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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I too understand. I’ve been considering Sicily and they have a problem there as well. Turkey is somewhere I’ve wanted to head for and have put it on hold for similar reasons (though where I want to go to is far away from the migratory situation).
Hi Ted. Yes, I guess Sicily has kind of fallen to the back page but you’re right. I don’t know how bad it is these these days, all we here in the news in Greece and the migrants they’re receiving from Turkey…
We’ve actually got Southern Italy in our plans for next summer so let’s see where we go from here.
Thank you for taking time to comment 🙂
We travelled for 5 weeks in Turkey July/Aug of this year. We were in the country when the first major bombing happened in Suruc. Although we felt completely safe, especially in the East where it is primarily Kuridish, we did change our travel plans while in the country as we were heading to the south, Saliurfa. Amazing history and sites to see but like you, if anything happened to Alyse while we there I’d never forgive myself.
Everybody’s got an opinion but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do! It’s your life and your vacation. C
Cheers and looking forward to reading through more of your blog.
Thank you Ross for your feedback. I wrote this a few weeks ago and we were still leaving an opening for Turkey.
Yesterday’s bombings in Ankara confirmed everything for us. Things are getting worse and not better. Shame.
Such a shame the way things are going, sorry to hear your plans had to change… I was in Turkey for three weeks in 2013, and loved it. Turkey is an incredible country with plenty of amazing sights to see and things to do, and people are friendly and hospitable.
Having said that, it’s amazing how fast things can change though, so it’s worth being careful. In 2011 I was planning a trip From Egypt to Turkey via Jordan and Syria, but I decided against it as things started to go awry. Until 2012, tour companies continued to go and the Syria tourism commission continued to say travelling through the country would be ok, and all of a sudden look how fast security declined, and now it is a full-blown war.
I’m hoping things won’t get as bad in Turkey because I loved my time there, but for now you’re better off putting off plans until the future, and hopefully in the next few years things will settle back to normal!
Thanks Claus – I enjoyed reading your Turkey posts. Everyone seems to enjoy their time there.
We’ll keep informed and who knows, maybe we make a last minute decision to go.
And food which depends on the people. The most popular countries in Europe and Asia have the best food.
You’re right – one thing about Thailand is that I could eat Thai food almost every day and never get sick of it. Love it!
Things happen for a reason. Hundreds of other places to see and I wouldnt worry about it. Often the best memories are the people you meet rather than ‘attractions’ and I don’t buy into that ‘must see’ nonsense which is just a marketing term. People who go from one ‘attraction’ to the next have totally missed the point if travelling imo. Objects are just objects. The people are the heart and soul of a country.
I mostly agree with you Tom. People ARE what you usually remember most about a place and what will bring you back (if ever). But on the other hand there are places that I’ve always wanted to see. Like a few attractions in Turkey, climbing Table mountain in Cape Town, seeing Victoria Falls in Zambia (which I saw as a child and have been wanting to see again). Life is short and I’d like to see those things.
On the other hand I won’t put my life on the line to see a place that might be having conflict.
This is a right decision, Frank. A year or so ago we canceled our trip to Syria and lost a lot of money (booked hotel, tickets, etc.) Life is expensive.
American actions in the Middle East deliver a lot of problems to Europeans.
Thanks Victor, appreciate your support on this. Sometimes we waver because we really did want to go and I’d love to take a balloon ride over Cappadocia.
I’m not blaming it all on Americans. Really, in the Middle East, the finger will be pointed at them whether they do or whether they don’t. Syria was because of inaction and had they helped the rebels they would in the end have been helping what would later be ISIS. Whatever they had done or will do it would have ended in a bad result.
Personally I hate winter 😉 But I think on a nice, crisp day, and with fresh snow they are indeed beautiful! Also Lake Bled in Slovenia in winter is spectacular, google some photos – you’ll be enchanted! And remember that now you should be as careful in Western Europe as in Turkey… And you might see refugees there… They make camps in many cities. I’ve seen it myself in Belgrade and it nearly broke my heart. It seems there is no simple solution to it…
Yes, I’ve seen photos. Also Hallstatt in Austria.
Lake Bled not a bad idea as we missed it last time going through Slovenia.
I guess its a nice luxury being able to decide to go anywhere 😉
Really? You missed the lake Bled? It’s an absolute must! 🙂 Austria is also nice as well as Poland and Switzerland. But do go and visit lake Bled, you won’t regret it 🙂 I know you liked Ljubljana and Bled is a hundred times better.
You’re right, now traveling in Europe can be difficult… But to be honest media focus so much on Turkey and the East while now, western Europe is not safer at all… Just yesterday there was a bomb threat on a train from the Netherlands to France. I wonder why government websites do not state about such threats in Western Europe… I hope the situation will be stable again… Turkey is an amazing place (I didn’t enjoy only Istanbul) as is the Middle East. Where are you planning to go instead of Turkey?
All true. We haven’t decided yet what we will do but keeping all options open. We may come back to Western Europe for December, haven’t seen winter in a few years. I imagine Prague or Munich being very pretty in winter.
I understand how you feel. I was in Istanbul in June and it was quite hectic, but as a military member it’s not the safest place to be at the moment. The US has started evacuating family members at the bases in the region, voluntarily right now but from what I’m told it will soon be mandatory. I can’t help but feel like they’re preparing for something.
So happy you commented, that’s an interesting perspective.
i would research the situation thoroughly before going and make a call, and I would certainly be hesitant from all that I’ve heard thus far. The bottom line is it’s probably not as bad as you think, but if you’re going to feel uncomfortable or uneasy, it’s not worth going because you are far less likely to enjoy yourself, you’ll find yourself jumping at shadows and the like. I would think it depends on which regions you’re going to as well.
