Clayton McMahon was a 26 year old marine biologist, fresh out of community college in late 2016. After having been unable to land a job with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, he joined the Peace Corps and was dispatched to the remote Mane province in Greece to help in the aftermath of an oil spill off the coast of Kalamata which the financially strained nation was unable to deal with themselves. He arrived there in March 2017, helping with initial cleanup and landing a job with a small local firm to research the any lingering effects left in local crop fish species that the spill may have left.
Watching the news at a cafe on July 25th, he stared wide-eyed and white-knuckled at footage of a nuclear detonation. Only a few hours later, he sat with his face in his hands on the side of his bed, listening to the radio spout news of warfare breaking out globally, including reports of either a coup or Russian attack in America as well as news of plague outbreaks globally. He quickly packed a duffel bag and hiking pack with essentials, got in his car, and sped off through a mountain pass to the remote fishing town of Kardamyli. By morning, there had been an outbreak in Kalamata and the mountain pass had been closed.
The province of Mane, called Mani as well, had long and rich history of being remote and hostile. It didn't even have paved roads or powerlines until the 80s, people having used mules and boats to travel. There was only one highway over the mountain range into the southern end of the peninsula, the rest being unmarked dirt roads and tracks leading over the peaks from mountainside towns. It was one of the rare places in Greece where you could glimpse snow. The people there have had a long history of familial feuds, murdering one's neighbor for a mere slighting, and as such traditional Greek architecture was forgone and replaced by square towers with narrow arrow-slit windows, short and thick doors, and high walls around the yard. Particularly rich families built fortresses, which they inherit and still live in during modern times.
The people of southern Mane were rightfully suspicious of strangers after hearing the news, and the mountain pass blockade received plenty of civilian volunteers. People who had fled south from Kalamata, like Clay had, found no open doors and were forced to keep heading south down the Peloponnese - staying at campgrounds and the numerous abandoned monasteries, churches, and villages that already dotted the region. It took two weeks for Clay to get his car down the increasingly decrepit highway, watching society collapse around him. After managing to salvage a few liters of gasoline from the last petrol station on the highway, having been thoroughly looted, he found himself at the southernmost end of the peninsula at the small port of Marmari. Hades' Gate was the name this region was known for, and in Greek mythology the huge cave that yawned here at the very tip of Greece itself was the portal to hell. It might as well have been. Every refugee like himself had finally reached this tiny resort town, and it was awash with city folk and foreigners scrabbling over food and water against the backdrop of the beautiful sea and boats bobbing in the water. Clay traded his car for a boat the following day, having been informed that an outbreak occurred on this side of the mountain pass. He sailed around the cape of the peninsula to a remote town of Kokkinogia. Its tiny port was completely empty, and moored his boat there. He managed to survive there with a small group of other refugees that had found the village for about a year, before the remote area started seeing trouble in the form of infected and groups of desperate survivors.
Clay took to sea, surviving off of fish and seaweed he caught with a pole or snorkeling, as he sailed east to Crete. He was given warning shots while approaching port, so he turned and headed north towards Turkey. Heading through the strait there, stopping in Gallipoli to scavenge, he eventually arrived at Istanbul and hastily made his way through the city, which was packed with infected. He then headed east along the Turkish coast, before arriving in the Green Sea. By now his boat was in poor condition, and he tried to steer clear of deep waters. However he was hit by a storm, and his sail was torn off - leaving him to wash up malnourished a week later on the shores of Chernarus.