Home: Istanbul 2020
How is it 2020? I honestly can’t wrap my brain around this. It’s been a decade since I first came to Istanbul on a trip that would change my life forever.
I had been working at English Summer Camps in Italy. Through a twist of fate, the summer camps arranged it so that we had jobs at the start of the summer and at the end of the summer…with time off in-between. That would cause us to over-stay the 90-Day allotted days in the Schengen area. There was a loop-hole however: we could leave the EU for two weeks and return to finish our last job in Parma. I remember my friend and I were having a hard time choosing between either Morocco or Istanbul. Both were feasible options…but in the end it came down to having recently watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s: No Reservations set in Istanbul (I loved Tony so much). So we booked a flight at random and spent two weeks in a hostel by the Galata Tower exploring every inch of the city. That was it for me. Completely and utterly in LOVE.
We went back to Italy and worked in Parma but I could never get Istanbul out of my mind, ultimately leading to my move here in 2011. A lot can happen in ten years. A lot can happen in just one year.
Which…leads me to 2019… an insanely beautiful, crazy, complicated, exhilarating, heartbreaking, stressful, and inspirational year.
This is my sort of ‘apology’ — to the blog and to myself—for not writing when I wanted to and for backtracking and re-telling all my travel tales late. But… better late than never right? I have posts I started and never finished, that stop in literal mid-sentence. Posts that tell how my feelings were and where I was sitting…that I don’t even remember writing. Last year I decided to go back to school and get a university degree online…a life goal that I am so thankful to have now achieved and to be able to say was worth all the craziness. Simultaneously, my best friend-my ‘family’- the very friend who had been in Italy with me on that fateful first trip to Istanbul, who had also moved to Istanbul and been my roommate for the last 7 years, decided it was her time to return to the states. As happy as I was for her to start a new path in her life, it was hard. So many things these last years had happened to the both of us. I will never be able to express how meaningful it was to share these experiences with someone who also had these experiences. To be able to laugh about day-to-day cultural mishaps is something so powerful…and the lack of that was hard to adjust to. At the same time, I found myself in a whirlwind new romance that threw me out of myself and routine and hurtled me towards the unknown. It was perfect, it was amazing, it was difficult, and it didn’t go as planned as many things sometimes don’t.
To give a perfect example of myself in 2019 I think the best thing I can do is to put into evidence a ‘post-it‘ still stuck to my front door. On this post-it are written 3 things: chocolate, shoes, keys. ‘Chocolate’ because I had to bring it to a friend one day and never crossed it off. ‘Shoes’ because (I kid you not), I left the house and stood on the streets in my slippers and realized it while walking…many times. ‘Keys’ because, as you probably guessed, there were numerous calls to a locksmith last year.
Life is not forseeable. Case in point: If you had asked me when I was a teenager if I thought I would grow up and move to Istanbul, I’m pretty positive my response would have been ‘What’s Istanbul?’.
2019 taught me many things but mostly it taught me to make time for myself. It’s not easy living the expat life. It’s not always as glamorous as it might seem. Last week I had my credit card accidentally cancelled because of language issues (oops) and you don’t even want to know about trying to get vaccinations for an upcoming adventure (Vietnam next week…but the Typhoid Fever Vaccine is a hard one to find–traversing that in another language– even harder). But I love this city and still find new spots to become enamored with after all this time…and I wouldn’t give back anything that these ten years have given me.
So, here’s a quick sort of ‘re-cap’ of 2019 (and some from 2018); highlights of travel and life here in Istanbul, all things that are ‘in-the-works’ for future posts:
PARIS PART 2: Did you think I forgot that there’s a totally unfinished ‘tale’ currently on the site? The second part of the journey starts in Montmartre…yes these pictures are real. That was our Airbnb view:
SANTORINI with my Mom and Brother… magic. Initially I cringed at going to what I wrongfully assumed was a total tourist trap. Oh how I was wrong! It truly is as beautiful and as wonderful as they say…with an entirely special and unique culinary offerings as well.
ELEOS: My favorite ‘Meyhane’ rakı balık place in Istanbul during summer -or really anytime. Honestly, it’s mostly because of the view:
Back to Italy…this time a Gluten Free Experience with my other best High School friend and her husband. Trip of a lifetime…lots of laughs, lots of adventure, lots of food— for everyone and their dietary needs!
Tunisia Road Trip and Two Weeks in Morrocco (Finally took that trip): My love affair with North Africa. I have new obsessions…they basically revolve around spices and textiles and ‘When can I plan my next trip to North Africa’? Marrakesh is PERFECTION. And as for Tunisia, I was lucky enough to be included on a trip with a personal guide who drive us everywhere including the set of Star Wars (my life is now complete). The best thing about that trip was our guide who treated us like family and made us feel totally at home.
Southeast Turkey ‘reunion’ trip to see Göbeklitepe…‘world’s oldest temple’: This was truly something. I’m ashamed to admit that 7 years ago I had the chance to go and see this site and totally bailed as I was tired and grumpy and hadn’t had coffee. Yes. It happened. Thankfully I got the chance to see it again, with the very same friends who I had been with before 7 years ago.
And so, life was full in many many ways in 2019. Here’s to 2020…and looking forward to whatever life has in store. Next Friday I’m off to Vietnam and Cambodia…more adventures, more posts to come.