With some time hopefully things will improve in the region and Turkey will still be there to explore. You’ve got Bulgaria next to Romania which I think is a lovely place, you might even consider Russia. Armenia, Georgia are very welcoming places too. you have plenty of choices!
Thanks for taking the time to comment Andy!
We were in Istanbul for a month in February and it was wonderful. When I initially saw your heading I thought ” What are they on about?” I guess things have happened since February that I haven’t heard about. I make a point of not watching the news. I’m not a beach lover, so places like Bodrum were never on our itinerary, but no, I don’t think I’d want to be there right now either. We live in Romania now, in the far north, Maramures County. Be sure not to miss it, it’s like nowhere else you’ve been before, pure magic. Stop by and say hi if you make it to Breb!
I was in Istanbul exactly a month ago and it was also fine then. I barely came into contact with any refugees on my visit, especially coming from Budapest, where I live in Budapest, where the crisis seemed much more prevalent here than in Istanbul. I guess things change on a daily basis at the moment :-/
Thanks for that Jennifer, good to know. I wonder if they somehow bypass Istanbul?
How did you enjoy the city?
Yes, have to admit being in the middle of the crisis in Budapest has influenced us somewhat…
Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂
Thanks Alyson, nice to hear you enjoyed Istanbul. We’re not big beach lovers either, the place I was really interested in seeing was Cappadocia. Would love to do the hot air balloon ride.
I saw a comment on your facebook page and I concur – I don’t agree with you guys. Turkey is a big country and it would most likely be police and military that would be targeted and if that probably in Ankara or Istanbul. As for the refugees, if you don’t want to see those, then go back to Canada because soon you’re going to see tent camps in every major European city. Don’t just dismiss a country for what ‘might’ happen. If that were the case nobody would have gone to England during the IRA attacks. Northern Spain would have been off-limits because of the ETA. Who would have dared go to the USA after 9/11? You could also tell people not to go to France because of the terrorist attacks there.
Thanks for the comment Jack. And I understand the points, don’t think for a minute we haven’t thought of all these things. But if you were travelling with your kids or wife right now, would you take them to Istanbul? Or Egypt? Or Tunisia? PKK may target police/military but ISIS has intentionally been targeting tourists. And the Syrian border may seem a long way away but things have evolved fast.
We travelled to Colombia back when FARC was still active. When nobody went. But it was a low level insurgency that had been going on for decades and if you knew where to go you were pretty much safe. And they didn’t target tourists. What’s going on in Turkey is just getting started and our plans were to be there in less than 2 months…Look how quickly everything has escalated in recent months. We’ll continue to watch the news and see where we are in November. But if things stay on the upswing I won’t go somewhere where we might be putting ourselves in unnecessary danger.
As for the tent camps, read my previous post for my thoughts. If it happens European leaders only have themselves to blame.
Wow – I am shocked guys. I wished you had at least agreed to spend a few days here before making any further decisions.
Partly thanks to you we’ve been excited at the prospects of going to Turkey. But with all that’s gone on in the last few months we feel that this is the best decision. We’ll be in Romania in a few weeks and will keep up with the news while we’re there. Maybe something will change? But right now I think this is the best decision.
Interesting. Just this morning as we were listening to the world news on the radio, I had a thought pass through my head – I don’t think I want to travel through those regions any time soon. It’s all so sad and overwhelming. It’s a double edge sword though because you can see how some of the regions rely on the economics of tourism. With that being said, it’s a big world out there and I’m a big believer in listening to your gut instincts. Safe travels!
Thank you Patti. That basically sums up how we feel.
I completely understand. We just returned from Turkey, and it was an incredible place to experience, but I agree that you are making a good decision. A few weeks back, when the PKK attacks occured, we were already on our way. My husband was terrified for our safety (especially mine) and came very close to rerouting our travels. I convinced him that we should stick to our plan, but given more time we likely wouldn’t have gone either. It’s all very sad. It’s such a beautiful country, and the people are the most hospitable we’ve encountered on our travels. Hopefully things settle down soon.
Thank you so much for commenting here with your experience Andrea. Makes me a bit sad that it’s come to this. But appreciate that you agree with our decision.
I understand you so well. We’ve been playing with the idea of visiting Turkey for about a year. It is so tempting, especially after some friends went there for couple weeks this spring and were raving about how they liked it. However, there is no justification for knowingly going into a war area (doesn’t matter an official or unofficial one) where your loved one could be hurt. It’s not a risk, but plain carelessness. We can wait until the situation improves there.
Thanks for the comment Elena. I convinced Spanky that we should go because I’ve always been curious about Turkey. She was always nervous having never been to a Muslim country. But now, with all that’s going on, I’d feel horrible if I convinced her to go and something happened.
I understand your hesitance, and I would make the same decision under these circumstances. Like you said, unexpected things can happen anywhere, but I could never forgive myself if I knowingly went to a country in a state of unrest/war/upheaval and something terrible happened to my loved ones. I hope you guys find another great place to go!
Thank you Katrina. That’s exactly how we feel. Lots of beautiful places in the world without war, we’ll easily find something else.
I don’t blame you one bit! It’s one thing going somewhere and things happen. It’s another thing to know things are happening and you still go. Safety first, Turkey will be there still. I wouldn’t go for all the reasons you mentioned. So? Will you be staying longer in Romania?
Exactly Kemkem, that’s my rationale. Plans a bit up in the air – but yes, if we like Romania will stay 2 months and then maybe come back to the Schengen zone (Prague, Budapest, Munich) for December into early January. Have never seen Europe over Christmas so might be nice.