Riding a Scooter Through Cappadocia

“What are you going to do today?” I asked Nick this morning at breakfast. It’s our last day in the Cappadocia region of central Turkey, and we’ve already done most of the touristy stuff.

“I think I’m going to hike up to the Open Air Museum,” Nick said. “What are you going to do today?”

“I think I’m going back to Avanos to buy those cute shoes,” I said, wincing at the fact that I was calling a pair of shoes “cute”. “Plus, I’m going to rent a scooter and just ride.”

You see, Kim (a.k.a. The Girl) is an avid motorcycle rider. In the nearly six months we’ve been dating, Kim has sung the praises of motorcycles many times. In June, she and I joined Jenn and Cody one Saturday afternoon to sit on the bikes at a local Harley dealership. Kim doesn’t have a bike now, but she wants one. (She’s had one most of her adult life.)

Shopping for motorcycles with Kim
Sitting on Harleys with Kim

I, on the other hand, have little experience with motorcycles. I have lots of experience riding bicycles, but not bikes with motors. When I was a boy, my friend Torey would take me for rides on his dirt bike from time to time, but I have no concept of how to operate a motorcycle. I want to learn, though, and a scooter seems like a good first step.

There are tons of places to rent scooters here in Göreme. For 40 lira (about $20), you can rent a scooter (or a motorcycle or an ATV) from dawn ’til dusk. So, that’s what I did today.

The first place I tried to rent a scooter wouldn’t let me take one out.

“How do you ride it?” I asked.

“You don’t know how?” the man asked.

“No,” I admitted.

“I can’t rent to you if you don’t know how to ride,” the man said. “It’s dangerous.”

One rule I’ve learned here in Turkey is what one man won’t man sell you, another man will. And there’s a related rule: What one man will sell you, another man well sell you for less. (These rules aren’t obvious at first, but become quite clear with time and experience.)

The next shop owner I approached was happy to rent me a 100cc Yamaha scooter. He took my money, gave me a brief lesson (“Lights here. Accelerate here. Brakes here — only use left brake, no right.”), handed me a helmet (which was pointless because the chinstrap was broken), and I was on my merry way.

What can I say? WOW!!

It took me about half an hour to get comfortable with the scooter. I took it on a deserted dirt road to get familiar with how it handled and maneuvered. After that, I gained confidence quickly. And soon I was in heaven.

I zipped through Göreme and Çavuşin and Avanos, and then headed out into the countryside. I passed the ranch where Nick and I rode horses on Monday. I wound my way through the hills, climbed to the top, and descended into the vast swaths of farmland beyond.

Climbing the hills outside Avanos
Climbing the hills outside Avanos — curves ahead!

As I rode, I relished the warmth of the wind on my face, the smell of the earth and the grass and the trees, the staccato stutter of the scooter’s tiny engine. I loved the feeling of being outside in the scenery instead of inside a car looking out. It reminded me of this passage from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. The concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it’s right there, so blurred you can’t focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness.

Twenty kilometers (12.5 miles) outside of Avanos, I stopped at the edge of a field. I was alone on a warm autumn day. It was peaceful. Quiet. Relaxing. Though a part of me pined to be home (I miss The Girl), another part of me was happy to be here, now, in this moment.

Alone in the farmlands of Cappadocia
Alone in the farmlands of Cappadocia

After fifteen or twenty minutes of meditation, I hopped on the scooter and returned to town. After buying my cute shoes, I buzzed to Göreme and rode up the hill to Uçhisar, where I did a little souvenir shopping. I took the long way back to the hotel, dropped off my stuff, and then headed out for another ride.

At the edge of town, I spotted Nick sitting on a bench, waiting for the bus to Ürgüp.

“Want a ride?” I asked.

“Will that thing hold both of us?” he asked.

“Let’s find out,” I said, and he climbed on.

I quickly learned that while a 100cc scooter might feel nimble with one person on it, it feels like a slug when two people ride it. What’s more, the handling is completely different. I felt as if I were steering a hippo. We s-l-o-w-l-y made our way out of town on the cobblestone streets and began to climb the hill past the Open Air Museum.

