I have a secret, guys. Really, really big news. It’s been really, really hard not saying anything on my blog, but if you follow me on Twitter, I’ve let it slip out here and there.
JUST KIDDING! I’m at that age now that whenever one of my close girlfriend’s says she has some big news for me, it’s either “I’m engaged” or “I’m gonna have a baby,” either one freaking me out and making me feel like a bad female. Does this ever happen to you guys (ladies)?
So what’s the equivalent of a young female solo travel blogger getting a bun in the oven? I’m going on a press trip to Turkey in two weeks!
In the midst of my January depression, aside from taking photos for my Sunset Project, I downloaded the Skyscanner App on my iPhone and would tool around on it between meetings at the office.
And do you know what destination kept popping up again and again as one of the cheapest places to fly to in February from Washington D.C.? Turkey. After a few weeks of back and forth, I finally got permission to take off President’s Day week from work (paid vacation, I love having a big person’s job). Go ahead, ask me how much the flight was. You will hate me.
After that it was just a question of planning where I wanted to go, what kind of trip I wanted, and organizing sponsors.
I really wanted this trip to be an opportunity to show the world that traveling to a country like Turkey is not only awesome, but totally safe for a solo female traveler. The Middle East gets a bad rep with the lady travelers, but after spending some time in Egypt and Morocco, I feel like I’ve learned a thing or two, and I wanted to put it into action by building my own trip to Turkey alone as a young woman.
Then the US Embassy in Ankara was bombed on Friday. Damn. How was I going to explain that to my mom? She watches the news. Remember the train bombings in Madrid? And London? These things can happen anywhere, it just so happened that it was in Turkey. I’m also not planning to hit up Ankara while I’m there, and I’ll avoid any embassies and American flags. Then an American woman traveling alone was found murdered in Istanbul today. Well crap. I am planning to spend a lot of time in Istanbul as a young woman alone. How was I going to explain that to mom?
Cancel my trip? Um, not going to happen. I’m the kind of weird person whose ultimate trip is to go to Iran and North Korea; Turkey doesn’t scare me in the slightest. And honestly? I feel like many cities in the US, places where I have spent a lot of time, are far more frightening that places in Turkey. Many cities in the US top the highest murder rate charts and 2,300 people go missing every day in the US. I’ve been to 25 countries, and I have no problem saying that the place where I feel the LEAST safe, is the United States, and I am so afraid of what this negative press is going to do to Turkey’s tourism. There is a big dearth of information about this case in Turkey, but I think one big point that sticks out was that this was this woman’s first trip outside of the US and she went to Turkey alone.
From my Pinterest page
Not smart. That fact alone should raise eyebrows. Over the years I have learned to be a very cautious traveler, especially since I travel alone frequently. This will be country # 26 for me, I feel prepared. Of course anything can happen, but anything can happen anywhere, and I’m not going to let something like this keep me from a beautiful country and travel opportunity. I went to Egypt right after the revolution there, and it was one of the best trips of my lifetime.
Even more so, I am going to use this as an opportunity to document and show you how anyone can travel to Turkey, especially as a solo female traveler safely and with caution. My goal is to show you and as many people as possible that events like this shouldn’t keep you from traveling somewhere you dream about.
Enough politics and female empowerment, let’s talk SWAG!
I’m getting the total hook-up on my trip to Turkey, let me give you a taste.
Or in my mind, Constantinople, since I’m the biggest history dork on the planet. Apart from living my dream and getting to walk around the famous Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque, and seeing the artistic, bohemian side of the city, I will be getting to know Istanbul like a local, exploring lesser-known neighborhoods around town and getting to know the markets and getting naked in as many Turkish Hamman baths that will let me in.
I promised myself I would write more about food in 2o13, and I shall! I am partnering with Turkish Flavours to experience all the smells and tastes Turkey has to offer. Not only will I be going on a day-long private tour of the spice markets in Istanbul, we will cross over the Bosphorus by ferry to the Asian side of Istanbul to explore more food markets and sit down to a 20+ course lunch (note to self: pack stretch pants). And if that’s not enough Turkish cuisine, I will also be spending one evening learning to cook with the company’s founder, Selin, so I can recreate my favorite dishes back home and for you all too!
And where will I rest my head at night? At the boutique Hotel Empress Zoe right in the old quarter, Sultanahmet. After reading approximately 1,000 reviews of hotels, I decided if I could stay at this charming, charming, garden and flower-filled space, I would. I’m a big fan of staying at special little places filled with character, and Hotel Empress Zoe fits the bill. Just look at it! Don’t you want to stay here?
I first heard about Cappadocia listening to Adventurous Kate talk at the TBU travel blogging conference in Portugal last fall. A freaky lunar landscape spotted with caves paired with an ancient Byzantine history, I knew I had to check out this region in central Turkey.
Source, Flickr Creative Commons
I will be getting up with the sun to take a hot air balloon ride at dawn over Cappadocia with Royal Balloon. I rode my first hot air balloon in Egypt last year over the Valley of the Kings, and I can’t wait to check out this eerie region in Turkey from the skies.
After a glass of celebratory champagne, I will spend the next two days exploring as much of Cappadocia as possible, from snowshoeing and trekking around the region to hopping from one ancient village to another, Middle Earth Travel is giving me the total hook-up. Also, how excited am I to be working with a company called Middle Earth Travel? This much.
And where will I be sleeping? In a cave hotel. That’s right, I will be sleeping in a cave at the famous Kelebek Hotel. Dreams do come true.
Ephesus and Pamukkale
For the last leg of my trip I am heading to the coast to visit the famous ruins of Ephesus (best preserved ancient ruins in the Mediterranean). Being a complete history dork, I am beyond excited.
Source, Flickr Creative Commons
The next day I’ll head south to Pamukkale (how do you pronounce this?) to visit the weird blue “Cotton Castle” pools. I’ve never seen anything like these cave pools. They don’t look real. About Ephesus tours will be hosting me on both tours.
Source, Flickr Creative Commons
I am doing a lot of other things that I am holding out on telling you guys just to maintain an air of suspense about this trip, but feel free to take a peek at my Turkey Pinterest board for some hints. I can’t give away all my secrets now, can I?
While I am in Turkey, I will be live tweeting and Instagramming my trip, so be sure to follow along with my adventures. I have also commandeered the following hashtag (I hate the word hashtag) for my trip: #LizInTurkey. Very creative I know. I wanted to use #GoTurkey but I thought that sounded fairly ridiculous. If you can think of a good hashtag for my trip, leave me a comment and I’ll use the best one.
Finally, for all you up and coming travel bloggers out there, this is my media trip I have organized all on my own. I would have never gotten here without the help from the BlogHouse I attended last fall before the big travel blogging conference TBEX. If you are interested in taking your blog to the next level and learn how to make travel blogging into a career, I suggest you apply ASAP! If you are interested in the business side of blogging or making your travel blog more successful, apply ASAP. They have just opened applications for the next TBEX in Toronto this June. All details here. If you have questions, I can point you in the right direction firstname.lastname@example.org
But most importantly, do you have any tips for Turkey for me? I want to hear them all!