Greek-American Matt Barrett has written millions of words about Greece. Spending his time between Greece and the USA he has over the years created travel pages on the internet that have become a unique resource not only for tourists but Greeks too.
His Athens Survival Guide, which he started in 1995, is chocked full of photos, stories, and information to such an extent that even Athenians use it and has helped countless travelers to see the city as a place to visit and enjoy rather than to just see the Acropolis and get out.
“For me writing about Greece is not a job. It is like a higher calling. If one’s duty on earth is to awaken those around him and so awaken himself what better tool is there than Greece? For those of us who spend long hours a day working or involved in the routine of modern life, Greece is an awakening. Greece reminds us that we are alive,” he tells Greek Reporter.
Barrett’s real name is Economopoulos with roots from Laconia in Peloponnese. His father, born in the USA, taught at the University of Athens in 1963. He liked it so much he got a job at the American Community Schools of Athens and the family lived in Greece from 1968 to 1974 during the Junta.
Why Economopoulos changed to Barrett
“When I went back to the USA I took the name Barrett, not because I was mad at my father or didn’t want to be Greek but for a couple of reasons. First of all, I wanted to go to Greece in the summer and if I happened to stay more than 3 months I wanted the option of paying a fine, not serving in the military. The second reason was that I was a musician and Matt Barrett was a much cooler sounding name than Matt Econopoulos. At least in North Carolina.”
Now Barrett divides his time between Greece and the USA, but his passion for Greece is undiminished. Over the years he has created more web resources such as the Greece Travel Guides which are among the most popular travel sites on the web.
“If you want to know what makes my guide unique I think the answer is right there. I am not selling Greece. I am giving it away. And because parts of it are so personal I am giving away a part of myself with it,” Barrett tells Greek Reporter.
The most significant change in Greece according to Barrett
He says that Greece has changed a lot from the 1960s when as a young kid he followed his father in Athens. Asked what is the biggest change he has seen he says:
“It has been the women. When I lived in Greece in the sixties the girls wore blue uniforms and were completely sheltered. They have become liberated and have allowed themselves to blossom into the most beautiful women in the world in my opinion.”
Barrett tells Greek Reporter that Greece is popular “because it is somehow familiar while at the same time exotic. Whether this familiarity comes from studying the ancient Greeks in school or something deeper or more spiritual I don’t know.”
He says he receives countless e-mails from people who have written that they have always had an attraction to Greece and once they had visited felt they somehow belonged there.
“Places in Greece are as familiar as if they had once been home. It is not a chance that the slogan for the Athens 2004 Olympics was ‘Welcome Home’. It was not just a homecoming for the Olympics themselves but for all those visiting the place that has much to do with who we are today. And maybe some of us once walked the streets of ancient Athens with Socrates and Plato,” he tells Greek Reporter.
Hard choosing favorite place in Greece
Over the years, Barrett has crisscrossed Greece several times. Choosing his favorite places is hard. But one Aegean island stands out:
“Lesvos is my favorite island. It reminds me of Crete 50 years ago. It has not been destroyed by tourism, the food is good and inexpensive. It is still largely agricultural and it is not just one of the most interesting places in Greece, but in the world.”
He also tells Greek Reporter that he likes Sifnos because he has spent so much time there and knows it so well. His wife is from Kea so the island is also among his favorites. “Both of those islands have great beaches and good food. I love Chania, Crete. I could easily live there year-round. I love the Peloponessese too.”
He says that there are not many places he goes to in Greece that he doesn’t like.
“Even when I go somewhere new and it rubs me the wrong way at first because it is too touristy or for whatever reason, as soon as I find an ouzeri or cafeneon and start meeting people I begin to love where I am and see it with different eyes.”