Sunday, January 25, 2015

Reflections on My Turkey Trip - Part 3: What I Learned About Myself

What did I think of Turkey? My answer is threefold. 

In my prior two posts, I addressed Part 1: What I Like About Turkey and Part 2: What I Like About the United States. In today's post I cover Part 3: What I Learned About Myself.

Let's start off with an analogy...

Imagine a mosaic. The more tiles that compose the mosaic, the clearer the image. ¿Comprende? Bueno.

As you've likely heard before, we are a sum of all our experiences. These experiences combine to create a mosaic of our unique selves. As is true for the tiles in a mosaic, the more experiences we add to our lives, the clearer the image of our true selves.

A mosaic of me, with all the Turkey photos as individual tiles.
Enlarge the image to fully appreciate the mosaic.

The Turkey trip served to add more and more tiles to the mosaic of my life. Though some of these experiences confirmed what I already knew about myself, others revealed something new. Regardless, all of the experiences helped me to get a clearer image of myself. All of the experiences helped me to learn more about myself and to asymptotically hone in on my true nature.

What I Learned About Myself

Kitesurfing Ain't Easy

Thanks to Coach Ferit, I spent quite a few hours continuing to learn kitesurfing in Turkey.

I assure you that I can chew bubblegum and walk at the same time. Heck, I can even chew bubble gum while walking, talking, patting my head, and rubbing my stomachs. But putting together the elements of kitesurfing -- namely flying the kite and surfing on the board -- did not come naturally to me.

My sadly bruised legs, after one day of kitesurfing.
Fortunately for me, bruises are generally a sign of fun had.
(See my Great Weekends Are Memorialized By The Knees post.)

Kitesurfing earned me lots of bumps and bruises, and even some blood, too. On one outing, a wave caused the board to crash into my knee, tearing open the skin. The cut bled like crazy. (Thank god there are no sharks in Gökova Bay!) This outing left my body with a permanent reminder of kitesurfing. Yup, I earned myself two new scar tattoos!

At the end of the season, I had learned to get on the board and kite surf for about 100 feet before crashing into the water. That's definitely progress. Coach Ferit constantly reminded me that it took him a long time to get the hang of kitesurfing as well. So, there's hope I might eventually be able to call myself a real kitesurfer some day!

Learning A New Language Ain't Easy

I took Spanish for seven years in junior high, high school, and college. At the time, learning Spanish came easily to me. I'm sure part of it was because of the discipline of a structured classroom learning environment. But I think part of it was also because I had a younger brain back then. We all know that younger brains are more sponge-like when it comes to learning new languages.

Although I, admittedly, wasn't entirely disciplined about learning Turkish, the learning went much slower than anticipated. I started learning Turkish about a month before we left for the trip. I had a difficult time juggling the vocabulary, the vowel harmony, and the agglutination (the stringing together of simple word parts to make a more complex word). I eventually decided just to focus on vocabulary, because without vocabulary, it's tricky to harmonize and to agglutinate.

In the end, I realized that learning vocabulary alone makes it difficult to relay meaningful thoughts. If I were to do it all over again, so as to optimize my ability to make small talk with Turkish speakers, I would focus on learning common phrases and screw any concern about speaking respectfully, with the proper vowel harmony, in the proper tense, etc.

On the bright side, I managed to learn a Turkish tongue twister:

I know it sounds as though I am saying the word "suck" over-and-over again, but I'm actually saying, "Should we put this yogurt away after adding garlic, or before adding garlic?" Yes, I probably wasted some valuable Turkish-language brain space with this tongue twister. But that's okay; it's always fun to twist one's tongue.

If I was going to twist my tongue, it only seemed fair that Ferit twist his tongue, too. As such, I taught Ferit this tongue twister, using a sort of rap-like beat.

I double-dare Ferit to say the twister without the rhythm, the gangster hand motions, and the "hey" at the end.

I Very Much Appreciate Good Photography

This trip helped me realize just how much I appreciate good photography.

For those of you who've been following my blog since the pre-Ferit days, a heartfelt thank you for not telling me outright that my photographs sucked to the high heaven. In the pre-Ferit days, my blog photos were taken with a shitty camera, I had no photography skills, and I didn't know a damn thing about editing photos.

As you know, Ferit is quite the photographer. His influence has since helped me to realize the value of taking, editing, and posting quality photos.