“That sign says there’s a 10% grade ahead,” I shouted to Nick. “I don’t know if we’re going to make it.” And we didn’t. In fact, as the scooter sputtered and gasped at the steepest part of the climb, we almost went into the ditch. I couldn’t control the bike. Nick had to get off and walk about 100 meters while I got past the worst of the hill. After that, the last nine kilometers to Ürgüp were uneventful.

When I dropped Nick off, I drafted him to take a photo:

Motoring through Ürgüp
Nick had an English/Turkish exchange with the girls behind me

On the ride back to Göreme, I tried to see how fast the scooter would go (answer: 97 kilometers per hour, or about 60 miles per hour). I also learned that going down a 10% grade on a cobblestone street is tough to do on a scooter.

The only bad thing about the entire scooter experience came at the end of the day. Before I returned it, I had to fill the gas tank. But there are no gas stations in Göreme. The nearest one is at the top of the hill in Ortihisar, about 5km away. To get there, I had to traverse that same 10% grade again — this time at dusk with a horde of tiny bugs swarming the valley. They kept getting in my eyes and nose. By the time I’d fueled up and returned to the hotel, I was covered with little black dots — bug corpses. Gross, huh?

When it came time to return the scooter, I’d logged just under 150 kilometers (93 miles) for the day. It cost me 18 lira (about $9) to fill the tank before I returned it to the rental shop. For a total of $29, I’d had one hell of a time.

This was a successful test. When I get home, I intend to sign up for a training course so I can get the motorcycle endorsement to my driver license. And who knows? Maybe come spring, I’ll be riding a motorcycle through the Oregon countryside with The Girl.

Virginia Eden Swartzendruber: 1942 – 2012

While my cousin Nick and I are touring Turkey, there’s sad news from the family back home. My aunt Virginia has died.

This wasn’t unexpected — Virginia was fading for a long time — but it hurts nonetheless. Virginia was the last of my father’s family still alive. More than that, she was a great person.

Baby Brother Gets a Ride
My aunt Virginia (age 4) pulling my father (age 1) in a wagon — summer 1946

Virginia Eden Roth was born on 20 February 1942. I don’t know much about her life as girl. I do know that she was sixteen when she got married. At Get Rich Slowly, Virginia once shared this story of her life as a newlywed:

On Christmas Eve 1958, I had been married two months and seven days.

We were sixteen and eighteen — young but in love. Pop had a good job in a mobile home factory. The pay was $2.10 per hour. They gave him a week off for our honeymoon. On Monday morning, ten days after we were married, he went back to work, worked three days and was laid off for the winter.

We had no groceries in the house because we were waiting for payday, so the first thing we did was go shopping. The cupboards were bare, so we needed everything. The total bill came to $28. That included flour, sugar, butter, bread, lunch meat, and all the spices, plus whatever else one needs to stock a cupboard.

Through the fall and early winter Pop worked at odd jobs for his dad, who was self-employed buying wool, cow and deer hides, cascara bark, beaver pelts and other furs. Pop and a friend also cut wood for my dad. Dad paid them $6.00 a cord, and by splitting it two ways they each got $3.00 per cord. We stayed with my folks about five or six weeks during the time he was working for Dad.

Eventually, we went back home and Pop started working for his brother, who was a trapper. Pop’s job was to skin the beaver and stretch it tight on a board, in a circle (like a woman would a doily), and hold it with nails around the outside of the circle so it would keep its shape. When the pelt was dried it was in a stiff circle. Pop was paid $3.00 per pelt when it was done.

The day before Christmas — December 24, 1958 — Pop went to work. We were broke as usual. It was Christmastime, but we had no money for gifts. It was our first Christmas. I don’t remember what time he left for work, but he completed two pelts making $6.00.

Rushing, he managed to get home by 4:15. The stores closed at 5:00 on Christmas Eve. By the time we got to town it was 4:30. He gave me $3.00 and he took $3.00, and we went shopping. I bought him a pretty shirt. He bought me a beautiful lamp that hung on the wall.

