Originally, I was planning to zoom through Turkey, heading quickly east to Georgia after Cappadocia. This is because a hike I want to do in Nepal can only be done between March - early December and I was imagining I’d do it in December, making me a little short of time. After thinking about it for a while I decided I was being silly, that I could do the hike in March and still have 5 months in Southeast Asia. This meant I suddenly had several months to fill before then. I decided I’d explore Eastern Turkey a bit. This is when I met Thalia, a lovely Swiss/Australian girl who was in my hostel in Cappadocia. She was also planning to explore the East, and was meeting another friend for this. Our plan was the same so we decided to travel together. There is no backpacking culture in the east, or really any international tourism culture. I now realise that there are three big obstacles to travelling around places like this, and if I hadn’t met Thalia I doubt I’d have been able to see the east as thoroughly as I have. Thalia, Helena and I travelled by bus to several cities in the southeast before being joined by another friend of theirs (they had all met at a workaway earlier in the summer). This was Felix and he had a van, a burnt orange VW T4. We travelled in this for the rest of our time together. There’s a separate post covering the places we saw and all of the travel insights, the rest of this post is about the challenges of travelling away from the backpacking trail.
- The expense. While the places themselves are much cheaper than their touristy alternatives, the lack of backpacking infrastructure makes it more costly for a single person. There are no hostels, meaning the only accommodation options are hotels. If travelling alone this makes it way too expensive, but one hotel room split between three is the same as a hostel (we paid on average 10EUR a night each, with breakfast). There are still good bus connections between the cities, but to get from the bus stations to the city centres the only option is a taxi. It’s the same for getting to many of the sights. Again, a taxi for one is out of my budget, but a taxi between three is pretty cheap! I’m not too sure how I’m going to navigate this one as I continue to travel alone in places like this, so stay tuned as I try out couchsurfing etc.!
- Meeting people. Without hostels I’m not sure how I’d have met anyone. After the often exhausting days in these alien places I’m sure I’d have felt lonely at times. This is going to be an interesting one over the next few months, but for now I’m excited for the opportunity to travel properly alone, something I haven’t felt like I’ve done yet.
- Feeling safe enough to enjoy local interactions. One of the biggest things I noticed about travelling away from toursity places was the reaction from locals. They stare a lot, and ask a lot of questions and are just generally very interested in what you’re doing there. Often they also want to share things with you - food, tea, advice. Sometimes they even want to show you around. Because of the culture here all of these interactions were with men. Although I’m sure most of these men had only good intentions, if I was alone I would be very wary of these interactions, and would perhaps attract more negative ones. As a three it was fine, and we felt perfectly comfortable in these interactions. I learnt a lot from these, so even when I’m alone I think I’ll be able to enjoy being an attraction for the locals!
The last few weeks have been perfect for me to ease into this off the beaten track style of travelling, and now I’m ready (and excited) to do more of it over the next few months.