I think I have an eye for photography. After all, there were a number of times when I said, "Hey Ferit, can you take a picture? That would make an awesome photo!" Without my eye, a good number of photos from our trip wouldn't have been captured. Case in point...

Hands Up. (Istanbul, Turkey)
Photo requested by me. Photo taken by Ferit. Photo edited by Ferit.

Sky, Land, and Water. (Dalyan, Turkey)
Photo requested by me. Photo taken by Ferit. Photo edited by me.

Kitty at the Door. (Fethiye, Turkey)
Photo requested by me. Photo taken by me. Photo edited by me. (Woohoo!)

And I think I have an eye for editing photos, as a majority of the photos that I've included within my Turkey trip posts have been edited by yours truly.

So, it's just the skills and a decent camera that I need to acquire so that I, too, can produce high quality photos.

I Enjoy a Photographic Theme 

Perhaps you've tired of the jumping photos and the yoga poses. But I've really enjoyed having a photographic theme to thread together my memories from the trip.

Jumping in Prague (Czech Republic), Ephesus, Cappadocia, and the Ihlara Valley.

Posing in Thessaloniki (Greece), Aspendos, and Lyrbe.

Posing at The Salt Lake, Cappdocia (x3), Aspendos, Ankara, Istanbul,
Pamukkale, Kayaköy, Fethiye, Ephesus, and Lyrbe.

I'm Totally Fine Living Out of a Suitcase

For four months, I lived out of a medium-sized backpack and a small-sized Camelback. I was totally fine with this. (I suppose this should come as no surprise, as I'm totally fine living for multiple months out of the panniers on my bicycle, which contain both my living quarters and my kitchen.)

I did learn two things though:
  1. Before leaving for the Turkey trip, I digitized everything (including my journals), in hopes that I could minimize the volume and weight of the things I carried in my backpacks. About two weeks into the trip, I broke down and bought myself a notebook. My brain just thinks better when I bring a pen to paper.
  2. To keep expenses down, we made a lot of our own food and enjoyed a number of picnics. Often times, we scrambled for a fork, spoon, or knife for our meals. In the future, I will pack a set of utensils.
On the bright side, living with so little for so long enabled me to further downsize when I returned to Seattle. I can probably now fit everything I own into a Mini Cooper instead of my seemingly large Toyota Corolla (see My Stuff Owns Me).

I Missed My Bicycle

Although I'm not one to be attached to physical objects, my identity is very much wrapped up in my bicycle. Sure, my bicycle is a form of transportation and a form of exercise. But more importantly, it's a means of freedom.

Aside from our brief Tandem Riding: Doggie Style bike ride, it will have been more than five months since I've ridden a bicycle. I surely do miss my Shirley.

My bicycle, Shirley.

This trip has made me consider purchasing a foldable bicycle for future non-bike-centric travels. Without a doubt, the Turkey trip would have been a far richer experience with a set of wheels.

I Prefer Being a Traveler Rather Than a Tourist

While I already knew this about myself, the Turkey trip further confirmed that I prefer being a traveler rather than a tourist.

During this trip, we visited a total of 10 countries: Germany, Czech Repulic, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Italy, and Austria. We spent 3 months in Turkey, and then about 2.5 weeks whirlwind-ing it through the other countries, primarily hitting up the main cities.

Sure, I can now add 8 new countries to my list of countries that I've visited, but I can only say that I had the opportunity to know one of those countries well. In Turkey, I felt like a traveler; in all the other countries, I felt like a tourist.

This trip also confirmed that I prefer places that are off-the-beaten path. My favorite spots were:
  1. The Saklıkent Canyon, once we hiked past the first quarter-mile, where all the tourists congregate (see Hiking the Saklıkent Canyon), 
  2. The fairy chimneys at Cappadocia, once we wandered 500 feet away from the tour bus parking lots (see The Magical Cappadocia), and
  3. The ruins at Lyrbe, which were too remote for tourist busses (see Side, Kitties, Goats, & Thunderstorms).
A theme common to these three places is the presence of nature. I sure do love me some trees, water, mountains, and rocks.

I Don't Have Much Interest in History...At the Macro-Level

I've never been that interested in history, and this trip confirmed that. History, at the macro-level, has always been very dense and dry to me. It's terribly uninteresting for me to read placards and informative guides that rattle off years and names of civilizations.

What does really interest me is history at the micro-level, particularly when a history highlights a human element.

