Diane Griffith could no longer stand by watching her husband Tony sink deeper and deeper into depression. He’d been let go from his IT managerial position shortly before his 50th birthday and the couple who’d once enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle were now swimming near rock bottom. Turning toward Tony one day, the idea just sort of came to her.
“I know what we can do!” she said. Tony was reluctant at first. But, with a little persuasion he came around. After all, when you are at the bottom where else can you go but up?
The previous year, Diane and Tony had vacationed on the Greek island of Lefkas where they had met a wonderful family with two kids -- Kate was nine and Chris was an autistic seven-year-old who didn’t speak. While hanging out with the family, Diane and Tony had video-taped the kids playing in the sea and at a taverna with local children. When they’d returned home Diane had sent the tape off to the family who had sat down to watch it together when something miraculous happened -- Chris spoke! His parents, Lynne and Paul could not thank Diane and Tony enough for the video. It was as if the bright, sunny images, the music and the children’s laughter as they played with him on tape opened a window in his mind, they told their friends. And, there was Diane’s idea. It was 1991 and camcorders were still a relatively novel idea. Who wouldn’t want a professional video as a memento from a lovely holiday?
Preparing for their new “career” Diane and Tony signed up for an evening class to learn how to edit and make movies. Diane also made graphic designs of the names of places they intended to visit in glowing colors, putting things like “Welcome to Lefkas” onto a cassette so the duo could edit it onto their film when they were in Lefkas. They also sold Tony’s dream car, a new Mercedes he had bought himself for his last birthday, in favor of a practical workhorse. An advertisement led them to a 1974 VW Westphalia camper van. Parked on the side of the road in the pouring rain in Liverpool, the car was just begging to go to Greece!
“It was 1991 and camcorders were still a relatively novel idea. Who wouldn’t want a professional video as a memento from a lovely holiday?”
When they weren’t attending class or searching for the perfect traveling vehicle, Diane and her husband were planning their route. During the day it all seemed so exciting but at night the journey from their home in Cheshire looked daunting. They’d pour over the map spread out on the dining room table and have another scotch. Tony was worried about the old VW. What if it broke down? He knew nothing about engines…
Soon the dark cloud of gloom and fear lifted. They had a purpose, a goal, and a dream. On June 18, 1991, the two set off with 300 videocassette tapes, two video cameras, two video players, a portable TV, and a generator. Tony had constructed a wooden apparatus that held the two players and the TV so that they could make copies. Diane in turn had printed tons of posters advertising their video of the island, suggesting that people could have personal moments added if they’d like. Aiming for the small village of Agios Nikitas, they hoped they would be welcomed and helped with their venture by the people they had met there the year before. And just like that, they were on the road.
The last time they had flown to Lefkas it had taken four hours. This time the drive took four days. But Diane kept remembering the time they’d had there on holiday; and it was fabulous. The night they arrived they were met with an amazing surprise. There on the steps of the local Poseidon taverna stood little Chris! He and his family had flown in that day. What a wonderful evening they all had together! When the night’s end finally came, the family went back to their hotel and Diane and Tony stayed in their camper on a long stretch of sandy beach renowned for its beautiful sunsets. Not exactly the vacation they were used to, but it was the start of an exciting, new adventure.
Diane and Tony lived rough for three months, staying mostly in their camper van. They traveled around and made videos of the island sometimes adding personal moments for paying tourists. The two did all the video editing in the van in the sweltering heat, using their generator for power. But the work was fun and their lives had taken on a whole new meaning.
The first night they showed the video (on a portable TV placed above the sink in the VW van, facing a cobbled street) Diane and Tony caused an incredible sensation in the sleepy little village of Agios Nikitas. Something new and exciting had happened and both tourists and locals were amazed and enthralled. The professional video of a holiday, all put to music that captured the atmosphere of the beautiful island and the quirky local hospitality was something everyone appreciated. The children flocked around the video day after day, never tiring of seeing the same movie featuring their village. They laughed and pointed out various people they recognized, causing a happy commotion that helped sell the videos. Diane’s idea had worked and was looking pretty profitable indeed! But beyond that, something magical was happening to Tony and Diane themselves. They were remembering the ability to dream; they were reconnecting with the joy and playfulness in life.
As time passed, Diane began wondering if maybe she and Tony were actually the lucky ones. They were able to recognize the fact that the terrible blow to their comfortable lifestyle and circumstances was actually their chance to find a dream and follow it. At night they would lie beneath the stars looking across the distant silver sea and listen to children’s voicesas they sat around an open fire singing with the same enthusiasm young blackbirds have at dawn. They would awake to golden mornings when small birds twittered in the long, dry grass. They studied the fiery sky with quiet awe as the sun descended into the sea and the two worlds became as one: sea and sky. They talked about how the people who came on packaged holidays or stayed in expensive hotels and sipped champagne on luxurious yachts thought they were buying romance. Surely this, what they experienced every day free of charge, could be defined as romance!
When it came time to go home, Diane and Tony returned to Cheshire as different people. They felt they had left a little piece of their hearts on the island, entrusted to the inhabitants who had welcomed them into their contented way of life. Born out of their sadness, they had discovered a certain happiness that neither of them had ever felt before. When you have lost all things material, you have nothing left to lose. Then, if you are lucky and determined you can overcome all obstacles to find true happiness. But you have to have a dream!
As they traveled home, Diane spoke about her thoughts and feelings with her husband. "I wish that I could share all our experiences with other people. There must be other dreamers out there who would enjoy sharing it all,” she said.
He replied with, “Well, you could always write a book…”
With that, she did. And what about Tony? Well, the managing director of a company in Chester heard about Diane and Tony’s story from a friend. Incredibly impressed with their tenacity, he said, “This is the kind of man we want in this company.” So, in the end, Tony found a much better job than the one he had lost!
“Chasing Dreams in Lefkas” was published in October 2008 (http://www.eloquentbooks.com/ChasingDreamsInLefkas.html). Diane has since written two other books and is currently working on her fourth. She and Tony now live in Cyprus.
Thank you Diane, for sharing your Story with us.
Our Stories and pictures are the sole copyright of their Authors and may not be reprinted or used without their permission.© 2009 by Tamar Burris and Story of My Life