The last thing I want to do on my blog is get political. Travel is something that unites us all, and politics is what divides us all. In the last week, I've had people read my blog in 128 cities and 39 countries and wow, it's crazy to think that all these people are reading my blog. We all have different backgrounds and experiences, so after the recent terrorist attacks in Istanbul and the attacks in Ankara yesterday, I am writing this in the hopes that it may be in some small service to the people of Turkey. Those of us who changed our profile photos and expressed our sympathies for Paris after the tragic events there were criticized by some for "not caring" about other terrorist attacks. So, as a disclaimer, just because I am writing about Turkey, one of my favourite countries, that does not mean that I am apathetic to the other violence in the world.
My decision to visit Turkey last May was relatively impulsive (as are most of my travels). While government websites and the media made travel to Turkey seem unsafe and terrifying, those who actually travelled there said there was little to worry about. For a more in-depth look at this, check out http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com/, especially this article about safety. This site was invaluable to me as I made my decision to travel to Turkey. I also recommend reading Turkey: Bright Sun, Strong Tea, a travel memoir by the site's author for more on daily life in Turkey. It was a good read on the ten hour night bus ride between Istanbul and Cappadocia (when I wasn't getting woken up a Frenchman to look at flamingo nesting beds at sunrise). When I first got there, I was definitely jumpy, asking "What was that!?" when a gunshot went off signaling the start of a marathon and worried about the large guns that the guards carried. (Check out my previous post on Turkey for all of these humorous stories).
My travelling companion Lily and I flew to Istanbul from Budapest and I am pretty sure we were the only Americans on the flight. The descent into Istanbul was so bumpy and shaky that all the passengers erupted into applause when we landed safely on the runway (so, that's why the tickets were $100 cheaper than all the others!) That was probably the most danger we were in the entire time. We met a Turkish student returning from an Erasmus year in Budapest on the plane and he gave us all sorts of helpful tips, less-known sights, and even his contact information should we need help. Nearly all the Turks I met were this kind.
When I first arrived in Istanbul, I was worried about saying that I was American and standing out as a minority for really the first time in my life (aside perhaps for my one-day trip to Morocco with my high school during a trip to Spain). With pale skin, dark hair, and blue eyes, I can easily blend in in almost any European country. I firmly believe that it is good for everyone to travel places where they are a minority, as this is something that millions of people worldwide face on a daily basis. However, there is nothing at all to fear. Most people in Turkey speak English and virtually everyone we interacted with asked where we were from and had a positive reaction when we said American. They all seemed genuinely interested in why we decided to visit Turkey and happy that we were there. We fear what we don't understand. Having grown up in a small town in America, I never thought I'd find myself covering my hair to enter a mosque in Turkey, but I'm glad I did!
I was in Turkey right before the elections and when I accidentally found myself near a political rally, I left. Most, though not all, of the attacks are toward the government and not tourists. Recently, tourists have been involved but it is still a small percentage (of course every causality in a terrorist attack is one too many) in comparison to the millions who visit Turkey each year. Turkey is one of the world's top travel destinations, with huge numbers of people coming from both the Western and Eastern countries. Statistically, the danger of terrorist violence is lower than getting struck by lightning. There is danger everywhere. Before I went to Turkey, I pointed out that an unexploded World War II bomb was just discovered in London, not far from where I was living at the time. Since then, another unexploded bomb was found near Victoria Station.
Would I go back to Turkey? Yes, definitely! There are still many places left to explore and I want to re-visit Cappadocia when I can afford a hot air balloon ride and a room in a cave hotel rather than sleep on a night bus two nights in a row!
So if Turkey entices you, I urge you to go. Embrace their wonderful culture, meet the friendly people, drink cups of Turkish tea, feel connected to something ancient in Cappadocia's underground cities and cave dwellings, hear the bellowing call to prayer down the crowded streets of Istanbul. Don't let fear take away from this wonderful country. Teşekkür ederim!
Hi, I’m Crystal! I love to travel and am currently a graduate student in Scotland. You’ll get all the best tips and insights from my experiences as a former ice-skating coach in Iceland and former study abroad student. Of the 27 countries I have visited, a type 1 diabetes diagnosis has been the strangest land yet. Type 1 has not slowed down my travels and you'll learn how to take type 1 with you on the road! You can connect with me further on Instagram @CrystalChilcott, or send me ideas of where I should travel next via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgHappy Travels, Crystal
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