The first time I met Erin Perperoglou, she asked me where I was from. So, of course, the inevitable “Third Culture Kid” conversation came up. She was so engaged and interested in wanting to hear my perspective of growing up internationally. And as she listened and read my stories, she told me she thought about her own children, who, themselves, are growing up as TCKs, with parents in an inter-cultural marriage.
Born and raised in San Francisco, California, USA, Erin was just a “typical” American girl with a talent for basketball and a love of surfing. While playing for the WNBA, she began traveling as a young adult, and eventually met the love of her life in Athens, Greece. Since then, she and her growing family have lived in Greece, Turkey, Spain, Israel, and now, Serbia.
Although, I was able to provide some insight for her on my experience as a TCK, the more I talked with Erin, the more I realized I wanted to hear from her. I started asking the questions, instead of answering them. I was eager to hear her perspective on raising multicultural children, on being a mother in a foreign country, on starting a marriage in her husband’s passport country and more. Little did I know, that Erin, herself, had become a Third Culture Adult long before marrying someone from another country, or raising her children overseas.
From Homebody to Jungle Child
At the age of twenty-two, Erin joined her family on a vacation to Costa Rica, and she loved it so much that she just decided to stay. She lived in her bathing suit, and spent her days surfing and enjoying the freedom of the Rainforest. By completely immersing herself, Erin became fluent in Spanish and was treated as a local.
“In my heart, as a child, I didn’t want to travel. I loved my home; I loved America, and I was very much a homebody,” she explained. “But Costa Rica was a dream. Everything changed when I went there.”
As she continued to play basketball, Erin traveled off and on for work, but at the end of the season, she would always come back “home,” to her little haven in the Rainforest.
“Costa Rica became my home. I knew right then and there that I never needed to return to the States. I don’t know why or how, but they really accepted me into their culture; into their world.”
Fully committing to her dream, Erin even started building her own house there. Everything was set up and ready; she had cleared the land and had big plans for her future there. She dreamed of one day also building a girl’s home on the land to support impoverished and underprivileged girls.
Finding Love in Greece
As she was preparing the final steps before building her home, Erin received a phone call that changed her life. Her agent needed someone to play basketball in Greece for two months. But she didn’t want to give up her home and her passion.
“I didn’t even like basketball, even though I was really good at it.” she told me.
“Surfing was my passion. I was a hippie in the middle of a jock-world, and I felt suffocated by traditional sports.”
But, after much thought and hesitation, she finally decided to accept the offer and head to Athens. To her surprise, she became enamored by the people and the culture. And it was there that she met the love of her life, Stratos Perperoglou.
“We played for the same team, and I remember the first time I saw him on the court. I loved his humility. He was very quiet, shy, and hard-working.”
The couple continued their relationship, long-distance, for the next four years, and Erin would go back and forth to Greece for a few months at a time. During the winter season, she would travel to Athens to play basketball…but her real motive was to see Stratos. During one of her visits, Stratos proposed, but she was torn. She loved him, but she had put her Costa Rican dream on hold for so long.
“Stratos told me to go back ‘home’ by myself and figure out what I wanted. He told me not to call him; just to go and talk to God,” Erin told me.
But from the moment she got off the plane, all she could do was think about Stratos. She tried to write him as much as she could. Although she loved it there, she knew that Stratos had her heart.
Home is a Person
Erin sold her land, got on a plane, and flew to Greece to marry the love of her life. She stopped playing basketball, and instead began to cheer on her husband from the sidelines, supporting him in in every decision.
They spent their first five years of marriage in Stratos’ home country. Erin learned Greek, she gave birth to her three children there, and delved into the culture and heritage of her in-laws.
I thought Costa Rica was my home. But I realized…home is not a place. When two souls connect, home becomes a person.
From there, the Perperoglous embarked on the journey of a lifetime.
Read more in Part II, to hear more of Erin’s story: Her wisdom on a multi-cultural household, raising Third Culture Kids, and their on-going nomadic lifestyle.