Picture: Hasankeyf, Turkey
Hometown: Penang, Malaysia
I've drank liquid opium with the Bishnoi elders in Rajasthan, shared bootleg alcohol with the locals in a Johannesburg slum and danced with the king of Swaziland.....but few of these places have changed me the way Southeastern Anatolia did.
Southeastern Anatolia is where Turkey's long-standing conflict with the Kurds, one of the country's biggest minority groups, comes to a head. But while the journey though the homeland of the Kurds was long and tedious - some roads are rigged with bombs and plans change without warning - it was very rewarding. I visited towns so old they were considered the cradle of modern civilization. I met the final remaining speaker of a language so ancient it is now extinct. I was greeted warmly everywhere I went, and invited into homes for tea. I remember this little girl in this poor, hilltop village of Mardin and how she came to me shouting, "Justin Bieber! Selena Gomez!" in an attempt to connect. It was the only English she knew but it showed that, despite all of our differences, we are all the same.
Today, towns like Gazientep and Sanliurfa aren't safe for tourists because of their close proximity to Syria and their emergence as new ISIS hotspots, so I feel incredibly privileged to be able to see these places when it was still possible. Sometimes, I wonder if some of the people I've met are still alive, and safe.
I'm a lot less adventurous now with 2 young children, but I'm glad I'm able to look back on it all with fondness....and a little disbelief! I can't wait for the day when I'm able to hit the road again, with two grown boys, and show them all the beauty and tragedy of this world.
Favorite travel quote:
"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!" Hunter S. Thompson
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