I think in life, you see what you want to see, when you want to see it. Therefore, the things that you find important at that point in time, may or may not be what other people deem important. I think guides like Lonely Planet are good, but they stress me out. It’s almost like saying, these are the experiences you need to have, and this is how much fun you should be having. And if not, what are you doing? I don’t know. The free guides that pretty much every hostel/hotel have + Wikipedia are actually pretty fantastic. I guess it also depends on how much time you get to stay in a place, and what your goals are. (Yes, I’m one of those people who actually have GOALS on vacation).
- Successfully travelling on my own in a completely foreign country (this is my first trip which I’m travelling for a few days by myself- I don’t count India as foreign anymore)
- Practice NOT having a plan/not being in control (ironic because I’m planning not to have a plan, but baby steps right?)
- Getting a better sense of direction (I am incredibly geographically challenged- my drunk friends have better sense of direction than I do and its really embarrassing especially when I’m supposed to be the sober one)
- Exploring a new city/learning about the history
- Spending time with my grandpa
- Meeting new people (always fun)
- Life thinking (you know, because that’s what you can do when you don’t have to be at work)
Anyway, I wanted to document the parts of the trip that I thought were important, and made an impact on me.
London Heathrow Airport: Giraffe Cafe
I had a layover there, and it was a great way to start the morning. I think what struck me was the diversity of the women that they hired. Literally all types of women, all shapes and sizes, all over the world, and they were so happy. At 6 in the morning! The music was awesome, the ambiance was fantastic, and the food was great. It made me wish I worked there. It looked like so much fun.
Giraffe Cafe- I think I would like to work there. That guy doesn’t look like he’s having fun, but the staff was fun and happy- I promise.
After an 8 hour flight where I forgot to request food for myself, this made me really really really happy.
Getting Lost in Istanbul
I felt it was pretty important to get over my fear of a) not being in control, b) travelling by myself, and c) being geographically challenged d) not doing any research on Istanbul or my trip whatsoever (besides to take down the name of my hostel and the phone number!). So the first day, I decided to just go wherever I felt like (without actually knowing where I was going- if that makes any sense). So I literally just started walking. I had a map, but after a while, I was off the map (which are the downsides of taking the free map in the hostel). I kept walking until I hit a ferry port, I took a ferry to I have no idea where (because everything was written in Turkish and my free map was not useful), and then after I reached the shore, I saw a bus stand and I decided to take a random bus somewhere (again, no idea where, but it looked like a nice bus). I just stayed on the bus until I saw a place that looked cool and I got off. To tell you the truth, there were definitely times I was nervous. I was freaked out because I had no idea where I was, and nobody really seemed to speak English. I had some landmarks (like the Bosphorus Bridge, and I knew my hostel was by the Galata Bridge) and I knew that if worse comes worse, I could just call the number of the hostel ( and I didn’t ever feel in danger or anything) so I decided I was just being a baby and I needed to suck it up and enjoy having absolutely no plan (yes, I have to tell myself these things).
And I finally did. It was awesome. I sat in a lot of parks, marveled at the architecture (it’s so diverse and beautiful!) people watched a lot, and ate lots of food. Things I noticed about the people of Istanbul: They like to fish (there were a ton of people who were at the park with fishing lines- I think that’s what families do for fun on the weekend?) They also like to picnic, men like the Converse shoes, women are incredibly stylish and have the most amazing hijabs. I think I want to have a whole post on the women in Istanbul because I think they are incredibly fascinating. I was looking up to see if there were books written on the topic but I couldn’t find any. If anybody knows of them, please let me know! Anyway, here is the picture trail.
I think this is what surprised me the most: The amazing architecture. It reminds me of Candy Land! It’s so happy!
I ate fresh Figs! It was delicious! But I don’t think this guy was very happy because I only wanted a few, and I could not communicate this. This was a problem. Oh well. I probably overppaid so hopefully he wasn’t too upset.
This is where little kids get to go and fish. Pretty awesome.
Walking around the Galata Bridge area- which made me happy because it reminded me of India! (Well, maybe a more European version)
So this place, ONLY SERVES BAKLAVA! It is amazing! They have a million different types! AND IT IS DELICIOUS!
The Baklava Place again! I’m telling you, it looks like a Franco-Turkish 50’s diner. It made me really really really happy
More Delicious Food. I’m telling you, IT IS AMAZING
And then, I got home. Yes, I paid enough attention, learned enough about my surroundings, to figure out how to get back to my hostel. But the best part was coming back and doing research in the hostel (because I’m such a nerd like that). I wikipedia’d like no other (yup, I just made that into a verb my friends), and I asked the experts how to do all the things I had trouble with (i.e. I found out you could actually buy Smart Cards, or Akbil– because the conductor almost kicked me out for not having it, but other nice people from Istanbul saved me by paying for my fare, and ALSO found out that the “WC” that I saw everywhere meant “Water Closet” i.e. a bathroom- go figure! ). It was actually really fun trying to retrace my tracks and figure out exactly where I went. Turns out I accidentally got to the Asian side of Istanbul, which is probably why when I tried to walk back to the Galata Bridge, I got to the water front instead.
Retracing steps, Wikipedia-ing, journaling, and planning the next day. All while drinking some amazing Apple Tea.
I think I felt insecure about my trip because most people come in doing tons of research, reading lots of guide books, and basically spending a lot of time which I didn’t on pre trip preparation. But I realized that as long as you have an open mind, have at least a day to get situated/don’t mind getting lost/wander around a bit, and have access to the internet, everything will be ok.