I just recently completed a little bit more then 2 weeks of vacation in Turkey. To say I was nervous about this trip would be an understatement. I have not taken a “real” vacation in 5 years during the time of my wife’s illness and subsequent passing. I took time off while she was sick of course but that was to help her more at home, especially at the end when I took more and more time in order to help give her medications, bathe her, carry her from room to room, change her oxygen machine filter, etc.
After she passed I took most of the month of January 2013 off, but I spent it grieving and a large portion on the phone with her credit card companies and insurance and all the other bureaucratic nightmare that death brings. From then until this vacation I had taken a day here or there or a weekend here or there, mainly to just recharge the batteries – sleep in a little extra, go hiking, things of that nature.
So knowing I was going to be in Turkey for over 2 weeks should have filled me with excitement, instead I was filled with trepidation. What if something goes wrong? Will my son be okay with his grandparents? I’m traveling to Turkey during Ramadan, how will that effect me? How will it effect the country?
I remember arriving in Istanbul and driving to our first lodgings and seeing the city and knowing I was beyond the point of no return. And I wondered what the hell I had gotten myself into! But with the help of good friends who kept me laughing and seeing the sites and the amazing history it was fine. That is not to say it went off without any bumps – I was in Capadoccia in central Turkey later and found myself depressed. I missed Joan. I remembered that she had always wanted to visit that place and see the sites. And I found the Turkish people around me chattering and laughing to be very isolating. I am a very international person, and have traveled all over the world – so someone speaking another language at me or around me doesn’t usually bother me. But perhaps because I was sad at being alone, hearing others laughing and talking about things I could not understand felt cruel and isolating. Luckily it was a passing thing and with sleep and rest I was able to move past it.
And then something magical happened. I found myself in a small town in central Anatolia called Beysehir. This is an ancient town with a covered bazaar and a 750 year old Seljuk mosque. It was quiet the people were friendly and it sits on the shores of a beautiful lake.
After seeing the lake, which has a turquoise blue water, I was invited to an iftaar (a large meal eaten at the end of a day of fasting) with local businessmen from the town. It was here that it was suggested to me that opening a boutique hotel here and advertising package tours of the region could be an option. This is something I had never considered before and I felt the world open up in front of me. Here I am in this beautiful country, filled with generous and decent people and an avenue opens up that could change my life. What better way to spend a vacation after losing someone you love, then to have a lifetime opportunity fall on top of you?
From there things only got better. I traveled from there to the ancient capitol city of Bursa and again found new vistas opening in front of me. Here is an ancient leafy city filled with history, but also only a few miles from the ocean on the Sea of Marmara (on the Bosphorous), with natural hot mineral springs, and a cablecar lift that takes you up to the top of one of the high mountains surrounding the city – here there is an alpine climate, hiking and a ski resort. Opportunities for skiing in the morning and going to the beach in the afternoon.
I met with businessmen there in Bursa and again in Istanbul and was surprised when I talked to them how little planning or movement they had in the IT industry. Many of them relied on IT for book-keeping and keeping chemical formulas and the like, but none of them had considered security, emergency backup solutions……and just like that a new idea struck me – another idea would be to start an IT consulting business in Turkey. Why not? Bring Wifi solutions, network security, etc. to the businesses there.
Of course nothing is going to happen immediately. I am back in the US. I need to focus on my job, making sure my savings are in order, talk to potential business partners both here in the US and in Turkey. But with any luck I may find myself back there again in a year, except this time to stay.
The other concern about Ramadan was a non-issue. I was able to fast just as the locals do, I was able to participate in all the rituals. Hearing the call to prayer 5 times a day meant that I did not have to worry about when it was time. In Turkey during Ramadan everything comes alive after dark, after the iftaar fast break meal the malls and shops are open, there are lights everywhere (it is after all a lot like Christmas in the US) and the people are friendly. Special prayers are offered in the evening and I was welcomed at every turn.
So this trip gave me much to think about as far as future life plans and opportunities. But spending time in prayer and reflection in a country where this is encouraged and is not seen as something to hide or dissimulate about meant that I spend a lot of time kneeling in prayer and praying for my son, for myself, for Joan, and for humanity at large. The process of spending much of your time surrounded by other people also praying as fervently as you meant that I could feel the sharp edges of the shards of my broken heart soften. They are not healed and will always ache, but I feel better inside and outside in ways I didn’t realize were possible before this trip.