No-Stress Living on the Greek Island of Corfu

"We explore, we travel. In summer, we're at the beach six or seven times a week," says Griselda Valencia. She lives on the Greek island of Corfu with her husband David and their young son.

David first visited the country in the 1970s, when he spent time in Matala on the island of Crete.

At the time, the village was little more than an unknown stop on the hippie trail, popular because you could sleep for free in the caves carved into the beachside cliffs.

That all changed when it featured in two songs on Joni Mitchell's platinum-selling album, Blue. Overnight, it became an international destination for independent travelers.

By that time, though, Greece had already captivated David.

A successful career as a San Diego florist filled the decades from the 1970s all the way to 2016, when he, Griselda, and their son Sebastian moved to the Greek island of Corfu.

David and Griselda paid $265,000 for their sea-view home, which at the time came with four bedrooms. Now, after they've modernized and renovated it to their own specifications, it's a three-bedroom, three-bathroom home. "We've spent around $250,000 on the renovation," Griselda says. "We could have found something cheaper inland in one of the villages, but we wanted to be close to Sebastian's school and all the after-school activities, which take place in Corfu Town."

"In California, a home like the one we have here would cost big money," says David. "Two to three million dollars. You couldn't buy a place like it in La Jolla, San Diego, where we lived."

In fact, it was partly because of the excellent educational opportunities that David and Griselda chose Corfu. Griselda was particularly impressed by the fact Sebastian could study in English and follow the United Kingdom educational curriculum at the Andrioti International School.

"He can be more independent here, too. Because it's an island, you can feel much more comfortable letting your child out on his own. You can't compare it to the U.S. My stress level here is nothing. I'm calm here. I can wear jewelry, walk alone at night, and not worry. I was brought up in Los Angeles, with guns, blood, riots. There's none of that here," says Griselda.

The calm has allowed Griselda to explore the interests she never knew she had. Painting in acrylics is just one example. "I don't think I would be painting in San Diego," she says. "I had to work, be a mom. You have to forget about being you. Here, people open their hearts to you. It goes both ways. It's beautiful. In San Diego, I took Xanax for stress. Here, I don't need it anymore. I sketch, I paint. That's enough."

It helps the family can count on excellent, affordable healthcare. "The medical system is superb by U.S. standards," David says. "Maybe not so modern, but the staff are well trained and you get instant appointments. If you want an MRI, it's $200. In 2012, I had a colonoscopy in the U.S. That cost me $15,000. Here, it's $400. We get health insurance from a company called Allianz. It costs €4,000 ($4,390) a year. In the States, we were paying $1,200 a month, with a $6,000 deductible!"

"The doctors treat you like a human being here, not a statistic," says Griselda. "And they only give you what you need, not endless prescriptions. David had a physical therapist come to the house… it cost €30 ($33) a session. He had a steroid shot in the foot, from a doctor who qualified in Austria, for €60 ($66). It's so much cheaper here."

It's all positive for the family, who get to enjoy the more relaxing aspects of living on a Greek island now the practicalities are taken care of. Now retired and living in Greece as recipients of the country's golden visa, the lifestyle is something David could only dream of back in California.

"As a father, you want to provide the best environment for your child," he says. "Corfu is that place. And the costs are very reasonable. We spend about €4,000 ($4,390) a month for everything—food, outings, our son's after-school activities, health and home insurance, car costs… You can do it for less, too. Standard living costs here are about €2,000 ($2,196) a month. "You need at least a year to explore Greece, to see which part of it fits you best," he continues. "And I'm still learning."

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