An interview with James on his stay at a Greek Orthodox monastery

This is an interview with James on his WWOOFing experience on a Greek Orthodox monastery in Northern Greece. He stayed there for 2 months in 2019 and in 2020. The interview was done at Dio Pigadia – our small permaculture farm in Greece.

Tell us about the monastery

Saint John the Forerunner is a Greek Orthodox monastery run by sisters from all around the world in the Larissa Region, Northern Greece. It has been functioning for the past 20 years by volunteers and donations. They live, work and die in the monastery all in faith. They seasonally rotate through volunteers with a maximum of 13 volunteers at a time. People come from around the world, friends, volunteers and believers to help contribute to the monastery and its purpose. Their arm was to create a heavenly place, taking care or animals and living in harmony in nature. Most people were believers of their faith, which I was not. They were still happy to host and accommodate people who do not need to share their same beliefs. There’s more information on their mission here

When were you there?

Mid June – End of August, 2019 and again in 2020

How did you find them?

I stumbled across the monastery on WWOOF. I thought, why not, because I looked like a funky place to go visit. I like the absurd path you can take in life. 

Why did you go there?

Because I’m curious. 

How did a typical day look like?

I would wake up quite early because I was there in the summer. It was usually quite hot. I would do vegetable picking in the mornings, and then move on some construction work. I worked on building staircases using big stones, making gates using welding and would make gates or enclosures for the animals. I also helped with cutting down trees. We would have our meals cooked for us, so every lunch we would sit in the main dining area on the patio. After lunch was free time where I could be found hiking on the mountain, creating sculptures or chatting with friends. Then at 6pm we got back to work until around 9pm. 

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How did you get to know the people there?

We often did our work together, sharing the same space and time. In the afternoons we would some times spend our time hanging out together or working on side projects together. 

What did you eat?

Every lunch time, the sisters would make lunch for us. Lots of vegetables, fruits and eggs. They did not serve meat, although we had fish twice. They made the best cheese from the goats and sheep we lived with. People used to make desserts and sweets as a little treat. I made a fruit salad once. They blessed the food before we ate it (though it was behind closed doors). We weren’t allowed to cook lunch as there was a sister in charge of cooking for the whole year. But dinner was open season.

What was one of the most important things that you learnt?

I learnt some big things about my own life. Spending time alone was important to me. I met a lot of interesting people, had interesting conversations and made connections with people from across the world. 

How did that experience impact your daily life and routine after leaving the monastery?

It made me realise that going somewhere on your own and to a place that you like (or a country like Greece) isn’t that hard. It’s actually very gratifying. People can be scared of leaving their homes and their routines and so was I. My old routines didn’t match my energy or align with my beliefs. And I’m glad that I’ve worked on changing that. 

What others think about us

  • Avatar Soizic Brun ★★★★★ 2 months ago
    Amazing place where you can explore sustainable practices including composting, mulching, wood work, lacto-fermentation, low-technologies... in an interacting … More community. Jules is very willing to share his knowledge with you and explore shared governance. Don't miss this opportunity to live an off-grid experience.
  • Avatar We learn as we wander ★★★★★ 11 months ago
    My daughter and I only wanted to visit Dio Pigadia for one afternoon but we ended up staying three weeks. It was a truly great experience for us and we … More both enjoyed taking care of the animals, gardens and veggies on the farm and fell in love with this little paradise. We ate daily together with the other volunteers amazing fresh meals with very tasty vegetables from the garden, helped out at a beach clean up event and even went sailing together.
    Saying goodbye was a hard one here but we both know for sure we want to come back, so it's only bye for now and thank you for everything Jules.
    Lia, Jenny and Tito
  • Avatar Soffi Sandkühler ★★★★★ a month ago
    A wonderful farm with wonderful people.
    The vision of the place and the way that they think realistically about permaculture and self sustainability is
    … More inspiring!
    So if you get the chance to go there you should definitely go and enjoy your visit there!
    The area is amazing and the olives trees in combination with the wild see is a dream come true 🤩
  • Avatar Yarden Haik ★★★★★ 2 weeks ago
    We’ve stayed for a week in dio pigadia with my family as active guests. Our stay was beyond expectations. Stunning and comfortable place while it brings … More you back to basics. Thanks to the amazing staff and volunteers, we very fast felt part of the community. We highly recommend for a special experience in Peloponnese. All the family will take away something and reconnect with the essential laws of nature.
  • Avatar Yiaei Kasenda ★★★★★ 4 weeks ago
    Thank you Jules, Vaso and all the team for your warm welcome! We wish we could have stayed langer. What you people built up there in these few years is … More really amazing and impressively important. Good luck with everything that is yet to come! Can't wait to come back next year :) see you soon!
  • Avatar Willow Horsfall-Munden ★★★★★ 3 weeks ago
    An amazing experience with amazing people. We stayed for 2 months, we learnt so much, a place of sharing, enjoyment and caring. Living on the farm, in … More the olive trees, under the sun!
  • Avatar Marjal Sykora ★★★★★ 10 months ago
    Dio Pigadia is a very beautiful place between olive trees. The month we was there was the best time of our trip through Greece and south europe. Jules … More is very friendly and he work at this project with all his possibilities and love. Also it was nice to known all the nice people and this way of life. I can tell recommend to go to this place and this people and see how life can work in a good way.
    Thanks for this experience Jules
    P. S. you should try the comfortable compost toilet ;) it's perfect.
    .
  • Avatar gil jarus ★★★★★ 10 months ago
    Such a lovely place! We stayed for three nights and felt home, the atmosphere is peaceful and welcoming, we were invited to help ourselves with everything … More the farm yields - vegetables, greens and eggs. the volunteers were friendly, and Jules hosted us so nicely, he showed us around the farm and kindly explained about the ways he operate the farm and the permaculture approach, he gave us so much knowledge with such a big smile, it was a pleasure!
  • Avatar Louise Olgiati ★★★★★ 6 months ago
    Had an amazing time at Dio Pigadia volunteering for 6 weeks. It was great to learn about gardening and permaculture, and to be part of such a welcoming … More community !
  • Avatar Lucas Bonnier-Kulik ★★★★★ 9 months ago
    I spent approximately 2 months alongside Jules and many other volunteers and it was for me one of my deepest experience I've never had. You live, … More learn, practice as if it was your family, your shared project that you support, a return to a sober living.
    Thank you for all, I'll never forget. Kiss
    Lucas