Not all those who wander are lost.

Turkey

Paragliding

Notes from June 7th, Paragliding in Oludeniz:

After a 30-minute ride up Babadag (Father Mountain) from the white sand beaches of Oludeniz, I arrived at the launchpad and nearly lost my lunch. The paved area was so steep it made me dizzy and it literally extended to the edge of the cliff. I was at the top of the mountain, 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) above the Turquoise Coast. A man approached me and introduced himself my guide for the tandem glide. Ziya was his name, but he prefers Craziya. A perfect match, I promptly told him that I would love nothing more than to feel the G-force while spinning around.

My instructions were simple…once the parachute caught wind, I was to walk. When told to do so, I would start to run, and then when my legs no longer touched the ground, I could sit. Simple enough. The only problem was the thinking part…and unfortunately, I had a few minutes to think while we were getting strapped in.

Now I know it has been a while since Biology 101, but didn’t Darwin say something about the survival of the fittest? The strongest, savviest members of a species will survive…and here I am paying money to run straight off a cliff. I have devolved back to lemming status, blatantly ignoring my survival instincts, in pursuit of a good view and an adrenalin rush.Darwin would shake his head in shame…but then again, Darwin didn’t know about parachutes.

The best way I can describe paragliding is as a cross between flying and falling; or perhaps it’s actually just a very slow fall. And “euphoria” is the only word that comes to mind when I think about that 45-minute fall. Pure euphoria. An adrenaline rush that compels you to sing rather than scream. The view of the Mediterranean Sea, the boats, the beaches, the Taurus Mountains, the villages, all spectacular. I will definitely be going again.

Special thanks to my beloved family for an incredible birthday gift!!

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Western Shock

I’m currently sitting at a cafe in the International Terminal of Ataturk airport, staring across the way at a green circular sign with a white mermaid in the middle. I don’t need to read the words “Starbucks Coffee” to know that I’ve already re-entered the Western world. The constant recorded announcements over a sound system, the arrival/departure schedules, the forced smile of the Turkish Airlines woman checking my passport, the existence of a moving walkway to get where you’re going faster…these all reinforce the fact that I’ve been living a world away for the past 2 months.

This is a big culture shock, the transition back to the West. Thanks to the wise words of a dear friend, I started to prepare for this shock over a week ago. In Olympos, I discovered a different approach to life and I embraced it whole-heartedly. After connecting with nature, appreciating today, and centering myself, I am now faced with the challenge of keeping that peace.

My natural tendency is to plan, organize, and manage – all great qualities for navigating the workings of the West – but that tendency became an obsession, one that led me down a path which was not my own. I will need to be very deliberate in my effort to maintain the balance I’ve achieved in Turkey. I’m not sure yet how to accomplish this, but I imagine it will start by taking a deep breath. Maybe two or three.


Goodbye Olympos, and thank you


After 2 months as resident bartenders here in Olympos, the time has come for Tyler and me to bid farewell to Bayram’s Treehouse Hostel.  While I am very anxious to move on to my next adventure, a wave of nostalgia has already taken hold of me.

My time here has been short but so incredibly rich. Olympos allowed me to embrace the practice of living in the moment, for today, without worry about the stresses tomorrow may bring. In learning to appreciate the “now”, I have experienced some magical moments of pure bliss. It’s in these moments that I suddenly become so aware of all my senses and that I really listen to my breath. These moments bring clarity, serenity, calm, and consciousness. It’s as if nothing else exists but what you are able to take in right then.

Sadly, back in the States, these moments were few and far between. I let the hustle & bustle of planning my days prevent me from taking the time to appreciate whatever it was that existed right in front of me. Knowing this imbalance, I would actively plan time to seek out these moments; they became a brief escape from the “grind.” Olympos granted me the gift of understanding that these moments are beautiful because of their simplicity. They occur all the time, everywhere, and don’t need to be forced, conjured, or created; the key is to be able to pause and recognize them.

I had three moments like this today. The first was being called “daughter” by our head chef. I naturally gave him a big hug, but while doing so, I paid attention to the feeling of warmth that overcame me. Family. I have a family here. The second moment was on the beach when I heard the evening Call to Prayer from the neighboring town. For 5 minutes, I said nothing and thought nothing; I simply listened to the beautiful tones of the words from the Qur’an. Spirituality, what an incredible way to connect to one’s God. The third was during an afternoon snack at a cafe when the breeze picked up slightly and carried with it some dandelion fairies. Snow, in Olympos, in June. Magic.

Thank you, Olympos, for giving me a new perspective and appreciation of the beauty that exists right now. After all, the only thing that is guaranteed is this moment.


Back to Low Maintenance

I used to pride myself on being a low-maintenance kind of girl. I love “roughing it” in the great outdoors, I don’t mind sweat & dirt, and I’ve never been one of those girls who can’t leave the house without make-up.

However, after having spent nearly 4 years as a Consultant in San Francisco, I had developed a morning routine. It involved a hot shower with a loofah, some styling of my hair, and make-up; it wasn’t anything too heavy, but mascara, eyeliner, foundation, and blush were part of my every day. My clothes were always clean and pressed (if necessary), and I usually wore perfume. While I’ve never been one to get manicures, I also made sure my nails were clean and presentable.

