Visit Turkey For the coffee, and more…

Traditional Turkish Coffee and famed Turkish Delight - perfect for sharing with friendsCoffee – the ultimate conversation starter- has a long and storied history of being present where great things have begun. There was a cup of coffee on the table the first time I met Jessie.  It sat nearly untouched as I shared in one of the best conversations I’ve ever had about the importance of travel, its power to transform, elevate and educate.

My time with an immensely talented and passionate group of travel bloggers – including Jessie- at the White House Travel Bloggers Summit has taken me down paths I’d never imagined. Beyond that though, it has connected me with a group of people who prove that travel is a force that changes perceptions, challenges stereotypes, and brings us together in a way that nothing else can. 

I’ve yet to recover from the fact that life tossed a wrench into my plans to join the group on their recent voyage to Turkey.  {darn you, life!} While still laboring under the delusion that I’d be going, I was surprised at some of the questions that came my way.  This one came up more than several times;

“Aren’t you afraid to go to Turkey? I mean, isn’t it dangerous?”

Let’s be honest, there are some places that you might want to take extra precautions when traveling to {Antarctica comes to mind – frostbite is serious, people!}  In the end though, danger lurks right outside your door, if you let fear get the better of you it’s going to be rough to ever go anywhere. I had (have) zero fears about visiting Turkey.

Being that I couldn’t make the trip – this time! – I asked Jessie if she’d share some of the experience in a guest post. {She said YES! OMG!!!} I’m over the moon about this, enjoy! 

Stunning frescos and architecture inside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

Why Travel to Turkey?

Did you know that Turkey is a relatively new country (although an ancient and diverse culture)? This area was known as Anatolia and Thrace, and ruled by many empires, including the Byzantine, Ottoman, and Seljuk. It wasn’t until after World War I that the movement for Turkish nationalism gained momentum, and in 1923, the Republic of Turkey was globally recognized. The first president of Turkey was Mustafa Kemal, also known as Atatürk (father of the Turks). Wherever you go in Turkey, Atatürk is revered for his vision for the country, for his efforts at civil and political rights for all, and for his forward-thinking methods of economic independence. Wherever you go, a photo of Atatürk will be there, showing how important he is to the Turkish people.

Sultanahmet Camii - The Blue Mosque - Istanbul, TurkeyBut what’s it really like, to travel to Turkey?

Did you know that Istanbul is the 5th largest city in the world, and is larger than New York City (which is ranked #21)? It’s amazing to be there – Istanbul straddles two continents: Europe and Asia, and around every corner, history is present. You can be driving in crazy rush hour traffic, and see marine life on the Bosphorus on one side, and millennia-old walls on the other. You can find bookstores and lemonade cafes, international cuisine and simit carts and doner kebab stands, global goods and Turkish rugs (and fresh Turkish delight, swoon!). Every local I talked with, though they loved Istanbul, often went home, to the country.

Widen Your World - start with a tasty Simit served fresh from a cart in IstanbulFor here is what is amazing: even dedicated city people like Istanbulites feel a very strong connection to home, in the country. They go home as often as they can, to visit their families, to be home, to enjoy the beautiful countryside, to center themselves in their culture, to be reminded that family is everything.

And Turkey is incredibly beautiful. From Ephesus and the Aegean Sea to Sanliurfa near the Syrian border, Turkey shows its true nature: gorgeous, diverse landscapes and, of course, the famous Turkish hospitality.

If you’ve never experienced Turkish hospitality, let me explain why it is the main reason you want to visit Turkey. Turkish hospitality shows itself in many ways – from being invited over for coffee, taken out for a meal, helped in various ways, shown immense kindness, and being the recipient of Turkish generosity and compassion. Why? Turkish people believe that all visitors are guests sent by God. They honor guests by taking care of them, by learning about and from them. I never imagined it to be as complete and widespread, though, as I experienced it. The Turkish people I met went above and beyond to accommodate my disabilities, to talk with me, to teach me, and to care for me. It changed my mind about Turkey – a place I’d always wanted to visit – and turned it into a country I love, and a culture I can’t wait to get back to.

Why visit Turkey? The people. You’ll never meet a friendlier, more caring culture.

Photo courtesy of Gizem Salcigil White
Some of the White House Travel Bloggers gathered in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul – Photo courtesy of Gizem Salcigil White

More About Jessie

Jessie {or Dr. Jessie as I call her since she does have a PhD in International Education – boom!} is the publisher of Wandering Educators, a travel library for people curious about the world, and Journey to Scotland, a travel site for her favorite place in the world. She founded the Family Travel Bloggers Association, and directs the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program. She’s published six books about travel and intercultural learning, with more on the way. If you can ever have coffee with her – do!

 

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