SACRAMENTO, CA

I come from a family of dreamers. My dad was always chasing some harebrained idea or another. One week he’d be talking about starting his own business, and the next he’d be obsessed with buying a motor home to travel cross-country. My mother spent many a weekend humoring my father as he dragged her from mobile home lot to mobile home lot looking for the perfect vehicle for this crazy adventure that has yet to materialize – twenty years later. At some point my mom took to saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it, Grant,” to just about every idea my father came up with.

Granted, my father made these things all sound wondrous and doable, but when it came to the logistics of trying to do any of the things he wanted to do, it just wasn’t going to happen with nine children in tow. In more recent years he has been far more productive in following through – like when he convinced my mom to get her truck driving license and the two of them drove big rigs across the country for a year or two. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the two of them happier and more close than when they were living out that life. Unfortunately, family drama made them have to quit that and my dad went back to his old dreamer self. I don’t talk to them much these days so I have no idea what he’s dreaming up these days, but I’m sure it’s something big.

The thing I’ve always admired about my dad’s big ideas is the enthusiasm with which he first approaches anything. In fact, I’m fairly certain I’ve inherited his big dreaming, as well as the enthusiasm that only lasts until the idea gets put down on paper. Somehow once I’ve thought something all the way through I no longer have the energy to actually put the pieces in motion. This is why I try very hard not to tell people I’m going to do something until I’ve actually got everything in place to make it happen. Many times I’ve heard the advice that you should tell people you’re going to do something because then you’ll feel obligated to follow through with it, but that’s just not the case with me or the people in my family. It seems that once we let our secret desires out into the ether, they escape never to be seen again. And so it is that I have been planning a move to Istanbul for the past six months but have not put it down in writing until now.

I’ve wanted to write about it here a million times over, but I would hate to become one of those people who sees everyone’s eyes roll every time she mentions another crazy adventure. I want to say, “I’m moving to Istanbul,” and have people actually believe it, rather than them saying, “I’ll believe it when it happens,” you know? I want to be a doer, not just a dreamer. So, now that the plane tickets are bought, my storage is beginning to fill up, and the funding has been secured, I feel it’s safe to come out to you all about my plans.

The most common question from people when I tell them I’m moving to Istanbul is: Why Turkey? The answer seems simple to me. I’m going to Turkey on a study abroad trip. My only other option for my major (MA TESOL) was Germany, which I felt was far too safe of a decision, considering I’ve already lived in Western Europe, have been learning German, and have been to Germany a couple of times. I wanted to explore someplace completely new and foreign to me. And, really, why not Turkey?

My friends and family also want to know why I’m going anywhere at all. Why not just stay in the states and finish up my MA quickly so I can move on with my life? Well, the easy answer is that I’m going because I can. If you had an opportunity to move to Istanbul, would you not take it? But the more true answer is that I applied in haste after having my heart shattered. All I wanted was to escape all of the memories of me and him. There isn’t a bar or restaurant in this town that doesn’t have some memory of us. And this apartment – it’s overflowing with promises not kept and things left unsaid. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve both had trouble letting go and I truly think a forced separation will allow us to move on in ways that we haven’t been able to over the past six months.

Also, it will give me the chance to be alone with myself and my thoughts while I get lost in the beauty and history of such a wonderful city. It’s only going to be for six months, but I’m hoping it will be enough time to explore Istanbul and some of the lesser traveled parts of Europe.

Already, I’ve been discovering the vast amount of history that has taken place in Turkey. Did you know Troy is in Turkey? I feel so ignorant for having thought it was in Greece all this time. I’m reading a huge travel guide on the country in the hopes of not seeming completely clueless upon arrival, but there’s so much to learn and so little time. It’s seriously unbelievable the layers and layers of history there – even just in Istanbul itself. I hope to send more regular updates from Istanbul with plenty of pictures for you all. Hopefully we’ll both learn something from the experience.

Any advice, suggestions, must-sees, or phone numbers of hot guys are more than welcome. Well, contact information for just about anyone living in Turkey (aside from creepy stalkers and serial killers), is welcomed.

