Turkey was honestly not even on my short list for a vacation back in 2016. I had decided earlier that year that I would treat myself for my 25th birthday with a trip. By complete fluke, I booked my Discover Turkey National Geographic Journey tour with G Adventures in early February for travel in early April. There were multiple terrorist attacks between booking and departure, with the latest March attack targeting Istanbul, where I would spend my first night. Despite my fear and setting aside safety concerns expressed from friends and family, I still went to Turkey and to this day, I am so grateful for the experience.
Turkey turned out to be surprisingly delightful! The locals were incredibly humble and welcoming, and the landscapes were so diverse and each uniquely stunning. To date, my most memorable and favourite place on earth is flying over Cappadocia (or Göreme) in a hot air balloon. It is an experience that everyone should aim to accomplish in their lifetime.
To describe how incredibly surreal the experience is, let me paint a picture for you:
You wake up at just before 4:00am and in a groggy state, dress warmly and get ready to head out
Your shuttle picks you up just after 5:00am, driving through the dark for about 30 minutes to the tour operator location – you are still tired, but very excited for what is to come
You arrive and sign your waivers, then grab a coffee and a quick bite from the breakfast display – you chat with friends for a few minutes and anticipate how amazing the experience will be
You get into a truck with your group and drive a few more minutes to the balloon loading area – you are all quiet on the drive, busy imagining how the next hour will play out
You get out and are surrounded by several balloons on the ground with the operators making their final departure checks – it is still quite dark, but the anticipation is building in you
You watch them begin to light the burner flames and the balloons start to rise from their semi-deflated states on the ground, slowly sitting upright and nearly ready for passenger boarding
You clumsily climb in with about 16 others, now very awake with excitement (and a little fearful too) – you watch a few other passenger-filled balloons lift off from the ground and rise up into the brightening sky
You finally lift off and float up gently, filled with adrenaline and eager to take pictures while you express your excitement with friends
You admire the views below, taking pictures as far as you can see and watching the other 70+ balloons float through the sky on their journey upwards – you are now one of the highest balloons in the sky
The pilot announces that the sun will rise soon, pointing towards the orange hue straddling the horizon line – the anticipation is still present, yet everyone is calmly silent waiting
Suddenly, the sun breaches the mountain top and the most vibrant dawn light emerges, backlighting the nearest hot air balloon – everyone simply admires the moment in complete silence – there are no cameras or phones in use – everyone onboard is in peaceful bliss watching the sun rise above the mountain and awakening the valley below
You look down and see the sunlight kissing the landscape and each of the balloons with the first light of a new day – the dark terrain comes to life as the light touches it – the view is breathtaking and you can now see miles into the distance to the bordering mountains
You are in a complete state of calm, as is everyone present – no threats, no fear, no distractions, just complete serenity – there is nowhere else you would rather be than in this moment
You slowly return to reality and take a few pictures as the balloon begins to descend – you get briefed on the landing techniques and take in the final moments of flight
You land softly and safely into the truck trolley, then exit the basket and plant your feet back on the ground – you celebrate with sparkling apple champagne, get a personal certificate and take pictures with friends to solidify the experience
I strongly believe that travel is a gateway to personal and cultural growth, exposing us to people, places and experiences that continually shape our outlook of the world around us. For me, Turkey was a great example of a destination where my perceptions, fears and expectations were greatly outmatched by the positive experiences of my reality while traveling as a tourist. I strongly encourage travelers to consider Turkey as their next travel destination.
- Nicole Buzzing
- : Nicole is a Canadian traveler based out of Ontario who uses travel to gain new perspectives on different destinations and cultures, and shares her learning experiences with others via her blog, Nicole Buzzing. She also enjoys sharing tips on everyday life and relationships, and enjoys sharing photos of her most recent travel experiences.
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