Category Archives: Cappadocia

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Serendipity

People often ask me questions about the life I’m living, and I get it. I’m definitely not following a conventional path in life or career and some of the choices I make tend to leave others scratching their heads a bit. I often hear, “I wish I could do what you do, but…” or “I could never do what you do”… and a lot of the times, I feel the same but the other way around. There have been other times in my life where I was more focused on following a different path, but I’ve changed (quite a few times) over the years and I don’t regret the long and winding path that’s led me to the person I am today. Nor do I think that the changes will stop any time soon! I think I’ve finally accepted and embraced that.

I’ve always been the kind of person who needs to have a few things happening at once. While I definitely do pour myself into things (school, jobs, marathons and travel are all examples) I am always thinking of the larger picture, or sometimes dreaming up a different picture altogether. I used to have more anxiety around “where is this all going?” but these days, I’ve learned to channel that energy into opening up new paths and being flexible about where they take me.

Washington, DC, for example…

A few months ago, some of my family on my mother’s side were making plans for a celebration of my grandfather’s 90th birthday. I rarely see this side of my family (having grown up an ocean and half a continent away) and it was a chance to visit with my last living grandparent and just about all of my relatives, including my mom and brother. My aunt and uncle generously offered to help me with the plane ticket if I could get myself there…

At first, I turned it down. I’m happy living in Turkey, but I won’t lie – even with the lower cost of living, it’s difficult for me to make ends meet since I can’t legally work there. I don’t exactly have funds for a trans-continental trip lying around at my disposal these days especially after India and Portugal earlier in the year. I also have had bouts with depression and recurrent pain over the years that left me soul searching in the Himalayas and culminated with having surgery in Mumbai before leaving India, further draining my bank account. I do freelance writing and admin or communications work for clients in various time zones (Hawaii, Seattle, Turkey) but I thought perhaps I could take the opportunity to do some work on the ground in the US to help fund the trip to see my family and hopefully get me through another winter in Turkey.

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you may have seen that my word for 2016 is SERENDIPITY. (More on this tradition here.) What a serendipitous year it’s been! At the beginning of the year I never dreamed I’d get to visit Portugal or India, but living where I do now and keeping an eye on inexpensive airfares made it possible to cross both off my bucket list. And now I was standing at a crossroads and leaving it up to the world wide web of wonders to see if I could make a trip to the US feasible… I put out a request to my network to see if I could find a job (and a couch to crash on) for a few months and got replies from all over the country! It truly amazes me how things work out when you are open to embracing serendipity.

Fast forward to Labor Day weekend and I was able to spend time visiting with my family in Indiana. We celebrated Grandpa’s 90th and my Uncle Kev’s 60th, ate Skyline Chili, read bedtime stories to the littles and watched old family movies from my mom’s childhood in the barn. I got to meet spouses and kids that have been added to the family tree and spent time with cousins I haven’t seen since a family reunion 16 years ago. I am so thankful to my family for bringing me over for those priceless moments together. I’m looking forward to seeing them again in a few weeks for Thanksgiving. =)

After Indiana, I spent a weekend in Chicago staying with Kim (yes, Kim on a Whim has now settled happily in the Windy City – Go Cubs!) Our friend Edwin flew in for the weekend and we made the most of the short time we had together with all the basics… Eating our way through Chicago with deep dish pizza, italian beef sandwiches, and house-party BBQ. I got to have things I’ve dearly missed in Turkey like poke (even though they spell it wrong) and pho. We explored the city on foot and just about every form of public transport including my favorite – water taxi! And when it was time to move on I booked an overnight train to begin the next chapter in my serendipitous year, DC…

I’d only been to DC once, in the 7th Grade on a school trip to the East Coast. A classmate of mine (who also happened to be on that trip!) now lives in DC and serves as Executive Director for a nonprofit called BEST Kids, Inc. BEST Kids needed support around their annual gala taking place in October and strategy to support their year-round fundraising efforts to continue to provide caring and consistent mentors for youth in DC’s foster care system. It was a perfect fit for me and I’m so grateful to Krislyn for the opportunity to help this organization (and also the space on her couch!) that allowed me to stay in DC for the past two months. It’s been so great to be able to combine work and play, to enjoy the beautiful fall weather here in the nation’s capital and to get to see sides of the city that I wouldn’t have if I had come as a tourist.

My time in DC is winding down, and soon I’ll be heading back to Indiana for Thanksgiving, then back to Turkey at the end of the month. I’m definitely missing my house, boyfriend, cat and being able to sleep in my own bed! Not to mention Turkish food and the beautiful (and soon to be snowy) landscape of Cappadocia.

This year has definitely been one of SERENDIPITY – happy coincidences that have led me to friends, family and new experiences all over the world. Soon it will be time to start thinking about my word for next year, but for now I’m just basking in the moments that have made this year one of continuous surprises and reminded me of the joy of living in the present moment.

Life in Turkey: Seker Bayram and Ramazan

Today was a bit of coincidence as there are major holidays happening in both my homeland and adopted home. So while I’m watching 4th of July beach parties, BBQs and red, white, and blue fireworks displays back in the states, here in Turkey they’re getting ready to celebrate three days of Seker Bayram, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramazan.

