Before this part of my travel I had been using planes and trains to move between countries and continents. Prior to reaching Turkey, in the eight months I had been away, it would be fair to say that I was a traveller who still had their training wheels on. I carried in my sixty-five litre backpack kilos of unnecessary clothing, curtains and pillowcases as reminders of home, an assortment of purses and bags, make-up and jewerly, and six novels.
My travelling habits also included more typical touristic behaviours. I searched for authentic food in the centre of the cities I visited, spent a lot of time shopping for souvenirs in the market places, took wine at every meal, and appreciated the security of having all of my plans lined up in advance – a distaste of the looming unknown.
After finishing my work at a conference in Istanbul I found myself completely free of any plans for my immediate future – or entire future if I thought about it. I had no ideas for work, volunteering, or travel destinations. I explored many options through the websites of Work Away, Help Exchange, and Au Pair and after six weeks of much contemplation I was ready and in need of an escape out of the city. I met a French traveller and accordion player in the bustling street of Istiklal who convinced me into taking a trip around the western part of Turkey through hitchhiking.
I was scared to say the least. I had never hitchhiked before in my life. Being dependent on the generosity and care of complete strangers in a country I was unfamiliar of instilled inside of me a great vulnerability. On the other hand, I had the feeling that this opportunity was the perfect chance for me to start a descent into real travelling and into feeling okay with trusting my intuition.
I met the most perfect friend I could have met in Istanbul. She was a complete gift. She goes by the name of Tootles and is a killer ukulele player from West Virginia. We were Couch Surfing with the same host in the city. She arrived just as I was contemplating hitchhiking and herself was in Istanbul for just a few days as she awaited a flight to India. She gave me the courage and advice I needed to trust myself, she helped my go through my backpack and decide what was necessary and what was not, and she gave me endless tips that would be useful on the road.
I rid myself of all the extra weight I had been carrying and sent an eight kilogram backpack home to Canada. I was ready and excited to quit the city and move along with the traffic through Turkey’s wild roads.
Matthieu and I had initially planned to take ten days to explore the country. In the end it took us six weeks. We were unexpectedly treated with incredible kindness, interest, and hospitality by our Turkish drivers who became our hosts. Many of our drivers didn’t speak a word of English but they treated us to local meals, shared with us everything they had, and invited us into their homes to meet there families who treated us like royalty. I remember it was in these times I saw the widest smiles of pure joy and love.
My faith in the goodness of people became brightened here. The people we met on the road broaden my heart in such a way that it opened without my intentions – gracefully touched by the smallest of hands. The sincerity, generosity, and goodness of spirit we experienced is something I will hold with me always.
I still have in my head the warm smiles and inquisitiveness of all the people we shared space with. Our time spent in Turkey was a testament to the loving spirit of humankind. It showed me how easy it is to care for those around you. It showed me the ease of connection. Through our hosts I learned how to accept vulnerability and embrace it. Through their love I felt honour and peace.
On this part of my journey I also learned within myself how I could be a better traveller. My intuition grew stronger and I looked at places and people different. I would say that my global citizenship began to flourish.
I believe I owe many thanks to the kind hearts whose energy touched me so deeply. Throughout my journey I will keep your memory and joy safe. I owe thanks to the people who showed me interest without expectation, which allowed to be.
Thanks to the souls who sought connection for the expansion of their own minds, whose lights I know are still shinning. Thanks for the simple pleasures you gave and thanks for the joy and love I know you are still giving.
Tesekkur ederim …