Never say no, and plan nothing.

Turkey was going to be my extreme loner time. I had two weeks in-country, and assumed that I would make friends at hostels, occasionally hang out with them, and then move on to whatever it was I wanted to do next. I had planned on quiet time in cafes just reading and writing. I almost booked a couple of domestic flights that would have locked in my Turkey travel schedule irreversibly.

I never know anything, and planning is stupid.

First of all, just two days before I left Paris for Istanbul, a friend emailed me to say that not only would I be starting off my trip by staying with an old student of hers, but that I would even be met at the airport. Since I had been planning on sleeping in the airport that night to save money/stress, this was good news. I had booked my hostel for the second night on in advance, but had no trouble canceling my first night there and was not charged for the change.

After two days in the city, I chose to move on and keep the rest of the nights I had booked in the aforementioned hostel because, like I said, independence was Turkey’s theme. I never know ANYTHING.

From roughly one hour after my arrival at the hostel on, I was never alone unless I wanted to be. I don’t quite understand what it was–personality combinations, miraculously coinciding schedules, weather–but several of us solo travelers formed a core group that explored everything we could together. It wasn’t always a huge group moving; we naturally split off into twos, threes, fours, having started as three and eventually adding up to six. But we always came back together by the end of the day. For nearly two weeks we traveled like this, the apex being when six of us, who had known one another for anywhere between six days and two hours, decided to take an overnight bus to Cappadocia together. Six strangers shifting together, knowing that even though three in the group had never planned to go to Cappadocia in the first place (one of our number even changed his flight to be part of this,) that it would work out because we would be together and that had proved itself to be a good thing.

The Cappadocia group, two women and four men, represented six countries spanning five continents. Combined, we spoke around ten languages. And I am convinced that our diversity made us electric–that we were attractive to strangers because our backgrounds so clearly did not match up; that was more than evident just by glancing at us. We made a lot of friends as we went along, raised a lot of eyebrows, and were invited for what now feels like four hundred glasses of free tea, “just because.”

Our diversity made us invincible in a lot of ways, and it helped that we made a habit of saying yes. We said yes to a lot of things, but my personal favorite incident is from our second of three days in Cappadocia. It happened, more or less, like this:

[E, R and I spent the day hiking and covered a ridiculous amount of ground. We climbed in and out of cave churches, scrambled up sometimes-questionable trails from canyon bottoms to rock lookouts that oversaw what felt like the entire world, sprinted down sandy hills for the rush. In short, we were tired, and when finally finished the trail and arrived at a road, we still had a solid 4k or so to get back to town. We were passed twice by a Turkish man, who finally stopped a short way down the road and waved us over to him. And this is where we started saying yes.]

“You going to Goreme? I go near Goreme. I can give you ride [in my horse-drawn buggy.”
…yes. Always say yes.

“Here is road to Goreme. But wait, would you like to ride horse [with this postcard-worthy panoramic view at your back, a gift many other tourists pay much to experience?]
Always say yes. And occasionally lie about the extent of your riding experience so you can go fast.

“Oh, glad you like horse. Maybe if you have some time, I can take you to see my village, Ortahisar.”
Always say yes to a first time riding by horse-drawn buggy on the side of a decently busy highway.

“We buy raki, climb [to the top of that cliff] to watch sunset?”
Duh, yes.

This is where flexibility and an open spirit get you: on the top of a Cappadocian plateau, riding a horse named Eagle with neither saddle nor stirrups wherever the hell you want to ride him because you have just become friends with his owner and anything goes.

7 responses to “Never say no, and plan nothing.

  1. OMG Gretchen, you are having a dream come true and welcoming every second of this experience. Maybe I am an idealist, a dreamer, you are the one who is living for real. Thank you for your trust in yourself and in all that is around you. You pass this awesome light on to me and all those “woulda, shouldas”.
    Love and light surround you Gretchen.
    Love and great big hugs from me, Dane and Miss Charlee. ♥

  2. Gretchen, give us an idea of the composition of the group from the hostel in Istanbul. Ten languages sounds fascinating. Tell us the most exotic ones. I know those little Turkish ponies! So gentle and unthreatening! And tough! Rakı and a view over Cappadocia!
    Maybe readers would like to know that rakı is the Turkish anise-flavored spirit that turns white in water; Türks call it Tiger’s Milk. Quite a wonderful drink.
    LI’m sure the Türkish man had as much fun as you. He’s telling all of his arkadaşlar, friends, in the çaybaçhı all about his day’s adventure with a crazy bunch of yabancı. He’ll tell the story for years. Never say no!
    Loving, loving, loving your adventure!

  3. Very cool post. I visited Ortahisar in the early 80’s while traveling across Turkey and I had a similar experience. I said yes and got to stay there for a week in a room carved out of the big rock in the center of town. The people there were so friendly and treated us like family. Enjoying your blog.

    • Thank you so much for reading. I’m so glad to know about your blog now, too; I’m working in Cameroon on apiculture projects right now, so the more reading material, the better!

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