Ramazan (known as Ramadan outside of Turkey) is the holiest month in the Muslim calendar. During this time, those observing Ramazan will abstain from vices like swearing, alcohol, sex, and arguing and focus on being kind to others, improving the community and performing acts of charity. Families and friends are united and quarrels are resolved. During the 30 days of Ramazan, Muslims traditionally fast from sunrise to sunset. This includes not just food but anything passing your lips. No smoking, no chewing gum, no brushing your teeth, not even a sip of water!
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250 Days

What a beautiful journey this has been and continues to be, every day… As I’ve recently passed the 250-day mark in my travels, I figured it was time for another update.

When I wrote my 100 Days update, I tried to dispel the myth of travel being so expensive by giving you a breakdown of costs from my first few countries. Although they have gone up slightly in the time since that update ($46 per day now vs. $40 then), they’re still solidly less than what it would cost to live in Hawaii, which reaffirms my decision to take my work on the road. In fact, everything still comes in around $1700 per month, even allowing for bus and air travel, sightseeing, and a few splurges here and there. The following sections will further break things down by country, for those who might be interested.

>> For cost breakdowns from Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, please visit my post from my first 100 days.

Bolivia Cost Breakdown

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugFood – $14.33
Lodging – $18.16
Transport – $2.90
Sightseeing – $2.76
Personal – $2.47
Misc – $2.73
Bolivia cost per day: $43.35 (22 days)

Notes: My food costs in Bolivia were on the high side, in part due to a major splurge to take part in the 7-course tasting menu at Gustu. Without that splurge, food was quite reasonable as I often went for set menu almuerzos or inexpensive food at the mercados. Thanks to my friend Freddy, I was also able to keep my sightseeing and transport costs low by really exploring like a local.

>> Bolivia Destination Guide
>> Bolivia Photo Galleries

Chile Cost Breakdown

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugFood – $18.80
Lodging – $16.89
Transport – $9.69
Sightseeing – $10.31
Personal – $3.29
Chile cost per day: $58.97 (9 days)

Notes: Everything in Chile was quite expensive, although I did luck out in Santiago with a hostel that had fast wifi, a good location and a great price. Whenever I make my way through a city or country quickly, the costs really add up and don’t have a chance to be distributed over a longer number of days. This is a perfect example of why “slow travel” really lowers your overall costs and allows you to dig deeper into the experience of a place.

>> Chile Destination Guide
>> Chile Photo Galleries

Argentina Cost Breakdown

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugFood – $14.38
Lodging – $18.83
Transport – $7.76
Sightseeing – $2.87
Personal – $4.28
Misc – $0.18
Argentina cost per day: $48.31 (29 days)

Notes: Lodging was my biggest cost in Argentina, as I splurged on a hotel for a few days when I was sick. Transport is also a bit high because I splurged on the “suite” category for the overnight bus between Mendoza and Buenos Aires. Staying in a hostel meant I was often surrounded by people who were on holiday, which meant eating out a lot since it was always someone’s last night, which can get expensive quickly. It would have been easy to lower food costs if I’d taken advantage of the kitchen a bit more, but the steak (and wine! and coffee!) in Argentina was so tempting that I ate out much more than I should have! Although I don’t regret it one bit. 😉

>> Argentina Destination Guide
>> Argentina Photo Galleries

South Africa Cost Breakdown

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugFood – $11.29
Lodging – $24.00
Transport – $3.94
Sightseeing – $2.67
Personal – $5.78
Misc – $0.20
South Africa cost per day: $47.87 (58 days)

Note: My lodging costs in South Africa were significantly higher than anywhere else I’ve been in the world. Even a dorm bed in a hostel ran about $18 and although I did have some good luck with Airbnb, I also splurged on a hotel room before and after the Two Oceans Half Marathon and as a treat for my birthday! Another note is that if you are counting on access to free wifi, it’s extremely limited in South Africa. I ended up getting a SIM card with data and rates were quite expensive compared to other countries.

>> South Africa Destination Guide
>> South Africa Photo Galleries

What’s next?

I’m still working at freelance writing, social media consulting and various partnerships with brands I trust. While I can’t say that it’s enough to live off, I am not ready to give up the dream yet and I’m considering this an exploration of a new career path. I’ve also had a few semi-serious offers to work in exchange for accommodation or food here in Cappadocia, which are quite tempting as it’s quite a magical place!

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugMany have asked me and the answer remains that I am not tired of this new nomadic life, yet. I have learned so much about the places that I’ve traveled and I believe even more strongly today than when I started that the best way (for me, at least) to learn about the world and its many interwoven cultures is through food. It’s a common thread that gives me somewhere to start, even in places where I have no frame of reference and know so little of the history, language or culture of the people. Seeing variations on similar dishes, ingredients or cooking techniques really helps me to learn the ways that people have moved and interacted through history and it is endlessly fascinating! Nearly every place I’ve been is proud of its food and traditions. Eating together and handing down recipes through generations reminds people of family. These things are universal, no matter how different we are.

Thanks for coming along on this journey with me! :)