I have left the Rainbow Gathering in Spain and I am in Barcelona, listening to Turkish music with my friend, Julien. I turn to him and say, “I miss Turkey. Let’s hitchhike to Turkey together!” A few days later, a spontaneous Julien has packed a (heavy) rucksack and said goodbye to his life in Toulouse.
We hitch through the French Alps and spend the night in a disused military base in Briançon.
We travel onwards through Italy, which is renowned for being really difficult to hitchhike through. But travelling with Julien, who turns out to be SUPER HITCHHIKER, we never wait more than five minutes for lifts. We head to Venice, where a journey on the vaparetto (Venice’s water equivalent of the Tube) costs a massive seven euros for a one-way journey. Luckily, there are no ticket inspectors. We are standing in San Marco square, contemplating whether the cathedral is beautiful or not.
I admit to Julien that “actually, I would rather be in the nature than looking at these buildings. I am more fascinated by the birds in the square than the cathedral…” At that exact moment, a seagull divebombs into our heads, lands on the ground beside us and a sparrow falls out of its mouth. The frightened sparrow tries to get up, but before I can save the little bird, the seagull grabs the sparrow in its beak and swallows the petrified creature in one gulp. I am left traumatised.
Our trip through the Balkans proves more difficult than in France and Italy, and our attempts at hitchhiking are met with looks of contempt and fear by the locals. One woman even locks herself in her car as Julien approaches her. But I have a genius idea: we are in Croatia – still four countries away from Turkey – but there are Turkish trucks everywhere on this route. I change my sign, which says ZAGREB, to one which says TÜRKIYE. The first Turkish truck immediately stops. Turks are so so proud of being Turkish! Julien is introduced to Turkish culture long before we get to the country. He is given free tea, free bread, free water…he is told by a driver, “I have travelled in every country, but I LOVE YOU, TURKEY!”
As we cross the border to Turkey, it feels good to be back. One week in Istanbul is more than enough, so we head down to my favourite part of the country, the south-west coast. I first visited this coastline last May, and walked the Lycian Way hiking trail. The Lycian Way changed my life completely, made me connect with nature for the first time and realise that a city environment is completely unnatural for humans. From then on, I disliked being in cities.
I am eager to show Julien the more beautiful parts of the route. We hike for four days, meeting generous local people (and it helps that my Turkish has vastly improved since my last visit here). And as I hike, I remember all of the lovely friends I made on this hike last year and I reminisce. The weather then turns shit and we take refuge in my friend Katie’s home (thank you, Katie!)…but in a few days we will continue to hike up Mount Olympos to witness the end of the world on the 21st…
For the first time since starting this blog, my travels are starting to feel like the blog title: Aimless. I am unsure about my next move, only sure that I will stay in Turkey over Christmas, but then what? Stay in Turkey and learn Turkish? Head to Armenia and visit my friend Jo? Move back to England and work and do activism? Do farming somewhere? Move to Scandinavia to work? Who knows….