I have had times while travelling with friends where I was alone and doing things on my own but I haven’t had the chance to travel entirely solo until recently. Travelling with friends gives you the opportunity to know them better maybe in a way you have not experienced before but travelling solo; it introduces you to your true self. You being the only company you could have can be quite an experience.
The view outside one of the windows of Hagia Sophia
I have always been the planner when it came to travelling with friends. Not that I’m complaining or anything; planning a trip is one of life’s pleasures. Planning a trip in my dictionary means having a detailed program about what to do and when to do it with previously made bookings if needed. That is kinda of ok I guess because it somehow insures you don’t skip the most important things to do/see making a full use of your visit; despite that fact I managed to overlook Plaza de Espana in Seville while planning my Spain trip, what a bumper that was!. So now you could imagine how I would plan a solo trip, right? Surprise! What happened was the total opposite of my organized self.
The famous Istanbul nostalgic tram
Well, I confess I had my hotel booking made in advance along with a rough list of the places I wanted to check out but the new thing to me was not having a to the minute detailed plan of when to do what and I have to admit that was relieving in an eccentric kind of a way. Since I only had an extended weekend to travel during, I needed to go someplace close and I eventually decided to go to Istanbul. I have visited Istanbul before for only two days during a trip I had to Cappadocia back in 2012 and my first impression about the city wasn’t charming at all! It was summer time during Eid Al Fitr holiday*; it was so hot, humid, and crazy crowded that I didn’t enjoy my time at all! A couple of months before I revisited though I was reading a book written by the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk about the history of the city, that book made me fall in love with Istanbul thinking that I owe the city another chance. And so the decision has been made, I will be traveling to Istanbul during the Western Christmas (last year) holiday when it was supposed to be really really cold but luckily I ended up enjoying nice weather with two perfectly sunny days.
Mosaics in The Chora Church
The city of Istanbul is always crowded specially in summer times but when it comes to winter I came to experience that it doesn’t get that packed, accordingly most of the sightseeing spots were not annoyingly busy and that allowed me to enjoy every single one of them roaming freely and taking my time marveling at what surrounded me and by the end of that trip I was completely in love with that vibrant and beautiful city.
One of the few remaining old wooden houses you could find walking the backstreets of Istanbul
Some of the people around me didn’t really favor the idea of me traveling solo and kept on wondering if I was able to enjoy it or if I even got bored being on my own the whole time. The truth is I honestly enjoyed that trip big time and perhaps the reason why I was able to enjoy it that much might have been the quality time I had with myself. I was my only responsibility following no previously set plans. I used to wake up in the morning whenever I wanted to without setting the alarm even, go for breakfast then decide on what to do for the day, no previous plans or people to wait for to get ready or anything and that was somehow liberating!
The colorful neighborhood of Balat
The notion of deciding what to do on the spot and not in advance was emancipating and enjoyable. It enabled pretty much needed randomness to the trip and in allowing that randomness to conquer my day I ran into a jazz club while walking the premises of the Galata Tower. The place is called Nardis Jazz and is considered to be one of the best clubs in town (as per the ratings on TripAdvisor and the recommendations of a Turkish friend). So I chose a performance from the schedule they had on the door and decided to go for one night and what a night that was. You would probably think it might be a little awkward for a veiled female to go to a live music performance at a club alone but I have to tell you it was far from being awkward! The place is really nice and cozy and the performance was amazing, one of the best I have ever witnessed. I was able to meet up with a friend whom I have not seen for a very long time and happened to be in town. I also had the chance of having a casual conversation with one of the attendees who happened to be working and living in Kuwait as well and was in Istanbul on vacation (what are the odds, huh?). I never for a moment felt weird or not at ease for being there on my own, I was so immersed in the live music that it didn’t feel lonely one bit!
Live street music by Mübin Dünen and the band .. For news and music please check https://www.facebook.com/mubin.dunen?fref=st
I used to start the day by putting some music on using my turned out to be over-sized headphones and walk. I would walk, walk then keep on walking a little more enjoying every bit of the city; the cold breeze on a sunny winter day, the hustle and bustle of the streets during rush hour, strolling the mazes of Balat and Fener perceiving the remaining old wooden buildings of those neighborhoods and observing the daily lives of simple humble Turks, setting by the Golden Horn sinking myself into the astonishing view decorated by flying seagulls, …
Welcome 2016 street decorations
One of the things I love the most about travelling is meeting new people and getting to know more about the way they think and their perspective of things through talks and conversations. During that trip I had the opportunity to converse with one of the locals who happened to be the hotel personnel. Apart from him being very helpful and always providing advice, talking with him was very compelling. The conversations ranged from politics, music, religion, travel, to the café he is opening soon (I really hope he did by now), and even the customs of Turks and how similar/different they are to Egyptian ones. And though it was my first time to actually meet the guy, the conversations were very enthralling. It was refreshing to be engaged in such intellectual talks and be appreciated for who I’m, the way I think and stand up for what I believe in without being judged for how I look, dress or the fact that I’m veiled. I kept on thinking that if people managed to overlook physical appearances and succeed in looking deeply into a person's mentality and character and treat him/her accordingly then our lives would be much better, or so I think anyway! I will always value those conversations because they were a strong inducement to hold on to my beliefs, thoughts, dreams, aspirations, and most of all my personality; they worked as huge incentives for me to cling to what I stand for when everything around me keeps on sending negative vibes because of me not being so mainstream!
Walking my way through Balat and Fener on this beautiful sunny winter morning
That trip granted me the time and opportunity to contemplate and have private conversations with myself (credit for those last words go to Passenger for needle in the dark) and for the first time since I don’t remember when my mind was able to shut itself from thinking and overthinking completely (a zodiac sign hazard). I can’t even manage to successfully do that during shavasana but for some reason I lost the ability to think about things during those four days and I was only enjoying myself, absorbing the experiences I was being offered.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that travelling solo is not entirely a bad idea, I know some people don’t like it because they hate the fact of being alone but I believe one should have at least one solo trip in his life before deciding to boycott traveling as his own company. You never know how it can turn out to be, you just need to try for yourself (wink).
And now that I'm reminiscing about that specific trip, I can't help but notice how much I have enjoyed the solo trips that came after. What do you feel about solo traveling yourself?
Thanks to the trip that restored my belief in myself, what I’m, and what I aspire to be and made me a selfie expert, haha!!
Published by Marwa El Agroudy