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Travel

I never expected to be able visit Turkey. Although everyone I knew that had been loved it, they all said how they thought it was too inaccessible for me. You see, I can’t walk much because of my disabilities, and generally use a wheelchair scooter to get around if we don’t have our car handy. I have travel with disabilities down to a science – I do my research, rent a car (or drive our own), figure it out, adjust my day. So how could I travel to Turkey, where the buildings are so ancient that accessibility isn’t really an option? I saw photos, I heard stories and travel tales, I tasted fresh Turkish delight and made gozleme. I hung evil eyes (gifts from loved ones), and read voraciously. Turkey? It was my Mt. Everest.

And then.

Turkish Airlines asked the most influential travel bloggers (including yours truly) from the White House Travel Bloggers Summit to visit Turkey. I asked if they could help make it accessible. Gizem Salcigi White of Turkish Airlines worked hard to make it so – she arranged for a wheelchair for me and found some university students, Sezer and Kadir, to help me get around Istanbul. YES!! I was so excited – I could visit a place that I dearly wanted to explore, but never thought I could. Having disabilities can be difficult, especially for travel. Venice? Probably not an option. Turkey? NOW an option!

The two guys that helped make Istanbul accessible to me.

Kadir and Sezer, two university students that helped make Istanbul accessible to me. 

And so I went – flying from Chicago to Istanbul was effortless. Airport handicap access is not the same the world over, but I had no issues. In fact, in Turkey, Turkish Air has these amazing trucks that lift up to the plane and then drop down and take you to the airport – all in your wheelchair. Genius.

At first, handicap accessibility was easy. I can do up to a flight of steps, so walking a few steps up into the bus that took us into Istanbul was no problem. Our hotel (the Renaissance Bosphorus) was completely accessible. I began to wonder if I had made much ado about nothing.

Cruising on the Bosphorus.

Aboard a cruise on the Bosphorus

Once in Istanbul, all of the travel writers split into groups and then went out to discover different aspects of the city. My trusty wheelchair was stowed in the back of the bus, and my university friends were ready and handy. We went to the Turkish Airlines campus, exploring training for the airline (including heading inside an enormous flight simulator), and the HUGE hangars in which airplanes are repaired. Mostly accessible, thanks to my wheelchair and Sezer and Kadir.

At the Turkish Airlines training center, Istanbul.

At the Turkish Airlines training center

Visiting the Blue Mosque gave me a glimpse into accessibility and ancient buildings. The wheelchair could only go so far – the rest I had to walk. I held tightly onto Kadir’s arm as I climbed the steps into the Blue Mosque, wandered around inside on the soft carpets, and then headed out again, in a daze from the beauty and history of it. Sezer had taken the chair back around to the entrance and was waiting for me.

Steps into the Blue Mosque.

Steps into the Blue Mosque

Heading into the Blue Mosque.

Heading into the Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul.

Inside the Blue Mosque with Kadir

A visit to the Hagia Sofia… same thing. You can’t really make millennia-old buildings accessible, although there are some concessions (a shorter line to get in, sort of ramps to get over the door steps). I felt a bit stymied (and in a great deal of pain), but enjoyed the time with my new friends, who pushed without complaint and sought new ways to show me parts of these gorgeous buildings. We laughed, explored, and figured it out as best we could. In the back of my mind, I was becoming more and more stressed about actually seeing anything in Istanbul. It’s too ancient, too inaccessible, too crowded.

crazy sidewalks in Istanbul.

Crazy sidewalks in Istanbul – these ancient marble slates were the GOOD sidewalks!

And then it truly became more difficult. Crowds. Traffic. Steep, winding cobblestone roads. I sat in my wheelchair for a long time while my fellow travel writers went down a hill to an incredible arts museum and learned to do traditional Turkish marble painting. It was hot, and I looked at the wares for sale across the street, eyed some of the many Istanbul cats roaming the streets, people watched, and started to feel sorry for myself. It isn’t fun to wait, in the sun, while you’d rather be doing something else and you feel your disabilities acutely. Tears may or may not have entered the picture. 

getting into ancient buildings in Istanbul.

getting into ancient buildings in Istanbul.

Watching cats in Istanbul

Watching cats in Istanbul

The long steep pathway to a traditional crafts museum in Istanbul.

