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Athens – Feeling Down Before Walking Up

Mount Lycabettus gives one a panoramic view

By Scott ChristensonPublished 30 days ago Updated 30 days ago 3 min read
View from Mount Lycabettus, the Acropolis in the foreground -- Photo by Author

In the 1990s, I was a “backpacker”. In 2022, I was a “digital nomad”. Same thing, but our culture always finds a way to rename old things to make them sound new and fresh again.

By late 2022, I had been traveling across Western Europe for months, and as autumn wore on, I headed to the warmer, and cheaper, countries of the Balkans and Southern Europe. By November, I was living in Athens, Greece.

People who have done a lot of traveling in the past may relate to the fact that a malaise can sink in after 2 or 3 months on the road.

A person traveling that long is no longer bursting out of bed in the morning to see new sights, or have conversations with other travelers. It’s the same old thing after a while. The same questions and the same answers. The “new” has become old.

On one such morning, as I looked through the list of 20 amazing history museums and archeology sites of Athens, I found that nothing struck my eye. What would I do at those places, anyway? In fact, I didn’t really want to do anything at all. My energy level, my passion for life, was down, rock bottom and still digging as they say. I desperately needed to reinvigorate myself.

I had a well-connected friend in Athens, a previous coworker, but he was busy with his wife and children. On my arrival, he had graciously taken me on a tour of the city and up to the top of Mount Lycabettus (more of a hill really) to see the panoramic 360 view. It was a pleasant day.

Athens has a hot and arid climate -- Photo of slope of Mount Lycabettus by Author

I decided I would climb that hill again, and then declare that day by myself a “success”. To feel free to do nothing else after that except read books and look for delicious food. My therapist regularly said I should “give myself permission to be kind to myself”. I would give it a try.

The city center of Athens is surprisingly small. It's only a 10-minute walk from Pangrati, where I was staying at an Airbnb, through the congested city streets to the base of Mount Lycabettus.

Athens is the commercial center of Greece, but the pace of life is slower than cities of the west. Students gather and chat excitedly about their futures, office workers huddle in small groups and murmur conspiratorially about their plans to get ahead, old men in cafes reminisce with each other about the fun of their working years.

The author bothering one of the many cats of Athens -- Photo by Author

I felt out of place. An outsider. In my imagination, people’s eyes were upon on me as if I didn’t belong. I hurried my pace.

Arriving at the base of Mount Lycabettus, I began to walk up the steep incline. The effort needed forced me to put my head down and focus on the exertion required to keep moving. The mountain is slightly off the beaten tourist track, and few people were there. I ignored the handful who passed me on their way up or down.

Ten minutes later, I was halfway up the hill and feeling happier and more confident. I started to look people walking past me in the eye and nod. They nodded back. We were on the same team—they were getting exercise and so was I.

Nighttime view from the top of Mount Lycabettus - Photo by Author

Arriving at the summit, I did something that was rare for me. I stood for a long time and looked at the horizon. It was ok to be there at that moment and simply exist. To be in a city that was the birthplace of democracy. Where hundreds of generations have existed between the era of Ancient Greece and now. I was just a piece of dust floating through the ocean of history, and I was ok with that. I am ok with that.

Seafood for sale in Athens Greece - Photo by Author

On each follow morning after that, when I woke up feeling lethargic, I would make my way to Mount Lycabettus. By the time I reached the summit, I would be back on top of the world again. And by midday, back on my computer writing a new article or short story.

Maybe being a digital nomad is different from being a backpacker.


About the Creator

Scott Christenson

Born and raised in Milwaukee WI, living in Hong Kong. Hoping to share some of my experiences w short story & non-fiction writing. Have a few shortlisted on Reedsy:


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Comments (5)

  • Angie the Archivist 📚🪶28 days ago

    I enjoyed ’touring’ Athen with you😊. Interesting to read “People who have done a lot of traveling in the past may relate to the fact that a malaise can sink in after 2 or 3 months on the road.’ I haven’t been on a long trip in decades but it’s interesting how invigorating exercise and getting out & about it helped.

  • Kageno Hoshino29 days ago

    I am in love with your writing at this point lol

  • I always love hearing stories from you life Scott! Reading this made me want to go back to Greece again - maybe one day I will haha.

  • I love your conversational style of story telling. I really enjoyed reading this one. I especially love the photos and the one of you petting the cat - finally I get a photo glimpse of who you are. Great work as always!

  • The story is well deserved.

Scott ChristensonWritten by Scott Christenson

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