Frank: About a year and a half ago, an idea came to me. I’m not sure where exactly. It may have been while I was out pottering around in the garden – I shouldn’t say potter. You potter when you have reached retirement age – while I was out gardening. Or it could have come to me when I was on the train on the way into work on a Monday morning in one of those moments that seem to demand that you question the path that you’re on. Anyway, whatever the moment was is unimportant. The significant factor is that the idea remained, it recurred and it grew, it sprouted and gave rise to other ideas that would support it. About a year and a half ago, I had the idea to move to the island of Crete for a year.
Lena: About a year ago, Frank mentioned a crazy idea to me. One that I thought was a pipe dream that would be forgotten soon. So I paid it no heed. But, it wasn’t forgotten and soon grew legs in my own head. But what would it mean to live on Crete for a year? What would I do? What would Frank do? Where would we live? What would we do with our house in Dublin – the house that we had just bought and done up? What would I do about my job? Would I miss my family? How would Lenny, our dog like it? A lot of questions but it was still there even as we started answering them. The idea had become possible. We could live on Crete for a year but why would we do it? What was the point? Why Crete?
Frank: That’s a fair question. Why go to Crete or anywhere else for that matter? I guess we wanted to do the cliche: we wanted to escape the rat-race for a little while and see what happens. I tell this story every now and then about a business man from America who goes on holidays to Mexico once a year with his family and while it’s a good story (I heard it from someone else), it also has a pretty solid message.
Each year, the American sees the same local man. He’s a fisherman. The American notes that he gets up every morning late. He does a bit of fishing. He catches enough fish to feed his family. He plays with his kids in the afternoon and in the evening he plays cards and has a drink with his friends. Eventually, after a number of years of this, the hard-working American can take it no more. He says to the fisherman.
‘If you just got up a little earlier every morning and went out fishing, you could catch more fish than you need to feed your family. You could then sell the surplus fish at the market for a profit.’
‘Yes’, the fisherman says, ‘and then what do I do?’
‘Well then, you earn enough to buy a bigger boat and you start to employ other fishermen, so that you can catch a bigger haul.’
‘And then what?’, the fisherman urges.
‘Then you build up a thriving business.’
‘After a couple of years, you might have built up a big enough company to start importing fish directly into the United States.’
‘You move to the US and you and your family start your new life there.’
‘And then what?’
‘Eventually, you reach a point where you can retire.’
‘And what do I do then?’
‘Well, then you could move down to Mexico, buy a little house by the sea, get up late in the morning, bring your boat out for some fishing, be around your family and play cards and have a drink with your friends in the evening.’
‘Yes. That is what I could do’.
And I guess that’s why we are doing this. We want to be that fisherman for a year. We want to catch his fish, to play with his kids and drink with his friends in the evening. That’s why we are going to live on the island of Crete for a year. We want to see if the fisherman really exists.