The long steep pathway to a traditional crafts museum in Istanbul – you can’t even see the door from here

And then Sezer left the museum and came up to keep me company. He showed me photos – of his friends, his beautiful mother, his home. I learned that many Istanbulites escape the city as often as they can, to go home to relax and visit family. I learned that family is extremely important in Turkish culture. I learned about what life is like for a university student in Istanbul, far from home (in Sezer’s case, beautiful Antalya). We laughed, played word games, shared stories, and sat in the sun together, enjoying each other’s company. All of a sudden, being in a wheelchair wasn’t so horrible. I was having a great time, instead of missing things I’d wanted to see and experience.

It dawned on me…that instead of seeing the sights of Istanbul (or sitting outside of the sights of Istanbul, if they were too ancient), I was here to learn about the people of Istanbul. That instead of wandering through millennia of history, I could find glimpses of now. Instead of learning about a building (i.e., Topkapi Palace – extraordinarily beautiful, but NOT accessible), I could learn about a person, family, culture. If you know me, you know I love to talk with and learn about people. Why didn’t I realize this earlier, instead of being sad about not seeing the main attractions? The change in me was immediate.

I sparked with joy.

Instead of a tour of Istanbul, I was on a people tour. Here’s how it went…

We next headed down an extremely rough cobblestone street and down a hill (one thing that Sezer and Kadir did was pretend to be Fast and Furious drivers. I didn’t fear for my life, much, but it was a great deal of fun once I got over being scared. Istanbul is hilly!). My travel writer friends headed into a beautiful pottery shop, and learned about making traditional Turkish pottery. I climbed the few steps in, and then waited while our group went downstairs to see traditional moonstone pottery. I found a newspaper with a new kind of game, like Sudoku (with famous people!), and chatted with a local. Learning about Turkish culture and talking with people? CHECK.

The next day, we visited Topkapi Palace. While some of Topkapi is somewhat accessible, most of it isn’t. For me, there was a long, restful period of time sitting around the fountain inside the grounds – peaceful and relaxing. I talked with the guys, with fellow tourists, with girls duckfacing for selfies. We then had lunch at the amazing Istanbul360, known for its views.

At Istanbul 360

At Istanbul 360 – what a view!

Afterward, instead of heading off to explore and photograph Taksim, Galata, and other famous areas of Istanbul, Kadir and Sezer played Fast and Furious again, taking me down a very (very!) steep street (yes, some walking was involved, as the wheelchair would never have made it all the way on the street and sidewalk).

Sidewalks in Istanbul.

Sidewalks in Istanbul. Yes, we headed down this steep road in a wheelchair…

The steep road down to the lemonade cafe.

The steep road down to the lemonade cafe.

Down, down, down the hill in Istanbul.

Down, down, down the hill in Istanbul

Destination? A lovely lemonade café, with a side journey to a bookstore (it’s the academic in me, I can’t pass one without going in) and an art supply store to pick up a notebook for our daughter.

a bookstore in Istanbul

An academic can always find a bookstore or two…

Bookstore in Istanbul

We made it to the lemonade café… and I discovered an entirely local, completely beautiful aspect of Istanbul I never knew existed. Shady trees in between the tall buildings, people playing chess, a professor holding forth to his class at the next table, couples on dates, groups of friends. THIS is also the real Istanbul, as much as the tourist attractions are. We ordered crisp, tart lemonades, and talked school mascots, friends, family, what they were studying in university, and more. We whiled away a few hours, and I thought: today, I discovered a tree in a bathroom, a secret garden, new friends with a wicked sense of humor, and a slice of life in Istanbul. It was glorious.

At the lemonade cafe in Istanbul

Kadir, Sezer, and I sipping lemonade

Look what message I saw on the board at the lemonade cafe in Istanbul!

Look what message I saw on the board at the lemonade cafe in Istanbul!

At the lemonade cafe, Istanbul.

At the lemonade cafe – what an oasis of calm! 

At the lemonade cafe, Istanbul

At the lemonade cafe, Istanbul.

A simple change in perspective can truly change your journey.

 

Evil eyes in Turkey

When our group went to the Spice Market, I was told that it was not accessible. Sezer and I rolled across the empty square, seeing a wedding party and a very smart way to handle the great amounts of trash in Istanbul (hint: it looks like a TARDIS). While I didn’t see the spices inside the market, I did see men on tiny stools having coffee, discussed trash with the trash guy, bought plenty of Turkish delight, discovered and discussed how many Syrian refugees are living in Istanbul, and had freshly roasted corn on the cob with Sezer, who loves old cars and showed me one of his favorites, parked near to where we munched on our corn. It was a different side of Istanbul than I’d expected to discover – one where you see real life, not just tourist stuff.

