Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Stuck in Istanbul - My Escape to Normality

Upon entering month six of my travels, I fell into a new troubling phase in my free and nomadic life. I became afflicted by the ultimate first world problem, that which can only affect the long term backpacker living the dream, jetsetter extraordinaire stimulated by new and amazing experiences on a daily basis.

I became sick of being a tourist.

Museums and attractions started to become boring. My comfort zone, like a balloon reaching full capacity, stopped expanding at its once furious pace. New places were no longer as exciting, new experiences no longer as spine tingling as before. I knew this onset of travel-weariness was inevitable, but trying to figure out where to go and what to next troubled me more than expected, even disturbing my sleep.
Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Fortunately, the perfect tonic for my travel weariness was waiting for me in my next destination. Located where east meets west and where empires ebbed in and out throughout history, Istanbul is a truly special city. Its streets are alive with organized chaos, loudspeakers envelope the sky with mystic voices of Muslim prayer, and its skyline dazzles with both minarets and skyscrapers rising over the geographically significant Bosphorus Strait. Istanbul provided the perfect escape from my troubles. Its history and beauty is so rich and its culture so refreshingly new that it temporarily revived my touristic motivation to see mosques and museums. But when that desire quickly subsided, my final escape lay in one solitary place.

Istanbul Hostel provided a semblance of normality and shielded me from the unpredictability of travelling. Somehow the turnstile effect of hostels didn't apply here and many people stayed long enough that I became familiar with them. These familiar faces were ones which I no longer needed the pretense of asking the cliche five questions: what's your name, where you from, how long you been travelling, where you been, where you going? And then there's the guessing game: are you Korean? Japanese? Oh, Canadian... but what are you really?
Jumping for joy... at a war memorial site 
Finally I could just be myself for once and, as a traveler, that's something rare and valuable, like a small lottery win. I stuck around Istanbul and at the same hostel because the people I met were cool characters, the kind I could be friends with if we were living in the same city. I even achieved the notorious reputation of "the guy who would never leave." I eventually did leave, but my stay went from an originally planned 3 days to 10 days at Istanbul Hostel.

The people provided good times and distraction from my troubles long enough for me to find a new direction in my travels. I have decided to go to Greece to work on an olive farm for at least a few weeks. But I will be a tourist for another week in Turkey. I am currently writing from surreal Cappadocia. Think of the Grand Canyon. But on the moon.
With Emelia and Chris, before Chris continues his cycling round the world journey 
Thank you to Chris Gruar for connecting me with the olive farm. You are a great man and I hope to catch up with you after your epic journey is complete. To see Chris's epic journey and, if you are inspired as I was, to donate, click here: cycling4cancer.wordpress.com.

Thank you also to Emelia for wallowing together in the self pity of our mutual travel weariness. The rest of you, you know who you are! Thanks for the memorable time at Istanbul Hostel and see you again, hopefully sooner than later.

Istanbul photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11monthsandrew/sets/72157632635823090/

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