Istanbul Adventures VII: Redefining Home


View of Sultanahmet, Istanbul’s historical district, from a ferry crossing the Boshphorus. Istanbul is the only city in the world that resides in two continents – Asia and Europe. Photo Credit: Kat Russell / Daily Sundial

Kat Russell

View of Sultanahmet, Istanbul's historical district, from a ferry crossing the Boshphorus. Istanbul is the only city in the world that resides in two continents - Asia and Europe. Photo Credit: Kat Russell / Daily Sundial

I have lived in Los Angeles my entire life, but it has never felt like my home. I’ve never really felt like I belonged here or like I was meant to be here. I have always felt a little lost or out of place. In fact, the only times that I have ever really felt at home were when I was traveling.

I’m not sure how to explain it, but I have always been more comfortable in a city I don’t know. I love stepping off a plane, being met with a language I don’t speak, and having to figure out where I am and where I am going. There’s something about the unfamiliar that I find soothing and exciting.

I have been fortunate enough during my lifetime to have had many opportunities to travel all over the world – from backpacking across Europe to wandering through Asia to exploring Central America.  Through all my travels, there has been this sense of searching for a place to call my home.

At one point in time, I thought I had found my home in Bali, Indonesia. I had fallen in love with its tiny villages, its friendly people, its exotic tropical setting, its fascinating culture and its simple way of life. But the more I traveled, the more I knew that, as much as I loved Bali, it was not going to be my home – I still had that search ahead of me.

Last summer, when the opportunity to study in Istanbul presented itself I jumped on it. I had never studied abroad, nor been to any countries in that part of the world, and the thought of doing so excited me. I knew nothing of where I was going, I knew nothing of the people I would encounter or of their culture, and I was eager to explore and experience a place that was entirely different from all the other places I had visited.

This concept of “searching for home” presented itself to me in a very real way while I was in Istanbul. Before my travels began, I was sure that Istanbul was going to be nothing more than a new experience for me – I was not going to find my home there. When I got to Istanbul, I was confronted with the task of redefining my ideas of what home meant to me.

It’s hard for me to find the words to describe what I found during my time in Istanbul. The easiest way for me to say it is that I found my home – much to my surprise. My love for the city caught me off guard – in fact, it shocked me – and I knew that Istanbul was the place where I wanted to live my life.

When I returned to Los Angeles, my family and my friends were anxious to hear of my adventures and of what I had learned. They were equally surprised and concerned when they learned of my intentions to move to Istanbul as soon as the opportunity arose. They questioned me extensively as to what my plans, my reasons and my motives were. I grew frustrated as I found that I could not give them a satisfactory answer – all I could say was I had never felt so at peace as I did in Istanbul and my heart had never felt so full.

Since I’ve come back from Istanbul, I have struggled to define what it is I found there that left me feeling so certain I have finally found my home. What is it I love so much?  The simple answer is I love everything about Istanbul. I love starting my day listening to the morning call to prayer. I love the hustle and bustle of the city. I love spending my evenings on the banks of the Bosphorus drinking tea with the locals. I love the city itself with its crowded streets, its cobblestone roads, its constant chorus of honking horns and endless chatter. Most of all, I love that Istanbul opened my eyes, changed my perception, and opened my heart to new possibilities.

I relate to the cliché “home is where the heart is.” Before Istanbul, that saying meant to me that home is where your friends and family are. Since coming back from Istanbul, my idea of home has changed. Today, home is where my heart feels happy and full.