year’s Morn, Quinn packed Danny, waved us off and we ploughed across the continent and landed in Oia. We found an empty building facing the sunset, drank some whiskey and signed a lease. We found a dog and cat, opened a bank account, applied for a business license, found some friends, built the shelves, landed a boat on the terrace and filled the place with books. Jenny came in April and painted everything blue.

Atlantis Books opened in the spring of 2004 and lived below the castle for one year. In the winter of 2005  we moved into the center of town and settled nicely into the community. We’ve had food festivals and film festivals, writers reading on the terrace, and a host of cats and dogs.

The bookshop feels like home now and we’re still laughing about how our children will run it someday. As Will says, it’s as easy as that. As you. As that.”

Books & Style is nostalgic in its own humble way. It reminds me of the little bookshops in my hometown where my parents used to take me. Apart from some lovely postcards, they have children’s corner (where I found the Greek edition of The Little Prince to complete my friend’s The-Little-Prince-book collection), wooden souvenirs, as well as recipe books. But what I love the most is the watercolour paintings and the vintage-looking tin cans/boxes. They are so beautiful!

I’m still holding on to this all-time dream: to open up a small bookshop with a small cafe inside it (and I always believe that I’ll meet my soul-mate in a bookshop!). Wish me luck!


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