Seyahat tutkusu ~ Wanderlust

Looking out at mapMy second attempt to write a Turkish-English bilingual blog post. Does anyone else feel wanderlust??

Hastayım. Seyahat tutkusundan muzdarip oluyorum. Seyahat için güçlü bir isteğim var. Bu benim için sadece bir istek değil, bir ihtiyaçtır. Temel bir ihtiyaçtır. Eğer Maslow beni tanısaydı piramidini yeniden tasarlardı ve seyahati onun temeline koyardı. Bu durumunu değiştirir miydi? Tabii ki değil!
Ya da belki evet… Seyahat tutkusu normal bir durum haline gelirdi. Boş ver! “Farklı” benim mahiyetim. Bu nedenle, dünyada seyahat tutkusu normal olsaydı, ben muhtemelen ev özlemi çekecektim. Evdeyken hastayım… Seyhat benim ilacım. Ve benim uyuşturucu maddem. Bağımlıyım.
Ne kadar çok seyahat edersem o kadar çok isterim. Bir seyahat dozu aldıktan sonra seyahat tutkum olması gerektiği gibi iyileşmiş değil ama daha güçlü görünüyor. Okuduğum kültürlere, hiç tanışmadığım insanlara, hiç ziyaret etmediğim yerlere ve anlayamadığım dillere aşık olurum. Küresel vatandaş olmak isterdim. Her yıl başka bir ülkede yaşamak isterdim. Farklı kültürlere kendimi kaptırmak. Anlamak. Çünkü Henry Miller’in dediği gibi “Birinin varış yeri asla bir yer olmamalı, ama şeyleri görmek yeni bir yoldur.”

I’m sick. I’m suffering from wanderlust. I have a strong desire to travel. Well, it’s not only a desire, it’s a need. A basic need. If Maslow had met me he would have redesigned his pyramide and placed travelling on its base. Would this have changed my situation? Of course not!
Or maybe yes… Wanderlust would have become a normal condition. Never mind! “Different” is my nature. Therefore, if wanderlust were normal I would probably feel homesick. I’m “sick” when I’m home… Travelling is my medicine. And my drug. I’m addicted.
The more I travel the more I want. After taking a dose of travelling my wanderlust is not healed as it should be but seems to be even stronger. I’m in love with cultures I’ve read about, with people I’ve never met, with places I’ve never visited and with languages that I cannot understand. I would like to be a global citizen. I would love to live every year in a different country. To immerse myself in different cultures. To understand. Because as Henry Miller said: “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”



“Soğuk” stories II: “Cover up, look down!”


Ok, I agree! The title sounds a little bit like a stereotype, but I assure you, that was not my intention when choosing it… Actually, it may prove to be up to a certain point a myth debunker. I hate stereotypes and I try to be as open-minded as possible, imagining myself in the same boat with those whom I’m tempted to judge, finding “excuses”, explanations for everything and even ending up judged for being too understanding but…  Even though we try hard to avoid falling into stereotypical traps, we cannot deny that we all see the world through our unique lenses, reality being affected by our perspective. Frankly speaking, this whole blog shows you Turkey through my eyes, not Turkey “as it is”. Can we even talk about “Turkey as it is”, when “Turkey as it is” is decided by humans who are by definition subjective? Some argue that the best perspective is that of the majority. Well, I don’t agree with them! I think “Turkey as it is” is the sum of all the perspectives and in the same time each one of them separately.  What is reality when everything is relative? …. That’s a good question and an interesting topic, but given that the purpose of this post is not to debate the nature of and the reasons behind stereotypes, I’ll get back to my “soğuk stories” before getting into deep waters.

