Well, there it is. My first coup. It had to happen at some point. I’ve been more or less on the road since I was 17, which is when I went on my first independent trip. But fourteen years on, I’ve gone to some other places. In the community we live in, expats in Phnom Penh that is, trips to Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar – they’re the norm. Many go for work. To visit friends who are already living there. I’ve always said yes. The only thing that ever prevented me was an absurdly expensive plane ticket (sorry Sofia).
So that brings me to this trip to Istanbul. It’s been on my radar since forever. My partner is German, and therefore already well steeped with curiosity and a taste for the cuisine and culture. It’s actually been on the lower priority of our travel plans. It’s practically like visiting any other European metropolis that is teeming with cosmopolitan culture. We could visit the cisterns and the Hagia Sofia when we’re old and much more well heeled. But a handy layover en route to Russia made us think, “why the hell not?” Fast forward to this previous Friday night. Or rather Saturday morning. When we were awoken by the sound of fighter jets breaking the sound barrier above our heads. We rolled over to our phones, and that’s when we found out about the coup. From all of the messages our friends were sending us. Inquiring about our safety. A disconnect from the news media and a general naivete had prevented us from being aware of all the happenings when our heads had hit the pillows. Then came more fighter jets and some very loud noises that could be interpreted as many things.
This post was originally going to be about all of the fun summer beach travel friendly books I’m reading this trip. (woohoo!). Instead, I found myself struggling to digest the events in Turkey (and also in France), and my presence in it, my privilege of being a foreign visitor with not just one but two embassies able to get me out if that came to it…all the feelings basically associated with being a traveler that are inherently amplified when you walk into a coup.
Writing is so important to Cait and I. Reading too. It helps get all the feelings out. In particular, I’m a fan of travel books. Especially all of the stories put out by The Best American Series every year (my favourite so far is 2011). So I decided to put together a list of some of my favourites. Some of these are ruminations on the privilege of voluntary human movement to far flung places, others are stories about the people in those places. All are great.