I pulled away from the crowd and took a short stroll to the beach. Emotions kept rushing in as I walked along the endless beachfront adjacent to the hotel where I was staying. After a short walk, I decided to take off my shoes which had become soaking wet. The warm sand felt soothing against my bare feet. I wanted to jump into the water and take a swim but I remembered that I had to walk through the reception to get to my room and all my colleagues were gathered close by.
So, I simply stared at the water and let the waves splash against my legs. It was hard to believe that this was my life. I was living in a country – an island, specifically – that many dreamt of visiting if only for a weekend. I’d receive calls every day from people back home asking me to “organize a holiday” for them. All of these because I dared to be a dreamer. The many nights I slept without eating had finally paid off. However, I wasn’t always so sure that I would realize my dreams.
You see, I come from a rather well-off family. My parents are both surgeons and all my siblings have followed suit, receiving several accolades in their respective careers. When it was my turn to leave the nest, I took a different path. While I was in university pursuing a degree in Law, I had convinced my elder sister to pay for a short course in Photography. I had always had a passion for capturing beautiful images so I decided to follow that passion. Additionally, most of my friends had side hustles which inspired me to start one.
Photography didn’t turn out to be as lucrative as I expected. I had to fund a lot of my trips to capture the content I wanted and even then, it didn’t seem to attract as many eyes.
“So, you’re serious about this photography?” my dad asked.
“Of course I am.”
“You should be looking for an internship. You’re almost graduating.”
“I am. I promise, dad. By the time I graduate, I’ll have a job.”
The tradition in our household was that as soon as anyone graduated, they left the nest. My parents seemed a bit lenient on me since I was the last born and they’d be all alone once I left but I could tell my father didn’t want me to break the tradition. With such mounting pressure, I was desperate to hit my big break. Working a 9 to 5 was not on my agenda, at least not in my 20s. I wanted to travel the world, nurture my talent and live my best life.
This was all on me. No one was going to sponsor my trips and I was quickly running out of money to travel since I was saving to move out. It got to a point where I had to choose whether to furnish my apartment or to pay for hotel stays so I could get content to photograph. The life of a dreamer was finally catching up to me.
I moved out even before graduating as if to prove a point to my parents. However, the living conditions were wanting. I didn’t have any dishes, my mattress was on the floor and I used extra bedsheets as curtains. To me, this was all part of the adventure and a good story I’d eventually tell people when my photography career takes off. When my parents asked to come and visit me, I always had an excuse.
“I’m out of town.” I lied.
“We haven’t seen you in a month.” My mother lamented.
“I’ll come and visit you when I’m back.”
This went on for around three months. I used to live hand to mouth in the name of being a dreamer. At some point, I considered seeking employment but as I was about to give up, a few clients would come through with photography gigs that would give me enough to pay bills and have some extra coins.
Seeing my classmates move up in their careers fueled my determination to forge my own path. Most of them didn’t think I would last this long doing photography. In fact, they all waited on the edge of their seats to see me fall. They got wind that I was living in a one-room apartment with my mattress on the floor and that on some days, I couldn’t afford a meal.
Suddenly, this became the talk of the class WhatsApp group.
I didn’t take the gossip personally, though. They might have been successful but most of them didn’t have anything exciting going on for them. My best friend, Adrian, constantly ranted how his life was becoming monotonous and boring.
“Where are you?” he asked
“Aberdare,” I answered excitedly. “This place is more beautiful than I expected. I have high hopes for the photos I’m taking.”
“Good to know. I’m writing another sale agreement.” He said in a monotone.
“I’m coming back in a few days then you can tell me about all the exciting things that happen in the corridors of justice.”
“Ha-ha. You’re very funny. Anyway, have fun, my dear. I can’t wait to see your work in magazines.”
“Amen,” I replied then hung up.
The story continued spreading until it reached my parents who now made it their mission to get me an internship with one of their friends.
“Where are you? Don’t tell me some remote place because I will drive there are get you.” My dad inquired.