“Cover up, look down” is nothing more than an advice. And it’s a very good advice for those who travel through Eastern Turkey and don’t want to be misunderstood or find themselves in odd situations. Anyway, when you grow up in a country where everybody wears short skirts, dresses and pants during the summer and where people consider you shy  if you don’t establish eye contact with them, you might find this advice a little bit unusual, even if you did your homework before departure. And I did, I did a serious but mostly disappointing research… Actually you cannot even imagine how many stupidities I’ve read about Turkey! Rude men, dangerous places, unsafe for women blah blah blah… The icing on the cake was: if you are a blond you should either get your hair darkened or cover it. Really? I’m a natural blond and I was as blond as always when being in Turkey, without having any trouble because of that… No, no! Don’t rush to draw conclusions! The “cover up” part of the advice doesn’t have anything to do with covering your hair! It simply means you should dress decently, cover your legs and shoulders. It’s not even a rule, you can dress as you wish, but if you show too much skin you’ll probably draw attention to yourself, you can be misunderstood and even taken as an easy woman, and I’m sure you wouldn’t like that!

In Eastern Turkey (Note: Eastern Turkey! not the Western part of the country or the touristic places where you can see people wearing any type of clothes) people are more conservative, many women wear başörtü (headscarf) and you hardly see someone with bare shoulders or knees in the city. I’m kindly asking you to think twice before you judge someone by the way they dress. Wearing a veil is not a sign of backwardness, nor is wearing a mini skirt. I meet a lot of friendly and open-minded women having their hair covered, the same thing I can say about girls wearing short dresses. Of course, stereotypes exist on the both sides and all they do is separate us. We all have the right to dress as we like and the obligation to respect others and ourselves. And to respect others and yourself means that you should inform yourself and adapt to the host culture when traveling. And this way you’ll keep yourself out of troubles. You probably wouldn’t wear bikini when skiing in the winter, just as you wouldn’t go to swim wearing boots and jacket. So, why on Earth would you go in a tiny dress to a place where most of the women cover their hair?

Well, reality on the ground can be very confusing… No one (at least, I didn’t see anybody) was wearing short dresses in Elazığ, but… the shops were full of skirts, shorts and sleeveless tops. I could not understand why, until I went to a wedding. Many women wear short skirts, dresses at weddings or parties. And on holidays, as one of my friends told me. While wearing skirts or dresses in the campus was ok, I avoided to wear them in the city. It happened only once or twice at the beginning, and even though I was wearing knee-length dresses I felt uncomfortable, having the impression that people are gazing at me. The attention was also due to my “different” appearance, being one of the very few natural blonds in the city. But nothing bad happened. Of course, I had been approached by people asking me Nerelisin? (Where are you from?). I answered to some of them, others I simply ignored, pretending that I do not understand them.

The “cover up” unwritten rule “hit” me with the occasion of our trip to the cities near the Syrian border (more about in a following post), when one of the  coordinators informed me that I would better wear long pants, unless I want to get myself and the group into trouble. She presented me the worst scenario ever: I could put the group in the situation to fight for me if some man wants to take me away (!?). You don’t get everyday this kind of warnings! I did panick a bit. Ok, let’s chill out! There is a very very small possibility for this scenario to happen! Most likely, in such a situation you’ll be just watched in a disapproving way.  And that’s not really pleasant. I followed her advice and everything went well. What I learned from this experience is, that if you don’t put yourself in danger everything is going to be all right!

But what about the “look down” rule? Well, looking into the eyes of a Turkish men on the street can be considered a sign of interest, so it’s better to avoid holding eye-contact with strangers. I was a little “shocked” when my friend advised me to look down. I must admit that I had some troubles with this “rule”, even though don’t usually stare at people. But I do use to look at them when walking. It’s something natural, done unconsciously, and hard to change. Sometimes I like to guess what people think, where they go, what they do for living… Or, if someone is staring at me I do look at him/her in order to stop them. I’m like “Ok, I got you! It’s rude to stare at someone, don’t you know that? Now look somewhere else, please!” I’m sure it happened to me in Turkey as well but as soon as I noticed I looked away. If you cannot change your habit try to control it.

