March 24, 2017

Istanbul. June, 2007

I sometimes wonder why I love to travel alone. Yes, I enjoy the pleasure of a friend’s company at mealtimes and for occasional shared excursions, but the more foreign and exotic my destination, the more I treasure time spent solo. Maybe it’s because I like to immerse myself in the everyday life of the place I’m visiting in a way that tends to make companions impatient -- lingering in Montreal or Mexico supermarkets to see packaging in a foreign language, stopping by the Las Vegas or Miami Beach public libraries, sitting in a Lisbon or Segovia park to see how locals pass their idle time. In Turkey, I became fascinated by Muslim people’s behavior in mosques. Some would be silent and reverent. Others, especially those with young children, would refreshingly treat the vast interior as if it were their living room or the public square. Still more interesting to me were the outwardly secular (uniformed policemen, suited businessmen, et al.) entering and revealing their sacred selves in a personal, devotional way. For me, solo travel also erases the slate, allows me to be whoever I choose to be. No one knows me. One of my favorite memories is of a young man’s stopping me on Istanbul’s Istiklal Caddesi one evening to inquire (in Turkish) the time. When I showed him my watch, he said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were Turkish.” I wasn’t sorry at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment