We’re often asked “Don’t you ever get homesick?”
To answer that, we’d first have to identify a home. Here are the responses I got when I asked our family, “Where is home?”
Sandeep “Wherever you are.”
Ava “New York.” Long pause, “And India.”
Kayan “Mmmm. Mmmmm. New York.” Long pause, “India”
We really don’t have an answer to where is home so it’s hard to respond to a question about homesickness. We miss elements of New York, India, as well as all the countries we’ve visited. However, what we really miss are people. Luckily for us, a few people miss us too. The allure of Turkey combined with its relative accessibility when compared to other places on our itinerary made it possible for us to catch up with various friends and family from all stages of our lives. An added bonus is that these reunions happened about half way through our trip, giving us some grounding before we embark on the rest of our journey.
Our first visitor was Sandeep’s brother, who endured living in a cave with us in Cappadocia and driving cross-country with two kids who alternated between singing and whining the entire way. My bro-in-law is a great travel companion – well travelled and always up for anything.
In Istanbul our first friendship reunion was with Sandeep’s Northwestern friends. They live in France and work in Switzerland – I found that pretty neat – and have an adorable daughter who entertained Ava and Kayan for hours.
We had a family reunion with Sandeep’s cousins from New York. Our four kids are all around the same age. Thank goodness the Turkish love children because the sight of all of us scouting places to hang out would have scared off most people.
We also turned neighbors into friends. Ava and Kayan’s best friends from New York came to visit Istanbul with their parents. We had only known their parents as acquaintances in New York but, after they planned their Turkey adventures to coincide with our stay, we became fast friends. We thought that Ava and Kayan would have forgotten their friends after five months on the road. However, absence apparently makes the heart grow fonder, even in the littlest of people. The kids picked up just where they left of, even reminiscing about old times. While saying their goodbyes Ava instructed “Make sure to say hi to the park we used to play in. And remember that big slide? Say hi to that too.”
My cousin who now lives in London spent a few days with us, giving me some needed girl company and the kids a huge dose of laughter. After some begging and pleading from Ava, who wants “the whole white world to come for my birthday”, my cousin is planning to visit us again in Greece next month.
Sandeep’s friend from Northwestern, who now works in Amsterdam, made it a point to coordinate a business trip around our Istanbul stay. We went through three bottles of wine in one evening, talking about old times and pontificating about our futures.
I also caught up with Macalester College mates from Cyprus and Turkey. I haven’t seen them since college but sipping cay at an Istanbul coffee shop took us straight back to St. Paul, Minnesota.
Our social calendar in Istanbul has been busier than it was in New York. We’re surrounded by loving family, great friendships and old memories. Does that make Istanbul home? We not sure, not we are most definitely not homesick.