Just like in the case of the “cover up” advice, you are not bound to follow it. But if you don’t want to be disturbed by flirty guys it’s better to take it into account. Nothing bad happens just because you hold eye contact with someone or dress in a specific way (except when you exaggerate) if you establish clear limits from the beginning.

DSCN1642Me in Elazığ

Hit the road, Iulia!

e50bb0597a5b9ae903c1b00180a49f93Road take me as I am… Follow my dreams’ map, teach me your secrets and never ever let me stop before I’ve reached my destiny… Hot sunny day, baby kittens playing in the garden, familiar faces, smiles, a quiet village, Romania. The same place where twenty years ago a little girl was playing a strange “travelling” game, which seemed so true to her: visiting her friends who lived on the same street, but  “in an other country”, according to her.  The little girl unwittingly got her great-grandmother in “trouble”, causing worries because of her restlessness. Smiling and continuing her game even when the old women shouted at her in a funny way “Iulia ho!” (Iulia stop!). The same little girl who tricked her friend into walking eight km to her grandparents’ village, telling her that is close. She was only 5 years old and her friend 7 at the time. It was a ordinary day. the girls were playing with a puppy in front of her house. but… the little girl wanted to travel and they suddenly disappeared, without announcing their parents or other adults. And to make their search harder, and their journey more adventurous, they didn’t follow the road, but walked on the surrounding hills and near the brook. When they finally reached the destination the little girl’s  grandparents didn’t  even believe her story…

How time flies! And apparently everything is different… but nothing has changed. She still has that strong desire to travel. She still has moments when she needs to escape, to disconnect from her daily routine, to change something in her life. To start something new. To renew, improve herself. She hates monotony… While other people are afraid of changes, she breathes changes. She needs them in order to survive. And when nothing changes she becomes dreamy, planning her next steps or slightly depressed, in search of an escape.

I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has these feelings. We all had at least one moment in our lives when we wanted to run away and start again. From zero. Even though this scenario happens never or very rarely in true life, we like to believe escaping is possible, simple and it has the power to heal us… We all imagine a place or already know the destination for our sweet escape. Usually we prefer nature, a quiet place where nobody can disturb us, where we can conciliate our souls with our minds, where we can be ourselves and leave behind all the rush, stress, technology and influences. Usually we choose the mountains, a small village or a desert island. I’m in the last category, I would prefer to escape to a tropical island. I would be the happiest human being if I could do that! I’ve already imagined myself on a white sandy beach, kissed by the breeze. Being waken up in my cozy bungalow by the morning’s light, swimming in the turquoise see, eating only pineapples, coconuts and fresh fish, reading my favourite books in my hammock, enjoying never-ending sunshine. But… if I slice and dice the option of living my whole life on a desert island, my enthusiasm is exposed to serious decline… Precisely because of the reasons behind my escape: routine. Spending some time, up to a month,  on a desert island is divine, but living there, boring. What kind of dreams could I have there? Of course, there are many things to do, but I would exhaust all those activities in, let’s say, 5 years. Moreover, living Robin Hood alike it’s not the happiest scenario for me. I need people. I need to share my happiness with others. So… no thanks!

A while ago I wrote about the reasons why I love Turkey and one of them was my perception of Turkey as an escape destination. Maybe because I stayed there only 3 months and I had too little time to get bored and too many things to discover. And I still have. Turkey surprises me day after day. It has some kind of “sweet chaos”, very different from the usual chaos I’m experiencing at the moment. Although noisy and brightly coloured, if we think about its bazaars and big cities, it can be also quiet and peaceful, if we consider its picturesque villages, hidden beaches and silent mountains. A place where you can learn many things about history, about people, culture and about yourself. A place where you can make everyday a holiday. For me Turkey is like a bazaar where you can find whatever you are looking for… and even things you haven’t known that you need. We resemble each other very much. Me and Turkey. Chaotic and organized, calm and restless… I just want to hit the road to Turkey again, to have the opportunity to debunk my Turkish escape myth. Until I’ll want to escape from it…