Greetings from a Small Greek Island

A brief introduction to life off the grid.

When Nicholas and I bought our first boat, a 23 foot wooden ketch called Frolic, back in February 1981, little did we realise that this would eventually lead to a lifestyle that is far from conventional and a long way from our starting point as white middle class South African graduates.

Home is now the small Greek island of Symi in the Dodecanese, about 25 nautical miles north of Rhodes and within spitting distance of the Turkish coast. We have lived off the grid for decades now, experimenting with a permaculture-inspired lifestyle that aims to be as self-sufficient as possible.  We try to grow as much of our own food as we can, despite having settled on an island that is famously dry and has more perpendicular surfaces than horizontal ones.  Every year brings its challenges, particularly as Symi is seeing the effects of climate change as the summer drought grows ever longer.

I have been blogging Symi since 2001 as part of my work for Symi Visitor Accommodation but I am often asked to write about aspects of living here on a more personal level. This is for those of you who are more interested in how one can live all year round without mains electricity than what life is like for tourists visiting the island.



Author: adrianashum1960

Writer, foodie and self-sufficiency enthusiast.

2 thoughts on “Greetings from a Small Greek Island”

  1. Dear Adriana,

    Your blog gives me a lift on many’s a dark day in Scotland!

    In 1991 My daughter was studying modern Greek at University and, following a family tragedy, suggested we all spend that summer in Skiathos where she was going to be working! Bedlam! Skiathos in the high season!

    In the plane home, my late husband, with a copy of
    “The Which Guide to the Greek Islands” on his knee said
    “I’ve found an unspoilt Greek Island! This is where I am taking you next summer!”
    It was Symi.

    Although sadness and loss was my main emotion underlying all the experiences in and around Symi – I had lost my lovely 21 year old daughter the previous Easter.
    Symi is where I began to heal.
    Sitting on a bench halfway down the Kali Strata overlooking the bay, the opening lines of a story came to me

    “She walked down the Kali Strata……”
    I could just see my Jinny, eyes bright, full of joy in the beauty of the classical ruined buildings, the glorious wrought iron balconies, the sparkling sea; the kind generous warm hearted people; Jinny, heading down the Kali Strata with a spring in her step wearing those Greek thonged sandals -full of the joy of life.
    I would give her a life!

    I never completed the story – too painful at the time and, I had to return to my History of Art Teaching Post in Ascot England.

    Now retired and on my own these eight years, I wonder at times if maybe I ought to return to Symi and write her story!
    Periodically I would look up accommodation in Symi for one person in the low season and dream! It’s a bit daunting on one’s own however, especially with no Greek language knowledge other than a few phrases.

    These thoughts, in recent years, Adriana, are why I turn, time and again, to your posts on Symi! They give me great pleasure! Thank you very much.

    May Ramage Collins

    1. Dear May, Thank you for sharing this. Don’t be afraid of coming to Symi on linguistic grounds – it is perfectly possible to function here without being fluent in Greek. Please feel free to email me. My email address is on my blog. Best wishes, Adriana

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