So was our first Christmas. We were young and in love. We had each other, and who needed fancy gifts?

Virginia and Stan had nine children. My cousins include Robin, Tammy (familiar to many long-time readers), Gwen, Laurie, Valerie, Scott, Ted, Mart, and Ben. In March 2003, the last time I tallied the numbers, Virginia had 49 grandchildren. I’m sure that number is higher now, and that she probably even had great-grandchildren.

Like many in the Roth family, Virginia was an entrepreneur. For a long time, she operated a catering business out of her home in Estacada. She baked wedding cakes and catered weddings (including the wedding of my brother Jeff and his wife, Steph). She (and her family) actually catered more than just weddings, but that was the mainstay of their business.

But Virginia also loved photography, and that eventually became her staple business. She traveled the country making beautiful photos, which she sold to companies for jigsaw puzzles and calendars and postcards. She also created her own line of successful cards featuring these photos — many of which included her grandchildren — and sold the cards at stores and gift shops throughout the northwest.

Above everything, Virginia was a Christian woman, and I mean that in the best possible way. Many Christians aren’t very Christ-like. But Virginia was. For this, I always respected and admired her. She was warm and caring and loving and kind. I always felt welcomed by her, even though I knew that my choices were vastly different than the ones she would make.

My aunt Virginia was good person. A great person.

Medium-Format Virginia
My aunt Virginia (age 64) on the lawn at Rosings Park — summer 2006

As I said, Virginia’s death wasn’t unexpected. In fact, the family has been preparing for this for almost eighteen months. In June of last year, my cousin Mart brought me two boxes of slides, a cassette tape of hymns, and a script. Virginia had composed a slide show (set to music) featuring her own photographs. She wanted it shown at her funeral. I converted the tape and slides to DVD and the presentation up into separare video segments (one for each song).

This video is one of sixteen that made up that slideshow. I can’t share the other videos (they contain copyrighted music), but this one features Virginia’s daughters on vocals. It’s a family production: Virginia’s images, her daughters’ voices (Robin, Tammy, and Gwen), and my video editing.

Twilight is Stealing

Somehow, it seems like a fitting farewell to a wonderful woman.

In Cappadocia

Nick and I have been in Cappadocia for 48 hours. It’s awesome.

Cappadocia is a region in central Turkey, high on a 1000-meter plateau (much like the great African plateau). It’s a place filled with strange geologic formations, including the famous fairy chimneys (or hoodoos). Many of the canyons and hillsides contain hundreds-of-year-old churches (or even cities) carved into the rock by the former inhabitants. And Cappadocia itself is a Persian name meaning “land of the beautiful horses”.

Nick and I are staying nearly a week in Cappadocia. We reached Göreme by bus on Saturday afternoon and spent the rest of the day getting acclimated to our surroundings. We walked around the town, and then followed some of the trails on the surrounding hillsides.

Photographing Goreme
Nick photographing me snapping a photo (with Göreme in the background)

We paused for a few minutes to watch the sunset. From a bluff overlooking the town, I joined other tourists to take photos of the valley below.

Sunset in Cappadocia
Sunset in Cappadocia

Hiking the Rose Valley

On Sunday morning, Nick and I hopped a dolmuş to the nearby town of Çavuşin. From there, we hiked into rose valley to explore the rocks and the ruins.

As we left the city limits, we were joined by one of the many dogs who were wandering the street. This dog stayed with us for about five kilometers (three miles) before being scared off by a bigger dog. He became our guide, and was actually quite loyal to me for the two hours he was with us. I liked it. Plus, we’d lose the trail at times; when that happened, the dog would walk on ahead a ways, and then turn to tell us to follow him. He was like a personal guide.

Climbing up to a church A cave church in Cappadocia
Nick climbing up to a cave church; our “guide” is behind him. Inside the cave church.

The hike through the rose valley is probably the highlight of my trip to Turkey so far. It was beautiful. The weather was perfect. And despite the fact that Göreme (and surrounding towns) are flooded with tourists like us, there were surprisingly few people on the trails.