For example, I became very intrigued by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, as I learned the details of his life when we visited his birthplace in Thessaloniki (see Hanging Out in Thessaloniki) and his memorial in Ankara (see Izmir, A Hamam, Ankara, & The Salt Lake).

And I really became interested in the compulsory population exchange between the Turks and the Greeks when we visited Kayaköy (see The Ghost Town & The Blue Lagoon). So much, in fact, that I am reading a book about the population exchange. "Dear lord," you might say, "Sarah is reading a history book!" Yes, it's true.

I Need My Alone Time

This trip confirmed, quite overtly, that I am someone who needs alone time.

This was a very social trip. We spent a good deal of the trip around people, primarily Ferit's family and relatives.

This ended up being way too much socializing for me. I am an introvert who needs frequent bouts of alone time to recharge my batteries (see Out of Office). I didn't get nearly enough me-time, and that really started to show near the end of the trip.

I'm fine creating Sarah-time when it's just me and a partner. But for future travels that involve constant socializing, I need to be more assertive in establishing my boundaries.

Sometimes Good Things Must Come to An End

In April, I was presented with A Pleasant Surprise, When Least Expected. And while that surprise was wonderful, sometimes good things must come to an end.

As you may recall from my What's Next? post from last July, when Ferit and I met, Ferit had just returned from a sabbatical and was preparing to reenter the workforce. He decided to postpone his job search so that we could enjoy each other's company and travel together for a few months.

When we returned from our Turkey trip, Ferit started feeling under-the-gun to get back to work. Currently neck-deep in his job search, Ferit plans to settle in Seattle for the next few years. Having severed my ties with the work world two years ago so that I could live a free and nomadic life, I have no interest in settling right now.

For a month after our return from Turkey, we tried to figure out how we could remain together while living our now-diverging lives. We decided that by staying together, we'd be holding each other back from doing what we want to do and from being who we want to be.

And so it is out of deep respect for one another and a mutual encouragement in wanting each other to be happy that we have decided to go our separate ways. It was a tough decision, as both of us experienced great hesitation about the separation. In the end, we realized that we can't be true to each other, if we can't first be true to ourselves.

I'm so glad to have met Ferit. He's been a huge influence in my life, and I venture to guess he'd say the same about me. I'm grateful for the wonderful times we shared and the wonderful memories we created. Thank you, Ferit Bey, from the bottom of my heart.

Me and Ferit, near Akyaka.

Before I wrap up this last installment of my reflections on my Turkey trip, I want to say one final thing...

Many thanks to Ferit and his family for graciously allowing me to be an integral part of their lives during the Turkey trip. Your hospitality was most appreciated. Çok teşekkürler.

Ferit's family: Ferit, Ferhat, Arzu Teyza, Dilek, and Feridun.


  1. Are you sure you aren't just saying sucky suck suck?

    Hey, I LOVE the mosaic analogy, hadn't ever thought about it that way....

    OK these are my thoughts not in the order of importance.

    1) Always liked your pics, they did NOT suck. But your Turkish pics were amazing! Just another piece in your puzzle.

    2) I am still working up the courage for stand up boarding, your are an animal for trying kite boarding! (FYI I hear the gorge is a great place to do this if you still have the urge.

    3) I wondered about the lack of bike. I know how I feel after just a week or two.... 4 months?? Was Shirley happy to see you?

    4) My ex used to drag me for HOURS long visits to family just to sit and talk... All I wanted to do was sit in a corner and read and be left alone. ME time is an important thing!

    5) I do miss the days of everything fitting in my station wagon.

    6) Finally, I hope you know Ferit and his family were as lucky to have met you as you were to meet them. You've added some serious tiles to each and all of their mosaics.

    I think you two made the best choice for each of you as individuals and as a couple.

    thank you for taking me along yet again lady, loved every minute of it!

    1. Thanks for all your thoughts, Tony.

      I haven't tried stand-up paddle boarding yet, but it's probably way more up my alley. :)

      I *still* haven't taken Shirley for a ride. Due to some current obligations, coupled with some upcoming travels, I won't be able to ride Shirley until mid-February. By that point in time, I'll be ready to glue my ass to her saddle! :)

      As Marilyn Monroe once said, "Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together." Although the decision to be apart was difficult in the moment, I'm sure both Ferit and I, with time, will find ourselves in better places.

