I ended up living in Greece during COVID as I came to Naxos indefinitely in October 2020. At the time, there was a travel corridor between the UK and Greece. (I wrote about my experience of travelling during a pandemic here.) Shortly after I arrived, Greece went into its second, nation-wide lockdown. In this post, I’ll show you what it’s been like for me living on a Greek island during COVID and lockdown two.
Returning to Greece during the pandemic
I visited Greece in October while I had a break between housesits. From July, I’d been in back to back housesits, but then everything got a bit uncertain again. Housesitting listings in the UK were way down, and the ones that I saw were all subject to any travel corridor changes.
Because I don’t have a home base, I need to know for sure what I’ve got booked. It would have been really tricky to get somewhere else to stay if I’d accepted a sit that changed last-minute. As it was important to me to have some certainty around my living situation, going back to Greece seemed like a good plan.
Masks and curfews in Greece
I spent the first two weeks in Greece with my head down. I had work to get on with and didn’t immediately go off exploring. In hindsight, I wish I’d made a bit of time for that, though. After the first week of November, Greece went into a second national lockdown.
That meant we had to start wearing masks in public (except when exercising). We also had a curfew between 10pm and 5am, but that didn’t really affect me personally.
The UK went into their second lockdown just a few days before we did. When I heard about the lockdown changes in Greece I worried that they sounded harsh and controlling.
The reality for me is that it’s been really relaxed and much better for my mental health than the first lockdown.
One of the reasons I didn’t want to stay in the UK was the threat of another lockdown. I found the first lockdown really hard and isolating. Being in London when everyone had to fit into shorter opening hours, there were mad queues for everything and empty shelves when you go into the shops was no fun at all.
Luckily, everything has felt much easier on Naxos. Mostly, when I’m out, it’s for exercise, which means I don’t need to wear a mask. It does seem overkill to have to wear a mask on the beach when there’s not another human in sight.
I didn’t come to party, and with the sun setting so early, I’m ready for bed anyway when the curfew starts.
Movement restrictions and essential services
It’s now February 2021 and we’re still in lockdown two. Over the past three and a half months the situation has fluctuated many times.
All the non-essential shops shut for a while. Around Christmas time, we were able to go to shops that sold festive bits and pieces, and the others had a click and collect system in place. In January, the non-essential shops opened back up, and that’s still how things are now.
Meanwhile, we have to send an SMS/fill out a form/write a hand-written note exempting ourselves from movement restrictions whenever we go out. Somewhere along the line, there was a 24-hour movement restriction put in place that mandated this.
We still can’t go out to a restaurant, but we can do takeaways. Beauty salons and hairdressers are open, and we can go into shops (with social distancing maximum numbers of people).
Daily life in Greece during COVID
Living in Greece during COVID has felt very different to living in the UK. The first time around I was living in short-term accommodation in Camden with about 220,000 neighbours.
Everything was stressful. The other flats around me were getting booked out by people having parties. There was a constant smell of weed. There were queues for every shop at any time of day. The supermarket shelves were ravaged.
I found it really hard. I’m not very good at planning meals and shopping so I tend to pick up food every 1- 2 days. As we were supposed to be limiting our trips out, I found it really stressful trying to work out what I needed for a week. Especially since people were stockpiling and lots of products were difficult to get or restricted in multiples. The queues outside all the shops nearly pushed me over the edge too.
Also, as an extrovert, I wanted to crawl out of my skin not being able to be amongst the London hustle and bustle. The queuing, crowding and tempers was not the same!
Here on Naxos, it feels very calm. I see people in real life. I can go out to exercise on deserted roads and beaches. In London, it was Hampstead Heath with hoards of others. There are no queues for the supermarket, and the shelves are well-stocked. (Except when the weather’s very bad and the ferries get cancelled!)
Island-hopping and eating out
The only two things about living in Greece during COVID I would like to change are being able to travel locally and being able to go somewhere nice for lunch.
Obviously, Greek island hopping is on my bucket list. I can see multiple other islands just from my garden and then more whenever we drive into town. I’m itching to be able to hop on a ferry for a day, or weekend trip, to explore the other islands.
From what I’ve seen it won’t be too much longer. It sounds like things will be relaxing more around April time. Just depends whether I’m still in Greece or will have to move out of the Schengen area as my 90 days are up.
Protecting my own mental health
I know lots of people think we should all be staying put and protecting those at risk during the pandemic. But living in Greece during COVID was the best move I could have made for my own mental health. We need to remember that those at risk are not just people shielding from the physical risk of COVID. I don’t believe that I should give my life to save someone else’s during COVID. We should all be able to do what we need to do to help ourselves.
For the moment, the journey continues. I’m happy and healthy and looking into where I’ll be living after March.