Time and again in history, men will always be the first breed that we as women will be warned about! After all, the interesting mix of the complimenting and contradicting relationship between a man and a woman is quite the constant theme, globally.
I took my first ever-solo trip about 6 months ago, in the fall of October 2015. The idea of an Indian female solo traveler was not something my parents were accustomed to. The first hundred fears in their mind were all centered around the men I would encounter. Honestly, after all the news stories that we regularly read, I cannot blame them! While I calmly let them warn me about all their reservations (read men) on my trip, I believe I was personally excited to find out what lay in store. Their concern was legit, after all, a woman traveling alone barely ever goes unnoticed. And the Turkish men have quite a reputation for their relentless charm.
I was all set to unravel where this adventure was headed, right from the start of my journey. And I am glad to report that I was not disappointed by what I discovered and experienced.
From the time that I stepped into the Mumbai airport to the time I landed back from my trip, I encountered 9 interesting specimens… I mean men. Let me introduce you to the nine types of men that I met on my solo trip to Istanbul.
#1 That Indian Creep On The Plane
After a brief layover at the Hamad International Airport in Doha, it was time to finally fly to my destination, Istanbul. It had all started well. And that’s where I encountered creep number one- an Indian merchant who had moved to Qatar. Taking advantage of similar nationalities, this man got really chatty and eventually annoying. He was certainly one of those freeloaders who had to be stopped and shooed away after a couple of drinks. With the undeniably awful track record that he had set mid-air, the airline crew had to step in to ask him to behave better. Not too surprisingly, this guy wanted my number and was keen on catching up for dinner while I was in Istanbul (despite him staying about an hour and a half away). I managed to disappear quite quickly after disembarking the plane.
#2 A Turkish Cop
Imagine, your first night in a foreign land and a cop asks you to hand over your phone because you clicked the photo of an open street! That’s exactly what happened in less than three hours of landing in Istanbul. I don’t know if I was more nervous or suspicious about his authenticity, I fought for a good 15 minutes before his friends/ colleagues intervened and let me walk away without further ado. While the incident often sounds mysterious to me, I think it was sub-consciously responsible for keeping me alert and on my toes for every little thing on the trip till the very end.
#3 My Couchsurfing Dinner Date
To be honest, the idea of a solo trip was so thrilling for me that I felt like I wanted to do everything I’d wanted to do on this very trip. As excited as I was about my first solo trip, I was constantly trying out different ways of cutting my budget and meeting more people. I decided to give Couchsurfing a shot and posted an ‘Upcoming Public Trip’ on the app. I was surprised with over 100 guys responding! I decided to catch up with a couple of people over coffee. And that’s how I met Caner.
Caner Uzun was my first Couchsurfing experience and my first friend in Istanbul. He took me out for a traditional Turkish dinner near my hostel. That evening, I had not just made a new friend in Istanbul, but I had also had the opportunity to learn more about the city, its people, and their mindsets. Caner, given his background in digital and belonging to a similar age group as mine was the perfect person to give me an insight into the mind of Istanbul. As for him, he turned out to be a normal guy, sweet, sensible, and sensitive man who in his own special way reminded me that no matter where we belong, human thoughts and emotions are always universal. I learned more about Istanbul through him than any guidebook or article.
#4 That Man Who Believed in Love At First Sight
This was my craziest experience in Istanbul! The kinds that I had trouble comprehending sooner.
While I was standing in front of the Hagia Sofia, a charming Turkish man walked up to me to strike a conversation. I was curious to know what he had in mind as he got chatty. A couple of minutes into the conversation, he suddenly expressed his belief in ‘Love at first sight.’ I pretty much laughed it off, but before I could absorb the turn of events, he was talking about marriage, how happy we would be together, and that if I had someone in life, I should leave him because “he and I were meant to be”. It was all too cheesy and definitely greasy. I knew I had to run and I quickly made up an excuse to get away.
Before leaving, he said he wanted to be remembered as ‘the guy I fell in lstanbul’. Can’t tell for love, but I certainly remember him enough to tell his story!
#5 That Turkish TV Actor
From Caner I had found out that Turkish youngsters preferred Instagram to Facebook and Twitter. With supporting third-party apps that helped find people around, Instagram was also the Turkish youngster’s dating platform. The day my roommate broke up with the guy she was there to see, a Turkish TV actor approached her on InstaMessage for a cup of coffee! Now Alev did follow the adventure but was back in no time and we headed for a little adventure of our own.
#6 The Paper Boy
Alev and I would head to Istiklal Street every night for dinner or to explore the nightlife. On these outings, we would regularly run into the guy who’d sell newspapers in the night for any amount of money that you could offer. He was quite dedicated, after all, he was ready to get the money for kisses too! While Alev managed to strike a conversation thanks to her Turkish origins I later figured that this is how this young little man would work himself up to gather money for the poor kids he helped.
I was particularly surprised by the Turkish Bazaars; rather the shopkeepers at the Turkish Bazaars. These shopkeepers were smart, witty, observant and needless to say, charming. Their strength was their ability to talk in any language and any culture. One careful look at you and they knew their course forward. But most importantly, they knew how to earn your attention to make some moolah.
On my visits to various markets in the city through the week, I was offered a range of flavored Turkish teas with delicacies such as honey-soaked nuts to lure me into dedicating my attention to what they had to offer.
Eventually, this special hospitality would subtly turn into a sales session for the goods they offered (for the best price), while I’d lose out on words.
But then again, these shopkeepers were mostly men after all. They knew how to do cheesy pretty well. One of them asked out for a movie, one offered to take me for dinner, and another one gave me a rose. They were all hoping to get my number at the end of the conversation. And I had both- a wrong number and a fake story, all handy to get me out of these situations without causeing much trouble. (Of course, I called none!)
Also Read: That Time When Bazaars Excited Me
#8 The Waiter Who Got Chatty
Dining alone in a foreign land is truly one-of-a-kind experience! Many have asked me if I am comfortable with eating alone without being weirded out for the lack of company. The truth is, across the week, I’d often find waiters striking conversations with me about my taste in food, local culture, exchanging languages, Indian food. Thanks to these conversations, I never felt like I was eating alone cause I had the best company I could ask for! I’d easily say that the waiters in these restaurants are one of the best tribe of people. Afterall, the bonding that begins with food is the bond that comforts. A big thank you to these wonderful men for teaching me speak in Turkish, comforting me with good food and food talks, and all those complimentary cups of çay and coffee!
It was my last day in Istanbul. I had to take a ride of the Nostaljik Tram. I took a return journey and guess what? The driver didn’t take money for my tickets which were to be purchased in the tram itself. He had figured that I was travelling solo and was quite thrilled by the idea. Instead, he asked me to take his photo on my camera and tell my friends about him and his wonderful country! So long after my trip, I had to mention him in my story with the broadest smile on my face.
While these were the nine types of men that I met on my first solo trip, a huge shout out to those who stood around, were there to help, were there to make me smile through their art and goodness. Their being around mattered in making a foreign city feel safe, just like home.
My trip and these experiences were a wonderful reminder of the fact that not all men are as bad as you’re warned they shall be! While some could be your best companions and some could also be toxic and troublesome. You need to learn to differentiate between the gentlemen and the real creeps and learn to protect yourselves; cause accidents do happen! So do friendships and so do memories. I have to say, that meeting all these different kind of men was an honest experience of the different sides of the spectrum. And that’s the beauty of travel, you get to discover what you otherwise tend to miss out when you choose to move out of that comfort zone.
Have you met such men too? Would you categorize your encounters differently? Tell me all about it in the comments below.