Turkish delight in Istanbul.

Turkish delight in Istanbul

An open square near the Spice Market, Istanbul

An open square near the Spice Market

Happy wedding! Istanbul

Lovely wedding couple 

TARDIS trash machine in Istanbul

The TARDIS-like underground trash containers in Istanbul

Sezer and I with fresh roasted corn in Istanbul

Sezer and I with fresh roasted corn

Vintage cars in Istanbul

Vintage cars in Istanbul

Sezer is a cowboy, a James Dean, a renegade who will go far, but whose thoughts are never far from his home in Antalya. Kadir? He’s a sensitive, thoughtful guy, very smart and talented (he can bowl backward!), with a strong grip that helped me up many a staircase and a ready smile to encourage me.

Sezer and I in Istanbul.

Sezer and I

Kadir in the Hagia Sofia

Kadir in the Hagia Sofia

My fellow travel writer friends helped when I needed it, lent arms and shoulders, and gave hugs. A loving and friendly face in a stressful situation is a wonderful thing – even better when you are longtime friends and colleagues. Like when you’re an expat and you find a box of Cheerios and your heart gives a leap? Yes. My friends made my heart happy, with their care and love.

My people tour of Turkey didn’t end in Istanbul.

When we flew to Izmir and Kusadasi, to visit Ephesus, the House of the Mother Mary, and the Basilica of St. John (and later, Pamukkale), I spent most of my waiting time with Can (pronounced John), a funny guy with a wry smile and a very caring nature. I hacked his internet while we waited atop Pamukkale (because I am addicted to Instagram and wanted to share it); laughed at signs at the marketplace at the end of visiting Ephesus; learned of his job in tourism and how he tries to help travelers with disabilities.

Can and I in Sirince

Can and I in Sirince

Laughing at Ephesus

Laughing at Ephesus. No genuine fake watches were bought.

Handicap gate to Pamukkale

Handicap gate to Pamukkale

A lovely table atop Pamukkale, where we rested in the shade

A lovely table atop Pamukkale, where we rested in the shade and instagrammed the heck out of the lovely area

When I waited outside of the ruins of the Basilica of St. John, I sat and talked with a man and his father – they ran the gift shop directly across the street. I learned that they each practice Islam very differently, but that understanding goes across generations, and is humble and kind.

new friends near the ruins of the Basilica of St John, Turkey

New friends

While I waited in Sirince, after a glorious lunch at Sirince Artemis, I talked with the woman who ran the beverage shop. She was surprised when I asked for a cold hot chocolate and then made me one after we figured out the language difficulties, and then she made fresh hot donuts for me (I think she wanted me to have something hot that day).

Fresh donuts in Sirince, Turkey

Fresh donuts for me! Thank you!

We visited a local cooperative and learned about traditional Turkish rug weaving. While our group climbed the stairs to see the amazing showroom and museum, I sat in the main weaving room under a tinted portrait of Ataturk, watching the women and girls weave in peace, chatting softly amongst themselves and showing far greater skill and talent than I had ever imagined.

Ataturk

Weaving course in Turkey

Weaving Turkish carpets

I rested and watched her artistry

When we stayed at the Hotel Kismet in Kusadasi, one of the staff very kindly took me down the hill in a golf cart, so I could swim in the Aegean as often as I could. For a mermaid such as I, this was more than welcome – it was life-giving and soul-nourishing. I know he was busy, and I appreciated his efforts.

Catching a golf cart ride down to the Aegean at the Hotel Kismet, Kusadasi.

See how happy I am? BIG THANKS to this kind man for helping me to get to the sea!

When my friends boarded the Turkish Airlines flight back to Istanbul the regular way (walking across the tarmac, climbing the stairs), I talked with the guy who ran those genius accessible boarding trucks, learning about how things work at smaller airports – and who solicitously made sure I got to my seat ok.

Accessible airports in Turkey

I love seeing signs like this! It means WAY less pain for me.

Loading trucks for accessible travel with Turkish airlines

Loading truck for people with disabilities. You go on the back gate in your wheelchair, it rises up to the top. You drive to the airplane, and then get right up next to the plane. Voila – VERY accessible boarding! Thank you, Turkish Airlines.