    2. I have learned one thing following our heroine Sarah. She cares about many people, but she has learned a secret we all should some day, she care about herself as well. That girl has a great head on her shoulders, and she touches everyone she meets in the best way! Marilyn was correct!

      and I picture you on the saddle like "Captain Dan" on the mast in the hurricane scene of Forrest Gump! Nuthin will stop ya!

    3. One of the best lessons I've learned thus far -- take care of yourself first!

      It's been 20 years since I've seen "Forrest Gump." Thanks to YouTube, I can easily refresh my memory with regards to the Captain Dan mast scene ( "Come on! You call this a storm? Blow, you son of a bitch! Blow! It's time for a showdown! You and me! I'm right here! Come and get me! You'll never sink this boat!" Ah yeah, baby! Bring it on!

    4. That's my girl!!!

  2. Thanks again, for taking me along on your adventure! I really enjoyed reading all of your blog posts. I'l be starting my Pacific Coast tour on July 30th, and am already planning a big tour for 2016. I hold you and Alex partially responsible! You were both so enthusiastic, I really had no chance....

    1. And thanks so much for joining the adventure, Ron. I'm glad to hear you've committed to the Pacific Coast tour -- you will LOVE IT! Oh la la, and a "big tour" for 2016?!?! Looking forward to hearing all about it!

  3. Thank you for sharing your stories, Sarah! I especially liked your distinction between being a traveler and a tourist. Looking forward to hearing what the next chapter holds for you!

    1. And thank you, Kelly, for reading my stories. :)

      I'm also looking forward to the next chapter. Though I'm ultimately in the driver's seat, I'm keeping my options open to some externalities that may influence how that next chapter is written.

  4. Hi Sarah! I check in on your wonderful blog every now & then and glad you're having such wonderful days! Seeing a picture of your "Shirley" made me think that you probably are a great person to pose my question to: I just recently moved to Portland, and am looking a getting a Surly Trucker for all around riding, grocery getting, low-key group rides and (of course) touring. If you were me, would you get the Disc Trucker or the non-disc LHT? Thanks and keep posting your adventures!!!

    1. Hi Brandon!

      You just moved to Portland? What brought you to Stumptown? PDX is an awesome little city -- you'll love it...especially the biking!

      Congrats on wanting to get a Surly Trucker. You've made an excellent choice! As far as choosing which Trucker to get, unless you plan on doing international biking in third world countries, and as long as you're okay paying an extra $100 or so for the disc brakes, I'd go with the Disc Trucker; disc brakes are really great in the Pacific Northwest.

      Enjoy the new wheels! :)

    2. Hey Sarah, Just checkin' into your blog, and I'm thinking you didn't get my earlier reply to your post. Ah well, a lot has happened since, as I have NOT bought a Surly Trucker yet, but did buy a house!!! Yay me!
      Trucker to come soon I hope. I was afraid you'd recommend the disc trucker as I'm still not a fan of disc brakes, but advice is probably right on w/ the pnw weather.
      To sum up "what brought me to Stumptown?" I'd have to answer: the overall culture just fits my vibe better than the east coast. I love the bicycle infrastructure, the more ecologically, organic, and green minded outlook. The front yard gardens, diy ethic, layed back vibe, environmental leanings, and moderate weather etc etc...
      Hopefully I'll get my little homestead up and running soon and be able to start experimenting with bicycle touring.
      I'm sure you're rockin' things out with your life as you always seem to. Maybe I'll be lucky to run into you sometime!
      Peace, Brandon

    3. Wowsers -- a house! Congrats! I figured your new touring bike would be a pretty big investment, but you don't disappoint, do you? :)

      To be honest, in the 9-ish years that I've been living in the PNW, I've never owned a bike with disc brakes. If you're not a fan of them, you'll certainly survive just fine without.

      You've highlighted all the wonderful reasons to live in PDX. I only lived there for a few short months a few years back, but I'd definitely consider moving back to the good ole' town of stumps.

      Enjoy settling in~

  5. Well, I have to admit, Sarah, that I felt sad about the end of this chapter!! I have really enjoyed following along and seeing what happens next! I hope you'll keep up your blog and telling your stories. I think you are so smart and interesting. I'm lucky to have you as a friend! xxoo

    1. Thanks for your note, MaryJo. You're so sweet! :) I'm working on "what's next" -- I'm excited about some upcoming plans that are in-the-works. :)


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