Why we’re cancelling our travel plans to Turkey
A few months ago we planned the first leg of our 2nd year of travel. We would start in Budapest (Hungary) where we would stay a couple of months. From there we would go to Romania for another month, then on through Bulgaria to Turkey. We hoped to be in Turkey by mid-November and take a few weeks in Istanbul, followed by a couple of weeks vacationing in Cappadocia and Pamukkale.
Things change quickly. When we arrived in Budapest in late July there wasn’t much talk of the migrants crossing the Hungarian border from Serbia. Now, 2 months later, it threatens to tear Europe apart (as I wrote about last week). It’s all anyone talks about. Then there’s Turkey’s military escalation over the last month.
As we prepare to leave Hungary after 2 months, we’ve re-thought our plans after Romania. We’ve decided not to go on to Turkey.
There are a few reasons.
The first is the threat of terrorism. With Turkey now fully engaged on two fronts, against both ISIS and the PKK (the Kurdistan Worker’s Party), it is a county officially at war. Things can happen. I’ve read some blogs that specialize on Turkey and they downplay the risks and pull out statistics about how your chances of getting killed by a terrorist action are less than the chances of drowning in your bathtub or killed by a lightning bolt. Probably true. But I also know that if anything ever happened – especially to Spanky – that I would blame myself to the end of my days. I’m the one who plans the trips and who convinced her that we should visit Turkey. I also remember in February my mom mentioning to me that it would be fun to meet up in Tunisia for a little vacation. “Nothing happens in Tunisia, it is very moderate” said she. All true at the time. How quickly that changed. We might go somewhere else than Turkey and something unexpected may happen there. You never know. But to knowingly go somewhere where we know that there is an elevated risk of something happening? Like I said, I could never forgive myself.
Then there are all the migrants crossing through Turkey. With all the poverty and misery it just doesn’t feel right to be vacationing in their midst. Bodrum for example, full of 5 star resorts and luxury yachts, is the staging point for migrants leaving on dinghies for the Greek island of Kos (the route that has been in the news because of the number of drownings). Would you go to a place where bodies are washing up on shore? It doesn’t feel right to be vacationing while this is going on. It’s a dilemma similar to going to a favela tour in Brazil. Some people find it invaluable to understand how people are living in such conditions on a day to day basis. That argument has its points. But to us it feels slightly voyeuristic. And that’s another reason we’re not interested in going to Turkey. We’re don’t want to be confronted with more images of the migrant crisis.
It’s a shame because Turkey has many sites that are unique and worth visiting. Maybe we’ll go one day under more ideal circumstances. But for now we’ve decided to cancel our plans to visit Turkey (we ended up going to South Africa which ended up being my favorite country).
Addendum: Bombings in Ankara, Istanbul, and then again at Ataturk airport have confirmed we made the right decision. We hope to one day make it to Turkey but it won’t be anytime soon.
Addendum 2: We finally visited Turkey in 2019. See here.
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