And just like that, I’ve changed my mind about India. Well, maybe not JUST like that, but over the course of finding all the information I can about travel to Mumbai and India in general. Little by little, doubt was creeping in on if this was really what I wanted to do and see. For the record, my decision was not influenced by this video about how to use an “eastern latrine”, starring Wilbur Sargunaraj – but it was equal parts hilarious and terrifying to a Western latrine user such as myself. I do want to go to India, I do want to experience Hindu culture, but the more educated I got about the area, the less magical it seemed. And the more another idea grew in my head.
Not Constantinople. (hee hee. you knew I couldn’t resist.)
I went to a bookstore over the holiday break while mom was here and as she shopped, I looked around for travel books about India, specifically information about Mumbai. I found practically nothing which was frustrating because I didn’t realize until that moment that our local bookstore sucks. Then I picked up a book about Turkey and I thought THIS! THIS is where I want to go!!!! (In reality, I want to go to every major city in the world so it’s not like I just picked up a new dream and threw out the old one. I’m just giving this one a turn.) So I started obsessively reading and watching everything I could find on Istanbul until I finally sat down and found time to scope out an actual vacation plan. Maybe I shouldn’t have watched Taken 2 though…
…I’m pretty sure Istanbul isn’t all kidnappings and grenades and car chases…
Right. So, here we go. The plan so far as it has gelled:
- Hotel and plane ticket package booked through orbitz. What I like about them is that I can add a cheap international cell phone and a refillable calling card to the package so I can call home if I need to. Basically, I like to feel I have a lifeline. I did this when I went to Greece and other than being a moron about how to make international phone calls, I loved it. I gave that phone to a former student when she went to her Peace Corps location in the South Pacific so I hope it’s serving her well. The flight is only two legs, which is amazing. I fly to JFK on my birthday and sit for 4 hours which is NOT amazing but it’s pretty good given the other alternatives. Then Turkish Air straight to Istanbul. I have heard mixed things about this airline and might regret using them instead of something else that would have taken longer and needed other connections, but I weighed my options about what was important to me and am hoping for the best. I’ll get there a day later and should be through the airport by noon, after buying a visa and then figuring out the rail line. I’ll be staying at a hotel in the Sultanahmet neighborhood – right where I want to be. The hotel has free breakfast and wi-fi, my two biggest must-haves. I’ll bring my old, half busted iPod touch to give a facebook status update once in a while so people know I’m alive.
- Travel insurance. I usually ignore this, but since I’m going out of the country and my health insurance hardly covers me if I’m out of the state, I figured it would be best. I didn’t get the insurance through Orbitz because I found a better deal (lower price, slightly higher coverage) through World Nomads. Honestly, I fully expect that if anything were to happen to me it would probably not be covered anyway because that’s just how fine print works, but I’m trying to be responsible here.
And now the fun part. I can pin the shit out of everything on the interwebz to read about, start making lists of what I want to see, start learning some Turkish words (I really suck at learning languages though), make a list of “must have” travel items to buy. In fact, as soon as I pay for the travel package, jewelry sale money will be pretty dedicated to buying dorky things like a travel blanket, new backpack, quart-size bag sturdier than a Ziplock…crap like that which is questionably necessary. I haven’t bought travel gadgets in forever and was so excited to find my European plug adapter in the travel drawer yesterday. Yes, I have a travel drawer. You don’t? Where the hell do you keep your tiny shampoos and airplane pillow and passport and empty 3-ounce bottles and such? Weirdos.