We walked up and down the cliffs and canyons, exploring the caves and churches along the way. We picked grapes from the vines planted throughout the valley. At one point, we met a man named Hussein who was harvesting walnuts. He asked us to stop and chat with him a bit, and he shared his (bitter) fruit with us.

“Walnuts: original Viagra,” Hussein laughed as he cut the walnuts apart with his knife.

Sharing walnuts with Hussein
Nick sharing walnuts with Hussein

Our path twisted up and around and down again. Eventually we passed a British couple who advised us not to miss the cave church up ahead. “It’s magnificent,” they said. And it was.

We crossed a wooden bridge into the church and began exploring. My old fear of heights has mostly vanished, so I did stupid stuff like crawling out windows of the church so that I could scale the cliff outside to reach other sections. At one point, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get back down except by falling!

The day had grown hot, and I had grown sweaty. For much of the morning (and afternoon), I ran around without a shirt on, which is totally not my normal style. In the magnificent cave church, we bumped into an Australian man (also shirtless) and his wife. They live in the area and visit the caves often. They noted that the bridge into the church wasn’t there a month ago.

Inside a cave church
Inside a cave church. This is more primitive than some of the ones we saw.

After we’d finished the rose valley, we walked back to Göreme under the blazing sun. Over four hours, we hiked about twelve kilometers (or 7.5 miles). In town, we scarfed down a hearty meal.

In the evening, we took a trip to a nearby cultural center to see the whirling dervish ceremony, which was fantastic. Nick and I were mesmerized. It cost €30 each and lasted 45 minutes, which seems like a steep price. But we’re both glad we saw it. It was haunting and beautiful. The music was enchanting, and unlike anything I’ve ever heard.

Unfortunately, photos of this religious ceremony were not allowed, but I found this clip on YouTube, which shows something similar.

Not the ceremony we saw, but similar

Hot-Air Balloons in Cappadocia

This morning, we rose at 5am to participate in a tourist ritual. When you come to Cappadocia, you must ride the hot-air balloons.

Three weeks ago in Portland, I went hot-air ballooning with Kim. Our flight took off from the Aurora airport, and we drifted south past Woodburn. It was a peaceful flight, and it was fun to see my native region from a different perspective.

Inflating the hot-air balloon
Inflating the hot-air balloon

Today’s flight was different than the one back home. For one, we never reached the same altitudes. For another, we rose and descended over and over again, exploring the many valleys around Cappadocia.

Note: In a strange twist of fate, our pilot was the same shirtless Australian man that Nick and I had met in the cave church yesterday afternoon!

Another major difference between this flight and the one in Portland was that this time we were not alone. In Portland, Kim and I could see a couple of other balloons in the distance (in Newberg). Here, there were almost 100 balloons all taking off at once, and all within a few hundred meters of each other. The sky was crowded.

Just 55 of the more than 70 balloons out this morning
Just 55 of the roughly 100 balloons that were out this morning

Taking the balloon ride was expensive. At €200 (or $275) each, it’s easily the most expensive single thing we’ll do on this trip. But, like the dervishes, this was an experience we’re glad we had. It’s once in a lifetime.

Cappadocia from above in a hot-air balloon
Cappadocia from above in a hot-air balloon

After seeing Cappadocia from the air, this afternoon we’re going to see it from the ground. We’ve booked a four-hour horseback ride, which ought to take us down and around some of the valleys and canyons we haven’t seen yet. Tomorrow, we’ll take a guided tour that touches on even more of the natural beauty around here. Wednesday, I plan to rent a motorbike or scooter, get a quick lesson, and then head out on my own.

There’s a lot to see here in Cappadocia — which means I ought to stop writing and get out there again to do stuff!

Taking the Bus in Turkey, and Meeting Adi

For me, this trip to Turkey is different from past trips in many ways. The biggest difference is that I can’t communicate. On every past visit to a foreign country, I’ve been able to get by with a bit of the native language (and lots of English).

