When I shared my plan to go to Turkey, I got the more than usual safety warnings. First, I was told to be wary of Turkish men. They are very aggressive. Of course I was advised to rethink ofmy travel plan. The series of bombings and the influx of Syrian refugees in Turkey have caused anxiety to everyone, even in a country as far as the Philippines. I understood the concerns. At the same time, I know people give advice based on their own biases. And I felt their fear and paranoia.
Good thing, the rebel in me refused to be afraid. Growing up as a female, I am sick and tired of my movement restricted to certain places. If I have learned anything from life, is that the best antidoteto our suspicions about others is to create bridges. Not a wall. In this era of fear-mongering, I valued more than ever the importance of travel, first-hand knowledge, and personal ties to people in different parts of the world.
The refugee crisis was my main inspiration in traveling to Turkey. After I wrote a report on access to education of Syrian refugee children in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, there was a deep desire within me to see one of these host countries. I wanted to be in solidarity with them. Going to refugee camp was not an option. I lack proper training in humanitarian aid. I was more scared becoming a liability to the organizations helping out there. Hence, I did what I know best-TRAVEL. I went there to unlearn my preconceived notion of what constitute a Muslim community. Through this simple act, I dispel already the negative publicity thrown at them.
Turkey gave me an amazing time. Most importantly it showered me with kindness. I felt very much welcomed. I met a lot of locals, albeit men, who invited me over a cup of apple tea. Some even went out their way to let me see hard to reach spots. I consciously refrained from questioning their intentions or my safety at every invitation. I try to live in a world where I have innate trust in humans.
Turkey may have suffered from multiple terrorist attacks both from Daesh and the Kurdistan separatist movement. It also shoulders the burden of hosting the biggest number ofrefugees. On top of that, Turkey is faced with a failed coup attempt. A number of news outlets paint the country a risky destination,creating an irrational fear amongst travelers. Yet I tell you, book your ticket, pack your bag, and just go to Turkey. It is a fascinating and beautiful country. It is also safe.
Listen. Turkey is calling you. And you should go. Turkish people are welcoming bunch of creatures. They want you to visit their country. They want you to marvel in human history. They want you to have a taste of Turkish delight and pleasure of baklava. They want to hear your own story over tea or while drinking Efes or smoking shisha. They want your presence. You standing on a Turkish soil means a lot to Turkish. You will be among those few who remain to see the beauty of Turkey amidst the political turmoil.