Today is the one year anniversary of my arrival to Istanbul. In my first days, I struggled to learn to say basic words like hello and thank you. All around me there was the buzz of a language of which I knew nothing and every street and corner was unfamiliar.
When I first came here I thought it would be for a simple four month stay. I had come fresh off the heels of law school where I spent almost every day in the company of my friends and going to endless social activities. I came from living an hour away from my parents, 20 minutes from my in-laws and a hop and a skip away from almost everyone that played any significant role in my day to day life.
And all of the sudden it was all gone.
Through this last year I have loved and hated Istanbul. There were times when I wanted to book the next flight available back home and others where I never, ever wanted to leave. George Bernard Shaw said, “I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad.” I had often read this quote and never understood it. Even now, I’m not sure I fully understand it but I think the growth and learning that happens while being abroad happens in the uncomfortable places, the ones that live far from familiarity and ease.
I know people who are not keen to travel. They are happy to stay within one city or neighborhood their entire lives and I think the person that has not traveled, that has had the opportunity to see the world and has wilfully not done so is a person that is missing a great deal from life. St. Augustine said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” How can we know anything about ourselves without knowing anything about other people? How can we read that one page and think we know anything at all?
I can understand that people might not travel because they don’t have the money or the freedom but I think that if there is any way to find that money and time, then there is no better way to spend either than on the road, in new lands and places where we are challenged to realize that there are many different types of people in the world and we must continually find ways for our individual existence to empower the collective existence.
In this last year I did not often think of myself as an ex-pat but as a traveler. As someone who was desperate to understand something about the country that I was living in and by extension to understand some things about myself. Today is the one year anniversary of my arrival to Istanbul, and I celebrate it as someone changed; hopefully better and definitely stronger. Here is to hoping for more adventures, challenges and inspiration in my last six months here.