So now, how many of you have that They Might Be Giants song stuck in your head?

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REBECCA ADLER is from Sacramento, CA, where she is a grad student in applied linguistics and works as a freelance journalist. Her work has appeared in Jane & Jane, Sacramento Business Journal, and Comstock's Business Magazine, among others. She also keeps a book review blog and can be found on Facebook or Twitter.

2 responses to “Going to Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”

  1. Original Comments Below:

    30 Comments »

    Comment by Kaytie M. Lee
    2009-06-07 22:35:21

    It’s nobody’s business but the Turks’.
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Irwin
    2009-06-07 23:02:37

    Why not Turkey?

    Have you not seen Midnight Express?!

    Seriously though, the odd soccer riot aside it’s a beautiful country. I ate good watermelon in Turkey and had my mind blown by a boat owners magic trick.

    Good luck.
    Reply to this comment
    Comment by Rebecca Adler
    2009-06-08 05:53:26

    I haven’t seen Midnight Express. I’m the worst when it comes to having seen any kind of must-see movie. I’ve also never seen Shawshank Redemption. I really should get Netflix one of these days so I can catch up with the rest of the world. But Midnight Express is DEF going on my list now 🙂

    I’m now fully looking forward to watermelon. I hear the apricots are to die for as well…
    Reply to this comment
    Comment by Irwin
    2009-06-08 07:33:52

    I was terrible with movies for years. And music. Never really that interested until I was about 17 and then got borderline obsessed.

    You should definitely watch Shawshank though. It’s long, by god it is long, but I’m welling up just thinking about it.
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    Comment by Rebecca Adler
    2009-06-09 07:46:45

    It’s long? Dear God, I don’t think I can handle it. Everyone should be warned: If you watch a long movie with me, be prepared to hear, “How long is this movie?” every twenty minutes after the first 90 minutes. I have no patience for long movies. I almost killed myself watching Benjamin Button last winter. Just saying.

    But I’ll still try. I’m in the process of watching The Godfather in stages. I got through the first half hour of the first movie last night. At this rate, I should be done watching the whole series by the end of the year.

    Comment by Irwin
    2009-06-09 16:55:01

    I hate long movies too.

    Most films, if they’re more than a certain length, can’t help but get a little boring in places. The Godfather is a prime example.

    But if you have a heart, you won’t get bored. Also the film doesn’t linger and focus on sentimental, over talky scenes.

    Part II (of the godfather) is better, two storylines = more action. BUT the original novel is still miles better, one of the best novels I’ve ever read.

    Comment by Rebecca Adler
    2009-06-09 20:49:34

    I’ve heard that about the book! I’m going to try to get it to read on my plane ride to Europe. I’m definitely way more into reading long, interesting books than seeing the movie versions. Movies never do the books justice. NEVER.

    Reply here

    Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom)
    2009-06-08 04:13:14

    Rebecca,
    Turkey is an absolutely amazing place. You will have the time of your life there.
    If you get a chance to do any traveling, PLEASE go to Cappadocia. You will remember it and talk about it for the rest of your life.
    In Istanbul itself there are really interesting churches of some Eastern sect which have included in their backgrounds the entire childhood of Jesus. There are paintings of him on the walls, frescoes, I mean, with him growing up. It’s fascinating.
    Also, I forget where exactly, but Mary is supposed to be buried in Turkey. There is a shrine and you can buy water from the spring there in a tiny bottle to give to anyone you know who is catholic. It’ll make them happy.
    There is an amazing synagogue there that actually has the old placement of things. There is a boat in the center which is where people read the Torah.
    The only thing to avoid is the rug people. They will rob you blind. Also the market is full of thieves, so put your money in your shoes or something.
    When you get out into the countryside, people are really friendly and helpful.
    You will love it. You made a good choice!
    Reply to this comment
    Comment by Rebecca Adler
    2009-06-08 05:56:30

    Oh yes, the Virgin Mary is supposed to be buried in Meryemana, near Epheseus. I’m only 60 pages into my guidebook, but they’ve already mentioned that spot quite a few times. I think I’ll have to check it out.

