2017 has been a year of many firsts for me.
…I trained for my first triathlon, then competed in a longer one.
…I took my first leave of absence from work, then lived on my own for the first time.
…I got stuck in Amman, then enrolled in an intensive language course for the first time.
Now, I’m officially an experienced solo traveler, after flying to Istanbul, Turkey last week by myself for the first time.
Okay technically I had two friends meet me in Istanbul, but one I’d never met in person and the other I hadn’t seen in 14 years… and that’s just because I’m resourceful so it still counts as another first this year.
Quick lessons solo traveling:
- Nobody will commit… stop waiting.
- You will be overwhelmed… make a plan.
- Annnddddd your plan will be disrupted… get over it.
- You will get lost…. WANDER!
- Communication will be limited… get creative.
- You will have questions… suck it up and ask them.
- You will be scared… embrace it.
But more importantly…
BUY A BOOK.
Elif Shafak is a favorite Turkish author of mine and since her novels are often set in Istanbul I thought it’d be genius to read another work of hers while I was there. So I strolled into a local bookshop and asked for one of her bestsellers I hadn’t gotten to yet. The owner made some conversation and told me of the current bestseller titled Portrait of a Turkish Family… how much more Turkish could I get with a title like that, right?
An autobiography, Portrait of a Turkish Family by Irfan Orga tells the story of a man born into a prosperous family of the old Turkey under Ottoman rule and experienced the transformation of Turkey due to World War I first-hand.
On the tram, in taxis, at cafes, on benches facing the Bosphorus… I felt the same wind of the strait on my face as Orga did daydreaming of his studies, love, and future. I haggled with the same shopkeeper Orga bought bread from. I drank the same chai (tea) while overlooking the same enchanting mosque Orga prayed at.
I was transported not only physically but through time; An entire new dimension was added to my experience.
Sometimes the stars align and you get to see the most incredible places with the most incredible people in your life, but if they don’t… why wait?
Create an itinerary, grab a book and WANDER.
…It just may be the best experience you ever have.
P.s. Go read Portrait of a Turkish Family. A+.