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Revisiting

A perennial travel debate is New versus Familiar. It's a good debate because there are no right or wrong answers, and there is real value in each approach, but my international travel has always been heavily tilted towards the New.* Sometimes I split the difference by going somewhere New that is also relatively Familiar, like my visit to Morocco the year after I went to Turkey, or Indonesia the year after Vietnam, but on both occasions I found that I enjoyed myself more when I stopped focusing on the Familiar (and how it wasn't entirely familiar) over the New. I dabbled this January in Familiar, spending a day in Panama City eight years after my last visit, but I went even further with it over the last two weeks, making a return trip to Turkey, a place I fell in love with seven years ago. I came back intending to return someday, and told enough people about the reasons why that I was able to do it with company this time.**

I am still in love with Turkey, and I know that it's real because Turkey has changed, and so have I, and we accept that about each other. I know now that certain attractions in Istanbul require waiting in line, and that things are more expensive, that the overnight buses have seat-back entertainment units, and that the ticket stubs for cultural heritage sights have been redesigned and are quite lovely both individually and collectively. My parents did not insist that I keep them notified of my location this time around, and I'm not entirely sure they knew when I was actually out of town. But the fundamentals are still in place, and so are the shockingly friendly people, the Old Book Bazaar, the pigeons clustered around the Yeni Camii and the rock tomb at the end of that one street in Kaş that's just sort of there the way that the Old State House in Boston is just there, history that you get so comfortable with it becomes a mere wayfinding device. Turn left here for the entrance to the subway station, at the place where they read the Declaration of Independence for the first time in public. I bought a light scarf before my last trip to wear in mosques, and it came back with me, as did the tiny phrasebook and an Orhan Pamuk paperback that is not the same Orhan Pamuk paperback I took last time, but is close enough, both in theme and in how much it weighs in a half-full backpack.

I stayed mostly on the Aegean coast this time, covering less ground, taking fewer long-distance night buses and in less of a hurry in general, though the list of Things I Saw And Did is still quite substantial, especially once I was traveling solo and free to assume the persona that Andy once called "The Little General" after the forced march of one of my itineraries in Barcelona. The Little General exhausted the sightseeing possibilities in a pretty major coastal town in like 24 hours and was like "So I'll just go to Greece tomorrow" where she did pretty much the same thing to the old city of Rhodes. I went back to Kaş, for a couple of hours; and Ephesus, for a morning; and the Blue Mosque, for a few minutes, and to a lot of places for the first time, including some things I was sad about missing back in 2007. I didn't try any majorly new foods, just ate all the things I'd been craving for seven years in multiple varieties. Olives for breakfast is still something I think the rest of the world should get on.

My homecoming was not profoundly different than last time. I went to sleep earlier is the biggest thing.

* Domestically, though, it's pretty funny how frequently I travel and how few places I travel to. It's the handful of big coastal cities you'd expect just to look at me: Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Portland, Seattle, blah blah blah. I get to one new American destination a year, tops, if I'm deliberate about it and lucky.
** Alone or With Company, of course, is a whole other perennial travel debate that I have a pretty solid opinion on. But as with the other, I'm finding some value in flexibility, and will have had company at least part of the time on 2 of my 3 international trips this year. And, wow, I'll have taken three international vacations this year! My life is pretty great.

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