Sat 31 May 2008 - Tue 1 Jul 2008
Like most of my journeys, the trip to Istanbul arrived on the travel horizon not so much by choice as much as happenstance.
First comes the far-off call of the road and the world beyond my door, the sirens all travelers know. The air starts to sparkle, the future journey seems both indefinite and full of potential. Hints and messages begin to arrive, addressed from places asking me to come visit.
I poke my head out the door, test the wind, mention to friends that I’m thinking of traveling, letting them know the places that have been calling to me. I get back encouragement, ideas, inspiration, connections, coincidences, possibilities.
Gradually, a story forms: a theme, a way of travel, the soul that each journey inhabits. This story shapes the trip, giving it meaning and a context. Is it circular, a trip around the central provinces of Japan? Is it linear, a trip from the west coast of the US to the eastern edge of Eastern Europe? Is a journey of depth, or of length? About architecture, gardens, and walking, or about the myth of the American road?
Then the rational planning mind kicks in, starts to gather information, research, plot the dots on the mental travel map. Ideas become plans; problems become solutions; scrawled notes become flight confirmation numbers; packing lists become packed bags. The trip becomes solid.
This is a new sort of traveling for me, yet one that I hope I’ll continue to do. Instead of spending weeks moving around a particular region, I am living in Istanbul for a month. Just living there. Just in Istanbul.
I’m setting up shop, as it were: my laptop and a few office items will be packed carefully into my bags, and a wifi connection at the flat should keep me in touch with my consulting/programming world, without the usual hassle and frustration of Internet cafes or the like. I do plan to work while I’m living in Istanbul, on either projects of my own or with my clients.
I want to see what it’s like to live and work in another part of the world, and so I’ll put myself in that situation for a few weeks and try it out. I’ve always wanted to live in another country; I finally realized that I didn’t have to move away from my home to do so. I always get a lot out of trips, even short ones; I hope this month of temporary emigration will be enlightening and inspiring.
Because of this method of traveling, I have not taken my usual path in research: I have not bought the Lonely Planet guide to Turkey; I have not cataloged long lists of places I want to visit; I have not scribed a path in a rough circle around a certain part of the world. In fact, all I have done is made this decision to travel from Portland to Istanbul, the decision to have a room in Instanbul, and the decision to come home after a month has passed.
The slow departure
As I write this, it’s less than a week before I leave. That last-week travel pressure is always present; thoughts of organization, travel, packing, language, money, drift through my head. The list of must-do things becomes longer; soon I will triage these must-do’s and realize I just won’t get to a few of them.
Coincidentally, friends here have been hosting dinner parties, movie nights, early-summer BBQs -- I am able to connect to folks before I depart. The night before I leave town, I’ll be at the unveiling party for the poster I photographed and designed for the Silverton Fine Arts Festival — one last hurrah before my very early morning flight to DC, then Munich, then finally to Istanbul.
Through the modern miracle of Craigslist, I found a room to rent, in a flat a few blocks off Taksim Square. Zubeyir calls his flat ‘The Place at the heart of the City.’ He is friendly and genuinely passionate about his city, and about his hosting of travelers. I’ll have a small room, with a bed, wardrobe, table, and chair, as well as access to the kitchen, laundry, and living room. It’s a room of my own, yet without the anonymity and transience of a hotel, and without the chaos and emotional energy of a hostel.
All else is up in the clear air of the future.
[dateline Silverton, Oregon]