After spending six weeks in mainland Greece, Dain and I set out for the island of Crete, a Greek territory said to have preserved its traditions and culture throughout the tests of time.

“It is like a different country,” numerous mainland locals informed us.

Since reading Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougal, Dain has been ecstatic about visiting Crete.

He said, “Crete has played such an important historical role in the Mediterranean, and I heard the Cretan people have an amazing mix of pride and strength, and incredibly warm hospitality. I wanted to experience it for myself.”

From Athens, we took a 12-hour ferry ride to Chania, Crete, aboard the grandiose Minoan Lines cruise ship. I experienced an eerie feeling as we boarded, like I had traveled back in time to the early 1900s and was stepping onto the Titanic.

We were as giddy as the fictitious Rose and Jack Dawson as we scampered through the various levels of the floating city, which included a dance club and swimming pool. Deep into the night, we made our way to the upper deck and watched the moon’s reflection dance upon the Mediterranean Sea. We slept only a couple hours to return to the deck for sunrise.

After traveling for half a day, we had finally arrived to the historical city of Chania, Crete. It did not take us long to discover that there are indeed some very distinct characteristics of Cretan folk.

If you are not careful to remain open and unassuming, you could receive an inaccurate first impression of Cretans.

Many exude a noticeable steadfastness without uttering a word. Their faces can be serious and their communication succinct and deliberate. Just when you think, “This Cretan is bothered by me,” they will crack the most inviting smile you’ve ever felt, and make time stand still to open their worlds to you. The truth is: a Cretan would be bothered if they did not let you know how much your presence is appreciated. It is perhaps the most unconditional affection I’ve ever experienced with a stranger.

The first conversation I struck up was with a man named Socrates (you know it - I was tickled to death to make an actual friend named Socrates). After some small talk at a tiki hut on the beach he said, “You are traveling around Crete for six weeks? You are not like the most American tourists. Why did you come here?”

I told Socrates about Dain’s intrigue with Cretan history and of my infatuation with rugged coastlines and folks with grit. Socrates’ fierce blue eyes grew large and flickered with an obvious pride. I noticed the rise and fall of his chest as he sighed with enthusiasm. He reached beneath the tiki bar to grab an old fashioned paper map. For the next hour so, Socrates educated me about various historical and remote gems throughout the island.

As Socrates made suggestions for places to visit, he often repeated, “I will not tell you what you will find. You must experience it for yourself.”

Each time he said this, the hair stood up on my arms. “Spoken like a true Socrates,” I thought.

This meeting came to a close when a Cretan stranger neared the hut and requested our attendance for a traditional dinner. Ever since, Crete has revealed itself as a land in which no strangers exist.

In the words of our new friend, Manos: “If you come as a visitor, we will open our homes to you, feed you our food, let you sleep in our bed, for as long as you want. But, if you come to take our house … we will shoot you.”

In future articles, I will pass along some of the oral history of Crete and the big hearted warriors who occupy it.