Did I miss seeing the attractions? Yes. But I learned so much more about Turkey than I realized – about the people who live there and care about their country, who pine for their homes while they are in the city, and who daily practice kindness and generosity to strangers. While some ancient structures may be inaccessible, people with disabilities can definitely visit Turkey – if they change their mindset on how to experience place, as I did. You won’t be able to see everything, but you will be able to experience more than you ever thought possible.

Me and my shadow- accessible Turkey

Can and I and our shadows on some pretty flat marble in Pamukkale

 

And the famous Turkish hospitality? It runs more deeply than I could have imagined, and made me fall in love with this venerable culture and country, which welcomed me with open arms.

 

Accessible Istanbul.

#WidenYourWorld - accessible travel in Turkey

#WidenYourWorld – accessible travel in Turkey is possible!

 

 

Note: This article was originally published at Wandering Educators.

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Adventure is a funny thing. We have heard the word used and over-used on so many occasions, but have you ever stopped to truly think about what it means? Adventure is the only thing that you can spend all you have, yet somehow make even more.

This summer I had the incredible opportunity to embark on a journey in which we visited thirteen states. “The Great Westward Adventure” changed me, and also my outlook on this beautiful nation I am privileged to live in.

The Pacific Northwest region is exquisite, somewhat uncharted territory. We left from Arkansas and visited Iowa, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, and Missouri.

The trip was partially to help us find ourselves, but in ways we found so much than we anticipated.

We camped in a tipi in North Dakota, visited national parks in which we witnesses wild buffalo walking right beside our vehicle. In South Dakota we saw quaint small towns and of course the not so quaint Mt. Rushmore. After camping out, Montana gave a gorgeous display of God’s handiwork with cascading, snow capped mountains and crystal clear streams and rivers. The views were breath taking in every sense of the word. The majesty of the mountains took our breath away, as well as the hike up them.

Washington had a variety of activities from coffee and ferry rides in Seattle to awe-inspiring mountain ranges in Olympic National Park, Mount St. Helens and Mt. Rainer. Oregon might have put the icing on the cake of adventure for me. We stayed in downtown Portland the very same week as the Rose Festival, a carnival and Fleet Week. That being said, there were sailors in uniform everywhere we looked. That sight was almost as pretty as the mountain ranges.

When we departed the city we drove to Multnomah Falls and Oneonta Gorge. The waterfalls were lovely to say the least. The last sight of Oregon we took in was the incredible coastal region. Thor’s Well, The mighty waves and even the fog struck wonder into our hearts.

Unfortunately our trip was cut short in Idaho when we were involved in accident. We were driving at about eighty-five miles an hour when we unexplainably lost control and began spinning toward oncoming traffic. We flipped three times. The vehicle came to an abrupt halt, landing upside down leaving us having to crawl out of the driver’s side window. My friend and I walked away from that horrifying accident with only some bruises and scrapes. During the petrifying events, I never had one of those “life flash before your eyes” kind of moments. In an unexplainable sort of way, I knew that everything was going to be all right.

After our hospital stay and one night’s rest, We finished the trip in a rental car hitting Wyoming, Nebraska, Utah, Colorado and Missouri. Even though the accident took place, this trip was indeed the best one of my life.

We saw gorgeous views, met great people and more than anything, we made memories that will last a lifetime.

I am well aware that this piece was meant to highlight Independence, or a place that makes me feel free to be myself. If you really think about it, that is exactly what I have done. You see, there is not one specific place I can pinpoint that gives me this feeling, but rather the open road itself. It is there that all distractions seem to dissipate and the journeys begin to unfold. In between the white lines on the road is wherethe stories are made.

The beauty of adventure is also found here. I can choose anywhere I want to go, drive anything I want to drive, see anything my heart and eyes desire, and ultimately, expand my horizons and discover things I have never seen before. Travel is the most enlightening forms of independence. It is freeing and it is wide open. The road is waiting, where will it take you next?

About the Author:

Rachel is a writer for a youth magazine and also has a bi-weekely blog. She is a recent graduate of Ushan College and an avid traveler and adventure seeker. She enjoys photography, nature, painting, reading and exploring.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Independence Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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Lisa Niver, travel guru and creator of We Said Go Travel, knows a thing or two about making travel easier. She’s been to over one hundred countries and six continents, and has narrowed down her travel must-haves to these items. She doesn’t go anywhere without them, so maybe you shouldn’t either!

