“Not all who wander are lost.” -J.R.R. Tolkien
I’ve been wandering the streets of Istanbul by myself for three days. In fact, I haven’t seen anyone I know for about a week now. No old friends. No family. Just me. When I made the decision to come find my purpose and take a reflective pause in my life in Europe, I had no idea that it would be in such seeming solitude. Almost all of my original plans to see friends here have changed, and I’m in countries and cities that I didn’t even plan to go to, mostly alone.
Why not call it loneliness? Because I refuse to, even though I think it and feel pangs of melancholy on nights like this when I am alone in the apartment and I see and hear all these Turkish families and friends laughing together out of my window. As May Sarton, a Belgian American poet, said best, “Loneliness is the poverty of self. Solitude is the richness of self.”
It occurred to me today as I was walking down a set of stone steps on the way to the Turkish bath, followed by a street cat, that I am a street cat too! And how lovely it is to be a street cat! Such freedom to walk around whatever alleyway we choose! Rising from slumber and retiring to sleep whenever we want!
Seriously though, I truly identify myself as one of the street cats here in Istanbul, who have been walking with me, sitting with me, and even eating dinner with me. There are more street cats here than in Morocco and Greece, both of which are countries notorious for having street cats. On one single block, I counted five cats. Then on one restaurant patio, I saw a kitten coyly climb into the shopping bag of an unsuspecting diner who was too busy chatting on her phone to notice. (’twas adorable indeed)
Cats are fiercely independent creatures who really are a bit quirky. They are choosy with those who they show affection, yet are very loving with those who earn it. On the streets, they wander and mind their own business until they connect eyes with someone who has a knowing soul (or a bit of food hah.) They sit there quietly, watching and admiring the world around them as cars whiz by and strange humans nearly step on them. When I see them, these feline travelers make me feel less alone. Because really, none of are truly alone. There’s a world of other cats and strangers to befriend–all of us, wandering in our own way.
Those are some thoughts as a solo traveler for now. As some of you may know, solo traveling is something that I do from time to time when I need to think or challenge myself. Traveling is one of my greatest passions, and this is just the first of many posts on traveling. I can’t wait to share tips with you on solo traveling, and traveling as a whole…but for now my mind is weary from the constant internal dialogue that occurs when one travels with their own thoughts. Instead, I’ll share with you my photos of some of the street cats of Istanbul:
Love from abroad,