REFUGEE

A crowd of people on the Bosphorus with the Galata tower in the background.
Location: Istanbul, Turkey

I am very conscious of how fortunate I am to be able to travel the world while I put my life at home on hold. I live in a country that’s peaceful, I have a stable job, a roof over my head and access to food and clean water: so for me to travel for fun isn’t a big deal at all. In 2013, over three billion people on this earth fall well within the poverty bracket, whereby they earn less than $2.50, a day. That’s actually half the world’s inhabitants. So to travel, in the sense that I have been able to do over my life, is something that at least half the world is unable to do.

Why am I telling you this?

When I’m complaining about how tired I am or how much I hate flying, it does cross my mind how much of an jerk I can be sometimes. I was in Istanbul last week and found myself complaining about the crowds, the dirty streets and the constant stream of beggars and people harassing me for spare change. I am ashamed to admit that even someone as well traveled and on top of the news as I am, I can still be ignorant to the obvious face of poverty that is prevalent in many parts of the world.

Turkey is seeing an influx of Syrian refugees since the recent outbreak of fighting, and after leaving Istanbul I read a number of articles explaining that the increase in begging and homelessness was directly related to this conflict, and that most of the beggars I had encountered were probably refugees. Suddenly the complaining gave way to an intense feeling of shame over my lack of understanding of the greater situation facing this city, and also my hesitance to even spare a Turkish Lira to one of these people.

As I mentioned our About Us, travel has been both a global classroom and a means to test the limits of my own personal human condition; however, at the moment I can see a lot of holes in that thesis in dire need of filling before I can really call myself a ‘global citizen’ in it’s truest form. So as I continue to learn and grow with compassion and understanding, I want to challenge you to also open your eyes to the greater issues, keep abreast of global issues, and make informed decisions with what you can do with what ever it is you have.

Perhaps giving away my small change or buying food and drink for someone less off wouldn’t make a huge impact on the greater situation that Turkey (and a large portion of the world) is facing, but it would make a difference in that one person’s life. How these refugees still summon the will to continue on in the obvious face of adversity, I will never know, but after this experience I won’t be so tight on my purse strings.

Photograph by Jelena Stipanicev.