“Good. Meet me for lunch in an hour. I’m sending you the pin.”
As expected, the lunch was a disaster. We argued the whole time and I still stuck to my guns.
“I mean, I’m at the bottom already, dad. The only place I can go from here is up.” I explained to him.
I could tell that he wasn’t having it but there was nothing he could do or say to change my mind.
As I predicted, the photos at Aberdare turned out to be some of my best work. They captured a unique side of the country that many hadn’t explored. As soon as I posted them on my social media page, I got comments from brands who wanted to work with me. It was pretty exciting. I hadn’t received such feedback before and for it to happen was extremely reassuring. Customers wanted to buy my prints from all over the world. I didn’t even consider selling my photography.
As I went through all my DMs, I stumbled upon one from an art gallery in Mykonos. I almost threw my phone across the room in shock. After double-checking it was from a legitimate account, I opened the message.
“Hi Sandra, we’ve been seeing your posts and we’re highly impressed. You have a good eye. We wanted to display some of your work in our gallery and invite you for a two-week stay in Mykonos. If you’re interested, please get in touch with us as soon as possible.”
It all felt surreal even as I walked through the airport terminals and I was finally seated in the plane. I kept questioning whether I was in an endless dream. This was beyond my wildest dreams. I never expected to get an all-expense paid trip and still have my work in an art gallery at the same time. However, I constantly reminded myself to enjoy the moment because it was the reward of being a dreamer.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have landed at Mykonos International Airport…” The pilot announced.
The rest of the announcement sounded muffled in my head. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. People picked up their carry-on bags as I remained seated.
“Ma’am?” a flight attendant tapped me to check if I was asleep. “We’ve landed. Do you need help getting your bag?”
“No, I’m okay. Thank you.”
I was to meet Ms Thalia at the airport who would be my “guide” during my stay in Greece. She was standing conspicuously in the crowd holding a cardboard with my name on it.
“Thalia?” I asked.
“Yes, Sandra? So nice to meet you.” She replied with a warm smile the reached for a hug. “Let me help you with your bags.”
The reception was totally different from what I expected. Everyone was smiling and walking with a bounce in their step. The weather was warm just like it was back home. I truly felt at home.
It took me a minute to take it all in before Thalia guided me to our taxi that drove us straight to the hotel. It was a short drive – around 15 minutes. As we drove, I explored the island with my eyes. I was specifically looking for a place I could photograph and the island had plenty of them. The whole island looked like a dream.
“Relax. I’ll take you around tomorrow.” Thalia said after she caught me looking around.
“Thanks. The place is just so beautiful. I can’t help but look around.”
“Trust me, you haven’t even seen half of it, darling.”
Thalia had a peculiar accent that I couldn’t quite identify. She didn’t sound like the hostess or even the pilot.
“If you don’t mind me asking, where’s your accent from?”
She was silent and I held my breath fearing that I had offended her.
“Oh wow, you really are keen. I was born in America to Greek parents and I’ve lived in Greece for over 15 years. So, I have a weird mix of American and Greek accents.”
“No, it’s really good. I could listen to you talk all day.”
She looked out the window and then turned to me, “We’re here.”
We alighted as the driver unloaded my suitcases. I dragged the suitcase that had my camera equipment and the rest was loaded on a trolley and then pushed by the concierge.
“Welcome to Harmony Boutique Hotel,” he said as we walked to the reception.
The receptionist handed me my hotel room card and we proceeded to the room. After unloading my suitcases, the concierge disappeared without a word.
“Here you go,” Thalia said handing me an envelope. “This contains some cash and my number. If you need anything, just give me a call. I’m 5 minutes away.”
Read Part 2 here – The Dreamer Part 2
Here are more short stories that you will enjoy:
Sweet Cakes Will Not Get You Love Or Keep You Warm At Night Part 1
The Beggar Who Became A Millionaire
My Boyfriend Discouraged Me From Pursuing My Dream Job Part 1