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Happy girls in Crete.

I fell in love with Crete three years ago. Chania, a sleepy, idyllic coastal town on the island blessed with endless sunshine, stole my heart.

There I spent days of cloudless skies, sparkling seas, beautiful inhabitants, and fresh, divine food with two of my closest friends. There’s a magical quality to Greece. Magic in its people, its culture, its pastoral way of life. The island renewed my spirit.

It makes me sad to remember how much I used to spend precious energy on things that didn’t matter. I was consumed with validating my existence through the opinion of others. Is my stomach flat enough? Am I wearing the right clothes? Am I want he wants? 

I’d drown in the fancies of others instead of embracing what wanted.

But there was no hiding from myself in Crete.


Crete kickstarted my departure from adolescence. It was a coming-of-age for my soul.

From our first night on the island, I felt different. I reconnected with nature, the wind, the sea. I reconnected with myself. Soon after that, everything began to shift. I felt healthier, happier. More fulfilled.

After a day beneath the sun, I saw love in my hotel mirror, where before I’d seen only flaws.

I vividly remember laying by the pool with my eyes closed, feeling the hot sun beat down on my body, a refreshing breeze cooling my warm face. I heard splashing water, the laughter of my friends, the song Send Me on My Way by Rusted Root playing on repeat . . .


I wanted to freeze the moment forever. That was the first time I’d ever felt completely, utterly comfortable with myself.

These days, whenever I feel low, or caught up in the bustle of cosmopolitan living, I bring myself back to the clarity of that moment.

That lightbulb moment.


We stayed at the Louis Creta Princess Hotel for just over a week. In the daytime we raided their all-inclusive buffet, overdosed on ice-cream, and cried with laughter as we frolicked in the pool, just like a trio of six-year-olds (with notably naughtier thoughts).

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I’ll forever cherish the memory of Kat, deathly hungover from one too many cocktails the night before, in a baggy Hawaiian shirt, storming towards me with a towering plate of spring rolls from the Asian buffet. The image makes me laugh until I cry.

We had unforgettable memories out there. Language barrier mishaps at local pharmacies, crashing children’s discos, defying gravity on hazy park slides. Bikini tops vanished at the most inopportune of times (unfortunately, mine; unfortunately, in public family pool) . . .


In Crete, we were free. Free to be ourselves, wild and young and spirited.

We came alive in the night time.

We danced in the dark ocean beneath the stars and watched the sun rise up from the sea beside strangers on sun loungers.

We explored the charms of the rustic old town in the heat of the day and shook our tail-feathers in bars in the humidity of twilight.

We rode motorbikes along highways with weird, wonderful souls whom we’re still in touch with today.

I’m grateful for it all.

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The trip ended with sunburn, sunstroke, and tonsillitis. (Contrary to popular teenage belief, we were not invincible.)

Our plane ride home was spent gargling with salt water, applying aloe vera gel, and massaging our temples . . .

But it was all worth it.

Thank you for everything, Crete. For my friends, for your beauty, and for me.

Here’s to the happy, sun-drenched memories of our youth.

May we remember them always with the tenderest of nostalgia.

Girls on plane to London.
Mel Legarda

Melissa Legarda is the founder of illumelation. She has worked as a travel blogger, creator and writer since 2015, and has collaborated with well-known brands worldwide. She has helped over 1,100+ students improve their travel photography skills since launching her creative courses. Her mission is to encourage and empower others to travel and create more. Find her on Instagram.


  • Menorca says:

    Wow..I loved this article..I can relate to it in a different way…I am familiar with the insecurities caused due to the people around us or standards set by society..and when you can finally see over those things,you feel so liberated….

    • Melissa L.A. says:

      Thank you for reading and taking the time to leave a comment, Menorca! I agree… we’re all a little too familiar with insecurities caused by society’s flawed standards. One has to be strong and mindful every day to in order to retain one’s personal liberation 🙂

  • Ashlee Litfin says:

    I feel like I went through the same changes on my first international trip! Lovely post!

    • Melissa L.A. says:

      Thanks, Ashlee! I think there’s something so powerful about travelling after a major chapter in one’s life x

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