So after an unexpected but very needed trip back home to my family in Istanbul, I woke up one morning and decided to book my ticket back to Salvador, to continue where I left off from. Now, I was only planning on taking a 2 week break from my travels but instead managed to stay for over 5 weeks….and no regrets about it. I had the best time and felt so happy and grateful to be back on familiar soil.
During my time in Istanbul we moved out of one and into 2 houses, attended a wedding, spent quality time with friends and family, made new friends, saw shows and had time to relax and enjoy my new home…
Before I returned to Istanbul, Hatice was going through a rough patch, as was I. I had only spent 17 days out in Brazil, 42 less than I had originally planned. Sun, sand, sea, coconuts, palm trees and caipirinhas, what more could anyone want? Family. Company. Familiarity. Home. That’s what.
The thing is, Hatice and I have spent 21 years together with the past 17 being just the 2 of us with the later addition of our little pooch and my cloud, Fluffy. When I started university in 2013, Hatice decided to move from London back to Istanbul. I was studying in Leeds at the time which already meant that I was away from home and I didn’t see her as often. During her move to Turkey, I started my study year abroad in Morocco which made it even more difficult to see each other. We spent 4 months apart. The longest to date. After my time in Morocco I then went travelling and headed back to Leeds, making it once again as difficult as before to spend quality mother daughter time.
After only 2 weeks in Turkey during my summer holidays, came August 2016; time for me to head out to Argentina for my second study abroad programme. Deep down, I was hesitant. When I chose Argentina I knew that this opportunity was one in a lifetime and that I wouldn’t miss it for the world. However, as my departure date got nearer, reality started to hit. I was in fact going to be spending the next 10 months on the other side of the world. An expensive and lengthy few flights away. Was I prepared to leave my friends and family behind for so long? I guess so. I had to do it for me. I could have, like the majority of my friends, chosen to study in Spain..it’s cheaper, it’s closer and it’s.. Spain. But i’m not like that. I constantly want to travel and discover the world. I knew that having the choice to study in South America or Europe in itself was an indication to make me study in South America..so that’s exactly what I did.
Just like the majority, if not all of my travels, I didn’t know what to expect or what this unfamiliar destination was going to present to me. During my first semester (August-December) I had the most incredible time, despite being a family and home girl. Rarely did I have moments to sit and miss home because I would remind myself to live in the moment. My time here is only temporary so why spend it wishing that I were somewhere I can’t be? I honestly could not have been happier with my choice and I know that it was and still is the right choice.
Having said this, towards the end of my 4 months away, approximately 1 week before my flight back to Europe for Christmas, I started to realise how much I had missed home and of course, Hatice. Hatice greeted me at Istanbul Atatürk airport with a bunch of roses, what a romantic she is. My eyes immediately watered as did hers. As I stepped outside and felt Turkey’s cold like a slap in the face, I inhaled a deep breathe and just smiled. “I’m home” I said.
I planned to spend a month in Europe and the other 2 months of my summer holidays travelling around South America, ready in time for semester 2 starting in March. After 12 days in Turkey, I flew to England knowing that within the following 2 weeks I would be flying out to Brazil to start my travels. During my 2 weeks in London, I got to spend time with my friends and family which was definitely needed after such a long time away. It was nice to see familiar faces. Nonetheless, it was stressful to say the least. I made such an effort to see as many people as I could, to please everyone, to genuinely enjoy being back home as well as sorting out my travels, accommodation and university documents for both Argentina and Leeds. But no, I still had people mad at me for only spending a few hours with them, or people who didn’t want to be understanding of my time constraints. Baring in mind I don’t have a home in London. We sold our house when Hatice moved to Istanbul. This means that everytime I’m in London I have to live out of a suitcase, mainly on my aunt’s sofa or a different friend’s houses every night. This in itself is discomforting, but yet, no one seems to understand.
As if this weren’t enough, I had a HUGE dilemma after my passport was soaked in my bag and I had to spend 5 consecutive days in and out of the Passport Bureau and Turkish Embassy in London. This happened just before Christmas. Which was fine as Hatice had planned to come to England for Christmas where we would have a few days away from London together celebrating. However, Hatice rung me prior to this water bottle leakage and explained to me how she was going through a rough time. Stress from work, petty family members and their petty arguments, the fact that we had to move out of our house in 10 days and still had nowhere to go got the better of her. We agreed that it would be more efficient for me to go to Istanbul for Christmas instead, and try to help her with whatever she needed. After this series of unfortunate events i.e me not tightening the cap of my bottle tight enough, I was now without a passport, £150 down due to the “emergency passport application” and my ticket to Turkey went to waste. I was having a melt down.
It was 2 days before Christmas and Hatice had to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a new ticket for herself. She had no option but to come to spend Christmas with me as I would not be seeing her until April, at the least. Due to her workload back in Turkey, we only had time to spend 3 days together. We opted for Brighton and rented out an apartment. We toured around the town and made Christmas lunch whilst listening to only the best of festive tunes. After these 64 hours were over, I dropped Hatice off at London Heathrow Airport. Tears down both of our faces. We didn’t have enough time together over this period. We spend months apart at a time and it was time for yet another goodbye. Worried as ever about me and my first solo trip to come, she boarded the plane, and on December 29th, I boarded mine.