Yes, there’s some English here, especially in tourist areas. But the deeper we get into Turkey, the less that’s true. Late last night (actually early this morning), we flew into Kayseri, launching point to Göreme in Cappadocia. From the moment we landed, we’ve been going on sign language and trust. (Trust that the other person gets our meaning — and we get theirs.)

So far, it’s worked. We took a taxi from the airport to the hotel. We checked in. We slept, ate breakfast, checked out. We took a taxi to the bus station. And we just bought two kilos of cured meat while waiting for our 11am bus to Göreme.

Nick, shopping for cured meat at the bus station.
Nick, shopping for cured meat at the Kayseri bus station

That’s another big difference on this trip. Here in turkey, the otobüs (bus) is a Big Deal and an otogar (bus station) like this one in Kayseri is usually big and modern, like a U.S. airport. The otogarlar (bus stations) have restaurants, shops, banks, newsstands, and plenty of ways to get you to your destination. Cheap ways to get you to your destination.

For local, in-town transport, you don’t even have to got to the otogar. You can use a dolmuş, a sort of shared taxi. You find the van you want, pay the driver three lira (about $1.50US), and hop on. Once the dolmuş is full, it leaves for its destination.

For longer journeys, you have to purchase tickets on a coach. That’s a little more complicated, but not much — even if you don’t speak Turkish. When I need a ticket, I find the information booth at the otogar and give the name of my destination. The attendant always points me to a bus company that can get me there.

Then I walk up to that company’s ticket counter and repeat my destination. The clerk points to a clock to tell me when the next bus leaves, and is always able to show me the price in Turkish lira. And those prices!

Inside the Kayseri bus station.
Inside the Kayseri bus station.

If you’re traveling on a budget, taking the bus is certainly the way to go. You save big bucks over a taxi or an airplane. (To get from Kayseri to Göreme by taxi would have cost between 180 and 220 lira. By bus, Nick and I were able to get there for 20 lira total. That’s a savings of $100!)

The downside? Buses take time. Often, lots of time. The bus from Istanbul to Izmir took us nine hours, but we coud have flown it in one. (It probably would have taken four hours total counting transfers to and from the airport.)

Here’s a run-down of our bus expenses (in time and money) so far:

  • Istanbul to Izmir: 70 lira each, 7 hours
  • Izmir to Selçuk: 9 lira each, 1 hour
  • Selçuk to Pammukale: 25 lira each, 3.5 hours
  • Selçuk to Antalya: 40 lira each, 6 hours
  • Kayseri to Nevşehir: 10 lira each, 1.5 hours
  • Nevşehir to Göreme: 3 lira each, 20 minutes

There are other upsides to riding the bus:

  • Much more leg room than a plane
  • Free wi-fi on long trips
  • Occasional stops for toilets and food
  • Better air (often air conditioned)
  • Able to move freely about the cabin
  • Free snacks and drinks served by a steward on a rolling cart, just like plane

The bus isn’t for every traveler. Using the bus requires patience. Things go wrong. Buses leave late (or early) and get flat tires. You meet…interesting people, for good and ill.

Getting ready to board the bus to Goreme
Back on the bus, y’all! Getting ready to board the bus to Nevşehir. Yes, I am sunburned.

Nick notes that the bus system here in Turkey is much like the train system in Italy and other parts of Europe. Everything is connected, and it’s very easy to get where you want. (The difference, of course, is that trains are faster.)

“It’s relaxing and scenic,” Nick says. “It’s very different than the United States. When I rode the bus in the U.S. — and I’ll admit this was 25 years ago — it was for people who couldn’t afford to fly, and it was not fun.”

He and I both thought buses would be more difficult. But they’re not. In fact, while I’m flying back to Istanbul in a few days, Nick plans to take the bus just for fun.

This morning, Nick and I took the otobüs from Kayseri to Nevşehir. The trip was unremarkable because I slept most of the way. One thing of note: As we neared Nevşehir, I spent about ten minutes chatting in Spanish with a man from Bilbao, Spain.

