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The Heart of Luxury is a concept that speaks to the human stories behind the luxury brands that we know and recognize as we showcase their willingness to help others and give back. Today I want to share the story of my friend George Karayiannis, the Director of Astra Suites in Santorini and how it changed my life.

When I first started Global Child “Travel with Purpose” I had no budget to speak of, so I ran around different cities recording as best I could with a 45$ selfie stick that welded a small camcorder on top of it… like a poorly funded traveling wizard with his staff. As time passed, the shows grew in scope and eventually I was able to afford a drone. The concept of staying in places like Astra Suites, ranked as one of the top five hotels in the world by Conde Nast and other luxury travel magazines was not on my radar. Thinking back, I’ve never craved luxury because I was raised surrounded by it. However, after a lot of twists and turns and a machiavellian family business partner had stolen millions from my family, I was left to fend for myself during my struggling actor days in Los Angeles about ten years ago. Eventually, after years of volunteering as a Christian jail chaplain in the Men’s Jain in downtown Los Angeles, I won a national search to be a host for NBC Universal and I learnt the business of television production. Fast forward a couple of years later and I found myself visiting Santorini for the first time… and no, I was not staying in Astra. As many first time tourists do, I had found heaper accommodations in the Fira section of the city (where cruise ships dump their passengers). It turns out the most luxurious hotels in Santorini are mostly in the Imerovigli area which is not easily accessible to pedestrians and also has the highest and best views in the curved Island which is actually the mouth of a volcano! Imagine a “u” shaped island with tall ridges up to six hundred meters above the ocean, the hotels peppering the edge unbelievably close to the edge, built out as if on perches to be able to see the most glorious sunsets in the world featuring a blazing orb of fire melting into the ocean every late afternoon.

I remember walking that portion of Santorini in the early morning, simply exploring with my backpack and selfie stick, enjoying the experience. As I saw Astra on my way down to explore a famous abandoned fort that now serves as a great hiking destination called “Scaros Rock”, I prayed that God would let me stay there. Then I declared to myself out-loud under my breath… “I will stay there one day”. A year later the show had grown and I reached out to Astra suites and met George online. He generously offered to host me for our filming for a few nights and ended up giving us one of his most wonderful suites. This was pre-pandemic, the hotel was usually at full capacity and this was the middle of the summer: George didn’t have to help us, but he did. We struck up a friendship and a few months later he was able to see our Global Child Greece episode where we share the life lesson about Generosity. Turns out, that Greek people tend to be amongst some of the most generous in the world. Culturally, it’s a value which is embedded in their psyche and heart for generations. It’s called “philoxenia” which means “the stranger is my brother”. Over the last 4 years, I’ve stayed at Astra Suites a couple of evenings a year. Of the whole world, it tends to be my favorite place to visit… not only because the views in Santorini and Astra are unmatched, but also there is a memory seared in my heart of a younger Version of me with a selfie stick, believing that one day I’d be able to stay in one of the top five hotels in planet earth and now, they welcome me as if it was my second home..

The same award winning bartender Nikos always smiles and asks me how my travels have been as he delights me with a new concoction at his pool-side bar where we sit and catch up as if we were high school buddies who had not missed a beat. Philoxenia. Six weeks ago I wrote George that I had been invited to attend one of the most important investment summits in the world called the Ritossa Family Summit in Monaco, hosted by Prince Albert of Monaco. I took the liberty of writing George and asked him if I could stop by to visit him
for a couple of evenings with a lovely friend of mine. He obliged and there we were… two friends catching up. Over the course of the years I’ve showed him different things every time I visit.

A few years ago it was a copy of our first book which I was blessed to publish, this year I got to show him our Virtual Reality, who knows that I’ll be able to show him a year from now. George looked at my date and said: “You know, we don’t work with influencers because we don’t need the promotion. But Augusto, he always does what he says he is going to do. A lot of people promise and say things, but he does them”, said George who hosted a great tan, was dressed impeccably in a dress shirt and slacks and had that relaxed look of a man who has found success because he’s realized that there is significance in what he has created. People come all over the world and thanks to his staff, his hotel and the leadership of George, they set the stage for thousands of people to create the most beautiful memories that, many times, might turn out to be some of the very best moments in their entire lives. Today, I want to dedicate our first Heart of Luxury blog to my friend George Karayiannis of Astra Suites because his generosity, his class and his willingness to believe in me and in our project have played a small but crucial role in allowing us to now inspire millions of people around the world.

Thank you George, you’re not a stranger anymore, but now you’re still my brother!
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