What’s an Ikarian Hour? My t-shirt pretty well sums in up —
“Don’t hurry, be happy”.
I just returned from hosting an Active Travel & Longevity Tour of Greece, a total of 10 days (with 6 of those spent on the amazing Eastern Aegean island of Ikaria).
And while some of this post may be personal, if you’re busy — at least have a look at my main take-away:
Schedule an Ikarian Hour every day.
This is a simple idea, but if you’re interested in optimal aging, better sleep, more concentration, and greater enjoyment in life — it works.
You see on the Greek island of Ikaria, people live more ‘in the moment’.
They’re not checking their smartphones every second, posting every update in their lives, or spending time as slaves to their technologies. It’s one of the reasons that locals live so long — leading active, healthy lives into their 90s and 100s.
They walk places. They cook real food. They get outside in nature. They socialize. And they dance.
So how do you schedule your own Ikarian hour?
Simple — try and shun technology for at least an hour each day.
This could be before bed (a perfect wind-down), or sometime during the day when the sun is up.
- Go for a leisurely walk, preferably in nature
- Read a fiction book (not a back-lit screen)
- Practice some simple meditation
- Do some light mobility work or other forms of stretches/movement
- Cook some traditional food that you enjoy preparing
I’ve been doing this over the past week, and it’s really helped my mood. I’ve walked to the store instead of driving, and carried my groceries back. I’m reading more fiction, and discovering that I really enjoy it. And I spent an hour down at the beach scrambling over rocks.
You see we’re always chasing stuff in the future — goals, deadlines, to-do lists, etc. And the more pressured we become, the less time we spend enjoying the present moment.
Life is short…
Take some time to “enjoy the now“.
Now for some highlights of our Ikarian adventure…
What we saw and did (in a nutshell):
- The city of Athens and its environs. We went beyond the tourist hotspots to into the nooks and crannies of the local neighbourhoods, where we experienced true Greek hospitality.
- We trained in an outdoor calisthenics park behind the Panathenaic Stadium, one of the most significant classical monuments in Greece and the only stadium in the world built completely of marble.
- We boarded our private bus and toured the Plains of Marathon (where the battle between the Athenians and Persians took place in 490 BC), Vavrona and the ancient Temple of Artemis in southern Attica, and visited the well-preserved Temple of Poseidon. We learned about the history of the marathon, and our licensed guide Popi explained the significance of all the ancient and modern sights that we experienced.
- With a full day of touring, we stopped to get in some mobility work on the plains of Marathon, and we even got in some pushups next to the Temple of Poseidon.
- Upon arriving in Ikaria, we settled into our accommodations next to the beach. That first night on the island, we experienced our first “paniyiri” (festival), in the mountain village of Kastanies. We feasted on roast lamb, salad, tzatziki and wine, enjoyed the live music, and danced in the open square.
- The following day, we hiked from the seaside up to the villages of Raches. It was hot and the hiking was not always easy, but the smells of pine, sage and lavender, the distant sound of goat bells, and the incredible panoramas kept us going.
- The next few days were spent training in the morning and with various activities each the afternoon. Along with the training, we learned some Greek dances, including the famous Ikariotiko of Ikaria.
- Another highlight of the trip was having the opportunity to soak in the radium hot-springs at Levkada. Ikaria has been known as a centre of hydrotherapy since the first century BC, and there are a number of natural outdoor spots along the coast, where radium hot mineral springs flow directly into the sea. The therapeutic effects of Ikaria’s hot mineral baths are delivered to the body primarily through inhalation while bathing, although some is also directly absorbed through the skin. The springs are known for having beneficial effects on rheumatism, arthritis, respiratory disorders, eczema and allergies.
- After a morning hike to the seaside village of Nas, we got a lesson in traditional Ikarian cooking from Thea Parikos in her restaurant kitchen. We discovered why you should never buy tzatziki from a store, and learned how to prepare vegetables, legumes and pork in wine — Ikarian style.
- A visit to Ikaria’s southern coast took us to the crystal-clear blue waters of Seychelles beach — a hidden gem that must be seen to be believed. Like a scene from “The Blue Lagoon”, this is a magical spot that has everything from underwater caves to impressive white cliffs.
- As the mountain villages tend to be quiet during the day (people are taking their siestas), we spent one late evening in Christo — a place that exists beyond the normal confines of time. People there live at their own pace. If a store owner wants to close during the day and open at 10pm, they’d do exactly that.
- We had the opportunity to attend a second “paniyiri” on our last evening in Ikaria. This was an amazing festival, where Ikaria’s culture is really demonstrated. Ikarian wine, dancing, laughing, socializing — it’s all part of the night.
- Of course we got to sample several varieties of Ikarian honey. Beekeeping is an important tradition on the island, and Ikaria produces amazing thyme honey, or honey from heather, pine, or wildflowers — and it’s said that the honey contains anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Regardless, it’s amazing — and surprisingly more flavourful than sweet.
- With all that, we still found time for some mobility and strength training — using natural movements, own own bodyweight and did some partner exercises and drills to keep up with our fitness levels. It was abnormally hot for June, so some of the training had to be scaled back — but we got some work done each morning. Exercises were scaled for all abilities.
- Our last night in Greece was spent at the 5-star Sofitel in Athens. We caught the metro into the city centre where we spent all afternoon doing some leisurely sightseeing and walking before having an early dinner at a local neighbourhood spot (no touristy meals in the Plaka on THIS trip!).
Of course, a trip isn’t just about places and activities. What really makes it is the people — the people in your group (your “parea” in Greek) and the people who are your hosts.
And we did have an amazing group! There were eight of us on the trip, enough to make it feel like a good group, but small enough to keep things flexible.
I couldn’t be happier about the people who chose to join me this year. It just takes a few shared values to create a small tribe, and I think we bonded quite well. There were lots of laughs for sure… it was a holiday after all.
So – you must visit Greece. And take an Ikarian Hour every day.
Should you want to experience for yourself what Greece has to offer beyond the usual tourist trappings, I plan to host another active travel and longevity tour in 2017 (likely in late June). I honestly think it’s the best way to really connect with the country.
I hope you’ll be able to join!