Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Coolest Bookstore on Earth - Atlantis Books (Santorini, Greece)

I've been to a lot of bookstores. I mean a lot. I actively search out bookstores in every city that I'm in because, as everyone is well aware, they're a dying breed. You can find an enormous big box sort of bookstore with little to no character, but the small, independent bookstores are going the way of the dinosaurs. Sad, isn't it?

Perhaps that's what made coming across Atlantis Books such a magical experience. I'm not holding back, this is the coolest bookstore on earth. Feel free to refute me, but this is my tightly held opinion on the subject thus far. Let's talk about where all this passion for this bookstore comes from.

On the island of Santorini in the town of Oia, that's where it is, in all its majesty. Like all bookstores, it has a story. An appropriately long, eloquent story.

It seems that the story all came to life about ten years ago when the founders felt the emptiness one feels when a town or city doesn't have a bookstore. They decided to fill the void, and, if you've watched the video just above, you'll note that it wasn't easy. Though, you'll probably also note that this store was destined to be opened (and, hopefully,  it will stay open.) It's not a large bookstore (thank god), but it packs more into a little space than I've ever seen before. It's full of randomness - of quirky, bizarre, delightful brilliance. Being in the basement of a Greek cave house also doesn't hurt.

I ended up leaving the store with Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, though you could argue that I left with a whole lot more. The very idea that such a place exists was enough for me. Where things get interesting is when you walk into the back room, which features a "philosophy tower" for starters. Perhaps the greatest part is the large, circular hole in the ceiling, which you can climb up to via a ladder and exit from. In the States, it would be a lawsuit waiting to happen, but put it in Santorini and we call label it creative ingenuity. I actually exited the bookstore via that route and I recall thinking to myself that this bookstore was like no other.

The idea that a group of friends could just decide to open up a bookstore and dare to dream in that fashion is nothing short of inspirational. As one of the founders, Oliver, mentions in his Ted Talk, they essentially make enough to get by and keep the dream alive. In a day and age where what we should and shouldn't be are well defined, this form of pleasant rebellion is worth noting. I'm taken by it, truly. Though taking 15 minutes to watch a video is something of an eternity these days, I would recommend watching the aforementioned Ted Talk - to listen to their story about selling and telling stories.

If and when the last bookstore on earth closes its doors, I don't want to be there. But bookstores like Atlantis Books are doing their part to ensure that my worries won't become reality. And, on top of that, they happen to be the coolest bookstore on the planet.

If you're in Oia, don't forget to drop in and experience it for yourself.


Oia, Santorini
T.K. 84702
+30 22860 72346

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

50 Things Travel Has Taught Me About Life

Travel was always the form of education that made sense to me, and still does. I enjoyed school, I loved university, and I'm a passionate teacher, but there are some things that cannot be learned from a textbook. Personally, I started travelling because I was just sick of feeling ignorant about the world, of not knowing anything about so many countries. In an attempt to fill in what was essentially a mental blank map of the world for me, I ended up drastically changing the course of my life. What I wanted to share is what I've learned along the way. 

Perhaps some of it is too cliche or not original enough for you, but, one of the major things I learned while globetrotting is not to worry all that much about that. I can only hope that you enjoy looking over my thoughts, as much as I appreciated the opportunity to finally write them down. 

So, here are 50 things that travel has taught me about life. 

Manhattan, Atlantic Coast, Nicaragua

Çesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

1. Underestimate precisely nobody. 
2. Home is a place, but also an idea. 
3. The best souvenirs aren't found in tourist shops. 
4. Amazing food doesn't have to be expensive. 
5. No one likes the person who acts like they know everything already.
6. Beware, you can lose old friends chasing new experiences. 
7. Daydreaming serves a purpose. 
8. There's a gap between what we need and what we think we need.
9. You can be a hermit in a crowd.
10. Eat dessert, life is too short.

Ediburgh, Scotland

Angkor Archaeological Park, Cambodia
11. Fear can ruin everything.
12. There are incredible writers in every country.
13. Everything is truly interconnected.
14. Happiness is largely about attitude.
15. People are, mostly, good.
16. Though, some people are terribly bad.
17. Walk as much as you can.
18. You can do things you never dreamed of.
19. Making someone else's day can also make your day.
20. There is no such thing as a waste of time if you've got the right approach.

Nangyuan Island, Thailand 
San Miguel, Ecuador 

21. You can get used to the feeling of being lost.
22. If you're always worried about where you're going next, you'll never appreciate where you are.
23. We have instincts for a reason, trust them.
24. All we have is our memories.
25. There is a distinct difference between sharing stories and bragging.
26. Money, spent wisely, can go much further than you thought.
27. Everybody knows something you don't.
28. Wealth and happiness are not synonymous.
29. Never forget your family, they're always there, even when you're halfway across the world.
30. It's not realistic to think that you will be friends with everyone that you meet.

Istanbul, Turkey

Budapest, Hungary

31. Some who wander are lost.
32. Regret solves nothing.
33. If you can't control it, let someone else worry about it.
34. Don't forget to roll the dice.
35. There's always someone nearby who wouldn't mind making a fast buck off you.
36. You aren't better than anyone else.
37. I learned this one living in Norway - "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing."
38. Do what makes you happy, not what makes other people happy for you.
39. Artificiality shines through.
40. Laugh. It's good for you.

Eating a "rundown" that my friend Jimmy made in the Pearl Cays, Nicaragua

Banaue, Philippines
41. Someone I met in Ecuador brought this to my attention - "Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." - Ian Maclaren
42. A gorgeous view can provide as much fodder for contemplation as a good book.
43. Routine can breed apathy.
44. Some travel, some go on vacation.
45. Be confident in your beliefs, but be willing to alter them.
46. You need to pencil time into your schedule for reflection.
47. Most of your preconceived notions about a country will be well off the mark.
48. When in doubt, say yes.
49. Any day can be the day that changes you.
50. Life is even better if you share it with someone you love.

Lombok, Indonesia (see #50 for more details.) 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Photo Essay: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Melbourne was a city I had wanted to visit since I became a conscious being. As a child, I was fascinated by Australia because I think I had some delusion that, due to its geographic placement, everything was opposite there. In Melbourne in particular, what I found when I arrived was not the opposite of Canada, but rather many of the elements that make me adore Toronto so much. It's a clean, vibrant city with a clear identity and seemingly limitless possibility. Like Toronto, it seemed to also be open-minded and welcoming, as evidenced by innumerable thriving sub-cultures in Melbourne, such as the street art scene. Melbourne felt so comfortable and familiar, that coming here was almost like coming home for me.

Also, coming from Istanbul, I was struck by how green the city was. In an urban center I can't ever recall seeing so many trees, public spaces with flowers, parks, and even well maintained beaches. Melbourne just clearly does so many things right when it comes to urban planning. It's no wonder that it regularly tops the charts of any international survey looking at the livability of cities.

I loved this city in February, and I love it now. I would, in a heartbeat, move to Melbourne and start a life there (with Bri's loving approval, of course.) That's the kind of love I developed for this city in such a short time period.

I developed much of this love through wandering, so, in an attempt to replicate that, I'll be framing this post as a photo essay, to allow you to simply see the things that I saw, and decide if it's a place you could love as well.

One day I hope to return to this city, so I can really do it justice. I've catalogued this city in my mind among a few other of my favourites, namely Kyoto, Kuala Lumpur, Vienna and Toronto (I'm biased). And for me, that's some serious company.

Until next time,