“Your transaction has been declined.”
For some reason, I couldn’t book my tickets to Mexico with my credit card. I called the bank and they said a bunch of things, told us to wait, and it still didn’t work. It was Saturday morning and I was annoyed. I tried a ticket to Bangkok. Nope.
I looked at flights from Barcelona to “everywhere” (a handy feature on Skyscanner) to see where else I could go. Europe, Morocco, Dubai, hmmm… Turkey.
Three hour direct flight, straight to Istanbul. I had never been.
I messaged my friends. One had lived in Turkey for seven years. “Yes, it’s great for kids.”
Another had visited two years earlier. “I fell in love with that city.”
“Drew? I’m going to take the kids to Istanbul.”
[insert Drew having a panic attack]
“I’m just going to try it to see if it works.”
It worked. I have to say it was one of the greatest feelings of my life. It was so spontaneous, so random, so not-over-thinking-it-to-death like most of my decisions. I just went from idea to buying a ticket in about an hour. I literally danced around the house. THIS is why I travel. THIS is why we go with less so we can have the flexibility to do whatever we want. THIS is the whole, damn point.
That feeling, that breathless, wow, we’re going to Istanbul… Istanbul! excitement and joy was sorely missing from my other plans. I would have gotten there, but both Mexico and Thailand are like second homes to me. I love them but I also know them. Turkey on the other hand is entirely new to me.
So I’m switching gears. In 10 days, I leave with Cole and Stella for our latest adventure, in a city I am told is kid-friendly, clean and full of delicious street food. I try to picture myself there, and with the help of Google maps, I shift my perspective a little. I always love the off-balance feeling I get from seeing a world map with another country at its center — and I try to imagine my word view from the place. So here’s Turkey at the center of the universe:
I highlighted the country names around it, to kind of give you a sense of how I was looking at the map. Imagine you’re standing in Istanbul and there’s the Black Sea, which is surrounded by Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, and Georgia. It’s a part of the world that feels largely unknown to me, and perhaps overlooked. I try to picture myself out on the sea, on a boat, looking out at those countries. I can’t even picture what those shorelines would look like. Are they fishing villages or tourist resorts? Are they sunbathing or packing up shipping containers?
Turkey itself is between two worlds: Europe and Asia. It shares a border with Iraq and Iran. Greece and Bulgaria. Syria, Georgia and Armenia. Cyprus is practically a stone’s throw away, Egypt is just across the Mediterranean. The really fascinating thing is that Istanbul is cut in half, one side on each continent, sliced down the middle by the Bosporus strait:
If you look at the image above, there are little islands, the Prince Islands and you can take a ferry out there and then hire a horse-drawn carriage around town. I think the kids would like that. That’s pretty much the extent of my plans. I will stay in a guest house, maybe rent an apartment after a few days, or move on from the city to one of the villages outside the Black Sea. I have no idea. No plan. I’m just winging it, seeing what looks good and going from there.
I’m looking forward to eating borek again, and having sumac on the table. I’m guessing I’ll have to learn to love drinking yogurt. The kids will eat any meat on a stick, so we’re good.
Drew is still freaking out, but I think he’s just projecting how he’d feel if he had to jump on a plane and go to Turkey suddenly with two kids. Yes, for him, that sounds absolutely horrible! But I’m not him, I am excited by the change exactly because it’s new and unknown. I feel calm. Happy. At peace. Really grateful for my life. I am already leaping past all the logistics and imaging the food, the people, the beautiful photographs that I hope to take. It feels like I somehow stumbled upon a way better decision for where to go, and it was all because my credit card was declined. What strange luck!
We’re going to Turkey! To Istanbul! I can’t wait.