Meet female traveller Hilal Bayar, a 23-year-old student from Istanbul, Turkey. Her travel too her to 30 countries over the past 3 years is inspirational and empowering!
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Merhaba dear ladies! (Merhaba means “hello” in Turkish!)
I’m Hilal and I am a 23-year-old senior student studying foreign language education. So far, I’ve been to 30 countries in only the last 3 years.
Where are you from & three recommendations for female travellers visiting?
I’m from Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is a huge city in which there is a lot to do, tons to visit and a lot eat. So I’ll recommend one for each.
- To visit: The Historical Semi Island. The first settlements in İstanbul were founded on this historical semi-island where you can visit the Blue Mosque, Hagia-Sophia, Basilica Cistern, Topkapı Palace, Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, Golden Horn, Taksim, Galata Tower, Pierre Loti Hill, New Mosque and many other cool places.
- To do: take a boat tour to cover many of the attractions through the Bosphorus Sea. You’ll ride past the Dolmabahçe Palace, the Rumeli Ruins, the Maiden’s Tower, and many mosques, mansions, and gardens along the way.
- To eat: Turkish breakfast. There is a neighborhood called Beşiktaş in which there are streets full with places only for breakfast that are open even till 7 p.m. As you can imagine, this breakfast is more than just a croissant and a coffee.
What does “to travel” mean to you?
Traveling is basically my one and only motivation to keep moving forward in life as well as a way of discovering myself.
What or who helped you get over the initial fear of traveling?
My first experience abroad was thanks to a government project which I was accepted to travel around several Balkan countries (9 countries total in 12 big cities) all for free, staying at hotels and with tour guides as well. That helped me to get over the initial fear and urged me for my upcoming travels.
What or who inspired you to travel?
My first abroad experience literally mesmerized me and I noticed that traveling was the thing that I was looking for to fill my life in with.
Where is your favorite destination and your three recommendations for other female travellers?
This question gets harder to answer as I keep traveling! However, my favorite destination is always among Mediterranean countries. I would say Spain, especially the south, is my favorite due to its delicious cuisine, flamenco culture and super friendly people.
- Try different type of tapas (appetizers, or snacks) – especially in Granada, it’s all free if you order a glass of beer.
- Watch a flamenco show in Seville, especially the ones that they play in local houses.
- Go to street drinking with friends (botellón)!
What is your most memorable or touching experience whilst traveling?
Since I value local culture a lot, I almost always travel using Couchsurfing. It was Christmas week when I went to Basel, Switzerland. Everything started even before I arrived there. My host seemed to be a super nice person and he had told me where the keys of the house were so that I could get in while he was working (because it was Friday). Therefore, I got in the house, left my stuff, went out to explore the city, met with some locals and came back home in the evening to wait for my host.
When he came, we went out to have some local food and hot wine from the Christmas market. It was my very first Christmas because normally we don’t celebrate it in Turkey. That’s why everything was super charming and interesting for me. While walking around the market, just out of curiosity, I asked him whether there were mountains to ski nearby. (I don’t have any idea why I even asked it because I had never skied before at that time.) He told me that there were some close by, but even better, he said that there were Alps in 3 hours drive and he had a mountain house there with skiing equipment.
Once again, everything I said as a joke turned into a reality and the next morning we were already driving to the Alps! I cannot describe how amazed I was by that mountain house facing to the Alps. He gave me all the equipment that I needed (because it was a family house and they had everything in every size). Later on we went up to the mountain, and since it was pre-season, it was quite cheap. That’s why he paid it all and didn’t let me pay. During the whole weekend, we were there and he taught me how to ski in 2 days. Since he’s been skiing since he was 3 years old, he was a super tutor! I was without words due to the beauty of the Alps, skiing, and the whole atmosphere there. I can say that it’s still the best experience I’ve ever had whilst traveling. Everything that I’ve experienced there was for just a smile in return.
Most incredible experience with fellow travellers?
Although I mostly travel solo, this experience happened when I was with a friend traveling around Turkey. We were in Adıyaman and there is a famous mountain called Mountain Nemrut where there are 6-meter high statues from ancient times. One popular thing to do there is to climb to the peek with tours to watch either the sunset or the sunrise. My friend suggested me to camp there to see them both. Therefore, instead of staying at our host’s house, we asked for a blanket and jackets from him to spend the night out there. The problem was that that site was a national park area. That means it’s forbidden stay there after a certain hour, let alone camping. However, my friend insisted on staying there and we just hid behind a little hill without security guides seeing us. In spite of a night full of fear and anxiety, we spent the night there, without a tent, right next to firn limit (non-melting snow during the whole year). Therefore, in the morning, we just ran to the tourist groups and imitated as if we had just arrived. At the end we could see both the sunrise and the sunset. Thanks to my friend’s insists, I’ve had an amazing experience which I wouldn’t have got if I was alone.
Have you experienced any challenges traveling as a woman?
The biggest problem for me is always being abused by men and having the unsafe feeling if I am minority (as just being a woman).
Anything you saw that shocked you on the road?
Skiing babies (literally). I still don’t understand how they are able to do that at those ages.
Most useful resources you use to check for travel info?
I always try to ask local people before I go to a place. First, I google main thing to do in that place and I also write to traveler pages on Facebook, but mainly I just wander.
That’s all from Hilal, got questions? Leave it in the comment box below! Can’t get enough of us? Follow for daily updates!
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