It is hard to determine where to begin my story, but I think it is mostly important to tell you that I am a child of God. As long as I can remember, He has guided me and provided everything I have ever needed, He has taught me unforgettable lessons, and He has made me who I am today. With that said, it had been about 6 months at the time that I was really struggling with what it meant to follow God’s will. I was reading books and asking anyone I thought might have the answer, but for a long time I was never satisfied with what I found. I continued to search and the battle of what to do with my life was still in full combat. It wasn’t until I was sitting alone on New Year’s Eve 2008 that He enlightened me. To do God’s will was to follow the desires He has placed in my heart and draw closer to Him each step of the way forward.
Right then and there, I began a journal entry of what I knew to be my passions in life. The first one was to live over seas, specifically Italy. I had travelled to Italy after graduating high school and fell in love for the very first time, and I don’t mean with a boy. I was transfixed by everything Italian and I had to get back there someday. Since I wasn’t rich and couldn’t just quit my “big girl” job to travel or live abroad on my own dime, I knew that being an au pair was going to be the best solution. I began the process of being matched with a family through an online service. I talked to a few families here and there, and then one day the next door just opened. There was an Italian/Czech family that was living in Brussels with 2 boys, one eight and one ten. I would commit about 6 months with them and we would live 5 months in Brussels and 1 1/2 months in Italy. I was a little bummed to be going to Brussels, which I actually knew very little about, but the family and timing seemed to fit perfectly! I turned in my resignation and bought a one way ticket. I was really moving across the ocean to follow my heart! Before leaving I told everyone that I was probably going to marry an Italian stallion and they might just never see me again, at that point it was all just a hopeful joke.
Brussels was amazing, not so much the city, although it was fine for the time there. I mean the family, the boys, and friends I made there, nothing could have gone better, nothing! I travelled, I ate, I laughed, I ran, I played in the park, I loved every minute! It was also there that I met a fellow Texan girl who quickly became a very close friend, and when I had a week vacation to travel anywhere I’d like, I was intrigued by Greece. Honestly, I cannot even recall what intrigued me, I just knew I wanted to visit and this seemed like my only chance. Since I was traveling alone, my friend advised me that Crete would be perfect and it would also be a safe place to travel alone. I booked my tickets via Berlin about 2 months in advance and began the countdown, I was on my way to Greece!
I didn’t know much about Greece especially not Crete, and I didn’t know even what Greek sounded like. I was told about a great website for travelers to connect with one another and exchange info and/or meet a local or expat living there for a coffee or drink. I signed up and sent a message to a few normal looking girls asking for some basic info, but got no response. About a week later, I decided to message a few guys who not only looked normal but safe. I came across only one that my gut trusted and I was willing to contact. His profile picture showed him outside sitting on his mountain bike, not trying to look anything in particular, but just seeming to enjoy life! He seemed honest, funny, and not interested in an online dating service, he would be perfect I nervously thought.
So . . . I sent him a short message asking for some tips on where to go and what to see, and he responded that he would be, “Glad to help answer any questions I had about this wonderful island”. We eventually exchanged skype names and ironically started chatting almost everyday. Over the next couple of months, we gradually developed an exciting new friendship. Fast forward to my trip to Crete and besides my family thinking I had fallen off the face of the earth (since I apparently forgot to call to confirm my arrival, I still get teased to this day), I had one of the best weeks of my life, and I wasn’t even in Italy! He showed me around most of the island and we swam at more beaches than I could count. We ate lots of wonderful Greek food that I had never experienced before and I even got to meet some of his friends. It would be an understatement to say that there was only a spark between us by the time I left! Yep, I had gone on holiday in Greece and maybe fallen in love!
I went back to Brussels with only a few days before moving to Italy and with a new (big) crush on my friend. He was four years older than me, just few inches taller, bright blue eyes, a genuine smile, slight dimples, and of course an irresistible accent to close the deal. I have always been a sucker for dimples and accents! He promised he would try to come to Italy and see me again, but I wasn’t sure he’d follow through. He pleasantly proved me wrong and came to Italy for a week. We hiked through Cinque Terre, biked through Florence, skipped through Pisa, and got utterly lost in Milan; we laughed, we ate lots of pizza and even more gelato, and we just enjoyed life. As we said goodbye that last day in Milan, both of our hearts sank a little deeper not knowing when or how we would see each other ever again.?! I was an au pair and he was an elementary school teacher, both on tight budgets and not really able to keep traveling the world together. It was more than a sad day in Milan, kinda heart breaking actually.
After I traveled a few more months, I was back home in Texas, kinda dazed and confused to say the least. I was working only temporary because I was trying to get back to Greece, I was definitely feeling a little love-sick. In the meantime, he moved close to home in north Greece for a teaching position and I desperately searched to find somewhere to live and work near Thessaloniki. I wanted to be close enough to actually date, but not close enough that if reality set in and the love cloud we were sitting on fell, it wouldn’t be too devastating. I searched the internet for days, weeks even, and tried everything. < Hysterical side note: I even googled “missionary position in Greece” expecting to find some innocent, Christian volunteer work, but that is certainly not what Google finds when one types in missionary + position, DUH, I should have totally figured that one out a bit sooner, one of the few legitimate blonde moments in my life. >
Divinely ordained though, I finally found a blog of an American/Greek family living in Thessaloniki. I quickly emailed asking for any help or information about working or teaching abroad. It was not even a day later when I couldn’t believe what I was reading in response, “It is amazing God’s timing. We have been praying for someone to come and live with us and teach our daughter for the next 6 months as she finishes her high school diploma online”. There it was again, another open door, so this time I was moving to Greece. I found myself buying another one way ticket across the world – this time for a chance on love . . . my heart raced as I hit the “confirm button” and I had so many thoughts of my own sanity, was this real?
Indeed it was and I lived in Thessaloniki for about 6-7 months. I daily began to fall for this wonderfully charming Greek guy who had swept me off my feet a year earlier. Again, we traveled all over north Greece and shared many adventures on the weekends and my time off. I got to know his precious family and more about this country where he lived. The next summer, it was his turn to come visit the great state of Texas and meet my family and friends. So, on July of 2009, after meeting my whole family from Texas to Kentucky to Florida, he got down on one knee and proposed to love me for the rest of my life more than anyone else, if I would let him. My answer was of course YES!!!
We married on January 3, 2010 in Thessaloniki, Greece. We now are living on a small island in the northeast Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey, called Lesvos. After our first year of marriage, we are both convinced life is better together.
So, here we are today, both continuing to follow the many (new and old) desires of our hearts. My husband is an elementary school teacher by day and an amazing sketcher and eager virtual flyer by night. I, on the other hand, am a thankful English teacher by night and a zealous chef and photographer by day!
Join my adventure of living and learning the Greek culture, including the food, the language, the religion, and the habits of these beautiful people around me.
~ Jacquline (or my Greek name Stylliani)