What am I doing here? Loving Istanbul. This week has been a lot of work and a lot of fun. On the fun end, my wife and I took a Bosphorus cruise, ate Turkish food out several times, had great walks in Kumkapi and Sultanahmet, and visited the Istanbul Aquarium. In addition, we were able to reconnect with friends here in Istanbul and last Saturday, I had the chance to meet up with fellow travel bloggers Anil Polat (Fox Nomad) and Earl Baron (Wandering Earl) for beers and story telling. So, what I am doing on a broad scale is enjoying Istanbul, spending time with family and old friends, and making new friends along the way. Life is very good.
It’s no secret that I love Istanbul. This city offers so much for visitors and residents that it’s incredibly hard to resist…the problem though, is deciding whether or not it will work for my family as a place to live.
Istanbul is nearly as expensive as Paris, New York and Honolulu and when you look at it that way – there are plenty of other options in the world. At the moment, what I am doing here in Istanbul is weighing the options.
On the positive side:
Istanbul is the center of the world. It’s easy and cheap to get to Europe, Asia and Africa from here. It’s relatively cheap to get to the USA from here too…consider this – to fly from Morocco to the US, costs more than double what it costs to fly from Turkey. Since my wife is close with her family, access to Morocco is a key thing for us…using Air Arabia, we can fly to Morocco for a couple hundred dollars each. That’s worth something. In addition, the central location of Istanbul and major airport make it a very convenient location for me to be based out of.
Istanbul offers wonderful parks, thousands of restaurants, movie theatres, any type of shopping you could desire, cultural events, museums, history and ready access to tourism resources – which, in my line of work, is pretty important. Istanbul is a safe and progressive city – sure, there are occasional bombs, but generally not in the areas where we go. Most of the violent problems in Turkey are far to the East, closer to Iran, Syria, Iraq and the volatile Middle East.
There are certainly opportunities here in journalism, technology, travel, tourism and if necessary in teaching English.
BUT….on the negative side,
Istanbul is expensive. For the same rent we would get a crappy apartment here, we could get a very nice apartment in Izmir, Fetiye or elsewhere. While Istanbul is close to the water and by definition is a water city, it’s not a beach city and frankly, I want to be able to jump in the water without getting drowned by the currents of the Bosphorus or run over by a ferry or cargo ship. Food is roughly double the price in the rest of Turkey and transportation is a mess.
The transportation system here is good but with an estimated 17 million people – traffic is a nightmare and crowds can be daunting on the metro and buses. While I love big cities – I sometimes need to be able to find that solitude of sitting on a surfboard outside the lineup or hiking through a jungle or forest without encountering anything but a bear or a wild pig. Honestly, I go a little stir crazy when I’m always surrounded by people…
So, figuring out whether or not to stay in Istanbul is a tough one. I’ve weighed it again and again and each time I come up with a middle ground. But, I need to make a decision soon. The key is money, if I had enough to provide for a middle class lifestyle – Istanbul would be a no brainer. On my own, I don’t have that yet. So, I’ve applied for a job and given the magic number I need to make things work here.
And with that – the decision is out of my hands. If the company comes back and says – “Evet! (Yes in Turkish)” then I will find us an apartment, get my wife and baby residence permits (I already have one) and continue living in Istanbul. If they come back and say “Hyer (No in Turkish)” or “We can’t pay that much” then I will be dragging my family around Turkey for the next few months and then in June we will be returning to our apartment in Morocco for a while.
Another factor, is that we’ve begun the process of applying for my wife’s permanent residence permit for the USA. This could well take a year or more, but if it should happen sooner than that – we will be going to Portland, Oregon and my Moroccan bride will get to learn about life in the Pacific Northwest – funny to think about, but we can live in Portland for about half what we can live in Istanbul for…of course, we can live in Morocco for about half what it will cost to live in Portland, and I suppose if we went to Indonesia we could live for about half of that…
So – that is what I’m doing here. For now anyway….