1. Kindle

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The Kindle is a travel must. It’s the only way to pack as many extra books as you want, with no additional weight! And the genius screen design makes it easy to read outdoors, unlike the iPad. This one has a 6-inch glare free, touchscreen display and is wifi ready. Whether on the hiking trail or by the pool, this Kindle has you covered.

2. Eagle Creek Daypack

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The Eagle Creek Daypack is perfect for hiking or any short-term vacation where you can pack light. If you are taking a long trip and need a smaller backpack for mini excursions, this backpack is a great, lightweight option.

3. Four Wheeled Suitcase

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This Skyway suitcase makes life at the airport a million times easier. A four wheeled system adds increased mobility, perfect for close quarters, like crowded airports and train stations. The bright color makes it easy to spot, and the hard case design protects your belongings.

4. Becca Swimsuit

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Lisa loves her Becca swimsuit. Becca swimwear is durable, comfortable and has added shelf support. They come in a variety of fun patterns, giving you plenty of options, no matter if you are packing for Tahiti or Tahoe.

5. Comfortable, Travel Ready Pants

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A long day of airports and train rides demands easy to wear clothing. These Everyday Pants by Lucy are perfect for travel, with chafe-resistant seams, elastic closure, and invisible zip pockets. The moisture-wicking fabric will keep you cool, even when you’re walking all day through muggy Florence.

Don’t forget to keep up with Lisa’s latest adventures!

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Straight from college, I landed my very first corporate job and never stopped working ever since. Not until I was retrenched last year. During my six years of being employed, I will see travel pictures of my friends and relatives and has always felt envious. To not feel miserable, I say to myself that my lack of free time is the reason I don’t travel. I have a career to build after all.

And then came my retrenchment. I was left with a decent amount of fund and plenty of time to finally travel. Still, I have not gone thru my travel plans. I later on learned that the absence of travel in my life is not because of lack of time or even money… but it is my lack of will to just pack my bag and go.

But I woke up one day and told myself, cliché as it may sound, ‘that it is now or never’. My old self would have asked someone to go with me – my boyfriend, my friend, my sister. But when I decided that I wanted to just go, people around me started approaching me and ask me if they can go instead of me asking them to go with me. It’s like a magnetic force. I sincerely hope I am exuding the free-spirit vibe.

Ever since the start of this year, two months after I lost my job, I’ve been to one international destination – South Korea, with no travel guide just one travel buddy, and has explored my very own country, Philippines: sailed on a ship to reach one local but unadulterated island with no one by myself, been to multiple resorts in my province and nearby provinces with my friends, multiple beaches with my GoPro, and several ‘I’ll just pack my bag and go’ unplanned trips with whoever is ready to go with me. Surprisingly, the fund has been sufficient, the timing was all perfect and most importantly my will to just go has not diminished at all, instead it is being refueled after every trip.

My liberty from my own binding thought that I don’t have the time to travel has been proven false when I finally have the time but I still don’t have the will. I found my independence from the wrong thought and asked myself to just do it ‘cause that’s what I want. My social media feed has been filled with salt water, sand, sea shells and breath taking views. My laptop is filled with itineraries and destination targets. My friends started asking me for suggestion where to go, and even asked me to go with them.

I stopped asking why I have to go and explore, I just did. I don’t have stress to deal with to say I need to go. I don’t have the monthly expected salary to say I am entitled ‘cause I worked hard for it. I just did.

Freedom from excuses not to go, or independence from the need to have a reason to go has made me realize that I wanted to do this more than anything else.

I could definitely travel more. I can definitely go further not because I’ll have the money or time. I can ‘cause I will and that’s coming from the heart.

 About the Author:

Annabelle “Belle” Lingao is a 26-year old Filipina with a ‘to-do’ list to complete before getting hitched this year. She has been enjoying her free time ever since losing her corporate job. The negative has turned into positive in her life and she’s more than ready to take over the world.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Independence Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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Lucky for us travelers, there are geniuses all around the world trying to make our lives easier! Planes, trains, and hostels never looked quite as comfy before these amazing, easy inventions! They are designed to make any kind of travel easier and more enjoyable. Check them out:

1. J Pillow

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The J Pillow is the Winner of the 2013 British Inventor Award. It stops your head from falling forward while sleeping. Perfect for flying, this genius pillow will help you sleep better while sitting upright, making that long trip to New Zealand a bit easier.

