A little over a week ago I arrived at JFK to grab my flight to Turkey. It was not my intention to do so a week before. I was supposed to be boarding a flight to head off to visit a friend for an extended stay in Manchester, UK. The universe and Covid-19 apparently had other plans for me. Turkey was supposed to be my second stop on my travels. I was not prepared. At least not in my mind. I thought I would have time in England to learn some Turkish, other than the one word I knew...Merhaba, which means Hello. I was going to check out places to go, where I should stay, budget. All those usually things that one does before heading off to a destination they've never been. As usual my life never seems to go how I plan.
The universe always seem to lead me on a different path. So, here I was again! A bit of fear ran through me as I knew I had only 5 days to decide if I should just go for it or go somewhere that was familiar or a bit "safer". One of the Caribbean islands? I had been living on the small island of Tobago, the little sister island of Trinidad since 2014. Again, not a place that was planned but 3 days after I had landed I instantly knew it was home. Do I head to Costa Rica? I had spent time there about 7 years ago. It was again in my mind "safe" in being that it was familiar. Then a little voice popped in my head. A voice repeating a saying I had been hearing for some time and has always resonated with me "Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that's the one that is going to help you grow". Turkey it was!
Why Turkey? Aside from limited countries for US passport holders to travel to right now, I've been drawn to Turkey for the last few years. Articles, movies, books and music had been popping up in my world. I know when this happens it's generally the universe guiding me. So, I started looking for flights. While going to my usual places online to search around I noticed a picture. It instantly gave me the chills. It was an image of hot air balloons. To most this would have just been another picture, one luring tourists into all the adventures that could be had. For me, that moment, this year....it was significant and sent my whole body into that shiver you get when something hits you just so. A sign of sorts and again I felt like I was being guided.
My mother had always LOVED hot air balloons. My hometown in Connecticut had a balloon festival. It was held a couple blocks in the park from where we lived. Weekend mornings during the summer we would hear the sound of the quick blasts of fire that fueled them and would race out of the house into the yard to watch them pass over. Most days they were floating so low over the house we would be able to wave to them and say good morning. She had become so impassioned about them that she became a chaser. She helped set them up, followed in a car and helped pack them away at that end of their flight. This year, 2020 like I stated was significant. It happens to be the 20th anniversary of my moms passing. Her funeral services took place the weekend of the hot air balloon fest in our hometown where she still had been living. Now I was staring at images of these balloons and I immediately started to Google "Hot Air Balloon festival in Turkey and there it was, my first destination, the Cappadocia region of Turkey. I immediately looked up hotels and found what looked like a very cute boutique hotel a short distance from the city center and was only $21USD a night that included breakfast. I booked for 5 nights. I was ready.
Now, if you're wondering what's it's like to travel during this pandemic it was actually pretty easy. Why? Well JFK, at least Qatar Airline's terminal was like a ghost town. Check in and baggage was the fastest I'd ever experienced. There were few in line. They didn't seem to care about my overweight baggage. That's a first BTW! Generally I'm frantically rearranging and handing off "extra" weight to a friend to meet the weight restrictions. Everyone received a clear shield on top of the mask that was already required. Once boarded and seated everyone received a sealed package containing sanitizing gel, another surgical mask and gloves. Everyone on board the 12 hour flight to Doha appeared from my seat to be in compliance.
The flight that I had from Over the Top Travel, an agency located in Florida found and book for me was longer than I had wanted but due to restrictions to US passport holders I was not allowed to even transit through certain countries. The much dreaded long flight was actually quite pleasurable. It was my first time traveling on Qatar and I have to say I would book with them again without hesitation! I had an entire row to myself, the service and food was far beyond my expectations and really one of the nicest flights I've ever experienced. It left me feeling inspired to now put Qatar on my list of destinations Now three flights later, equaling around 17 hours, 9 hours in layovers I had finally arrived at the Kayseri Airport located in the central part of Anatolia, which is the large peninsula in Western Asian also known as the Asian Minor. My new adventure and journey was about to begin....