    Cappadocia is now on my list. I love when people give must-sees with such enthusiasm. I definitely cannot skip it now. Hopefully it will still be beautiful in the winter (Why do I always choose winter as the time to move to beautiful countries?).

    Oh, and thanks for the tip on the rug people. I’d definitely like to get some rugs, but I’ve already had the thought: “How will I even get a rug back home?” I guess I’ll stick to buying jewelery and spices for everyone.
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Greg Olear
    2009-06-08 06:32:36

    Most of the ancient churches mentioned in the Book of Revelations have ruins in Turkey. And Mt Ararat is there, too, right? Landing pace of Noah’s Ark. If the End of Days comes during your six-month trip, you’ll be in the right place. ; )

    I once had a date in Constantinople, but I never wound up meeting her, because apparently she was waiting in Istanbul.
    Reply to this comment
    Comment by Rebecca Adler
    2009-06-08 07:29:24

    I haven’t gotten to the Noah’s Ark point yet in my guidebook, but I”m sure you’re right. It seems that anything and everything happened in Turkey. How is it that I never knew this?

    So funny about your date. If I ever get setup on a blind date there and feel like standing them up, I’ll tell them I was waiting for them in Constantinople. 😉
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Irene Zion (Lenore’s Mom)
    2009-06-08 10:22:42

    Good one, Greg!
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by amanda
    2009-06-08 06:54:33

    I work with a lady who spent two weeks in Istanbul last summer. She came home to report one important bit of information, if you intend to land any dates, ahem, or blend in as a more generic nationality (i.e.: not stick out like you are very definitely from a very particular country):

    Americans and Canadians are considered shabby dressers in Turkey. Many times, my friend dressed (quite nicely) for dinner and then was informed by the Turkish man she was traveling with, “You Canadians, you all dress like you are going out to play sports or to run your laundry!”

    Capri pants, sandals, lack of accessories…all these traits are apparently the dead-giveaways of a North American tourist…
    Reply to this comment
    Comment by Rebecca Adler
    2009-06-08 07:23:40

    Yeah, I’ll never pass as anything but an American. In Paris I for sure stuck out as an American. But the truth is, I’d rather be comfortable. I can’t help it. It’s in my blood. I have given up on sandals and tennis shoes though. I’ve bought some more sporty euro looking Pumas that will hopefully help me to blend slightly more, but I doubt it. I love t-shirts and jeans far too much.

    I don’t think my super short blonde hair will be doing me any favors on the blending in thing either…
    Reply to this comment
    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-06-08 14:18:18

    After a while you may find yourself, perhaps unconsciously, adopting elements of local style. It happens. It did when I lived abroad.

    I think it’s great that you’re doing this. Everyone should live outside his or her own country for a period, methinks. The added perspective is invaluable.
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    Comment by Rebecca Adler
    2009-06-09 07:52:17

    I have absolutely no fashion sense whatsoever. I’m a west coast girl through and through. It’s a challenge to even get me to wear real shoes. But I’m making a concerted effort not to wear flip flops everywhere this year. And, really, anybody that thinks silver hoop earrings suddenly make a t-shirt and jeans seem dressy isn’t going to get far in the “class” department on a six-month stay abroad. But I like that you have confidence in me 🙂

    Where did you live abroad?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-06-09 13:15:23

    Belgrade. Serbia. Which, incidentally, was ruled by the Turks for half a century, and the Serbs still resent it. The fallout of the Ottoman years, in fact, lay behind the notorious wars between the various peoples of the former Yugoslavia during the nineties, the resentments and disputes that had festered not so far under the surface viciously emerging, as they’d previously emerged in other bloody confrontations.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-06-09 18:57:53

    Wait. Just occurred to me that I made a gaffe. The Turks ruled Serbia for half a millenium, not half a century. My historical vanity is at stake!