Seven weeks ago, just after our arrival at the Treehouse Hostel, Tyler turned to me and asked, “How long do you think it’ll take until you become a hippie?”

This morning, I woke up and quickly realized there was no electricity, and therefore no hot water. I took a cold shower in the dark, put my hair up in a bun using a dab of lotion to tame my frizz, and left the bathroom without once looking in the mirror.

My dirty laundry pile and my pack are currently synonymous as it’s been far too long since I’ve devoted an afternoon to laundry. So I chose my shirt based on the tried & true “Backpacker Smell Test.” And although I’ve worn them every day for the past week, I threw on my linen pants; my alternative is a pair of jeans which are sweltering in this Turkish heat.

Out the door I went, feeling ready for the day. Dirty, messy hair, wearing wrinkled clothes, no makeup, and a beaming smile. Yes, I have my answer. It was a gradual process, but I believe it took 7 weeks for me to become a hippie.


Bookkeeping

This afternoon I noticed Yusuf working on the balance sheet for the hostel. He was flipping back & forth in a notebook, scribbling down the amounts received from Travel Agency referrals, one page devoted to each Travel Agency. The thought occurred to me, as it did at the hostel in Istanbul, that all bookkeeping appears to be done by hand.

Yusuf is the hostel manager, has a 4-year degree, and is very comfortable navigating a computer. Out of curiosity, I asked him why he doesn’t use his laptop for the bookkeeping. Pointing to the papers, he said “This is easy to hide from the government. We just put it away. A computer, you cannot hide that from the government.”

It was presented so casually that I can’t help but think this is normal, similar to a waiter who only reports a portion of their tips. Yet this is on a massive scale – a hostel with 200 beds.

There are so many interesting observations here, I don’t even know where to start. The lack of honest books, the fear that the government is watching, the margin of error involved with anything done by hand, the lack of anything with a “fixed” price…I could go on and on.

Or I could just chalk it up to yet another interesting cultural observation that enables this country, and its businesses, to be so hospitable.


“Fantasy Land”

One of the guests told me last night, “Seriously, this place is amazing. You’re living in a Fantasy Land. Six months, one year, whatever…definitely do this as long as you can before going back to Real Life.”

In cartoons from my childhood, I remember seeing a character become so angry that their face transitions from white to tomato-red. They grit their teeth as their eyes redden and bulge out of their head, steam starts coming out of their ears, their blood boils in fury.

That was me after hearing this comment. Fantasy Land? Really? I must admit I didn’t have the best impression of this traveller to begin with. A lawyer from Denver, he’s the type that brags about spending $13,000 on carpets in Istanbul and then complains about the price of the beer at our bar ($4.00 for a half liter). His arrogance and condescending manner is felt long before he ever opens his mouth.

This topic of conversation has become a bit of a sore spot for me lately. I do understand that working at a hostel bar without much of a “plan” probably seems like I’m trying to escape reality. To him, this looks like a hiccup in my career path. But please, let’s not forget that this IS my real life. This is the path I deliberately sought out and desperately fought for. This is MY dream and I’m making it come true.

Okay, that’s enough. Thank you for letting me vent.


Turkish Time

One of the most fascinating cultural observations is the approach to the concept of time.

Americans are obsessed with time. Time is to be managed, utilized, conserved and organized. Time is of the essence. Time is saved by short-cuts, conveniences, and efficiencies. Time is money. Apparently, time is tangible because we can spend it, lose it, make it, and kill it. Time is also limited; people always hurry to get where they are going, and the effort to be on time is justification for rudeness and a lack of respect for one’s surroundings. This attitude toward time is what enables Americans to consistently raise the bar in innovation and production across any industry.

America is a culture of “do-ers” and “go getters” where one must be productive so as not to miss opportunity. The pursuit of the American Dream requires Americans to spend more, earn more, and do more in the least amount of time. Americans constantly worry about time and this mindset is stressful, unnatural, and exhausting.

Turkey has been such a blessing in that I’ve been able to escape that mindset. Here, time is acknowledged but that’s the extent of it. Turks don’t stress about time or worry about sticking to schedules. And waiting is just part of the process, it’s not an inconvenience. In Turkish, there are apparently only two acceptable responses to the question “when.” The answer is either “today” or “tomorrow.” While in English, “tomorrow” is defined as “the day after today,” the word appears to mean “”any day after today” to Turks.

I find myself often asking about the next delivery of beer or Coca-Cola; I notice that our supply is low, and in anticipation of unhappy guests, I stress about the possibility of running out of beverages. In response to my inquiry about the next delivery, the answer is always “maybe tomorrow,” and that’s that. There’s no point in stressing about the exact date of delivery; it either arrives today or it doesn’t. If we run out of beer, we’ll figure something out; it would be foolish to worry about something that hasn’t happened yet.

Turkish Time. What a beautiful, beautiful approach.