Lana Penrose was 32 when she first arrived in Athens. Excited by the prospect of a sea change, she had no idea what to expect from the country. The half Maltese, half Australian journalist/producer found herself in Greece with her Greek Australian husband who had been offered a job offer he couldn’t refuse and Lana, as she said herself, would have “followed him to the end of the earth”. That was her love, so strong.
But her love was challenged from the minute she stepped off the plane. Not only isolated from family and friends, she soon watched as her husband came into his own with his Greek cultural identity.
“Because he was Greek he had a lot of cultural seeds in him that I don’t think he knew were there,” Lana tells Neos Kosmos, “they began sprouting while we were there and coming to life.
“So I was grappling with a whole new existence and a whole change of identity whereas with him it was like he was coming into his own – so it was like two worlds collided.”
Lana felt isolated. She was far away from her family and friends, in a country where she couldn’t speak the language. Even though she says her frustration and isolation had nothing to with Greece or Greek people per se, every Greek nuance was accentuated due to the situation she found herself in.
“With the change in our relationship, everything was becoming more and more distorted and difficult and every single day, the little trials and tribulations of trying to assimilate into another culture were building and magnified. And it was just much tougher than I ever expected.”
As a well-read woman, she felt her experience with a Sabbatical in the Hellenic Republic was unique. She had read travel memoirs were everything was presented as this idyllic, Utopian existence, whereas she would go days without speaking to anyone. Lana began to write her thoughts and experiences down, unsure if anyone would ever see them.
“I think a lot of travel memoirs gloss over that move abroad and a lot of stories are painted in this glorious Utopian light where everything is idyllic and falls into place and everything comes up roses but some times it’s just not like that,” says the author.
At the time of releasing her first memoir To Hellas and Back, about her initial experiences in Greece, Lana says she was shocked by the amount of positive feedback about her experiences.
“At the time I thought it was quite a unique experience, I thought ‘what’s wrong with me, why am I feeling like this, what’s going on here?’, but it’s not that uncommon.”
Some of the feedback she received was from Greek Australians who could relate to her experiences, having themselves been exposed to some hardship or another in their homeland, but also that hers is a story similar to Greek migration to Australia. However, Lana is quick to point out that many who migrated to Australia came with friends and family, but in her case she was alone.
It was during the demise of her marriage that Lana left Greece after four years and moved to London, the base of her second memoir Kickstart My Heart – a tale of finding herself in the United Kingdom that ends with the start of a new relationship with a Greek man named Adonis.
While she was editing To Hellas and Back, Lana found herself once again in Athens, familiarising herself with little details to make sure her first memoir was correct. She met and fell in love again.
But her fans wanted to know what became of Adonis and their life together, setting the stage for a romantic Greek tragedy in her third memoir Addicted to Love.
“The book Kickstart My Heart ends with me meeting this lovely Greek guy that I fell head over heels in love with, and I ended up moving back to Athens, which seemed so crazy at the time but I thought ‘I am getting my happy ending after all’,” Lana says.
But like every Greek tragedy, what was to follow was not to be a happy ending at all. “It’s not the nicest of stories, it’s a bit confronting but I decided that there’s something about being a writer where I need to express myself in that way, that’s why I released this mini-memoir.”
The book is mainly set on the island of Kythera, where the lovebirds spent a Greek summer where Adonis was managing a bar. “Kythera is an extremely beautiful island, but again it was a beautiful setting to something quite difficult taking place.”
Now in her 40s, the author still to this day can’t understand the strong pull to Greece, the connection to a country that has seen her live some of the hardest days of her life, which she puts it down to one of life’s anomalies.
“I really love Greece and I think it’s by far one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, but I have contended with so much over there that it’s a dichotomy, it’s like I love that country but wow, my hardest times have played out over there and I really don’t know why.”
All three of Lana’s memoirs can be purchased exclusively via (for print or Kindle edition) or (for all other digital reading devices, including direct download to your computer)