Packing it in for another stay in Vassiliki

Did you pack your capsule holiday wardrobe this year? You know the one: classic white tee, perfect day-to-night dress, floaty boho blouse, flattering swimsuit (whatever that is) and insouciantly-drapable wear-everywhere scarf… No, me neither.

For hard-won experience tells me that classic white tees tend not to stay thus over the course of a two-week trip (rarely beyond their first, case-creased outing), and if I’ve sweatily schlepped my way through a day at the beach, what with all that sea salt and sunscreen – or worse, trodden the tourist path in scorching city heat – I’m sure as hell not wearing the same damn dress in the evening. Perfect or not. Yuk.

Floaty boho and I’m-not-really-trying scarves, okay – although if you’re using the same scarf as pool-side wrap by day and fashion accessory by night, see ‘perfect day-to-night dress’, you mucky madam. Or is it just me with the sea salt and sunscreen?

But ‘flattering swimsuit’, the only one piece of swimwear you’ll need? Are we still there? Bikini body-shaming anyone over the age of 30? Okay, my topless days might be a distant memory (what with skin cancer risk and not wanting to offend the locals), but I’m still firmly a two-piece girl – and you need at LEAST two sets in the bag (one on, one on the line, drying).

And they never consider the activities, do they, these capsule wardrobe cleverclogs? The yoga classes (lycra, sweaty vests), early morning runs (trainers, shorts, also sweaty vests), cycle rides (ditto), swimming (goggles a must), and any windsurfing, sailing or stand up paddleboarding you might fancy trying (sea shoes, long-sleeved tees, sun glasses and hat that stay on your head. Arnica cream. Plasters).

Welcome sign
Welcome to Vassiliki © Hackette on the How

And so it is that every year – every damn year – I’m there again. Suitcase bulging, scales teetering over the limit, negotiating luggage space with the Gremlin (who somehow always comes in lighter, despite taking even MORE activity kit!) Despite my stringent ‘packing lists’.

So here’s a little note to self, post this year’s trip to Vass.

Dear Hackette

In case you forget, because I know you will next time, two weeks of yoga and sunshine stretching ahead of the empty suitcase in front of you and the inevitable mind-numbing frenzy of pre-holiday ‘can you justs’ about to be behind you.

On no account take with you the following. I know you’ll want to, ‘just in case’. But, trust me, I am wiser than you. You will not need these things. Ever.

  • A second pair shorts. If you really need a second pair, say the first one gets ripped off the ad hoc washing line the Gremlin rigged on the balcony, during an exceptionally gusty Eric*, never to be seen again this side of Cephalonia, then you can buy another pair. After all, this is where you bought the first pair three years ago. The dayglo orange Mystics you’ve pulled up your legs every day for a fortnight. That other pair you insist on packing, every damn time? No.
  • A travel hairdryer. For pity’s sake woman. It’s Greece. In summer. The whole place is just one big hairdryer.
  • A hairbrush. No point. That’s it.
  • Two pairs of yoga leggings alongside the yoga shorts and the Buddha pants. Where to start? You and I both know those Sweaty Betty’s won’t leave the case. All you need are the yoga shorts for daytime classes and the Buddhas for late afternoon (mozzie time). And Travelwash. Ditto all the bloody yoga vests you packed this time. What were you thinking? Three’s enough.
  • An ‘iconic hat’, so beloved of the capsule crowd. The baseball cap does just fine – keeps the sun off your head and shades your eyes. The other hat – the ‘sun hat’ you pack as ‘alternative headwear’ – has been surplus to requirements every year for the past six. No reason to suppose next year will be any different. Let it go.
  • And finally. Tea. This is not 1970-something, the first time you holidayed in Greece. (Ah, those were the days, marinate yourself in factor-free oil by day, throw plates at the floor in praise of your hosts by night). It’s not even 2013, the first time you stayed with Healthy Options in Vassiliki and made do with Lipton’s Yellow Label. They now sell decent tea in even the humblest of Greek supermarkets. And better ‘McVitie’s’ digestive biscuits than you can get at home.

