Don’t Tell My Father… I’m going to Istanbul, Turkey

Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

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.

Discovering Turkey

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.

“Is Turkey Safe for Women Travelling Alone” – Young Adventuress

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:

What are YOUR opinions of Turkey?
Would you travel there?

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  • Reply
    Caroline Eubanks
    March 9, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    The only place I ever felt unsafe while in Turkey was in Istanbul and that’s because it has the same problems of any modern city like petty crime and such. Everywhere else the people were so lovely and hospitable. You’ll have a blast and be well taken care of.

  • Reply
    March 9, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Sounds like a great trip your going to have! I would live to visit Istanbul and Turkey someday and don’t feel out off by the past terror attacks and instability. These days I think bad things can happen anywhere in the world so it shouldn’t stop anyone from travelling to most places in the world. Have a great time!

  • Reply
    March 9, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    I was in Turkey, both the West and Southeast, for two weeks in 2012. In fact, I stayed 5 miles from the border of Syria. I was cautious as a single female traveler, the same way I would be in New York City or anywhere else, and I felt perfectly safe. Istanbul is a wonderful city! I’m sure that if you stay out of the way of any demonstrations, you will have a perfectly wonderful time.

  • Reply
    March 10, 2014 at 7:09 am

    I’m heading there over my mid semester break this year – it happens to be at the end of April, so I’ll be at the dawn service in Gallipoli. I’m no more or less worried about going there than anywhere else I’ve been. I’m really excited for it.

    It’s so annoying how people just assume places they don’t know anything about is bad and dangerous. Nobody ever mentioned the fact that there’s been multiple terrorist attacks in Spain over the years when I said I was moving here!

  • Reply
    March 10, 2014 at 11:30 am

    A few years ago I took a cruise that had ports of call in Istanbul and Kusadasi (though we spent most of the day in Ephesus). I loved both stops. In fact a couple of friends and I will be spending time in Izmir & Istanbul this fall. They’ve never been and I can’t wait to show them some of Istanbul’s famous places.

    Though I’m twice your age, I still haven’t told my parents I’m going to Turkey as I expect the reaction will be much the same as your parents. I still get “warnings” going to Ireland and even London. I’ve just learned to smile and say “yes, Dad, we’ll be careful”. I suspect the first time he’s not around to give me words of warning I’ll actually miss it!

    • Reply
      August 22, 2014 at 6:56 am

      Finally broke the news to the parents this weekend. Was on the phone with my mom and, as expected, she was not a happy camper. I think I was able to calm her fears somewhat by telling her that one of my good friends from here in town was renting a place over there for a couple of months. I think she thinks he’s going to be carting us around the whole time we’re there. I’ll just let her think that.

      I got an email from my dad the next day and he just wanted an itinerary. Didn’t seem bothered about it. So I guess I shouldn’t have worried about him so much and been more concerned with my mom!

  • Reply
    March 10, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    I really want to go to Istanbul, but it is somewhere that I would go to with someone and not on my own. I have a friend who grew up in a rough area of Belfast and she says there is still a threat there, but not like when she was child. It wouldn’t deter me from going there though.

  • Reply
    Christine Cassidy
    March 15, 2014 at 5:58 am

    I loved Turkey, spent a month there last year traveling all up and down western Turkey, the people are lovely, Arabic hospitality is legendary and well deserved. It is a place I would even consider living in as it is so easy for vegetarians to eat (too) well there. Everybody speaks English in Istanbul so it is easy to go around without a translator and the public transit is excellent. As in traveling anywhere really, have your wits about you, don’t wander around alone, drunk, at night or go off with strange men – in other words, don’t be stupid. Remember that it is a Muslim country and dress very conservatively and you won’t be bothered – no cleavage, short shorts, tight clothing or excessive skin exposure. Bring or buy large scarves/shawls to cover up when visiting mosques. The touts can be quite aggressive in the Spice Market so you just have to figure out your own best way of dealing with it. It’s humid, being surrounded by water but I live in high desert so I probably noticed it more than most would. Have a wonderful time!

  • Reply
    March 17, 2014 at 11:31 am

    I am so excited for you!! Turkey is somewhere that I’ve always really wanted to go, and unfortunately I’ve had to cut it from my Europe itinerary this summer. I’m hoping to make it there in fall though!

    Can’t wait to hear all about your adventures there! 🙂
    ps- my dad is the same way.

