1) The day I spent by myself soaking up the heat in Blue Lagoon, an outdoor spring in Iceland. It was my first solo trip and I felt extremely lonely, especially in a place crowded by couples. Then the sun began to rise and snow started to fall. A scene to forget all things.
2) When I saw a girl around my age posing behind a display window in the red light district, a corner away from a high-end shopping on Damrak, Amsterdam’s main street. I am definitely a supporter of all willing professions. But to think the many left with little choice, I could barely meet her gaze. So many of us are incredibly privileged.
3) The annoyance after injuring myself a day before a two week Euro trip. After a visit to the hospital hoping for a quick scan, they placed me in the emergency room and told me to stay put. I stayed put for 4 days, costing my insurance company a whopping $7000.
4) When my friend and I Couchsurfing with hippies and homeless people in Berlin, we shared a mattress with two backpackers from Venezuela. As they spoke in Spanish with my Colombian friend, I thought of how many people we pass by every day without a slight acknowledgment, what kind of coincidences were needed for complete strangers to lay next to each other and speak of life as old friends.
5) Since Brussels was one of our last destinations, my friend and I were exhausted. We passed out in a McDonald’s for the day. While trying to catch our bus back to Paris that night, we passed by Grand Place. Unbeknownst to us, it was Pride weekend and all the government buildings around the square were lit up in pride colors.
6) When I befriended a man working the air traffic control room at the airport. Since we are both talkative souls, he invited me to his office. So I ended up chilling with strangers while they landed planes. 🙂
7) The night when I twisted my ankle in Budapest while running around a hill. My host at the moment, someone I just met, had to carry me home- an hour-long journey down the hill into the city.
8) One of my favorite days was spent at Széchenyi Bath, a humongous spa complex housing numerous public baths. This was right after my twisted ankle incident, so I had to limp around in my bathing suit like an idiot. While soaking up the sun in the outdoor pool during the mid-day heat, it began hailing. And I mean hell hail. It was blowing ice cubes the size of my knuckle during a mid-summer day. Mother nature is surely fascinating.
9) My fear while hitchhiking in the middle of the night away from an aggressive host. It was then that I experienced the utter helplessness of a solo female traveler. Sometimes, a ‘wrong’ look or gesture may invite unwanted attention. Often times, the simple fact of being a woman will invite unwanted attention.
10) The time when everyone on an ATV tour decided to jump into mud water mid-tour.
11) In Alanya, we spent two nights swimming in the sea. The Alanya castle stands just over the cliff on the side of the Mediterranean. Its lit golden at night, a peaceful glow contrasting the lively chatters on the opposite side of the beach. I still remember hearing the sounds of waves splashing against the cliff and seeing the sky merging into the dark water.
12) Being the only person standing on a hill watching hot air balloons amid the sunrise, I felt larger than life. And then the buses forgot about me so I had to hitch hike back home from nowhere land at 7 in the morning.
13) Göreme is famous for its beautiful landscape and strange rock formations. They are interesting to look at during the day, but absolutely stunning at night. Once, I went for a night out with my host and several of his friends. He stopped at an abandoned house on the street and began packing his car with old tires. Shortly after, they drove into a valley and lit a fire that rose to a good 8 feet. The tree-tall rocks reflected reddish orange peaks of the fire. Up top, the milky way stood visibly. It was mesmerizing.
14) When my host invited me to a club meet and I ended up having beers with some Turkish bikers. My favorite moment was when a guy pulled out his guitar and a couple others started singing. I didn’t know these people, but they felt like family. Honestly, I’m about this biker life. I’d be a kickass biker grandma.
15) I have so much love for Turkish people. I’ve used rideshare in Turkey four times. Twice the drivers wouldn’t let me pay a dime, once a guy insisted on taking the hour-longer route just to show me- a foreigner, a few extra sights. The last person lets me use his phone for a good three hours when my accommodation fell through. And I can’t recall how many people stopped me on the street and at bazaars, inviting me in for a cup of tea or just for a quick chat.
16) My delight when finding out that my rideshare drivers spoke Chinese. How small of a world is it that I’d be sharing a ride with a Chinese speaking Turkish man? In fact, he and his girlfriend wouldn’t let me pay a single cent. A few days later, they invited me to a party at their beach house in Izmir. It was a weird wild Turkish night.
17) In Istanbul, I befriended a guy whose family owned a jewelry counter. (A super cool guy with some wild FBI-related stories). As it goes, he had to work for a few hours and invited me along. So there I was, a random Asian manning a jewelry counter in a shopping mall in Istanbul.
18) Some of my favorite sounds in Turkey were times of adhan, or, the Islamic Call for Prayer. They are heard five times throughout the day, with music like summons that rings through the country. I’m not religious by any means, but these sounds fill me with so much peace. And I thought how incredible it was that these calls can give so much emotion to someone who knew not the meaning of the spoken words.
In Istanbul the party city, morning adhan felt like a bucket of waking water. The mosques themselves have the same effect. My favorite bar overlooked the European side of Istanbul’s glowing skyline. The golden mosques were absolutely majestic against the backdrop of euphoric deep house and vibrating dance floors.
Here it is. All the feels folded into a few hastily written words. For all the good, the bad and the ugly, tomorrow is another day.
It was a wonderfully beautiful night, and yet sad, perhaps from the very excess of its beauty. The arising sun; the setting sun. There we have the symbol and the type of humanity, and all things with which humanity has to do. The symbol and the type, and the earthly beginnings, and the end also. And on the morning this came home to me with peculiar force. The sun that rose today for us had set last night for eighteen of our fellow-voyagers- had set for eighteen whom we knew.
And we four were saved. But one day a sunrise will come when we shall be among those who are lost, and then others will watch those glorious rays, and grow sad in the midst of beauty, and dream of death in the full glow of arising life.
For this is the lot of man.