Abroad experience offers a lesson in letting go

A blue rubber band corrals a hodgepodge pile of papers: a map, a receipt, an itinerary, a ticket (or 10). I can’t read the writing on a bulk of them, and I can’t read the map (though I admit I probably couldn’t follow an American map either).

For once, though, I’m not worried about the language, the grammar or that I can’t comprehend any of it.

The allure is in the uncertainty.

I traveled to Turkey Jan. 9-24 with a group of 20 Drake University students, and “befuddlement” practically defined the experience.

“Wait, where are we going?” quickly proved the inquiry of the trip.

I rarely knew what I ate until I took a bite (and even then, I couldn’t label or pronounce it).

I can’t understand or speak Turkish.

Amid all the panic of experiencing a new continent, culture and language, I realized and embraced the beauty in the unexpected. And for a lifelong planner, color coder (Can I add that title to my resume?) and list enthusiast, departure from the orderly marked a frightening expedition into the unknown.

An unfamiliar language and culture weren’t big enough challenges for me, right?

When I buried my marker collection (for color-coding, duh) in my backpack and ignored the nagging, “Where are we going?” in my mind, I finally experienced Turkey.

I toured Hagia Sophia. I tried lamb. I learned a little bit of the language. I met a great friend whom I’ll never forget (and who I hope won’t forget that chatty Iowa girl with a love of language and a fear of Istanbul traffic).

As I organize each ticket, map, receipt and itinerary by date (Hey, I can’t abandon organization completely — we’ve been together a long time), I relive my time in Turkey. But more importantly, I relive the mildly alarming, ultimately intoxicating feeling of letting go. The feeling of a worthwhile “experience.”

Istanbul from the top of Galata Tower

Istanbul from the top of Galata Tower

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