  • Reply
    Pete - Long Term Travel
    March 25, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    Love Turkey!! I spent 2 months there recently, travelling all over the country. Had a great time, just a note though, be wary of scams. We had a rather bad experience with scammers there but actually managed to get our money back, in fact I wrote 2 posts about it. This aside, Turkey is a great travel experience.

  • Reply
    Adam @ Travel Inspired
    March 30, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    They certainly do love tea! I stayed just outside of Barhal for a while and got chatting to a local, who offered me tea (as is quite common) and he said he drank at least 20 small cups a day! I was in Turkey late last year and absolutely loved it. I didn’t feel unsafe, just taking normal precautions like any other city trips. I spent a somewhat hectic 3 days in Istanbul visiting all the sites before doing bit of a loop of the country. I loved the Istanbul Archaeology Museum and Topkapi Palace. Enjoy!

  • Reply
    April 3, 2014 at 10:50 am

    I’ve met quite a few people who are closed minded towards travelling to relatively safe destinations, simply because that’s what they hear in the media. A little bit of research can go a long way.

    Sounds like it’ll be a cool trip, hope you enjoy 🙂

  • Reply
    June 29, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Istanbul is my top destination on earth. Last month I arrived from Paris and saw again that how mind-controlling this PR shit is. Urine smelling-drunk Paris is very nice, safe, romantic but old wold’s unique capital Istanbul is unsafe? This is unfair. Do not hesitate a minute to go to Istanbul, enjoy. If you can, travel whole country. Please also see Izmir, Aegean region and around (mainland of Ancient Greek). I was fascinated when I recognized the twin of Greek lifestyle there. Please also read more about the history of Anatolia and Turks before your visit. This will guide you to get more true information about today’s Turkey. Arabs has always been the neighboring nation of the Turks. The culture, daily life, kitchen and language are all different. Please also check the crime rates of the world’s cities 🙂 Stereotypes; please forget them. Go there and see. Have a nice trip.

  • Reply
    October 3, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    I have definitely been bitten by the travel bug!

    I am constantly daydreaming and visioning myself travelling for about a two or three month period in 2016, where should I go first?!

    I’ve traveled through parts of Europe such as France, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany, The Netherlands and a few more as like you, I wanted to visit the countries in which not everyone travels to.

    This however, was in the winter and I desperately want to see Europe in summer. Greece and its beautiful islands, Croatia…the list is never ending! And with relation to your post, Turkey! The culture seems exquisite and I feel like this would be a truly rewarding and eye-opening experience if I were to visit this country, I don’t believe it to be too unsafe.

    Sometimes I just have to stop and think about how lucky we are to have the opportunity to travel the world at such a young age. Times are so different nowadays, our parents would most likely be getting ready to get married in their early twenties (I know mine were), whilst we are forever planning where to take off and discover next! Do you ever consider this and how fortunate some of us are being able to experience the opportunities available to us, which perhaps we may take for granted?

  • Reply
    November 13, 2014 at 8:46 am

    It may be a bit late to add my two cents worth but I’ll go ahead anyway!
    I’m currently living in Turkey on university exchange and I must say I feel pretty safe. I am living in the smaller city of Ankara, and although at the moment protests are common and people have died in clashes with the police, all of the protests occur in the same area so they are easy to avoid (in my opinion, anyway), and although I’ve experienced some stray tear gas and seen lots of riot police, I have never been or felt threatened. I’ve yet to be scammed, robbed, assaulted or anything of that sort – if anything, I feel like more people are looking out for me, and wanting me to enjoy their culture and way of life. All of the taxi drivers I have met are hilarious, kind, and honest – I feel safer in cabs here than ones back at home in Melbourne.

    With that being said, in Istanbul I was groped twice in the space of 3 hours, even while I was wearing modest clothing. I put that down to being in a large city, thus more dangers and things to be wary of. Plus there are awful people everywhere, and its just down to bad luck that I experienced them twice in one night.

    Altogether though I hope you enjoyed your trip – Turkey is beautiful and the locals are so proud of their Turkish identity, it is such a pleasure for me to live here. Everywhere has its ups and downs but so long as you exercise a certain amount of caution, most places are wonderful to visit.

  • Reply
    May 11, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Going next month with my wife and kids and can not wait ! I have gotten the same reaction from EVERYONE I have told too LOL

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