That’s it. Parakaló.

Entrance to the yoga tent © Hackette on the How.

Darting eyes and a restless mind – how digital reading is changing our brains

Taking fewer paperbacks might have helped the baggage weight but that’s the most delicious part of a sunshine holiday for me, the time to indulge at length in the written word. And it has to be paper.

I’ve never understood the fascination with Kindle. I HAVE tried, before you get all but-it’s-so-much-more-convenient on me, but I’ve never been able to explain why. Well now I can.

I spend my working days reading, often quite intensely, from a screen – the big computer, the iPad and the phone – researching articles (including a lot of time scanning social media), editing other people’s articles, writing my own. And outside ‘work’, I’m reading online too. Constantly scrolling and swiping, jumping between links, off at tangents, in and out of rabbit holes, back and forth, up and down. And it’s changed me.

Where once I’d think nothing better than curling up with a good book or reading a newspaper cover to cover (well, apart from the Sport section), it’s technology I reach for. But, lately, I’ve noticed something. When I did pick up a book, my eyes were everywhere, flitting about the page, never settling. I’d read a paragraph once and then again. And again. Before flinging the book to the floor and reaching for whichever device was nearest to hand.

Not just me though. There’s any amount of research (online, of course, and often conflicting) looking into how we read the digital and printed word. I’ll let you discover that particular rabbit hole for yourself – you may be some time – but one thing the researchers appear to agree on is that we tend to comprehend and remember more when we read printed matter than online – so called ‘deep reading’. We connect more deeply emotionally to our subject matter too.

One writer perfectly echoed my experience. Manoush Zomorodi, managing editor and host of WNYC’s ‘New Tech City’** recalled a conversation with the Washington Post’s Mike Rosenwald, one of many to have researched the effects of reading on screen.

‘He found, like I did,’ said Zomorodi, ‘that when he sat down to read a book his brain was jumping around on the page. He was skimming and he couldn’t just settle down. He was treating a book like he was treating his Twitter feed’.

Ring any bells?

According to Rosenwald, ‘Neuroscience has revealed that humans use different parts of the brain when reading from a piece of paper or from a screen. So the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards non-linear reading – a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page’. 

This, she says, is the ‘bi-literate’ brain at work and the problem is that many of us have adapted to reading online to such an extent that the deep reading part of our brain is forgetting how to function.

So, in the matter of notes to self, here’s another one…

Dear Hackette

Yes, sorry, me again. Just a thought, before you get sucked once again towards the vortex…

Now you’ve rediscovered the joy and art of reading books and magazines over two glorious weeks, with that blessed iPad largely devoid of wifi and phone switched off, eyes and brain safely back in linear mode, how about you carry on that way?

  • Maybe set aside time each day to sit down with a book or magazine? No screens! Imagine!
  • Oh and you know how you charge everything up every night, by your bed, so the iPad’s the first thing you reach for with that morning cuppa? Well don’t.
  • And, while you’re at it, stop answering emails at all times of the day or night, or feeling obliged to respond INSTANTLY to the always ‘urgent’ requests clattering daily into your inbox. It was fine while you were away. That ‘out of office’ did the trick. Nobody died. The world didn’t stop turning. People waited. The jobs got done on your return – and more efficiently with a clearer head. And they probably weren’t urgent anyway. They rarely are.

No really, you’re welcome.

*Eric, for the uninitiated, is the strong thermal wind which blows across Vassiliki bay during the afternoon, often with quite spectacular results, making the place a Mecca for windsurfers and sailors. He’s also been known to wrench unsuspecting towels from balcony chairs and poorly-pegged scanties from their moorings.

**WNYC is one of New York’s two flagship public radio stations.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. fab, pity I read it on my iphone. you should write a book. x


    1. Lol. And, indeed, I wrote it online, to be read online… argh!!! But a book… hmmm… xxx


  2. says:

    So much fun…loved reading it!! Hope to speak soon….


    1. Thanks Josh. Yes, catch up soon xxx


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