One thing is looking certain for 2012. Plenty of Independent travel bloggers are putting a pin in the map and choosing Turkey to be a destination they visit in the next year. Hey, I cannot fault them. After all, Turkey just rocks when it comes to just about everything!
Now, as much as I like to keep readers to myself, the more independent information that I can share about Turkish travel, the better. With this in mind, during the year I will be featuring the bloggers who will be visiting Turkey and writing about their adventures on their own blogs.
The first blogger is Alex Berger from VirtualWayfarer. Alex is a 26 year old masters student from America, now based in Denmark. He is very active when it comes to trying out new travel experiences and his blog has some amazing photographs of his past travels.
As soon as I learned about his plans to land on the shores of Turkey, I harassed him into giving me an interview. He will be visiting Turkey from the 26th of January to the 11th of February and you can follow his travels on Facebook or check out his blog to discover what makes Alex so passionate about travel.
Me: Hey Alex. Welcome to the Turkish Travel Blog. Turkey will be the 34th country that you have visited. Tell us how you fund your active traveling lifestyle.
Alex: Thanks! My funding has actually changed significantly in the last 8 months. Between 2008 and June of last year I was working full time as Director of Research for a mid-market Mergers and Acquisitions group. That provided the funds for a few budget travel based trips, but made getting time off difficult.
Still, despite my two weeks of paid vacation a year I found ways to leverage holiday time and unpaid time off to work in two, 18-21 day international trips a year. That wasn’t enough for me though, and in June 2011 I left my job and re-located to Copenhagen, Denmark to enroll in a 2-year Masters program.
Now I’ve got the time to travel, and being based in Denmark makes travel within Europe much easier/cheaper. Working around hefty airfare costs makes a huge difference in total trip cost. The bad news is that I’m back on a student budget living off savings, student loans, and student work. I have always enjoyed travelling as a budget traveler, so it’s just a matter of prioritizing travel over other unnecessary expenses.
Me: Which parts of Turkey do you plan to visit and why?
Alex: I was pleasantly surprised by the price of budget airline travel inside Turkey, and lucked out with a great special. My flights around the interior ended up costing about the same as traveling by overnight bus would have.
I’ll be flying into Istanbul, from there down to Cappadocia. After that I will be rounding the trip out in Antalya and then flying back up to and out of Istanbul. I actually chose Antalya over Ephesus after reading some of your blog posts about the area – so thank you!
Me: You may have heard that hassle from the shops in Turkey is sometimes a bit over the top. Are you prepared to deal with the hassle or will you end up buying a load of junk because you cannot say no?
Alex: It’s definitely not something I look forward to. Luckily I’ve gotten much better about saying no over the last few years. Now it really doesn’t bother me much. It also helps that I’m 6’4″ (193 CM). I find that when I say no confidently people tend to take me seriously.
Me: In most shops, if a price is not displayed then bartering is an accepted tradition. How are your bartering techniques? Are you able to grab a good bargain?
Alex: Whew, it has been a while since I had to barter aggressively. It usually takes me a few days to get my skill back up to par and stop feeling guilty. I love a good deal though and I don’t mind walking away if I have to, so I’m usually up to the challenge.
One thing I always wonder about is where and when barter is appropriate. Street shops and stalls are obvious locations, and similarly a restaurant isn’t usually the best place – though I have managed it in Greece during offseason. It’s a fine art and definitely not a skill I get to practice often here in Denmark!
Me: I don’t think Turkish cuisine is the best in the world but would still recommend tasting it. Will you be sampling culinary dishes such as Baklava and the varied kebab range or will you be running for the nearest Burger King at every opportunity?
Alex: I absolutely love Baklava and have a habit of trying just about anything I can get my hands on, at least once. I’m also a bit of a kebab addict (or should I say connoisseur?). Food is pretty expensive here in Denmark, so I’m looking forward to splurging a bit and enjoying whatever local delights I can find.
One favorite past time of mine is to find a small dive, give them a price range and then have them pick something traditional for me to try. I usually have no idea what I’ve eaten, but it’s almost always a good experience. Still, when I get lazy I have been known to head into a fast food restaurant for a good old fashioned burger or two!
Me: The Turkish language can sometimes be a bit of a tongue twister. Will you be attempting to master the basic words such as hello and goodbye or will most of your holiday consist of pigeon English and varied hand signals?
Alex: While I’ll try for some basic Turkish words, I’m afraid I tend to be more of a lazy gestural traveler. Which is to say, a bit of English, lots of body language and perhaps a Turkish word or two. Language tends to be one of my primary failings as a traveler.
(Note – After 33 countries, I would not call your language skills a failure!)
Me: Holiday accommodation in Turkey varies from your luxury five star hotels to your budget hostel room. What is your preference and why?
Alex: I’m a hostel guy through and through. Honestly, I just love them. I usually travel solo and I enjoy the social atmosphere a hostel provides. I’ll choose a hostel over a budget hotel for this reason, even though the added privacy and comfort of the hotel can be alluring. Hostels also give me a great peer group full of advice on things to see and do, which aren’t always the same as what is in a guidebook or suggested by hotel reception.
Me: I often have an image and expectations in my head before I visit a place. In one sentence, tell me how you image Turkey to be?
Alex: Old, historical, chaotic, rich, colorful.
Me: Last but not least, for anyone who wants to start an active life of travel, what three tips would you give them?
Alex: 1) Set goals and make them happen. There are lots of excuses why not to travel, from money to safety. Ultimately, these are just minor speed bumps and ways we justify not going for it.
2) Solo travel is NOT lonely travel. People often fail to take a trip because they can’t find someone to travel with. In all honesty, the wrong travel partner is far worse than not having a travel partner at all. Go for it, and use the tools at hand to meet people on your trip. It’s an incredible, social, and rewarding experience.
3) Figure out what part of the world/world history you’re most passionate about and start there. Don’t go places just because everyone suggests them as “must see” tourist destinations. Start out by going places that YOU are genuinely curious and passionate about. Then, as you become a more successful and experienced traveler, expand your horizons to other new and exciting destinations.
Many thanks Alex! – Really looking forward to reading about your Turkish travel experiences and seeing your great photographs that I am sure you will get plenty of.
How to follow Alex and his travels through Turkey
Do you have any tips for Alex to help him on his travels around Turkey? The destinations he will be visiting are Istanbul, Cappadocia and Antalya. What should he see and do while in these areas?
Are you a blogger who will be visiting Turkey in 2012? If so, get in touch with me to take part in an interview and be featured on the Turkish Travel Blog.