I’ve always loved world geography and culture. My mother used to bring me to the library hoping that I would be consumed by novels, but instead I ended up spending hours looking at maps. I would memorize each country’s capital along with other odd statistics about their demographics and language. I loved imagining myself in these foreign places, the images rapidly changing as I spent more and more time learning about each place’s culture, history, and landscape.
Yet through my travels this year, I’ve realized that I enjoy daydreaming about traveling far more than the actual process of traveling itself. Daydreaming allows me to retain these impossible ideals I’ve built in my head, and that brings me pleasure, for better or for worse. It’s something that I can slip in and out of whenever the mood desires. You aren’t bogged down by complicated transportation logistics, a shrinking wallet, and the looming truth that you don’t care nearly as much about art/history/culture as you thought you did. Many times this year, I find myself standing at the feet of grand artifacts of civilization completely bored out of my mind, yet feeling ashamed of that boredom.
The circumstances you travel in heavily influence the type of experience you have. But for me, no matter what, there’s always some nagging aspect that puts a significant damper on the whole experience. When you travel in a big group, there’s absolutely no flexibility. You’re tied down to a paper itinerary denser than the Bill of Rights and more punctual than a German guy going to work. Occasionally the tour guide will give you two whole options to do something, so you spend a silly amount of time commiserating with your friends about this newfound ‘freedom’. There’s also the constant worry that if I stay in the bathroom for an extra minute, the bus will leave me stranded in backwoods Anatolia where I’ll be forced to live as a directionless vagabond, borrowing money from others and drifting from temporary job to temporary job. Well, I suppose that’s not so far off from my life now.
Meanwhile, traveling by yourself has too much flexibility, where you have all the choices in the world, but not enough self-motivation to pursue any of those options. In those situations, the only thing that motivates me to get up and walk around is the potential guilt of going to a city and not visiting any of its renowned spectacles. And lastly, traveling with close friends always ends up with heated debates about where to eat, usually resulting in a decision to angrily stuff down supermarket sandwiches because none of you want to pay for a proper meal.
Traveling has really been a mixed bag for me. It’s something that I’m grateful to have been able to partake in, but something that personally I don’t derive as much satisfaction from as other people do. As open-minded as I try to be, I’m a creature of habit, and a bit of routine, as boring as it sounds, is something that I really relish. That’s also the reason why I enjoy exchange at Koc University so much. I get the novelty of meeting people of all nationalities and their cultures, while still partaking in a college campus lifestyle that I’m familiar and comfortable with. It really is quite special.