As I have a sip from my cup of coffee, I take a look around. Then my eye catches a decorative bird cage in the corner of my friend’s living room. I remember that cage very well. It used to be mine. It used to stand next to my console and it was where I kept my wine bottles in.
Now, back in Istanbul after one and a half year of traveling and being a guest from one friend’s house to another, I get to see the pieces of my old life which I willingly shattered.
I gifted many items to friends. There, my apple tv and tea maker, here my bird cage. They used to stand all together in my apartment and now, they don’t even belong to me anymore.
A feeling of longing comes and sits on top of my chest… Longing of a home, a sofa, a bed and a library. That sweet feeling of belonging somewhere. Now, neither I have any belongings, nor I belong to anywhere. I feel the loss, like I am about to say farewell to someone… Hug and kiss her goodbye.
There, my apple tv and tea maker, here my bird cage. They used to stand all together in my apartment and now, they don’t even belong to me anymore.
When I first came back a month ago, I put my clothes to the washing machine and watched it running for a good 5 minutes. As it tumbled left and right, I thought how I took things for granted and considered them as basic needs of life whereas they were actually luxuries for many people, in many countries.
While I was traveling through my way, I often found myself hand-washing my laundry to avoid the cost or in some countries like India, it didn’t matter if I gave it to the hostel I was staying, they were going to be hand-washed anyway. Someone was going to spend time and effort for my clothes to get cleaned just because they do not have the necessary means.
Maybe it is the age. You know, if I was to be a 21 years old young girl, who just came out of college, who didn’t get too comfortable with life yet, I wouldn’t have struggled with challenges like this too much. Straight out of a student home, sometimes with no electricity because we simply neglected to pay the bill, my conditions of traveling wouldn’t have seemed as harsh as it seems to my eyes now.
But as a 38 years old woman, a former white collared employee who got used to trade her time for money, who is used to consume just to avoid the fact that it was her life being consumed and getting very little things in return, like the false feeling of security, maybe this trip was extra hard on me, compared with my younger peers.
When I told my friends about my decision of backpacking through the world, one of them had laughed, knowing my tendency towards cosmetic products, manicures and facials and claimed that I’d be the fanciest backpacker ever lived. I proved him wrong. I backpacked like a donkey, using this term literally for the first 6 months. I was carrying 18 kilograms on my back just because I was a rookie then. Through time, among many things I also learned to pack lighter with less clothes and items. I learned to sleep in crowded dorms, night trains and long bus rides. I have to admit, I spoiled myself with cheap Thai massages and had a 12 dollars manicure once where I was chasing after 2 dollars breakfast menus at the same time in Ecuador. But I thought I also had to do what I am used to every once in a while. Just to have something familiar, just to go a little back to my comfort zone.
When I came back, I have realized how much I missed some things. Like the sound of a boiling kettle and its vapor on the kitchen’s windows. That little sound, promising you a warm cup of tea. The nice feeling of being home. On times like this I wonder if the word family comes from familiarity…
The smell of the pages of a real book, not the pdf file you keep swiping on your tablet. The relaxing feeling of a hot, strong shower, not the string of lukewarm water coming out of the shower heads of a shared bathroom. A puffy pillow and freshly washed and ironed linens… A breakfast table, you spend hours reading your magazines and newspapers. A small space to call it your own.
How much I have missed those little things those used to be the part of my routine and I didn’t care a bit about back then.
I was feeling a little sorry for myself not having those things anymore.
After getting mugged on several occasions and losing the most essential items like a computer, a cell phone and a passport, I have realized that I was craving for feeling a little secure. Safe… Not having the need of checking my bag in every 10 minutes to see if my wallet and phone is still there, not holding it on my lap while I am trying to eat in a restaurant and not to put them into lockers every night before I go to sleep but tossing everything on a sofa. To be able to fully understand the language spoken around me and being able to communicate without any misunderstandings. To be able to go into negotiations and if necessary arguments without a language barrier.
That cozy feeling of curling under a blanket with a book and a cup of tea on a rainy day.
As I was feeling a little sorry for myself not having those anymore. It hit me: I could if I really wanted to. All I needed was to get a full time job and get back to my career. I could rent an apartment, collect my stuff from friends and the storage house and I could make all the vapor on my own kitchen’s windows by boiling hot water in the kettle or brew fresh coffee with my own coffee machine.
I made mind that instant and booked a ticket for Indonesia…
Because I also realized, I was getting sucked back into my comfort zone like a whirlpool which I tried to swim away in the expanse of hurting my arms for the past 1,5 years.
I have left my career because I was simply dissatisfied with my life. What I have been doing, those soul torturing meetings, brain melting creative sessions, decoding briefs, reading researches, pitches and presentations, I didn’t like them and I didn’t like the life I have been living although it had some occasional perks.
I know that I have been living a privileged life compared to millions of people in this world and it is a privilege to be able to walk away from it as well. It is a privilege to be able to travel for such a long period of time, moreover doing this voluntarily not being forced away from my own country because of wars of terrorism. I fully acknowledge this fact and I couldn’t appreciate it more. But I also know that there is more to life than having a mortgage and credit debts. I have saved myself from “work, consume and die” cycle. I have learned to live with minimum items. I know that I don’t need more… and some more to be happy. I gave myself the opportunity to do something meaningful with my life and I will pursue this opportunity even it means I have to hand- wash my laundry for the rest of my life.
I just turned 40. Hopefully there is a long time ahead of me. A time just too valuable to be spent in a cage. I am out. I can not go back. I will not go back. It would be like going back to an old lover, forgetting why you left in the first place because you only remember the good memories.
And please tell me, who needs a stupid bird cage anyway, when the whole world is waiting for you, out there?
Solen Yucel is a traveler & blogger who believes that establishing human connection and learning through each other’s experience is the true essence of her journey. She can be followed through Instagram and Facebook here.