When we reached Nevşehir, the bus made several stops. The driver made sure to let me and Nick know when we’d reached ours. “Göreme?” we asked him as we reclaimed our bags from beneath the coach. “Otogar?” He motioned us down a side street. We followed his directions.

We expected to find a dolmuş (or two), but instead found ourselves outside a supermarket. We stopped to ask for directions. A group of schoolboys was gathered nearby, goofing off. “Where from?” asked the smallest of the boys. He stepped to the front of the group. His friends laughed.

“The United States,” I said, but that only confused him.

“America,” Nick said. The boy smiled.

“Oh, America!” he said. His friends laughed. “Where you go now?” he asked.

“Göreme,” I said. “We need the otobüs.”

“Oh,” he said. “Bus station is near. Maybe 100 meters.” He indicated the direction, but then he thought better of it. “Accompany me,” he said, and he started walking. We accompanied him, and so did his three friends.

“What is your name?” I asked.

“My name? My name is Adi. What is your mame?”

“My name is John,” I said. “He is Nick.”

“Nick,” said Adi. “Nick.”

Adi’s three friends repeated after him: “Nick. Nick.” They laughed.

Note: As we walked and talked, Adi’s friends would repeat words in English and laugh. Adi ignored them. So did I. Nick, for his part, was listening to them, trying to pick up words and phrases in Turkish.

“You have Facebook page?” Adi asked me.

“Yes,” I said, a little surprised. “Of course.” We stopped so I could write down my Facebook address on a slip of paper. (I’ll be interested to see if Adi finds me there and asks to be a friend.)

“How long have you been learning English?” I asked.

“Two years,” Adi said. “Are you English teacher?”

I laughed. I thought it would be too complicated to explain that I do tutor one person in English. Instead I said, “No, I’m not a teacher.”

“My teacher is from England,” Adi said. “My teacher is beautiful. How old are you?”

“I am 43,” I said.

“Forty-three,” he repeated.

“Forty-three,” repeated his friends. They laughed.

“That’s very old,” I said. “How old are you?”

“Thirteen,” said Adi. And then he stopped walking. “We are here. Bus to Göreme will be here. Good-bye, John.” He extended his hand, and I shook it. He joined his friends and they left, laughing.

How (Not) to Buy a Turkish Carpet

Today, Nick and I paid to tour the ruins of Ephesus, which lie just a few kilometers outside of Selçuk. (And which are, quite frankly, the only reason people come to Selçuk.) For the most part, I found the trip tedious. But I had a good day.

Ephesus was a major city in the ancient world, once boasting a quarter of a million inhabitants. The Temple of Artemis — one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World — was located here. The apostle Paul lived here as he helped to spread the early Christian church. (He wrote the first letter to the Corinthians here, as well as the epistle to the Ephesians.) Another apostle, John, lived and worked in Ephesus. In fact, he died here. What’s more, he’s purported to have brought Jesus’ mother Mary to Ephesus. (This morning, we visited the supposed house where Mary lived. So did thousands of other tourists.)

With all this history, why didn’t I care for Ephesus? Because frankly, I’ve seen enough Roman ruins in my lifetime. Can you believe I’ve become this jaded? I have. There was nothing in Ephesus I hadn’t seen before, and the place was crowded. Damn crowded. Our tour guide estimated that 30,000 people passed through the gates today. I think he may have under-estimated.

If you’ve never seen Roman ruins, or if you have a particular interest in Christian history, then Ephesus might be a keen place to visit. But if you have seen Roman ruins (in Rome, for instance) or aren’t particularly interested in Christian history, I wouldn’t recommend Ephesus as a “must-see”.

Just another day at Ephesus.
Ephesus: feral cats, marble columns, and crowds. Lots of crowds.

Our tour today actually stopped at four sites…and two “shopping opportunities”. I usually hate these come-ons that are built into many tours around the world. But I enjoyed the two today.

First, we stopped at a leather factory. We watched a short fashion show featuring fancy leather garments. Then we were funneled into a leather showroom. The thing is, I really liked the first leather jacket we saw on the runway: a brown, reversible number that I thought would look good on Kim.

