Earlier this morning, I was in a cab speeding along the west bank of the Bosphorous, the strait that bisects the city of Istanbul and separates Europe from Asia. It’s rare that vehicles driving along this stretch of road move at all, let alone at such a rapid pace, which was convenient given the rush I was in.
You could say I was in a rush the last time I found myself in Istanbul too – I’d never have dreamed of taking a cab then, though. It was the first week of autumn in 2010 and I was near the end of my long, westbound journey back to the U.S. after teaching English in China. While I’d specifically stopped in the city where East meets West to symbolize the transformation that had occurred in me that year, I spent most of my time in Istanbul worrying about what my next move would be – certainly not wasting 20 lira on a taxi.
“I’d literally just started my site,” I explained to one of the other bloggers Turkish Airlines invited to its first-ever U.S. Blogger Summit, which wrapped up today. “I didn’t really know how to blog yet.
“But more importantly,” I continued, reflecting on how my previous trip to Istanbul had seen me as anxious as the slowly-changing leaves all around me, as if they knew their boldening hues were but a flamboyant overture to their demise, “I didn’t know how to enjoy life.”
Leave Your Daily Hell now has tens of thousands of more readers than it did the first time I visited Istanbul, to say nothing of the dozens of additional countries I’ve visited and the strides I’ve made personally and professionally: My presence on this trip alone signifies my having come full circle.
And yet as my taxi zoomed past Dolmabahçe Palace this morning, flocks of Istanbul’s infamous seagulls swirling above like tornadoes of flesh and feather, I still had to remind myself.
Be here now, I breathed and deeply and as slowly as I could, to calm the adrenaline my last-minute stroll down Istiklal Street from Taksim Square to Galata Tower had sent coasting through my veins. Don’t worry about where you’re going.
Long ago – the day I signed my contract with the English school in Shanghai, in fact – I postulated that comfort was the enemy of success. Joy, and giving myself permission to feel it, has often slipped between the cracks of the satisfaction I constantly shatter to push myself and my art, to the extent I have on more than one occasion wondered whether discontentment was an unavoidable side effect of creativity.
After spending the past six days in Turkey, I can safely say that this is not the case.
I experienced as many moments of unbridled joy during my trip as there are seagulls in Istanbul, people of faith in the ancient Sufi city of Konya and strangely phallic “fairy chimneys” dotting the dramatic landscapes of the Cappadocia region.
And I smiled wider, laughed louder and emanated a purer sort of gratitude than ever before, not only because of how amazing Turkey is as a destination – and how incredible the Turks are as a people – but because I quite literally walked in the footsteps of an adrift version of myself, and walked taller because I now know where that long road led him.
No matter where you are on your life’s path, I hope you’ll add Turkey to your list of destinations if it isn’t already there – these pictures should help seal the deal.
This trip would not have been possible without the kindness and generosity of the Turkish Airlines team, who not only organized and funded my entire visit to Turkey, but was kind enough to let me sample the airline’s exquisite business class as I traveled to and from Istanbul. Find more reasons to visit Turkey by searching the hashtags #widenyourworld and #lovefromturkey on social media.
informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travelers like you. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!