Directly translated, ‘Kalo Riziko’ means ‘good roots’. But like so much Greek, it loses its depth and emphasis in translation. Still, this saying is one I have been dwelling on a lot in the last few months.
It is a common phrase. We’ve heard it from our neighbours, from interested passers-by who venture in to see what we’re doing, from the people we work with, and from other locals we’ve met. In Greek, it means more than just ‘good roots’: it encompasses the richness of the earth and the digging deeper and deeper to anchor ourselves to the earth – and not just to the earth, but to this piece of land, where we are. The saying is also a wish for solid foundations; a wish that whatever grows out of the earth, from these roots, is fruitful, rich and able to nourish and sustain us. You cannot fail to see the permanence of things when you contemplate the roots you are planting.
It’s been more than two years since we started dreaming of and planning Sails on Kos, and a little over a year since we first broke earth here in Kos, starting our project. January saw the anniversary of our arrival, when we started to settle, live and work here in Greece. Every step of the way, a friendly ‘Kalo Riziko!’ has rung out from those we’ve met.
This has been a very life-changing year or so. We have made big decisions with, alongside and through our dream of Sails on Kos. George made his mind up to move and settle down, for his retirement plan. Madeleine and I finally made good on our dreams of living in another country ‘for a time’, and leaving city life to try our hands at country living. We also happened to have our first child this year.
The implications of these roots we’ve planted are too great to comprehend at such an early stage. But it has been a wonderful success so far, difficult with many surprises but beautiful, rich and rewarding.
The business aspect of life has been more tumultuous. Those of you have been following will know it hasn’t been an easy time. Our successes so far have been hard-won. However, the situation we find ourselves in after these trials and tribulations has emphasised again the permanence of these roots we’ve planted – and the importance of not just planting them, but of caring for and nurturing them.
The core of our roots has always been our family, together. Now, we are three generations under one roof. George and Louisa (Madeleine’s mother), Madeleine and I, and the newborn. We are all working on the same project, all nurturing our own dreams and each other’s as we chip away and grow our combined visions.
The worst of the winter is hopefully behind us. All around us the farmers are preparing the fields to plant the summer crops. And we are also planting! Not just our metaphorical roots, but literal roots too – we have learnt to do as the locals do.
We have planted our first olive trees. They alone won’t provide us with enough oil for the year but it’s a start, it’s the roots that count! Same with some grape vines, which will eventually, if their roots are deep enough, grow a beautiful shaded area, and provide some fruit for eating and drinking.
We are also moving full speed ahead with the rest of the work, planting and landscaping. Although our trees and flowers are young, they are taking root! The landscaping won’t be perfect this year, but we are planting trees that our new child will grow up in the shade of.
Over the last year, we have transformed our flat potato field into a glamping resort, with over 1,000 plants set into the soil. Their roots are spreading and deepening, and with continued hard work, nourishment and love, they will grow and thrive to bear fruit.
We are on the home stretch to the beginning of summer, soon to open for our first full summer season. As spring approaches, work that started slow and steady is building to a frenzy. Huge growth and finishing forms will take place in the next three months. It is going to be a thrill. We hope our roots are set, because we are starting to grow outward and upwards, as a family and as people. And it is these people and this family that makes Sails on Kos.
I will leave you with one more thought that I’ve been pondering. In 2013, I took some time off from another family business back in Australia, to come here and discover my roots by travelling solo through Greece for six months. Obviously, I fell in love with the place.
Somewhere along my travels, I had a very poignant conversation with my dad. We were discussing Greek history and how so much of Greek identity is wrapped up in the Greek diaspora. The long quest to return home to Greece has even become an archetype, through The Odyssey.
George said to me that for his entire life since leaving Greece as a child, he had felt like a tree in a pot. He knew that he was a tree, that he had enough soil to grow and to bear fruit. But he couldn’t extend his roots down. He couldn’t anchor himself to the earth – he was unrooted and the soil, the earth that he grew in, was not his own.
I hadn’t realised how similarly I felt. It did help explain the return-to-my-roots quest I was on. After that conversation and that adventure, both George and I spent years actively working and finding ways to get back to Greece, to return to home soil from a diaspora I didn’t even know I was a part of.
I don’t know if moving to Greece ends our time in the diaspora. I don’t fully know yet if the earth that we plant in is even ‘ours’, but I do know we have done a lot of planting! The roots we have been planting have the space to go as deep as they need. Hopefully with them, we can grow too.