Turkey is going back on full lockdown tomorrow, April 29, until May 17. What does that mean? In a nutshell, Turkish citizens and foreign expat residents (i.e. ME) are not allowed to leave the house except to go to the grocery store and we can only leave the house to walk to the closest market(s) in our neighborhood… basically! Turkey has been on restriction since I arrived almost three months ago in February as a tourist. I knew somewhat what I was getting into, but as a tourist I wasn’t fully subject to the restrictions. I never imagined that three months later Turkey would be regressing with Covid-19 here & enforcing even more restrictions. I’ve heard numerous theories from the local expats as well as native Turks about the motives behind the tightened restrictions – some say it’s COVID-19, some say it’s Ramadan, and others say it’s politics; but regardless of the reason the situation left me in a position of having to determine what to do next. Particularly, because now I had been approved for residency and received my Ikamet, making me fall under the jurisdiction of the restrictions, just like every other non-tourist. I had planned to leave Istanbul on April 30th to spend a month in Izmir, another beautiful province in Turkey located on the Aegean coast. I had tours planned, a birthday photoshoot, and I had even hopped on the dating apps to see what the Izmir dating vibes were like. In an instant all of that came to a halt!
Initially I was triggered by the news of lockdown, having spent two months (57 days to be exact) on lockdown in Michigan due to COVID-19 in 2020. Yes, Michigan was one of the few places in the USA that actually shut down fully, only allowing residents to go to the store and home. I recalled how anxious, upset and alone I felt, not to mention how unproductive I was and how much weight I gained. In a PTSD-driven panic I began to frantically look up other countries to which I could flee. After a few hours of letting my thoughts spiral, I returned to myself and my logical side kicked in (thank you mom for teaching me those breathing exercises and shoutout to Jhene Aiko’s “Trigger Protection Mantra”.) I said, “Ok La, what are your options?” 1) Stay in Istanbul, 2) Go to Izmir, 3) Go back home to the USA, or 4) Go to another country. I sat down and went about the task of mapping out the pros and cons of each option.
Going to Izmir was an easy option to “X” off the list. I was only planning to be there for about four weeks. Three of those weeks would have been spent on lockdown, preventing me from going on adventures, touring, and experiencing life in Izmir to the fullest. Hopping to another country abruptly with little to no planning was also another option that was quickly tossed.
There were some countries nearby that were open, but it was quite limited – Greece, Malta, North Macedonia, and a few other places. Moreover, the extent to which they are open is kind of unknown because most of them still have some level of restrictions and curfews, and you won’t fully know what to expect until you get there. Then there’s understanding the COVID-19 entry requirements, changing language & currencies, adjusting to a new time zone, and incurring unbudgeted expenses. Not to mention, figuring out where to stay and what to do when I arrive.
This type of travel may sound exciting to the experienced globetrotter, but I still consider myself an international newbie. I knew that suddenly navigating all of those factors would introduce undue stress and throw my energies way off. After all, I just started feeling settled in and relatively proficient in navigating throughout Istanbul. Also… who gon do my nails and lashes in North Macedonia?? REAL QUESTION!!! I digress… Going back to the USA had so many pros, and at first it seemed like the obvious choice. Being in the USA meant I’d be able to go luxuriate at the Orlando Ritz-Carlton spa and sit poolside while a cute cabana boy with a thick accent of some sort serves me craft cocktails and artisanal hummus after being rubbed down from head to toe and having a much needed facial extraction…. Followed by an amazing dining experience in an actual restaurant and…. more cocktails. AND I’d get to see my mama! WHEW! Ok where was I? Oh yeah, while going back home certainly presented me with the opportunity to indulge in all of my favorite things (and people), it would take me away from the things that I value so much about life here in Istanbul. The benefits of being in Istanbul were far fewer and quite simple, but they were powerful in their simplicity. The more I pondered them, the more I realized how much those simple things had raised my emotional and spiritual vibration over the last three months. My light is brighter, my outlook on life is shaped by unlimited possibility, I’m consistently joyful, my innermost being is full of gratitude that is freely expressed, and I’m less easily irritated… I mean y’all, I haven’t cussed anybody out in three whole months. I could go on and on, but the last thing I’ll mention is this: I created a digital vision board in January of this year (2021). Before I left the USA I printed it off so I could be sure to see it every day (if you don’t know about the power of visualization, go to YouTube). A few weeks ago, I noticed that the vision was truly coming to fruition. I’m starting to become who I want to become, attract who and what I desire, and create the life I imagined. Why would I want to interrupt that flow? Why would I want to disrupt a state of being that has obviously been good for my spirit, my energy, and my overall wellbeing?
In my time here in Istanbul, Turkey, I have found that foreigners travel to Istanbul and/or make it their home for a myriad of reasons. I began this journey of international exploration genuinely seeking to see what life is like in other parts of the world and how various places around the globe would change me. Well, let’s be honest, I really started the journey for the international FOOD, but that’s another blog for another time. As for the question of how I wound up in Istanbul specifically… I don’t really know, but I’m grateful that I did. Here’s how life in Istanbul has raised my vibrational frequency, and why you should add it to your list of places if you’re seeking the same magical experience.
- The time-zone works to my advantage!
