How much can you do in a short amount of time?
How long does it take to have an adventure?
For better or for worse, I have decided to spend some time in Istanbul. I will be here for a few months and I have a few commitments to keep me here on certain days.
Last weekend, I had four days without commitments. I squashed those four days into one minute.
As coined by Alastair Humphreys (read more about this guy, he is great), I gave myself a microadventure; an adventure that requires a short amount of time, a small amount of money, a small amount of commitment, and guarantees a whole lot of fun. I took a map and I thought about where I wanted to go. Then I went.
Last Thursday at midnight, I met a Danish friend of mine and his Turkish friend. They came to stay, armed with delicious dried peaches and after the departure of the Turkish girl, we decided to head to Sofia. A short metro ride took us to a busy road connecting Asia and Europe by dissecting Istanbul. We hiked along it for a bit until signs informed us that tractors and people on foot could continue no further. Then we stuck out our thumbs. It was only another 600 km to Sofia.
In an absurdly difficult place to stop, we were picked up and whisked on our way to be deposited on an even more absurdly difficult place to hitch from. Left in the middle of the motorway with traffic roaring past on either side, the car that picked us up had to wait several minutes before there was a gap in traffic for it to pull away semi-safely. But this is Turkey.
Minutes later a van pulls up and we’re on our way and Turkey remains safely at the top of my list of ‘best countries in the world for hitchhiking.’ We were still madly excited as trucks stopped, our journey continued, and I was happy to be back on the road after a recent hiatus. We were so excited that we fell asleep and the poor truck driver who picked us up must have wondered what the hell was going on. He was driving three sleeping hitchhikers, one-from-England-who-met-the-Danish-guy-in-Estonia-then-again-in-Lithuania-and-an-American-who-met-the-English-guy-in-Poland-and-the-Danish-guy-in-Turkey (boring, meaningless facts that we’ve been asked to repeat over and over again). I’ll blame the home brewed wine from the night before for this lack of social etiquette.
Late at night, my Danish friend decided to continue to England with the driver, leaving two of us on the side of the motorway in the dark, hoping for the last 10 km ride into Sofia. The first car to stop was a police car. He told us to take a bus and after explaining that I had no money, he told me to carry on hitchhiking. I asked him for a lift into town but unfortunately it was a little lost in translation. The second car to pull over was a taxi. No leva, no Euro, I explained. No problem! Seconds later, we were swerving across the motorway, undertaking and overtaking until we pulled into Sofia.
What followed was two lovely days of skiing, hiking through snow, and playing games with an eight year old in a mixed combination of English, Bulgarian, and German. Alas, I only know one of those languages. I did feel bad when I offered him a dried peach and the one he picked happened to contain half of a wasp; the head end no less. I soon learnt that my Danish friend had had a slightly less successful but even more eventful / exciting / entertaining adventure to England. He ended up somewhere in Kosovo, a place I’ve never been but hope to visit. During the time in Sofia, we managed to pick up four hitchhikers with our Bulgarian friend. The first was an elderly lady who insisted on leaving a Leva for the trouble. The second was a group of three guys. Two Koreans and a Bulgarian. One of the Koreans was from the same town that in which I taught English (Daegu), but it was the other who spoke English, so I spoke with him.
After a nice conversation, they asked seriously if I believed in the bible. Flat out no. It is important that everybody should have their own opinion. Equally important is respecting other people’s opinions. Shortly afterwards, we waved them good bye and disposed of their ‘join God the mother’ advertising flyer.
Everything working out well, we scheduled to return to Istanbul by leaving early on the Tuesday morning. Cue food poisoning. Details are not necessary but I was heavily sleep deprived, extremely dizzy, and still struggling to handle the road as I stumbled onto it at 1 pm. After several stops for unknown reasons, a €50 bribe to the police (paid by our driver), and a 10km walk along the motorway at night, we got back into Turkey. Two French hitchhikers rocked up and I invited them to stay with me if they ever made it to Istanbul before three Syrian guys in three separate cars that they were driving over from Romania offered us a lift. The cars were ancient and not in great condition, but apparently they were going to sell them, then fly back to Romania.
Racing back into Istanbul, we were dropped somewhere unknown in the monster city and took a taxi which was the greatest single cost of the whole adventure at 20 TL (about £7). Even more expensive than our ski passes.
If you think that there isn’t time or that you don’t have the money for an adventure, think again. Don’t think too hard though. Spend more time living the idea. Even if you only have 4 days. Or 4 hours.