Manolis Giatakis is a happy man. He lives on an islet off Crete, an idyllic place where life expectancy is high and it is always sunny. He is 65 years old, healthy, married for 42 years and has five children and seven grandchildren.
But one of the reasons he is still happy is that he chose to leave everything behind and live in a wooden hut. And a video report about his life has become viral on the internet.
Giatakis calls himself “mougri” (eel) because he is flexible and can always slide away when the going gets rough. Since 1968 he practically lives on an islet 10 miles south of Crete called Chrysi, in a hut he made himself out of tree trunks and branches the sea washed out.
The Cretan “Robinson Crusoe” is always half-naked, barefoot, hasn’t shaved in 20 years and says that man’s biggest strength is his ability to adapt. He said that he read the book and it might have influenced him. He also read “Travelling” by fellow Cretan Nikos Kazantzakis and has learned from it as well.
Giatakis has lived in a regular home until he was fifteen and after that he rarely stayed in a house or hotel room. He misses nothing from what others call “modern life,” none of its comforts and pastimes. He doesn’t miss cinema or the theater because, as he says, nature plays the best movies, and describes an incident where he swam with and rode dolphins as the best movie ever made.
His best friend is a tree. He sits on its crooked trunk and talks to it. In a tree, he says, he sees life and death simultaneously, because parts of a tree are dead and others alive, depending on the season.
“I am what you see,” “mougri” says, refusing to define or describe himself in conventional terms. And what you see is a happy man.