Solo traveller and humanitarian worker Anil talks about her travels across the globe and the lessons she has learnt en route.
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Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a humanitarian worker living and working in Istanbul, Turkey. Both because of work and pleasure, being a traveller is a fundamental part of my life. It defines who I am mostly.
What is your story?
Born and raised in a country with so many limitations and pre-determined pathways for woman, I wanted to do something different with my own life. After working in a very stable job in my hometown Ankara, I quit everything, packed a ten kilogram bag and bought a one-way ticket to India. This journey of a life time lasted 18 months covering different continents including Asia, Northern, Central and Southern America.
During this travel, I realized being a traveller gives me unlimited freedom, but also re-draws my boundaries as a human being. Every new colour I saw, every new taste I experienced, every new sound I heard, every new smell I felt defined the person who I am today.
I came back to Turkey willing to give back to the world I live in. I moved to a city in the Syrian border, Gaziantep and started working with the Syrian refugees in Turkey. After a year in the southern Turkey; now I shifted my focus to finding sustainable solutions for the urban based refugee populations living in the northern parts of Turkey.
In the meantime, I travel a lot both because of my work; but also because of suppressing the endless hunger inside me for seeing different cultures. On the other hand, instead of consuming a lot, I prefer to live a life of production in terms of art. This covers mainly photography and ceramics.
We know you are a traveller. Would you like to share your some of your travel experiences with us?
I have a special interest for railways and enjoy crossing countries and continents via trains. I had the pleasure to experience the longest railway journey; Trans-Siberian express from Vladivostok to Moscow in 17 days. Similarly, I crossed the USA via train in 12 days stopping in different cities like Memphis to visit Elvis Presley’s homeland, New Orleans to experience the amazing music scene.
Spent three nights in the Sahara Dessert under the stars together with Bedouins drinking mint tea.
Had the great pleasure to dive in the most beautiful untouched dive spots of the world including Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Egypt, Philippines, Thailand, Belize, Mexico and Galapagos Islands.
Visited Syria just before the Syrian conflict began and listened to the stories of the last story teller in an ancient coffee house in Damascus.
Stayed three days in a tiny island in Philippines which has only five hours of electricity a day. We used rain water for showering and sea water for flushing.
Spent four days in a mediation monastery inside a forest in Myanmar starting every day at 3.30 am, respecting the holy silence.
Lived three months in Quetzaltenango in Guatemala, trying to learn Spanish and many more…
Being a traveller changed my life! I experienced many unforgettable memories which I keep deep in my heart.
Why is important in your opinion for women to support other women?
Being a Turkish woman comes with its own difficulties that you have to know your limits and boundaries. You are always expected to act, live and behave in a certain determined way. Most decisions concerning you are made by others either on behalf of you and sometimes even without even consulting you.
In my opinion, as women, we need have more trust in ourselves. We are more than what is expected of us. For this reason, the first step should be to see what we really are, to have courage in ourselves and our abilities. This can only be happen with the secret and untold sisterhood among the women who are facing similar difficulties on a day to day basis.
Who was your hero/ heroine growing up?
Of course, my mom. She is the most courageous, crazy and strong woman I ever met in my whole life. My mother was always the first person to believe in me, when I came up with the craziest ideas. Even though all the difficulties she faced, she always found a way to make it happen.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Whatever you do, do it with compassion. Love deeply and gently. Be confident about your dreams, you are the only one, who can make them happen.
Where are you from? Can you give three recommendations of things to do for our ladies travellers visiting your hometown.
I am from Turkey, living and working in Istanbul at the moment. Even though it seems a little bit hectic nowadays, Turkey, still is a great place to visit.
First of all, Istanbul is a must. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world connecting two continents: Asia and Europe. It is the intersection of many cultures which brings so many colours together.
The second place to visit would be Cappadocia and it is one of the most impressive and rare occasions to visit. Its fairy tale rock chimneys and caves can take you to a different planet.
Last, but not least, I would suggest Mardin which is a beautiful border city that never gets to featured in the “must-see” lists in Turkey but it deserves to be there. With its beautiful mystic streets and architecture, amazing food and famous home-made wine, it has so much to offer.
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