Photo: Architectural Digest

After almost a month in Crete, writer and journalist Elaine Kingett reports back on the latest phase of her summer adventure:

Did I discover a swarthy Cretan shepherd, complete with hairnet, Mitsubishi pick-up and gun to sweep me off my feet? Or an Albanian lothario-builder interested in showing me his tattoos, gold tooth and half built apartment in the ‘project’? Well, no and yes. I also discovered how much I liked being on holiday on my own, then spending a couple of days with an old friend and finally, sharing a room with my son, 31, and daughter, 27. All have their charms and it was the perfect way to organize an escape.

On my own, I relished the time I had to soak and boil chickpeas and make a variety of simple vegan dishes with the local, organic vegetables and thick, dark green olive oil. Every morning I danced naked in my rented room, joined by the smell of pine and wild herbs from archaeological site below my window and a view of the wide Aegean sea. Each night, I sat outside in the moonlight on my blue painted chair, plugged into the Archers on iPlayer and limiting myself to two small tumblers of good Cretan wine.


My friend Ally arrived, scooped me up in her hire car and took me off to another part of the island to discover Minoan pottery shards on deserted hill sides and windsurfing beaches full of fit, tanned guys with strong arms and easy smiles.

When my kids flew in, it was party time in Panormo. The days became longer and I’d shoot out early to breakfast in my favourite cafe, leaving the youngsters to sleep off the effects of the night before. After ordering a coffee, I hurriedly erased the photos I’d posted on Instagram, under the influence of retsina and raki and the over-excitement of being with my kids. Then, I tucked gleefully into the next book I’d borrowed from the hotel library. Not literary fiction or self-improving non-fiction, but romantic fiction by popular female authors such as Rosie Thomas. The sort of books I’d always sneered at because of their girly cover design, stereotypical titles or even (snob that I was) the obvious ‘femininity’ of the author’s name.

Perhaps I didn’t find romance in Greece but I did experience it on the well-written pages of Rosie Thomas’ evocative novels  – and that was probably far safer!

Elaine Kingett copy
Elaine Kingett photo: Tim Clinch


Elaine is now in Spain running her Write It Down! creative writing course. And will be back in a bit.



22 thoughts on “The summer adventures of a solo female traveller aged 66

  1. Well I live in Greece, and after the parched rain – less Summer we had this year, plus the crowds and noise, I’ve been dreaming of taking off to the Outer Hebrides, all by myself, with a stack of books of course.( including a new Rosie Thomas !) Takes all sorts does’nt it !

  2. Oh, doesn’t there ever come a time when “romance” is recognised as the tedious con it is? Surely at 66 one’s outgrown it? How refreshing it would be if it just … wasn’t even mentioned. All the rest’s interesting enough, but come on, peeps!

    1. I hope that when I get to 66 – in 5 years – and in all the years I have in my life thereafter there will be romance. I never plan to ‘grow out of it’ and wonder, anyhow, how this is done?

    2. Lilian, you are a woman after my own heart. A life without, ahem, romance, is for me a life lived free and easy with more time and energy for everything else

  3. Sometimes one just wants a light frothy book…romances fit the bill. The best part is you can read them and leave them behind for another aficionado .

  4. We got married on Crete 40 years ago and went back for our 35th anniversary. We got married in Hania at the Catholic church there. It was magical then as is still. I am happy you got to spend a month there.

  5. You are either born a Romantic and have that exhilarating angst within you ’til you die, however old one is, or you acquire some idea of it throughout life ….but that is not real Romanticism, that dies off, somewhere along the line. And I live on an island of perpetual sunshine and it ‘aint the sun that one sickens of, it’s the tourists or the xpats who are usually bored out of their skulls or inebriated for most of their time. I do love Crete though. Fields of broken shards of ancient pottery I remember…I could live with that….
    The best way to live in a true ‘sunshine paradise’ is to leave it regularly and come back asap. And do not live on or anywhere near a beach. And do not shack up with someone you do not really love. Paradise has a way of throwing that out. It does not belong there.

  6. Sounds divine, Elaine. Love the early morning Instagram photo erasing part. I think I to would enjoy the mix of solitude and company… sounds like a great balance for fun and recharging your batteries.

  7. And thank god for BBC radio online:-) It sounds like you had a wonderful summer. It’s so nice to wake up in the morning and have a day with no responsibilities or obligations.

  8. For me, part of the joy of living on an island is the proximity to the sea. I am lucky enough to swim with turtles rather than tourists and to be able to pick my way round sherd covered hills. It is the simple things, as always, that please the most, although I would love to dance in some badly needed rain…maybe later. Oh, and yes, The Archers!

  9. This sounds great. Glad you had a wonderful summer. For me, this sort of holiday always calls for Dan Brown or similar. Complete nonsense but holidays shouldn’t be serious. I learned my lesson having once decided that two weeks on a Greek island would be the perfect time to read Seneca. Thank God I had also packed Riders.

  10. Thanks for sharing. As a divorced 58 year old I’m anxiously getting ready to dip my toes in the water of solo travel.
    It would be helpful if other women would share their experiences along with suggestions on where to stay, eat, etc.
    And I hope I never outgrow romance. Even if its just a catch and release. 😉

  11. Oh, doesn’t there ever come a time when “romance” is recognised as the tedious con it is? Surely at 66 one’s outgrown it? How refreshing it would be if it just … wasn’t even mentioned.

    I think that would be interesting to talk about….not just how what’s romantic for us changes but how our prejudices come to light as we get older…what I think is ‘romantic’ now – what gives me those feelings is very different…I thought she was just talking about how scornful/opinionated we are of things when we are young but when we are older we just…relax

  12. Travel and new experiences are good for the soul. Meeting all kinds of people and sharing mutual interests works for me. Sounds like you are enjoying your adventures. How nice to have adult children and you can meet up in beautiful, exotic, vacation locations.

  13. Romance can be anywhere. It doesn’t have to be physical. It can be a thought or a scene and can be a state of mind. It isn’t tedious but it is alluring…and those pics are incredibly alluring to me. Great, great post!!!!!!!!

    1. Agreed! Romance to me (married 21 years to the same man) is not just about love and sex, but also about being in love with life. With finding joy and interest in the world and in other people—in being open to possibility, even in the face of drudgery and tragedy. It’s an attitude, something you cultivate and carry with you, not something that necessarily happens TO you.

  14. How wonderful. I think I know what Elaine means, romance does not have o be about love between people, but as a spirit of or inclination of adventure and mystery, an enjoyment and love of the here and now.

  15. What a wonderful holiday! I now live in California and wax nostalgic about bluebell woods and long barrows, so my holiday reading tends to AGA-sagas and old Elizabeth Goudge, Elizabeth Falconer, incredibly difficult to get hold of over here so the chase is part of the pleasure.

    I did my share of blissful solo travel in my fifties, entering what I call the Order of Travelling Nuns (motto: none of that!) The heaven of just doing as I damn well please. Worked all my sixties, so I hope I can be footloose again in the next decade.

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