So, I boldly approached a salesman and tried to buy it. I had no luck. Price wasn’t a problem. It was spendy, but I’m sure there was plenty of room to negotiate. Instead, all they had were smalls or sizes like 4XL. The salesman tried to convince me to buy another color or to buy a couple of sizes too big, but I stood firm. No jacket for The Girl.

Our second stop was at a…wait for it…Turkish carpet dealer.

Yarn at the carpet shop.
Yarn at the carpet shop.

If you’ve never been to Turkey, this might not mean much to you. But if you have been to Turkey, you’re groaning and shaking your head. I know it. You see, you cannot move five meters in Istanbul without being accosted by a man who wants to invite you for tea in his shop. Or to play backgammon. And oh, by the way, wouldn’t you like to see his carpets? Only to look, not to buy!

A local woman, hard at work.
Weavers are paid by the piece and might finish one piece per year.

At this “shopping opportunity”, we received a ten-minute lesson on how silk and wool are harvested, dyed, and woven into the fine carpets on display inside the showroom. Then we were led into said showroom, where the salesman lectured to us about the beauty of Turkish carpets while his assistant unrolled dozens of them on the floor before us.

It was entertaining.

Nick was drawn to the natural carpets, the ones without dyes. These take on the colors of the fibers of the animals from which the wool is harvested. They’re not nearly as soft as, say, a silk rug, but they’ve got an undeniable charm to them. Seizing an opening, the salesman went to work on Nick.

Nick gets the hard sell from a carpet salesman.
My cousin Nick getting the hard sell from a carpet salesman.

Meanwhile, I was drawn to a tapestry in the corner of the room. Nobody else seemed to notice it, but I thought it was gorgeous. Plus, since it was much smaller than an actual carpet — maybe 12 inches by 24 inches — I thought I might be able to afford it. I asked another salesman about the price. When he asked me to follow him to another room, I knew I was in trouble.

This reminds me of Sinbad. I love it.
This reminds me of Sinbad. I love it.

“It’s beautiful, no?” the salesman asked me.

“It’s gorgeous,” I said. “How much is it?”

“Look at how fine the craftmanship is,” the salesman said. He flipped the tapestry over so I could see the back. “It has more than 500 knots per square centimeter. It took very long to make. And here it is signed by the artist.”

“Yes, but how much does it cost?” I asked.

“Twenty-eight thousand dollars,” he said. I just about died.

“That’s as much as a car,” I said. “I can’t afford that.”

“Perhaps you could pay in installments,” the man said. “Plus, we can ship to your country for free. You pay now, you have the piece in six to eight weeks.”

“I don’t think so,” I said.

“How about another piece then,” he said. He motioned to his assistant, who brought out four, eight, a dozen more.

“They’re beautiful,” I said. “But they’re all going to be too expensive. How much is that one?”

“That is $38,000, sir.”

“And that one?”

“Only $9,000.”

“Do people really pay these prices?” I asked.

The salesman looked offended. “Yes, of course,” he said. “These are fine pieces of art. Some people appreciate them. See this carpet on the wall? That one costs $150,000. Many people would gladly pay that much for it.”

“Not me,” I said. And I thanked the salesman for his time.

I went back to the main room, where Nick was still talking with the salesman about the carpet he liked. The price seemed reasonable — only $2200 — but ultimately Nick declined. Nobody in our group bought a thing, and the carpet salesmen went hungry.

A man selling olives in Şirince.
A man selling olives in the hillside town of Şirince.

Back in Selçuk after the tour, Nick and I caught a van (dolmuş) up the hillside to the Greek village of Şirince. There we wandered the streets, looking at the handicrafts for sale (which were slightly different and slightly cheaper than we’ve seen in other parts of Turkey), and petting the cats. Because prices were good, I bought my first souvenirs of the trip.

Before heading home, we stopped for dinner. I ordered the chicken and got to watch while the chef prepared it:

This woman stoked the fire and slapped my chicken on the grill.
Grilled chicken and a glass of wine for fourteen lira (about seven bucks). Not bad!

How awesome is that?

