About Turkey, Hitchhiking and Trusting Your Gut

Turkey didn’t happen. I was feeling quite nervous about the trip, and decided that one more serious attack would be a sign that I should maybe wait before making the trip. Just a week or so before I was scheduled to leave, there was another large attack, this one about six blocks from the apartment I had been planning to stay in. I canceled, and rebooked a trip for Joshua Tree and San Diego to see the Padres on opening day. I canceled that trip three hours before my scheduled departure because I was so incapacitated by the flu that I could hardly move.

Instead of spring break in Istanbul and Cappadocia, I ended up with 72 hours in bed, watching Lost and hardly able to otherwise move.

In the wake of the terror attacks in Turkey, Paris, Brussels and the rest of the world, there were two predictable responses from those who travel: some decide not to go and others vow that they won’t be stopped by terrorism. While I am inclined to agree with the latter viewpoint, that we can’t let fear keep us from living our lives (and may have even written the same before I canceled), there are times when we do need to evaluate the situation and make sensible, frustrating decisions. When new friends in Turkey were telling me that people were staying in their homes out of concern and old friends who’ve traveled extensively said they wouldn’t go, I listened.

One of the the stories I tell my students about every year is my experience in high school with hitchhiking. Despite my mother’s warning that someone would likely make a necklace out of my finger bones, I found hitchhiking to be an exhilarating way to meet new people, even if I never got out of Montana and Wyoming. When I tell my students about it, I always tell them the rules of hitchhiking that an especially influential teacher had passed on to me, starting with the most important:

Just because a car stops doesn’t mean you have to get in.

That was his simple way of expressing the importance of trusting your gut. While the people who offer a ride will be safe 99.9% of the time, he said, there’s always a chance someone might not be, and you’ll know it when they stop. If something’s not right, he said, just don’t get in the car. I never had to do that, and only ever had one uneasy moment with a hitcher I picked up, but the simple advice from Mr. Linn was almost certainly true. We manufacture all sorts of reasons not to take risks, but the gut knows. Trusting the instinct that tells you to not get in a car, or conversely, to take a leap and do something bold, is the best we can do for ourselves.

Turkey just didn’t feel right this time. And both my gut and my guts ended up telling me this wasn’t the time. But I already booked a trip for Christmas 2016, because all the reasons I was drawn to Turkey in the first place are still drawing me there.

I finally listened to the instincts that told me to start exploring the world, and now can’t imagine not living with that desire to see and experience parts of the world I only imagined five years ago. It doesn’t make any sense to stop listening to that voice now, even if it occasionally tells me to pause and reconsider a choice or two.