2. Native Union Jump Cable

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The Native Jump Cable won the 2014 Good Design awards, for its sleek look and tangle free design. Unlike most portable chargers, Jump charges itself so it’s always ready to go. It’s the size of a matchbox, and holds an extra 30% charge for your phone. With Jump, you don’t have to remember to charge your phone before you start snapping photos of the Grand Canyon.

3. The Scrubba Wash Bag

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On your long backpacking trips, re-wearing clothes is inevitable. With Scrubba, washing your clothes while backpacking just became easy! This genius invention uses less water in less time, and keeps your clothes cleaner! No more having to find some strange laundromat. Scrubba will only add 5 ounces of weight to your backpack!

4. Hoodie Pillow

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The Hoodie Pillow: simple, but brilliant. The ultimate zone-out design keeps you in your personal bubble, no matter if you’re in a busy train station or on a plane. It also offers a stealthy pocket to hide your wallet or phone while traveling. Get comfy and stay comfy.

5. Sinch Headphone Assistant

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Every time you roll your headphones up neatly, they still come out of your bag looking like a knot. The Sinch will save yourself five minutes each time you want to listen to some music. Store your headphones where you’ll need them, and keep them tangle free, with this easy clip on device for your iPhone.

Hopefully these inventions make your next trip a little easier!

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            My most vivid memory of Paris is running.

 

I woke by my watch’s beeping at 4:45 am for a 6:40 flight to London, the city I where would end my European summer. In a blurry, anxious haze I gathered my bags and squeezed my luggage down narrow hotel stairs that creaked with antiquity then said a thank-you-goodbye to the receptionist in the head-nod body language that defies barrier.

 

My walk to the Metro was a long, quiet one in the cool emptiness of early-morning summer. My watch showed 5:10, 20 minutes early for the last train that would land me in the airport on time. I pulled a few coins from my pocket and triple-checked my math against the sign above the tellers’ desk: two euros short. Repeated swipes of my American debit card in the station’s cash dispenser brought up an error notice. The clerks graciously informed me in rough “Frenglish” they couldn’t spot me any change, didn’t know where the nearest ATM was, and couldn’t, per regulation, watch my luggage.

 

Shouldering my grossly overstuffed canvas suitcase and bulging laptop bag, I ran wildly through the quaint streets of a city tourists visit to browse with slow, savory steps. I huffed along several blocks one direction, shifting my suitcase (roughly the size, shape, and weight of a human child) from shoulder to shoulder, then doubled back until I found an ATM that could read my card and then pounded 10 or so blocks back in enough time to hear train brakes crescendo in the tunnel as I breathlessly handed over cash for my ticket.

 

Aside from flight, I remember little else of my summer abroad other than unremarkable minutiae. The Eiffel Tower is a vague image; I can’t even say what metallic shade of gray it was (was it gray? brass? charcoal?). I can’t name a single painting from Musée d’Orsay, recall a stained-glass portrait adorning Notre Dame, or confirm that Notre Dame even has stained glass windows. More elegant than La Ville-Lumière at night was running through it in a surprise afternoon shower. Richer than its coffee was smoking a cheap cigar watching street dancers. More enriching than its art was the unpacked carnival I perused outside the Louvre.

 

Before that summer, I believed that to tour a foreign place is to observe firsthand the quintessential features that define it, as if to prove that a crêpe tastes a certain way in Paris vs. Boston, that Europeans do fart in public without so much as an Entschuldigen Sie mich, that Big Ben is indeed rather large.

 

Those are the types of experiences I set out to prove in Paris and elsewhere, but in the years since, thinking back on my time there, what come to mind are the distinct feelings of just being present in strange places, feelings I could never replicate anywhere else. It’s a sensation that’s both denotatively nostalgic (“pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past”) and anti-nostalgic (“the state of being homesick”).

 

There’s a French word I think describes this feeling more accurately: dépaysement, or “the feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country.” It’s an emotion only describable as its more-familiar inverse, one that can be both alienating and, for some, comforting for it.

 

I think in every tourist there’s a kind of quaint ignorance we’re constantly searching to remedy yet always cultivating because it provokes pursuit of remedy. This is what now draws me to leave what I know in my home and become a tourist in someone else’s, to thread myself into it as if I lived there and exist as I’ve always existed but somehow as a separate person who can only exist in that specific place, to seek out the opportunity posed by feeling lost in a temporary home beyond my own and be whoever that person is, there.

