My Journey started right behind my computer as I was hunting for a plane ticket that met my budget. I also wanted to go somewhere close to Iran, since I knew I had to make a trip to visit my grandparents who live in Tehran. So, I decided to take a two birds-one stone approach and fly somewhere nearby, which landed me in Istanbul, Turkey!
Now, do I speak Turkish? No. Do I know anyone in Turkey? No. Do I know where to go and what to do? Not really, maybe only through Google and TripAdvisor results. My friends and family asked me what my “scheduled plans” were...honestly, I didn’t have any “plans” and I am actually glad I didn't !
Upon landing at the Istanbul Atatürk Airport, the first thing I realized was wow.. hardly anyone speaks English (even at an International Airport). Everyone starts talking to me in Turkish and I respond with "sorry sorry.. English please." They probably thought I’m some Turkish princess that forgot her mother tongue as soon as her plane entered the foreign airs of the stratosphere. Although I can physically pass off as Turkish, Arab, Latina, Pakistani, Indian (trust me, I’ve used my chameleon-esque features to get discounts wherever I can), I don’t speak every language.
I used simple English to find my way around, and found my way to the downtown area. I dropped my bags, freshened up and started exploring right away. I walked around, played with the street cats hanging outside the Donair restos and gazed at traditional jewellery kiosks. At this point, I’m super thrilled and filled with excitement and the fact that I am alone doesn't bother me one bit. Suddenly, I spot three Turkish girls in the middle of Taxim Square, spending a good 10 minutes taking 'selfies.' I observed them for a while and thought to myself, "well, if I took their picture, it would be so much better than some random selfie with the front camera of an IPhone." So I walked up to them and asked whether they wanted me to take their photo, they burst into a smile and said yes!
So this is how I met Hümeyra, Saadet, and Tuğçe (L-R)
After I returned their phone, I asked if I could take their photo with my own camera. They discussed my proposal amongst themselves hesitantly. I wouldn’t blame them; I could be a creepy person with a big camera (not true, I’m like the nicest person ever).
Using pseudo-Turkish-Persian-Islamic terms and simple English (mainly pantomime), I managed to tell them about my mission statement and how I plan on capturing the changes in women’s beauty and fashion around the globe, and I politely asked them if they were interested in participating in my project. I immediately gave them my website and asked her to search it on her phone, luckily, she had 3G and my website popped up right away, they saw my work and kept asking me “YOU ?? YOU ??? YOU TOOK THESE??” I laughed away and in my imagination, I clenched my fist pulled back my elbow as if I were Tiger Woods winning in a golf championship.
In this day and age of Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat right at our fingers, you can immediately bond with people of your generation over the internet and social media. We instantly started following each other on Instagram and became friends! Despite the negative connotations associated with social media, I still believe it is a fascinating technology that allows us to expand our circle of friends and learn more about the cool or quirky things people are doing worldwide.
If you are already following me on Instagram, you probably have seen some of the shots from this day. If you haven't seen them yet, click the link above right away. You will get a sneak peak into the shoot and see the peculiar emotions that are exchanged between two strangers. I am grateful that I am a female photographer since it can be easier to create a comfortable ambiance with my models, especially in a Middle-Eastern/more conservative environment. Click here to see Hümeyra laughing behind the scenes. All in all, I learnt a lot on this trip and it allowed me to think differently, without stressing for plans, schedules, timetables, itineraries and certainty. Now I know I have friends in town the next time I visit the city again. I took every day as it came and captured some memorable photographs on the way. I think everyone should experience this. Strangers aren't scary as we make them up to be, and in fact, they have lots to teach you. Your best friends today were once anonymous strangers to you at some point of your life.
So, next time you’re going somewhere, avoid making plans, but if you are an avid planner (like how I was) the least you can do is avoid making plans for 24 hours, allow yourself to get lost and allow yourself to leave your comfort zone. Adventures and possibilities can’t come knocking at your door if you don’t let them. Additionally, don’t let miniscule factors such as a language barrier or unfamiliarity of geography stifle your ability to go out and explore. Allow yourself to do things you wouldn’t normally do, and even amidst the ultimate height of your discomfort, simply check it off as an “experience” … and perhaps a good story to tell!
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à tout à l'heure!
Mina is a multimedia journalist currently based in London, U.K.
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