As summer fades, holidays end, the school year begins, and we head back into a season of more focus on work and less on holidays, this is a good time to take stock of priorities.
I recently returned from my annual retreat to Assos, Turkey, a village on the Aegean. It’s my favorite place on earth. Partly, of course, because it’s where I come on holiday, to escape the heat and busyness of summer in the city.
Partly because every time I go back I feel like I’m home. Turkey is a friendly place in general. It’s easy and non-weird to talk to strangers, ask for directions, things like that. But Assos takes friendly to a whole other level.
I’ve been coming to Assos for a few years now. Last summer I came to the area, but stayed with friends a few villages over, so I didn’t see the people from “my” village. This year, I was happy to return to my village, because aside from the sea and the peaceful, restful views I love the friendly, welcoming way of people there. I got a huge smile and welcome back kiss from the lady in the cafe where I habitually eat my dinners. After dinner I headed to the bakkal (bodega/corner shop) next door, and was confused to see tables and chairs where the bottled water and snacks used to be. But the man at what turned out to be a new restaurant remembered me, saw my confusion and said, “You’re looking for the bakkal, aren’t you? You’re right, you used to come here, but they moved around the corner.”
So around the corner I went, to find the same friendly couple, who asked how long it had been since I’d last visited and gave me a fresh fig from the bag they’d just filled from the market stall outside.
I love the balance of friendliness and freedom in this small village. In Istanbul, people are often more in your face; it’s generally friendly, but at times the curiosity and number of questions people ask can be overwhelming. I’ve never had anyone in Assos grill me like they do in my adopted hometown, Istanbul. Maybe it’s because it’s a holiday town, but in Assos, while they are chatty, people are more relaxed. I think it took people in Assos two years to ask me where I was from, where in Istanbul within five minutes of meeting you every person you meet asks your home country, marital status, and job.
In Assos you never forget you’re in a small town, but I find it charming that the dolmus drivers (a dolmus is a minivan that acts something like a cross between a bus and a taxi) know where they need to drop me off, the guys at the bus station know I came a month earlier last year, and the guys at the beach restaurant where I get dropped off notice when I’m an hour later than usual arriving at the beach.
So I guess my escape FROM the city every summer is more like an escape TO a place I really love to be.
When you move abroad you are inevitably faced with the questions: Will you move back to your country of origin? If so, when? What would cause you to go back?
I’m not ready to leave Istanbul yet, but when that balance shifts, when I’m not just as happy to go back to Istanbul as I am to leave it for a break, that’s when I’ll know it’s time to move on.
These questions hold true for work life as well. Some questions to consider:
- Do I feel invigorated and ready to get down to my work?
- Do I feel focused or do I feel distracted?
- Am I longing for something? What?
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