On my first backpacking trip through Europe when I was 17, my travel partner and I spent a few days at a hostel villa in Tuscany. After a few weeks of city-to-city backpacking all I wanted to do was breathe, so I plucked a VHS of Serendipity from the hostel library and spent a few happy hours watching a bad 90’s chick flick.

“You really shouldn’t spend the day doing something you can do at home,” my travel partner said.

“But I’m so tired!” I’m sure I whined.

That moment taught me an important lesson about travel- living your life to the fullest at every moment quickly becomes exhausting. So on my first full day in Istanbul, I did absolutely nothing. And it was wonderful.

Turkey1

My cousin Suzy and her boyfriend, Serkan, showed me around their beloved neighborhood of Taksim. Taksim is a neighborhood located on the Asian side of Istanbul- the side known for being residential, upscale and largely tourist-free.

IMG_2148

I spent the day becoming familiar with the salty sea air, the vibrant rugs hanging from light poles, the vendors selling roasted chestnuts and the call the prayer, which came like clockwork.

IMG_2142

I was walking on the street when I heard the call to prayer for the first time, and it stopped me in my tracks- it was a woman’s voice on megaphone, a high-pitched song I couldn’t understand.

IMG_2156

IMG_2165

I loved stumbling upon the unfamiliar amidst the commonplace, like this minaret wedged between shopping centers.

Turkey2

IMG_2157

We then made our way to the water’s edge, and for the first time in too long I smelled salt in the air and I heard the caws of seagulls and the crash of waves. I hadn’t realized until then how much I had missed water, the sea, nature.

IMG_2172

And I know this is becoming cliché, but sometimes it really is great to observe local life and boast the title of the only tourist in a foreign land.

IMG_2173

IMG_2188

IMG_2193

IMG_2194

IMG_2197

We stopped to enjoy some piping hot black tea, or Çay, pronounced exactly like “chai.” It burned my fingers a little to hold the scalding tea but when I asked why it was always served in glass, Serkan responded, “So you can see the beautiful color.” Which is as good a reason as any.

Turkey3

It was an afternoon in which nothing was accomplished, where we checked no must-see sites off of a list. And it was just what I needed.

IMG_2207
Do you ever like to spend a day doing nothing while traveling?

Follow me!

Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is an American travel blogger and freelance writer who moved to Paris at 21, traveled the world for a year and now lives in Denver. She's usually in pursuit of skiing, languages and perfectly ripe cheese. Her writing has been featured in National Geographic, Viator and Jetstar Australia.
Follow me!

Latest posts by Ashley Fleckenstein (see all)