It had been so hot the past few days in Turkey, that I could barely manage to leave my hotel room in the city. After suffering through the heat for what felt like forever, I took the ferry to Bozcaada, a beautiful former Greek island-- one of the only two islands left in the Aegean, still belonging to Turkey.
After taking a short dolmus (minibus) ride from the town center to the beach, I stopped at the closest, most convenient place for water. It turned out that the owner was an English speaking man who had just moved from Istanbul to open a small bar right in that very spot.
“You’re from Australia, right?”
I snickered at this Turkish man's poor read on my accent.
“Not even close!”
It’s always funny to me how non-native English speakers can’t tell the blatant difference in accents between an Australian and American.
“I’m from New York,” I corrected him.
After chatting for a minute, I headed down to the beach for a much needed jump in the sea. In the past years, it has become one of my main missions in life to find the best beaches around the world, and almost all of them have been in Turkey.
Returning to the bar after two hours of swimming I got talking with the Turk who sold me the water. As many people do, he left his life in the city for the quiet island life to open the small beach bar.
“I can’t believe that you’re traveling alone as a girl here in Turkey,” he said to me.
Yeah, I get that a lot.
“I see no reason to be afraid of the world. What makes traveling my own country where there is just as much hatred and violence, any safer?"
He realized that I had a point.
“If you’d like I can drive you back to town and we can get dinner. Only if you want.”
Most of my friends or anybody who hasn't traveled much would probably tell me that this was a horrible idea. But the way that I see it is that life is not only an adventure that must be had, but it's also about having good judgement. It's about knowing when somebody has good intentions and when they have bad ones.
Sometimes my intuition does fail me, but this time it did not. I’ve had my fair share of being picked up by men with the intention of sex, but I could tell that this man was being genuine.
“Do you want a tour of the island?” he asked. Did I? Hell yeah.
Not only that, but he knew of a spot where you can see a wrecked ship off the coast. Anybody who knows me, knows that I LOVE abandoned things whether it’s buildings, vehicles, or ships.
And so we went off to see the abandoned ship. I showed him how to use his camera, took some shots of my own, found out that he had worked at a summer camp not far from my home town, and had dinner (for free) at his friend's restaurant right on the marina.
After many years of traveling both in my own country and around the world I've made an important realization: it’s important to trust your judgement and be careful who you go off with, but also not to be afraid of every person you meet. Because in situations like this evening's, trusting a stranger resulted in nothing less than an incredible night. That’s part of why I love Turkey and the Middle East— people aren’t afraid to talk to you and invite you for tea or dinner by the sea. It can definitely be a bit scary sometimes, because as we know, not everybody has good intentions. But, when you pick the right people you’ll end up having unforgettable experiences around the world.