After finishing my studies in Greece, I decided to come back to Cyprus, mainly because of financial reasons and to put down some roots. Now only the thought of “putting down some roots” makes me feel quite uncomfortable. Just imagine after four worry-free years of endless traveling and full of new experiences (you all know what happens during college time) to come back to my hometown, to get a job, to fall in love, get married and basically do what everyone was expecting me to do after graduating from university.
The truth is, I was not happy here. I was feeling stuck. At every chance, I was trying to get free through traveling, but every time coming back home was even harder than before. I have to say I did not quite appreciate my country, mainly because of the way I used to feel when I was here. I was simply not happy.
The last 3 years, I have started traveling more often and I have become a witness to all the things the world has to offer. And it was an eye-opening experience. I learned something that I wouldn’t, if I didn’t leave from Cyprus or didn’t travel.
I figured out how lucky I am to be Cypriot and I came to notice how beautiful my country is.
And do you know how I came to this conclusion? Through a different perspective!
I may have not realised it at first, but every time I travel, I represent my country at the same time. I always have with me some brochures about Cyprus and postcards that I give to natives everywhere in the world. I feel partially “responsible” for the promotion of my country abroad (CTO you’re welcome!). Of course, from the places I travel, the most common question is “Oh, you are from Cyprus. Where is that?” Then I start saying the things I usually say to people who ask me these kind of questions, like for example Cyprus is an island somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea between three continents and so on.
I have been in conversations, though, that I had to be more defensive, in order to protect the reputation of the country. I don’t know if it is a good thing or not, but because of the Cyprus Dispute, many times I was not feeling so comfortable when I was asked things like “Are you from the North or the South? Is Cyprus, Turkish? Do you speak Turkish?” It is not easy to explain every time how things are and being objective. But this kind of questions, is something that I cannot and to be honest, don’t want to avoid when people ask me.
There are many things that annoy me in my country. Don’t say that this doesn’t apply for you as well! There has to be something you don’t like in your country. However, there are plenty of positive things, which I hadn’t appreciated before traveling, but I’ve learned to love and appreciate the last 2-3 years. Some of these are:
- Cyprus is S T U N N I N G! Everybody seems to know that except for us, who live here. We may be daydreaming about Rio de Janeiro but the people there obviously don’t. The same applies here. Are you with me? So. We live in an island. Somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea. Between three continents. (They used to teach us these things at school but we didn’t realize back then how amazing this fact is!). All these facts together seem pretty incredible to the rest of the world. There is something everyone says when they hear these three facts and it goes something like “Oh my God, it sounds exotic”. Guys we are in an exotic island, period.
- We have more than 300 days of sunshine. We take that for granted and sometimes (shame on us!) we even find it annoying. Just say to a Finnish, a Norwegian or anybody who lives in a frozen land, that you live in an island with palm trees and sunshine that lasts all year around and wait for their reaction.
- The food. Something that I didn’t appreciate until I traveled to countries where food wasn’t that close to my taste. That moment I missed my mother’s stuffed vegetables. And sheftalia was like a pipe dream!
- We are a dot in the map. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Because the fact that the country is small can mean something good. Short distances! Even though, we think Paphos is thousands miles away from Limassol (it’s only 1 hour away), the truth is that in other countries that kind of distance is a standard home to work. We are the “ultimate roadtrip country” as I claim abroad. It is a big deal to be able to go to the mountain or to the sea in 30 or less minutes.
- We are one of the most crime-free countries on the planet. Crime rate is in a very low level. And I wouldn’t know that unless I traveled and saw what’s going on in other countries. Even if the news is constantly focused on the bad things for rating reasons, the reality is different. We are one of the safest countries on the planet and that is a legitimate fact!
- Our history as a nation is very exciting. I don’t say that this doesn’t apply for other countries too. But we are different in our own way. Every time I am abroad and there is a conversation about the situation in Cyprus and the Cyprus Dispute, our dialect and our history in general, I see people paying close attention to me and many questions take place. How do we do it? Our country’s background is quite interesting.
- Our traditions are something I didn’t appreciate much until I was explaining to people from other countries why we light up a “labratzia” in Easter or why we make “flaounes”. When you experience all of these your whole life, you take them for granted and you don’t even wonder why you do all them. But when you need to explain them to somebody else, then everything seems special and exciting, basically because you take a step back and look at them with a new set of eyes. Everything that until now I considered to be boring because was part of my life since day one, now seems unusual and interesting, because I see them through a different perspective.
Traveling opened my eyes and showed me that Cyprus, the country I took for granted and occasionally thought to be boring, is in fact considered as an exotic place by many and a dream destination by others. Of course, there are many things I don’t like here, but which country is perfect? I cannot say for sure that I will put down some roots here forever, but certainly now that I travel, I love and appreciate Cyprus more. After all, everything had to do with looking at things in a different perspective. Don’t you think?