About the Author

Bryce is a freelance writer and MFA student at NC State. His work can be found in Best American Experimental Writing 2015, The Normal School, Mid-American Review, Prairie Schooner, Your Impossible Voice, etc., and he serves on staff for Raleigh Review and BULL: Men’s Fiction..

 

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Independence Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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I love to travel. Experience the culture, the people, the food…I absolutely love it. Going to Europe is on my bucket list and I can’t wait until that finally happens. Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, London…I feel like they’re waiting for me to come and discover their grandeur. People have told me that traveling changes you; that you come back a better and more knowledgeable. Some people have said they found the meaning of life, or their calling, what they’re supposed to do. I sincerely hope that happens to me, since I am sheltered. I admit it: I live in a big house, my parents can afford to send me to any college I want, and I am told to follow my dreams and do what makes me happy. I know that others are not as privileged as I am. I want to help; I want to see everything, as much as I can. But for now, I’ll settle for adventures that occur in my dreams and one other place. I have been on many vacations, but my best travel escapes happen when I don’t even have to leave my house. Thinking back, I can count hundreds of places that I have been too, all the while curled under a blanket in my bed. “How can this be?” you might ask. One word: books. I fought with Harry, Ron, and Hermione against Voldemort, I trained at Camp Half-Blood with Percy and Annabeth, I discovered Narnia with Lucy…so many wonderful times and I didn’t have to carry a suitcase! Reading has always been my escape, since a lot of people were mean to me throughout elementary and middle school. I would lose myself in a world completely different from my own and stay there for hours. Book characters are absolutely lovely. They don’t judge, they take you with them on absolutely AMAZING adventures, and they certainly don’t mind when you take a Tumblr break to post about your ships and how you can’t even. This is kind of silly, but sometimes when I read an exceptional book, I can almost pretend that I’m standing there with them. When Katniss covered Rue with flowers, or when Minny put the you-know-what in the pie for Miss Hilly. I laugh, I cry…books have such an impact on our lives and we don’t even realize it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll finish a book, go to bed, and then dream about said book, where I’m alongside my favorite characters! I think that really shows the merit of a good book. It made such an impact on you that you can’t help but think about it even in your subconscious. Traveling through books is just as important as real life traveling. Books are an escape, for the people who are too poor to travel or too scared. Those people are out there, and while they are saving up money to travel, they need something to find solace in through the dark times. I am one of those people, and I travel through books.  

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Independence Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

One of the best things about prepping for a trip is getting all of the right gear together- clothes, luggage, and yes, tech. The worst part of a trip is when you’re in the middle of nowhere and your phone dies, or you lose your phone in the lake! Here are a few handy tech gadgets to save you mid-trip heartache:

1. RAVPower Portable Charger and Router

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Can’t stop instagramming your favorite travel moments? When you’re burning through data and battery, this compact device will save you, acting as a router and charger in one small device.

2. FRiEQ Floating Waterproof Cell Phone Case

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Who wants to store their cell phone somewhere on land while they are kayaking or paddleboarding? Bring it with you and take worry free photos, with the floatable, waterproof cell storage system from FRiEQ.

3. Trackdot Luggage Tracker

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No more lost luggage! This tracker system will track your bag, even in a sealed metal container. That will make your three-transfer travel day a little less stressful!

4. Cocoon Grid It Wrap Case for Tablet

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Keep everything in its place with this awesome tablet case. Your chargers, phone, tablet, and headphones can all stay neat and tangle-free!

5. Satechi USB Portable Humidifier

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If you are backpacking or taking a long trip, you are doubtlessly exposed to a lot of germs. If you should get sick, here is your portable life saver. This Satechi humidifier attaches to any water bottle, making your nighttime breathing easy without a lot of water-sloshing trouble!

Make travel a little easier next time and pick up these life-saver gadgets. What is your favorite piece of tech on your long trips?

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As the cell door swings open, I’m greeted by what I can only assume is a giant. This seems like a fair assumption, as the man standing in front of me is at least 6’7” tall and must weigh over 300 lbs. But I do not run, because he greets me with a smile and I therefore deduce that he must be a friendly giant.

“Hello, I’m Luke Jelly,” the giant says in a thick Yorkshire accent. I can already tell I’m going to like him.

At this point I feel the need to assure you, dear reader, that my criminal record remains spotless. My digs for the night are, in actuality, a backpackers hostel housed in a former prison.

