First stop – Istanbul
Except for the last trip to Morocco, on each trip I went alone. All alone. When I was twenty something years old, I sat on the flight of Croatia Airlines. Destination was Istanbul. Plane ticket was cheap and Istanbul was a world I knew nothing about. I was hungry. For different worlds. For far away. Istanbul found me. It was chaotic and raw and majestic. It was perfect.
In Istanbul, I ran from the police and the water cannons and the pepper spray. I went to karaoke where I met a native American. I chatted with Turks over endless cups of tea. I went in and out of trams. I spent hours bargaining and getting lost in the Grand Bazaar, a labyrinth of about 4,000 shops selling spices and teas, pots, clothing, lamps and sweets. I sat in the Blue Mosque. Alone.
Upon graduation from college, I flew more than 8,400 kilometers away from Croatia. Alone. I put my whole life into a red backpack. One-way ticket had one name on it – Thailand. Again I was hungry. This time for the worlds that were even further. I went from one temple to another. I admired the lanterns in Bangkok Chinatown, I ate spicy foods and stared at the palm trees during long train rides. Alone.
In spite of fear, I dived into the mad sea in search of glowing plankton. I chased fireflies and sunsets. I was cycling around the island of Koh Phangan until my feet couldn’t take it. Or until I was being chased by dogs. I followed a Buddhist monk into the woods. He felt my presence but said nothing. I knew he was smiling at me. This childish game brought me to a mango stand. I bought two and tore them with my bare hands, enjoying their sweetness. Alone.