Why I’m Still Moving to Turkey

Since my last post, a few pretty big things have happened. There were the terrible attacks in Paris. This event requires no elaboration. And on a more personal note, it was the last day at one of my jobs.

Most people when I tell them I’m moving to Turkey in 6 weeks are excited for me, if a bit shocked at how soon it’s happening. But there have been those who are confused as to why I would go to Turkey, and are genuinely concerned for my safety. This has increased since the events in Paris.

Paris is a place that so many people have a special connection with, so it’s no surprise the intensity of emotions that have been felt after such a tragedy. I’ve had a few family members plead with me not to go to Turkey in the wake of this. The fierceness of their concern took me off guard. I questioned myself.  Did I miss something? Am I about to go somewhere dangerous and play the dumb little American girl?

When Zac and I first started talking about Turkey, the thought of safety did enter my mind. After some research, I found nothing to support that moving to Izmir, a liberal city on the Meditteranean, would be dangerous. True, Turkey does share a border with Syria, and that border IS dangerous to go to. The US has issued a travel warning for this region which you can read in detail on the US travel website that you can read here if you’d like.

However, for the city of Izmir, I can find nothing dangerous besides normal city dangers, the likes of which I already experience here in San Francisco. Don’t walk in a bad area alone at night. Keep aware of your surroundings and belongings. Don’t wear flashy jewelery. Be aware of scammers. Normal city stuff. And in terms of city dangers, I have a feeling that Izmir may be safer in some regards than San Francisco. I suspect that I won’t have to drive or walk though a sea of drug addicts to get downtown, like I do every single time I go to the downtown library or the costume rental shop that I have frequented.

Which brings me to the topic of unlikely dangers, such as terrorist attacks and natural disasters. I do agree it IS possible for these things to happen. But is it likely? No. It is far more likely for me to die here, in America, in a gun-related incident or a car accident. People in San Francisco drive like they have never driven a day in their life and somehow I’ve managed to survive 4 years of driving in this crazy city.

I originally did all of this safety research months ago. After Friday, I did it all again. I was truly rattled that my family and friends were so strongly concerned for my safety. And while I do appreciate this concern and recognize it’s validity, I have still found nothing to support that my decision to move to Turkey is unwise, despite recent terrorist attacks.

My travel writer icon, Rick Steves, wrote on Facebook about travel and the correct response to terrorism. His post perfectly summed up my feelings on the subject, that while one does need to think about safety, we should not allow ourselves to be terrorized by these events. You can read the entire article on his Facebook page, but here’s a choice paragraph that captures my feelings better than I could:

About the right response to terrorism, I believe we owe it to the victims of this act not to let the terrorist win by being terrorized. That’s exactly the response they are hoping for. Sure, it’s natural for our emotions to get the best of us. But, especially given the impact of sensational media coverage, we need to respond intelligently and rationally. . . I’m sure that many Americans will cancel their trips to Paris (a city of 2 million people) or the rest of Europe (a continent of 500 million people), because of an event that killed about 150. As a result, ironically, they’ll be staying home in a country of 320 million people that loses over 30,000 people a year (close to 100 people a day) to gun violence.

When many Americans think of Turkey they think of the Middle East, and then they think DANGER.  Terrorists, ISIS, Al-Quaeda, suicide bombers, few rights for women, headscarves, camels and sand – these are the things that our bullshit media has taught us to think of the Middle East. No matter that part of Turkey is actually in Europe, that it’s economy is strong, that it modernized in 1922 and as a result is a lot more liberal than it’s neighbors and has been a part of both the Roman and Ottoman Empires.

Part of me is annoyed that I’m writing this at all. I don’t like feeling as though I have to defend myself or my decisions. It’s hardest having to defend yourself to those that you love. But this has been rolling around in my mind for days now so it was time to put the proverbial pen to paper and get it out there.

For those of you worried for me, know that I am flattered by your feelings. But please don’t worry too much. I think a lot before I make decisions, often way overthinking them, and this is not one that I made lightly. I am confidant that I will be just fine, and am about to embark on the next phase in my life as a citizen of the world.

Happy Travels,

Mo

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3 thoughts on “Why I’m Still Moving to Turkey

  1. alexandrahop

    Well said, Mo, We can’t let the terrorists win by terrorizing us. Their only large-scale weapon is our fear.

    While I thought about your and Zachary’s safety when you started posting about Turkey, I was mostly concerned about the way that Turkey has jailed journalists–they’re not great in that area. Of course, I also wish Turkey were close to L.A. !

    I totally admire you two for taking on this adventure and being willing to help the refugees–they certainly need the help. I don’t think I would have had the nerve to do what you’re doing. I applaud you both!

  2. Brilliantly written, Mo. You reminded me of an insightful NPR piece I heard about the cognitive biases (many) people have when faced with terrorist acts — it’s exactly the point you make here — that we give undue weight to a statistically very small danger and not enough weight to those common dangers we’re used to (car crashes, gun violence, plain old heart disease, cancer, etc.). Here’s the post: http://www.npr.org/2015/11/22/456989087/how-we-react-to-threats-post-world-tragedy-and-why

    So, right on! I applaud your resolve to not let the terrorists win by living in fear (and for having tough conversations with loved ones who are afraid). I know you and Zac will be cautious and thoughtful as you make the move. I’m excited for you two to explore Izmir and I will miss you while you’re away, but I’m no more worried about you moving there than to New York or some other large city. Brava, Mo!

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