If you’d asked me in my final years of High School what I wanted to do when I grew up I would have told you, with no hesitation, one line -“I want to be an International Political Foreign Correspondent.“
In some ways I suppose I am fulfilling that dream in an unconventional way, without boring you to sleep about politics; but in many ways I’m not doing what I really wanted.
I’ve learnt many things studying journalism but one keeps coming back that bugs me. News purposely builds on stigma. Mainstream news does little to educate travellers on the good of the world around them but cocoons them into believing the whole world is a vast ugly place that wants to hurt you.
Where or how my fascination with countries that are a little less frequently visited or have negative stigmas attached to them, or what some may describe as ‘bad lands’, escapes me, but people like Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler, Earl from Wandering Earl, Audrey and Dan from Uncornered Market and Becki from Backpacker Becki have continued to inspire me to see the world through a different lens, one that is not quite so black & white.
The title ‘Don’t Tell My Father…’ is both a play on Diego Bunel’s – another source of inspiration – tv series ‘Don’t Tell My Mother…‘ and my own travel predicament. It’s not my mother who is a nervous nelly, it’s my Dad.
When I travelled to Belfast in 2010 my Dad was the last person in the family to know because, well, as suspected he deemed it unsafe. In fact, when I did get around to telling him I was in Belfast his first response was for me to leave (and so the famed line “I don’t like you there because Qantas doesn’t fly there” – when in fact they do – was born.)
At the time I couldn’t work it out – Belfast is the biggest city in Northern Ireland. The people are among some of the friendliest the UK has to offer and the city is quite modern. Why did he deem this place unsafe? I still don’t understand his reasoning but I think it is in part as the city was, until around 1998, considered one of the 3 Bs Belfast, Baghdad and Beirut, or places not to visit due to the wars on in the country at the time.
I believe there are definitely some places in the world that you shouldn’t visit today but the vast amount of places that have a negative stigma attached to them are because people don’t understand them or they have a negative stigma in some way attached to them.
Turkey is one of those countries.
I rung my Mum earlier to ask her opinion of these countries – she had no clue until last night that I was travelling there – and her response didn’t really surprise me.
“I wouldn’t want to travel there because it’s unsafe in both of these two places.”
“Mum, Istanbul is in Turkey.“
“See? That shows you.” (shows me what I am still yet to figure out.)
If I’d spoken to my Dad he probably would have told me to rent Liam Neeson’s Taken 2 and reconsider my travels, despite having a close friend who will be showing me around the city AND travelling with a male friend.
I can see why people may deem Turkey unsafe. In 2013, the US embassy in Ankara was bombed and just weeks earlier Sarai Sierra, a New York tourist, was killed. There’s also ongoing threats by the Syrian rebels who say they are targeting Turkey’s coastline, plenty of scams, the chance of kidnapping does exist and, with elections coming up mid-2014, there is heightened political tension; but this can happen in many countries, so why is it Turkey that we’re afraid of?
Liz of the Young Adventuress has experienced a similar reaction when planning her own Turkey travels and one of my favourite paragraphs from her post about how safe is Turkey reads;
“Culturally the US and countries like Turkey are very different, but why should we be scared of something different? Isn’t that why we love travel? To go explore unknown places, meet new people and experience different cultures? To lump them all together as dangerous “Arabs” is both simpleminded and appallingly racist.“
Regardless of what the Media or people around me say, I’m heading to Turkey today for a 6-day trip to see Istanbul and hopefully take a road trip out along the coast towards Gallipoli. It’s a short trip and just a taste of a country steeped in history and culture dating back to the time that the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires were the world power.
I don’t have any set plans – other than seeing one of my close friends from when I worked at an American Summer Camp and drinking a lot of Turkish çay as I’ve heard they love tea even more than me! – but I do want to explore the countries culture and try to understand why the US, Australia and UK see Turkey as a place to be feared rather than a place to be revered.
Now it’s over to you: