As I mentioned in my last few posts, I was inching towards turning the big 3-0. Well, it finally happened, and I’m here to report that I’m still intact. As you may have experienced, decade birthdays usually come with their own set of uncertainties. Mine was no exception.
Leading up to my birthday, I had mini moments of panic about trying to wrap my head around the finality of leaving an entire decade behind. Then I realized although my fears were justified, I was missing out on how rich this past decade of my life had been, and the anxiety of growing older slowly melted away.
My twenties were hugely transformative in every area of my life, but most notably they helped me realized how influential travel is for me. It introduced me to the thrill of traveling without the safety net of my family, whether it was solo or with someone else. It made me realize that home can be in the place where you grew up or halfway across the world.
So without further hesitation, here are some of the defining travel moments of my twenties, if you would care to do a little time travel with me…
Studying Abroad in Krakow
I’ve talked a lot about how Krakow has a special spot in my heart on this blog. As a 22 year-old college senior, who didn’t know anyone who had been to Poland before, I was having major doubts about going. The main reason that I was drawn to this country was that my grandparents were from small villages right outside of Krakow. Turns out that I ended up loving it so much that I came back to visit three separate times after that. A place you learn to call home will do that to you.
Traveling Through Europe After College Graduation
One of my closest childhood friends and I decided to celebrate our college graduations by an epic backpack adventure across Europe. This was definitely a trip of trial and errors. In Barcelona, we didn’t book our hostels ahead of time, and ended up having to stay in a new one each night. The good outweighed the bad though, with highlights that included paragliding in Switzerland, visiting new friends in Portugal and stalking a cute French guy named Gino who worked at the Munich train station. Ah, to be 23 again.
Visiting Turkey for the First Time
At 26, my travel dreams came true and I got to visit Istanbul, a city that had been on the top of my bucket list for awhile. My first trip to Turkey was magical, but also chaotic, since it was the Ramadan holiday and it seemed like everyone was visiting (already overcrowded) Istanbul. Nonetheless, that first trip is etched into my memory, even after eventually living in Izmir for two summers and going back to visit Istanbul a few times after that.
Going on my First Solo Trip Through Poland
Right after Turkey, I made a quick detour to Poland, on a ten-day solo trip through the North and then back down to the South, where I got to visit my grandmother’s village for the first time. It was on this trip that I learned how addictive solo travel can be, and how surprisingly social an introvert like me was when all by my lonesome on the road.
Teaching English in Turkey
Going back to Turkey during a brief summer break from grad school was an easy decision, and this time I went back to teach English. Learning to navigate Izmir’s bus system was a little daunting at first, but the 45-minute commute along the sea quickly became one of my favorite parts of the day. I did not love teaching, but I loved my students who would invite me to tea and tell me about their interesting lives (like the adventures of being a sea captain).
First Trip as a Couple to Germany and Poland
Honestly, this trip was a bit of a disaster. It snowed most of the time, I didn’t sleep for a night because of poor planning, and Mustafa got super sick. But despite our many mishaps, my strongest memories were wandering around snowy Berlin hand-in-hand and drinking hot chocolate spiked with vodka in Krakow as the snow fell silently outside. Once a romantic, always a romantic I say.
Learning Turkish in Turkey
I was back in Turkey a year later and this time it was as a language student learning Turkish in Izmir. Some of my fondest memories was struggling over verb tenses with a small group of fellow language learners from all over the world and knowing that we were all in this together. During the weekends-following local tradition-we would escape to the seaside towns like Cesme or Alacati to beat the triple digit temperatures.
Starting to Appreciate Los Angeles
My brief stint in LA during college turned me against this city-the traffic, the sprawl, the superficiality was not my style. It was only until recently that I began to dig deeper and realize the true diversity of the city. There are so many different worlds in LA and I cannot wait to continue exploring them through their culinary highlights. Next on my list: Sawtelle, Koreatown and San Gabriel Valley.
Traveling to Barcelona Solo
For my second solo trip abroad, I went back to Barcelona, a city that had left a less than favorable impression in my early twenties. I’m glad I got to go back and discover what a beautiful and vibrant city it is, especially in late spring-just before the stifling heat and the crowds descend. Also, if you are looking for a hostel in the city, Fabrizzio’s Petit, is the place you want to stay, trust me.
Experiencing Summer in Seattle
Mustafa and I have done our fair share of local travel now that we are both based back in the Bay Area. One of my favorite trips was going to Seattle, and experiencing it during the summertime. Having only been before during the grey winters, it felt like a whole new world.
Looking back on my twenties, I’m grateful for all the experiences I’ve had both back at home and abroad. I recently heard somewhere that growing older is a gift and that’s how I’ve chosen to view it. So with that being said, I cannot wait to see what this next decade has in store!