Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Too Many Turkey Guides

I'm taking a step back and looking at all the travel guides I have stocked up for this Turkey trip:

  1. Let's Go Turkey
  2. Rough Guide Turkey
  3. Lonely Planet Turkey
  4. DK Istanbul
  5. Frommer's Turkey
  6. Time Out Istanbul

While there's nothing wrong with a bit of preparation reading — even I can tell it's excessive. STOP. NOW.

A big part of me is still unable to take a spontaneous approach to travel. The Type-A control-freak in me erupts to the surface like a horrendous rash. The reading and research is a method of controlling the situation — through the collection of information. It's an approach that has carried me through life — but one cannot live through books. One day you realise you have to put the book down and actually learn through experience.

The Chinese has a saying, "To read 10,000 books, to travel 10,000 miles." While the Chinese respects academic learning, they are also aware of how one needs to balance book learning with practical life experience. They advocate travel as the ultimate life education.

I did not start to travel regularly until I was in my mid-twenties. While I was in school, I told myself I will travel when I started working and have a disposable income. Then I started work and suddenly there is a whole list of reasons why I could not travel: work commitment, lack of savings, health, family commitments — the "buts" I call them, the excuses for all the things I wanted to do but never tried. Really, I was afraid to move out of my comfort zone. Even unhappiness can be a safe place, because the pain of it is at least something known, and ironically easier than the mystery of change.

Perhaps it was an on-set of a Quarterlife Crisis, but one day I looked at my life and I did not like what I find; I was past 25, very little savings, I hate my job, a whole string of broken relationships behind me and I have never been anywhere. I wanted to change it. In between I tried many other things, some worked, some not so much. But I decided I wanted to travel more.

The idea of travel, for me, is adventure. To venture, to take yourself out of the comfort zone and cast yourself into an unfamiliar space. You start to pay more attention to your surroundings, you re-learn the navigational skills to get, the quiet, introvert self finds the desperate courage to approach total strangers for help — most of all, you learn to appreciate the kindness of strangers.

Turkey promises all these — an alien culture where the language is unknown to us. It will be an adventure. I am terribly insecure about my trip to Turkey; I suspect this adventure will involve a whole lot of discomfort and disagreement — my friend and I will argue on the way, step on each other's toes — but I must try.

Right now though, I just hope I don't get us lost in some dark, sleazy corner of Istanbul where we will be murdered, raped and robbed.

Let's see if I can take this trip in the right mind-set: a middle path between caution and spontaneity.

I think I'll start by returning some of the travel guides to the library.


Anonymous said...

I over plan for trips too. I want all the details mapped out before I get on the plane. Of course when you get there most of the plans turn out to be unfeasible. The bookstore you wanted to go to no longer exists and the cool restaurant you showed up to eat dinner at closed three months ago. But there is still comfort in the planning, though maybe two or three travel books is all you really need :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's like no matter how much planning you do, fate has a way of reminding you that the world is more dynamic that we're willing to admit.

I think I'll just bring 1 or 2 travel guides for security.

At the end of the day, it's all about a sense fo security, isn't it?