On Travel, Home, and Balance
Recently I was gushing to my friend Masha about how happy I was to be back in my apartment in Istanbul surrounded by my plants, and how thrilling it felt to fall back into my routine of work and coffee dates around Kadikoy.
“Weren’t you just complaining about being stuck in Istanbul?”
She was right. I spent most of March desperately looking up plane tickets out of the city, preferably to somewhere warmer. I sent screenshots of cheap flights to any friends who I thought would be spontaneous enough to join me. I almost went to Bulgaria for a day, by bus, just to be somewhere different.
These are the two sides I work hard to keep in balance. The adventurous fleet-footed traveler, who constantly craves new places and new people and new journeys, and the creature-of-habit homebody, who likes knowing the baristas of the coffee shops by name and cooking in her own kitchen.
Mid-April to mid-May fed my adventurous soul, with a week-long hike along Turkey’s Lycian Way quickly followed by an intense two week trip in Tunisia. Now, back in Istanbul for the next month, I’m reveling in the return to routine. I can attend the intimate writing class I take in a Syrian cultural center, return to my weekly swing dance classes, go to yoga, sit in my favorite cafes with a cat in my lap and make small talk with the regulars.
Leaving Istanbul constantly lets me love it fully, because every trip away reminds me of all the special things in this city, and gives me a break from its madness. Even after 4+ years here, I still feel so struck by its magnificence sometimes. I take a ferry across to Europe and marvel at the vastness of the Bosphorus.
And I celebrate everything small, from the mindless way I can navigate the familiar streets of my neighborhood to my minimal Turkish that nonetheless carries me throughout my day. I am constantly grateful that Istanbul– resplendent, wild Istanbul, the seat of empires, the center of the world– is my home. Traveling is wonderful, but coming home is pretty wonderful too. It’s all about keeping both in balance, like the most splendid of see-saws.