    Reply here

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-06-08 15:04:06

    Oh God, that song’s going to be stuck in my head all day.

    Also, absolute kudos on doing it. I think it’s a great, great thing to do.
    Reply to this comment
    Comment by Rebecca Adler
    2009-06-09 07:52:43

    Mwahahahaha! My evil plan has worked!
    Reply to this comment
    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-06-10 13:49:58

    Oh no! I’m re-reading this post days later and it’s happening again!
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    Reply here

    Comment by Marni Grossman
    2009-06-08 21:17:20

    I’ve always wanted to be the type of person who moves to Istanbul. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case. I am not brave. I don’t do well with little changes, much less big ones. Once, when I was little, my mother moved the sofa from one side of the den to another and I remember being seriously unnerved. Being in new places alone makes me slightly crazy. Lonely and reclusive and crazy. This was certainly the case when I spent the semester abroad.

    So I think you’re incredible!
    Reply to this comment
    Comment by Rebecca Adler
    2009-06-09 07:54:56

    Aw, thanks Marni. I think we have exactly the opposite problem when it comes to change. I can’t get enough of it. I go crazy if I’m stuck in one place too long. And I LOVE moving my furniture around. Seriously, I had to sign a one-year lease a few years back and almost had a panic attack because that meant I would for sure have to be in the same place for one full year. So I think YOUR incredible for being able to be a stable human being.

    Where did you study abroad? I love hearing where people have been!
    Reply to this comment
    Comment by Marni Grossman
    2009-06-09 19:18:29

    I studied abroad in Haifa in Israel.

    My program was 85% American, but all of my friends ended up being blond-haired, blue-eyed German gentiles. Go figure.
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    Comment by Rebecca Adler
    2009-06-09 20:50:45

    Wow Marni, Israel sounds intense. I can see why you had trouble adjusting. I bet it was a great experience though.

    Reply here

    Comment by Ky’el Kramer
    2009-06-09 06:36:55

    It all sounds like perfect logic to me. I know very little about Turkey, but you have now intrigued my curiosity towards knowing more! =)

    And congratulations on getting this dream formulated into reality!! The tingling sensation of adventure must be growing more intense everyday as you’re getting closer and closer. I hope to hear many stories of your soon to be Turkish life.

    I can understand the heartache too; I just left the city (and state) that my recent ex and I were together in; and the weight that lifted the moment the plane left its ground was quite liberating. And as I envision leaving for Iceland tomorrow, to new and unknown environments the excitement is near unbearable!
    Reply to this comment
    Comment by Rebecca Adler
    2009-06-09 07:56:47

    I really think you should make a trip over to Istanbul before you head back home from Iceland. I know it’s COMPLETELY out of the way, but it’d be so worth it! Have super fun in Iceland, and if I can fit it in, I’ll come visit 🙂

    I’m so jealous that you’re leaving already. I still have 60 days until I get to take off. Granted, I need that time to save up some more money, but, man, do I wish I was leaving already. I can barely contain my excitement.
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Kristel
    2009-06-17 08:24:12

    I’m married to a Turk, been there 3 times and it’s absolutely beautiful. I wanted to move there after the first time I went- I spent a month and saw everything to see in Istanbul. But the 3rd time I went I had my daughter and things changed with the in-laws and I was miserable much of the time. Now my husband wants to move there in the next month or 2 and I’m worried about the family. I’m worried about raising my daughter in another country. The unknown is scary. But if I do end up moving there I’d love to meet up as I’ll be looking for all the Americans I can find and I also have a cute single brother in law:) Good Luck!
    Reply to this comment
    Comment by Becca Adler
    2009-06-17 11:19:33

    Kristel, you’ll have to keep me updated! If you really end up going, definitely contact me and we’ll hang out…especially if you have a cute brother-in-law 😉
    Reply to this comment

  2. […] get there. However, as I’ve been preparing to move to Istanbul (read about the whys and whens here), I’ve found that the Fodor’s travel guide has been much more useful. I don’t […]

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