Monday, December 31, 2012

Reflections on Istanbul

Looking back on my time in Istanbul, with the echoes of "Bright Like a Diamond" blending with the Adhan still fresh in my mind, I can really begin to process what a mess I was two years ago.  I travelled solo, for the first time, and it was mostly on a whim.  Cheap airfare? Promising shopping? Opportunities for extreme pampering?  Yes, all that and more.  But mostly, it wasn’t Brick City.  And I desperately needed to get away.

My life was in upheaval, I didn’t know what to do with half of my old social circle (but mid-feud the easiest thing to do was cut them loose), and the other half was perched on the precipice above a tantrum spiral.  To date, there are still some people I care about very much, whom I haven’t seen since I left for Turkey on what turned out to be a lukewarm holiday.

Nearly being assaulted on my last night certainly had something to do with it.  There’s a lot to be said for females travelling solo – most about how it’s not as impossible as it seems, and practical safety tips that all solo travelers should obey.  But you know what? Most of that advice is common sense, and common sense – despite what it says on the label – is far from fool-proof.

I was home – locked in my hostel after dark – and well away from any rough neighborhoods.  The concierge let himself into my room, shut the door, and then didn’t like being told no.  But he was told no. Loudly.  Violently.  I am a strong woman, and I’m not easy to intimidate physically.  There was another occasion, about two nights prior, when I stayed out a bit too late (a tad past sundown) and a homeless man tried to follow me into a side-road.  I screamed Muppet-Russian at him and sent him packing.  My point is: I bluffed and won.  Twice.  Because if either of these men had weapons or any real desperation, being loud and large would not have helped.

The really sick part is that I was so adrift in my own drama that I didn’t really accept the gravity of my surroundings.  Turkey was at war with Syria.  ISIS was forming.  Kurds were the victims of genocide.  I spun it out into an adventure narrative.  An ill-fated black comedy.  And all that was true, to the extent that events unfolded as I related them to friends and family; the only difference is that I delivered each admission with a punchline.

My mother was worried.  I don’t think she’s heard all the details, and probably won’t hear about them unless she’s still stalking a blog I haven’t updated in 2 years.  Sorry, Mom.  It was a hard time for me.  But I was fine, and now I know the real secret of solo female travelling: Go Anyway.

Be loud, be alive, be willing to cold-cock some asshole with a half-empty wine bottle and raise a fuss and don’t mind at all what anybody else has to say about it.  If you’re being smart, if you’re using all the conventional wisdom, and you suddenly find yourself uncomfortable, then get ready to run.  No iPods, no smart phones, no drunken rambles down the pitch-black lane – eyes and ears and brain.  Take a damn cab, even if you’re broke the next day.  But go anyway.

Fear and regret are no way to live.  And even though it turned me off of travel blogging for a good while, I’m tentatively picking it back up again.  The real date of this post is August 3, 2015.  I’m posting it to 2012 because that’s where I think it belongs in the chronology: firmly behind me.

Now I just need to update with all my photos from the Bahamas, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Brick City.  Yes, I stopped blogging, but I didn’t stop travelling.  Two years to make up on… Yeesh.  But it’s worth it.  Nobody reads this but me (that’s rather the way I like it – a private thing with all the benefits of a mass email when I share out a specific link for friends and family), but I love to look back on that pretentious 17 year-old with her point-and-shoot camera who blogged like an abridged history anthologist and think: yeah, I’ve seen some things.

P.S. I will never give up on being 100% that same corny dork who started this blog, and you can’t make me.

No comments: