It’s been nearly a year to the day since I first set foot in Istanbul and here I am again. This is my third trip here in the last year and somehow this city still manages to amaze me. Amidst the crowded streets, the terrible traffic, the political strife and the cultural differences (which can often be interpreted as rudeness), there is a vibrance and a vitality to this city that I can’t find adequate words to describe.
I am here for six weeks, staying in a beautiful 2 bedroom apartment in the neighborhood of Nişantaşı. It’s an area I am not familiar with, but I am slowly getting to know my new hood as the days pass. I came to Istanbul this time with different intentions from my previous trips. I’ve been here twice before. I’ve seen and done almost all of the things on the typical tourist agenda. I know this city well. I know I love this city. This trip isn’t about those things. This trip is about determining whether or not Istanbul could truly be my home in the not-so-distant future.
When I first came to Istanbul a year ago, it was to participate in a study abroad program. I had never been to Turkey or anywhere else in the Near/Middle East region, let alone to a predominantly Muslim country, and my intentions were merely to see and experience something different. At the time, Istanbul was, in my mind, not going to be a place in which I would want to live. To my surprise, by the end of my first week here I had fallen completely in awe with this city and could not see myself living anywhere else. Since that first trip, I have returned to Istanbul two more times (including this current trip).
I have done a lot of soul searching over the past year; searching for clarity and truth. Is Istanbul really the place? Had I finally found the home for which I have been searching all over the world? Six months ago I would have answered with an absolute and unshaken “YES”. Today, as I sit in the living room of my beautiful apartment, having embarked on my third adventure to this magical city, I find that I am still undeniably in love with this city and yet, at the same time, I find I am more open to the possibility that this may not be the home I have been searching for.
My experiences thus far have been very different from my first two trips. This time I am alone – no classmates, no travel companions, just me. It is different here on my own. My love for Istanbul has not diminished, but there is feeling of harshness, isolation and intimidation this time. But this is why I am here – to discover if Istanbul is really the home I have believed it to be. I need this time alone with the city to see if I can really be happy here on my own. I am open to whatever experiences, feelings and truths my journey might bring.
Peace and Love.