As most of you know, or can at the least assume from my social media accounts and colourful snapshots, that so far I have had the most incredible time in Brazil… but I just didn’t feel as happy nor as grateful as I could have. I felt.. weird. I felt that something wasn’t right. I was in this breathtaking country, surrounded by nature and such cheerful people, yet, I was sulking and constantly emotional. At first, I thought it was a phase, you know, just the nerves of travelling all alone. But then I realised, that this ‘thing’ was Hatice. That was the missing piece. It was a subconscious sadness which I was feeling. I was basically experiencing her anxiety through myself. Every time we would FaceTime, I couldn’t help but cry. I was spending January lying underneath the sun listening to Samba and Favela funk, but I was always crying.
This episode of questioning myself and the constant tears, repeated itself whilst I was on the island of Morro de São Paulo (which was my favourite place I had been to in Brazil so far). It happened when I left the bamboo hostel for another, which was terrible to say the politely. A tiny cramped room with no air-conditioning and a hardly visible window. Hatice and I FaceTimed again but everything was crackling due to the weak internet connection at the hostel. That night, the girls in my room locked themselves out and came back drunk and screaming at 4am. I was not impressed. Throughout the night, I couldn’t sleep and had frequent trips to the toilet. A combination of an upset stomach, acid, bile and dizziness.
The next morning I woke up vomiting and sweating. I wanted to go home. Now. I called a few of Hatice’s friends who helped me find flight and travel options to get me back home. Let’s not forget that i’m on an island by the way. At first they were hesitant. They were adamant that I a) wouldn’t be able to handle such a long flight being so unwell, and b) that the airline might not let me board the plane due to scares of malaria or similar diseases. After pleading them not to tell Hatice so that she didn’t panic, my flight was booked for 18:30, from Salvador to Istanbul via Frankfurt. It was now 11am and I had 15 minutes to pack my things and not only make it on time to the ferry across to Salvador, but also find space on this Sunday morning’s journey. If I were to miss this ferry, there was no chance I would arrive at the airport on time for my flight. With literal blood, sweat and tears I made it. I then realised how stupid it was of me to rush as I had clearly forgotten that I was in Brazil… Brazilian time Bash, not European. Anyway, I was made to wait until everyone had boarded to see if there was enough space as this journey was already overbooked. I was lucky enough. Or maybe they felt sorry for me as I was groaning and crying. Who knows.
The 2 ½ hour journey on what I was told was a very bumpy ride would not have been bearable if it weren’t for a lovely Brazilian to keep me company. Thiago helped me through out the entire journey, carrying my bags, bringing me water and chatting with me the whole way to keep my mind off of the nausea and home-sickness. In normal circumstances, I suffer from seasickness. This being a catamaran which gives it’s customers a free anti-sickness tablet upon the purchase of a ticket, did not affect me in the slightest… once again thanks to the company.
Once we arrived to the port of Salvador, approximately an hour later than scheduled, we said our goodbyes and I took a transfer straight to the airport. Once that check-in was complete and I was holding my tickets in my hand, I felt better. I didn’t feel sick anymore just a little dizzy, but that was normal.
The second I embarked onto my flight and rested my head back onto the seat, I slept uninterruptedly for 10 hours straight. I then did the same from Frankfurt to Istanbul. Once I arrived in Turkey I felt so disorientated, which is understandable. I spent 45 minutes waiting for my luggage, another 10 realising that it wasn’t going to appear on the belt and another 40 searching for it then filing in for a “missing luggage” application. ICING ON THE CAKE. But at the time, I didn’t really care. After all I was experiencing, mainly emotionally, I just though that everything in that backpack was materialistic. I’m healthy and alive in one piece, back home to see Hatice and my family. The cheap toiletries yet overly expensive hiking boots didn’t phase me in the slightest.
Hatice had a meeting that evening so her driver came to collect me and took me straight to my mummy. The minute I walked in, I heard Hatice leaving her meeting and ran towards me. I saw her and of course we both started crying..surprise surprise. From that moment onwards I was fit as a fiddle. Almost as if I hadn’t experienced the entirety of what I had prior to this.
Since then, I spent over a month back home and almost every day with Hatice who I had truly missed…not only since December but since I started university 3 years ago. It had been such a long time since we last spent more than 2 weeks together and oh my was it great. If i’m honest, there were many points in which I thought “I could be by the beach drinking agua de coco right now, why am I back here?!” but then I would correct that thought with “you’re here to spend precious time with your family which you may not get the chance to do so for a while”.
My point is, that even though I travelled for no more than 17 days, I still learnt an incredible amount about a mountain of things. I tested my limits, my social skills, my organisation, I discovered my likes and dislikes, I tried new things and overcame my fears, but most importantly I changed my perspective on myself, the world and our society. I also came to realise that I am much stronger and mature than I thought myself to be, and I had once more confirmed that travelling was just my thing. However with these realisations came others too. Having more than enough time alone, to think and to reflect, I came to the conclusion that life means nothing without friends and family, without social interactions, without company, without someone or some people to share experiences with.
My advice to you, is yes, travel whilst you are young and are able to, which is my advice to myself too. But don’t focus entirely upon being ‘away from home’.. because the day will come where we wish we could be ‘home’ with those who helped you to call that place home. Never forget that countries aren’t disappearing, but the one we love and the opportunities to create everlasting memories slowly are. We are nothing without these.
This time back home was just what I needed. I was able to get the dose which I needed and I now have enough fuel to keep me going for the next 6 months ahead; before it’s time for me to recharge my batteries once again before heading back to Leeds for my final year at university.
I left for Salvador at 7am this morning, which is where I am writing from now. It’s now nearly midnight and I have another 6 hours to wait until my next flight; a complete other story which you will be reading about soon enough i’m sure..
Time to crawl onto the floor in a corner somewhere until the gates open…