I work for a USA-based company and I maintain USA-based working hours (EST) during the week. This gives me the opportunity to start the day in the way that serves me BEST by prioritizing the activities that benefit me most energetically. Most days I sleep until I naturally wake up, no alarms or anything abruptly forcing me to get up. Then I gently ease into my morning routine: Make my bed, scripture, prayer, meditation, yoga, visualization, exercise, coffee, breakfast… or whatever serves me for that day. If I’m touring or going for a morning walk with my neighbor, I don’t always follow this structure. But the point is, I have the opportunity to start my day off with the pace and activities that make me feel good. And best of all… I don’t have to engage with ANYONE until well after 12PM TRT. If you know me, then you know this is CRITICAL! By the time my work day begins I’m ready and usually calm. I have found myself more focused, more easy-going, and overall more productive in my work as a result.
- I don’t have or need a car to get anywhere!
Pretty much everything I need is within a 30-minute walk and Istanbul is very walkable. Everything else is a cheap metro ride or taxi ride away (and there’s an app for Taxis in Istanbul!!). It’s become a very normal thing for me to walk 5+ miles (8+ km) a few times per week. Walking, fresh air & sunlight (Vitamin D) have all been scientifically proven to a) enhance your mood, b) improve cardiovascular health, c) reduce anxiety, and a host of other health & wellness benefits. I NEED THAT! And thanks to all of the hills and stairs in Beyoğlu, I’ve noticed my booty getting kinda round and cute too :-)!
- Aesthetically it’s giving me everything I need!
It’s just beautiful here… period! Y’all know it’s the views for me!!! And Istanbul has views on views on views. Whether it’s the sunkissed sparkling sea, panoramic city views, lush viridescent forests, breathtaking historic sites, funky graffiti & street art, beautiful mosques, colorful charming homes, or other interesting architecture, my need to be visually stimulated is never unmet. Additionally, parks, hiking trails, amazing food, museums, culture, and historical sites are virtually inexhaustible here. This has aroused new interests in history & architecture, and I’ve discovered that I love hiking. I anticipate many more new interests as I continue to explore the country.
- Minimalist lifestyle has freed me… and saved me lots of money!
I’m an expat, but I’m also a digital nomad. That means, I plan to move around, so I have to keep “stuff” to a minimum. I have 2 suitcases worth of stuff and nothing more. Coming from North American culture where we somewhat define people’s success or status based on the “stuff” they have, this has been so unexpectedly freeing. I live in just enough space to do what I need. My primary space requirement is that I have enough room to freely do yoga. My secondary requirement is that I have a dedicated & comfortable workspace. I only have the clothes & shoes I need. I don’t mindlessly overspend on trinkets and unnecessary items… well I have occasional moments, but not like I used to. Instead, 95% of the things I’ve bought here have only been things I need to replace old things, things I will consume now, and things I truly love; or something that I think someone else will use and truly love (and can be shipped directly to them from the store LOL). This means that in my space, when I look around I see no clutter or junk, no things I regret buying, just things that bring me joy and things that long after I have journeyed on from Turkey, will remind me of this divine season of my life. Ok, well there is that one pair of shoes I bought during my 1st week here because I was caught up in the moment, and I actually really hate them and have never worn them; and some boots I bought thinking I was going to start going on dates and then quickly reversed that thought, but that’s a story for another time. This aspect of life here has allowed me to focus on making memories & full engaging in having a transformative experience.
- It’s budget-friendly here for those with USD!
Beauty & wellness services, food (both groceries & restaurants), housing/lodging, public transportation, domestic air-fare, touring & sight-seeing, etc. All of these things can be done without having to be “rich rich”. It’s also conveniently located between Europe and Asia, and not far from Africa; making it cheaper to get to these countries from here versus other countries in the world. Obviously, “budget-friendly” is all relative to your tastes and preferences, and the currency you earn. I have found things here to be quite favorable compared to the USA. I believe that life is to be lived and lived well. Being graced to live out that belief without worrying about how to make it financially feasible is such a rewarding experience… Especially when you’ve worked hard for it!
- The culture is warm and welcoming!
Based on my research, being a Black, American, female, solo traveler is not always met with open arms in some countries, but I have had consistently great experiences here in Turkey. I have found kindness, warmth and generosity in all of the Turkish people I have met and engaged with! The hospitality is unlike anything I have experienced, and I imagine that it would be even moreso in non-pandemic times. Whether it’s the shop-owner offering me Turkish kahve while I try on kaftans for an hour, or the consultant inviting me to stay for a home cooked meal with the staff after helping with my Ikamet application, I have been treated well everywhere- almost like family. Turkish people are always eager to help and adamantly refuse to accept anything in return for their kindness. Best of all, I’m never thinking about “being Black”, like I’m always thinking about it in the USA. Yes, there are the occasional stares of people who aren’t used to seeing all this melanin, but it’s never seemed to be a factor in how I’ve been treated here or in the quality of the experiences I’ve had. Now I will say this as a disclaimer: I’ve only been here three months, and I haven’t had to engage in spaces where other Black people and foreigners in general have reported experiencing discrimination such as in real estate and banking transactions, seeking medical care, and finding employment for which they are qualified. Nevertheless, I can only speak to my personal experience, which has been amazing.
So in a nutshell, I’ve decided to stay in Istanbul for now, in hopes that things will improve by May 17. Although this temporary lockdown means I won’t be able to engage in some of the things that have made my life here so fulfilling, I will make good use of this “down time”. First things first, launching this blog you are currently on, drowning myself in my spiritual practices even more, and making a contingency plan for going to another country temporarily until things improve here in Turkey- if necessary. I’m going to spend time being strategic on how to make my next move my best move, instead of making a hasty decision out of anxiety and fear. I’m grateful that my time here in Turkey so far has helped me to have a clear picture of what is most valuable to me lifestyle-wise, which is key to me deciding where I may journey on to next! I hope things get better here so I can continue exploring this amazing country, but one thing’s for sure- Nothing is going to kill my vibe!