Located in the picturesque city of Ljubljana, Slovenia, Hostel Celica is a must for any adventurous traveler. It’s incredibly clean, welcoming, and gives you a chance to spend a night in jail without having to ask your parents for bail money. Taking full advantage of this unique opportunity, I’ve opted to stay in one of the hostel’s converted prison cells, complete with iron bars.

As I glance around the room, I find myself instantly impressed with prison living. It is, in a way, what I imagine Martha Stewart’s cell would look like. The colors are muted and zen, and there’s a small wooden desk nestled in the corner on which weary prisoners may write their loved ones. If it weren’t for the stark iron bars which currently adorn the windows, we could easily be in a bed & breakfast in some quaint seaside village.

Snapping back to real life, the giant (and my cellmate for the evening) informs me that he’s already taken the bottom bunk, and asks if I would mind sleeping on the top one. This seems fair enough, as top bunks in prisons aren’t generally designed with giants in mind, so I decide not to mention my tendency to hurl myself out of bunk beds in my sleep and instead nod in agreement.

As the giant crawls into bed, I place my hands on the cold iron bars of our cell door and reflect on my current situation. Yes, I could be at home right now, nestled in my familiar bed, hot water bottle tucked under one arm. But in all honesty, I’d rather be here, embracing the unknown in my small prison cell in Slovenia with a friendly giant named Luke Jelly.

And with that, I shut the cell door, click the lock into place and it’s time for lights out. I bid the giant goodnight, but he’s already fast asleep, the low rumbling of his snores beginning to fill the tiny cell we will call home for the night.

As I lie in my bed, a slight smile spreads across my lips. Tomorrow I will break free from the confines of my comfy little cell, and then the future is mine to do with as I please.

Gee, who knew a night in prison could be so liberating?

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Independence Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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Growing up in a country that practices the value of close family ties makes it hard living your life the way you want to. It teaches you that family comes first and somehow you are obliged to show them they are your priority. You are expected to build your dreams and aspirations to make your family’s life better before you head out on your own. This may be a noble value but there are times that you have to make a choice and go out of the norm.

When I graduated from college expectations starts to pour on me. My family expected me to find a decent good paying job so that we can have a better life. Since then, this has been my goal. Do the job, get paid, give a part of my income to my family, help with my family’s needs and what’s left of my money is for going out to have coffee or movie with friends or save it for the things I wish to buy. But then my priorities changed when I first had a taste of travelling.

Travelling became the top on my list of the things that I need. From the excitement that I felt when I bought my first plane ticket to riding the plane and landing on my destination. Anticipating the adventure and cherishing the rewarding experience was life fulfilling for me. From then on I decided that I wanted to travel as much as I can, to see the many places I haven’t seen, explore and have countless adventures. When I realized these things, my perception changed. Yes, I do want to give back to my family that I also have to make myself happy and travelling is what makes me happy. So, I started to work and save for my travels and me and my dad argues about it most of the time.

My dad thought that I am being selfish and that I am running away from the responsibilities of giving back to my family. But it’s just him being unfair. I know I have the right to choose where I want my life to be heading. Even though he does not understand it, if I haven’t discovered how fun it is to travel I might got married earlier, have kids and settled on a life that I might be regretting. I know I’m doing my best to provide for both my family’s need and mine.

Travelling taught me to enjoy life first. It showed me there are a lot of things that can offer me a lot of unforgettable memories and experience. You can never settle and you will crave more of the world. You want to see and experience everything.  You’ll be learning more once you are exposed. You will understand the way of living better.

Last June 6, 2015, I decided to take a trip on my own. This is the first time I travelled alone. My itinerary was not as concrete unlike when I am travelling with my friends. But I still decided to go on and take the trip. The experience was liberating. It gave me a sense of how I can handle myself on my own. I was surviving for four days of taking care of myself on a place away from my family and people I know. I only have me. I was saying to myself if I will be able to get this trip done without me getting into any trouble, I’ll be able to take on the world.

 

Travelling is what makes me happy and so I choosing it, even if it means I have to break some values and get out of the culture. Deciding to make travel my priority does not mean I’ll forget my family. Though my dad does not see it, whenever I travel it makes me miss home, it makes me want to come home as soon as I can. To share what I learned from the different places I’ve been to. It’s making me closer to them than before.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Independence Travel Writing competition and tell your story.