I’ve been in Istanbul for more than two months now. As I teach English and wait for other jobs to materialize, I can’t help but wonder: should I stay or should I go?
It’s that hard balance of world travel that I’ve become increasingly accustomed to. Many times I find myself caught between trying to become more ‘local’ by staying put in one place or simply being a fly-by-night ‘tourist’ seeing all I can. Even though being a tourist sometimes means not getting a real sense of the people and the culture because of the constant urge to just ‘keep on moving.’ Somewhere lurking in the air around me is this gravitational pull, the slight tug of travel putting its grips on me and egging me to move on and go forth and plunder. Well, probably not plunder as much as wander.
It is hard for me to dissect this. Sometimes I feel it doesn’t matter if I move on quickly or not because money-wise either way I’m paying to sleep somewhere whether it’s in Istanbul or Budapest or Chicago. But Istanbul is not really a cheap city, relative to others I’ve been in. I feel like as I journey westward, I will certainly be spending more to live each day. I long for the days in Costa Rica when I paid $5 a night for a single room with my own bathroom. I guess I could live the rest of my life at “Gringo Pete’s” in Arenal and just retire there, but I know I’d grow bored and the same inevitable pull of travel would always be getting in the way.
With the extra time on my hands here, I often find myself reflecting back on my journey and looking forward to its continuation. Sometimes too much thinking, or in my ‘Virgo’ case, analyzing, makes me feel a little down. While I’m traveling and taking a year off, it isn’t exactly a ‘year off’ as life keeps chugging forward like a high speed bullet train. Things are happening to me here and I’m meeting people and at the same time things are happening back home to my friends and loved ones. My ex-boyfriend has moved on (to someone twenty years his junior in classic rebound/mid-life form. I guess he’s no longer pining away for me and waiting for my return with outstretched arms); I now miss someone I’ve met along the way whom I developed a bit of a relationship with; I was stressed out because my storage unit in my Chicago condo was broken into and I really have no idea what was stolen; I’m sad because one of my very best friends in Chicago won’t be there when I return (she’s recently moved back to Germany); And sometimes, when I unfortunately have too much time to ‘over think’ things, I’m a bit perplexed about what I am REALLY doing with my life after all this?? I know what you are thinking: ‘poor, poor you. Boo-hoo, Lisa, you are living your dream, traveling around the world.’ But I guess even a year away has to have its ‘down in the dumps’ moments.
Sometimes part of me does not want to be here in Turkey or Vietnam or a beach in Australia, but in a tranquil leafy suburb with big, old colonial homes like those in New Jersey, Connecticut, or Chicago (Hi, Evanston), with beautiful breezy Oak and Maple trees, where the only sounds you hear are birds chirping and wind rustling the leaves that dapple the sunlight onto the lush lawns of green grass that feel cool on your toes on a summer afternoon. Perhaps it is a bit of ‘the grass is always greener’ syndrome. Well, the grass is greener in Evanston, but that’s because they can afford to spend lots of money each year on fertilizer. But that’s neither here nor there. I’m okay. I know this little funk will pass. It’s part of normal life whether I’m in Chicago or Turkey. In fact, I KNOW I’d have more stress and ‘real life’ problems if I were in Chicago right now. I should be feeling lucky, but sometimes it’s just not possible to do that 100% of the time.Like they say, “wherever you go, there you are.”
So, how long will I stay here? Why am I here? I like it, but don’t love it exactly. I’ve heard others say, ‘you love it and hate it at the same time.’ I just saw it was easy to get work and figured why not hang out, make some lira, and see what happens. But I just get confused sometimes. Part of me wants to keep on moving. I’ve become accustomed to a certain momentum on my trip as I slowly drift around the world from one place to the next. I sometimes feel like I’m living in a strange dream. Like right now, here I am living in someone else’s apartment in Istanbul. It’s a strange feeling and I don’t feel ‘at home’ exactly, but I guess I will continue to go with the flow and see where it takes me.