In the end, it was a good day, even if the primary focus — the ruins of Ephesus — disappointed me. That’s just how travel goes sometimes.

Note: I really did like that tapestry. It’s a thing of beauty. But I don’t have $28,000 to throw around on art. And even if I did, I’d rather use that money to travel.

Ninety Minutes to Pamukkale

“What do you want to do today?” Nick asked me this morning. We were feasting on a typical hotel breakfast in Turkey: bread and jam, watermelon, olives, a bit of goat cheese, cucumbers, and two slices of mystery meat. And tea. There’s always tea.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m beat. I could use a down day after yesterday.”

We’d spent the entire day in transit from Istanbul to Izmir — then south to Selçuk. Two hours by ferry, five hours by bus, one hour in the bus station’s internet cafe looking for lodging, and then an hour by van (dolmuş) to Selçuk.

“Then I’m going to go to Pamukkale,” Nick said.

“What’s in Pamukkale?” I asked.

“Hot springs,” Nick said. “And ruins.” There’s always ruins.

“Well, I’m going to stay in Selçuk to rest,” I said. “Maybe I’ll do some writing.”

We finished eating. Nick shared his breakfast with one of the neighborhood cats. The neighborhood cat was grateful. Too grateful.

Nick sneaks food to a cat in Selcuk
Some folks have requested a photo of Nick. Here he is, feeding a cat in Selçuk.

I finished my meal and stood to go. “Have fun,” I said. “I’m going to shower and shave.” Last week, I received the best shave of my life in Istanbul. Since then, I’ve remained clean shaven. (I’m not sure whether that’s permanent, but it’s fun for now.)

I was at the sink shaving — watching my own WDS speech on the iPad — when Nick burst into the room.

“It only costs 25 lira each to get to Pamukkale,” he said. “And it’s only a ninety minute trip. But we have to leave now. The bus is waiting.”

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll go.” I finished shaving in a rush, grabbed my camera, and we hoofed it to the bus station.

It’s common on trips like this to run into other travelers and then to strike up a conversation. It’s one of the best parts of traveling, yet it hadn’t happened for me in Turkey — until today.

The bus made a quick stop at the edge of Selçuk to pick up four other tourists. They happened to sit near us. We soon became acquainted with:

  • Linda, an OR nurse from San Diego
  • Dustin, a computer programmer from Los Angeles
  • Nicole, a pediatric nurse from Atlanta
  • an investment broker from New York City whose name I’ve forgotten

As our ninety minute ride began, the six of us chatted about travel and life. Of the group, Nicole had traveled most extensively. In fact, she’s in the middle of a ten-month round-the-world trip that started March first. She doesn’t plan to be home until the holidays — if then.

“Wow,” I said. “That sounds almost Australian.” Australians do a lot of world travel.

“I know,” Nicole said. “Not many Americans do this sort of thing. But it’s always been a goal of mine, so I saved up to do it.”

“That’s awesome,” I said. I explained that I make my living by writing about personal finance. “How long did it take you to save for this trip?”

“I don’t know,” Nicole said. “Maybe eight years.”

“Hold on,” I said. I pulled out my notebook and pen. “I want to write this down. I have a magazine column due in a couple of weeks, and the topic is smart saving. Can I use you as a source?”

“Sure,” she said. We chatted about how she’s saved and where she’s traveled and what she’s seen along the way.

Time passed.

“This bus is taking longer than ninety minutes,” I told Nick.

“How long has it been?” he asked.

“Nearly three hours,” I said, checking my watch.

“I think maybe we’re there,” he said as the bus pulled to the side of the road. The driver motioned for us Americans to get off…and to climb aboard a dolmuş. After thirty more minutes, our “ninety minute” trip to Pamukkale was over.

I did a mental calculation. Three-and-a-half hours by bus to our destination and another 3-1/2 hours to return. That’d be nearly as much travel as we did yesterday! I hoped the hot springs would be worth it.

They were.

The hot springs at Pamukkale
Looking up to Pamukkale

According to Wikipedia:

Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, is a natural site in Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey. The city contains hot springs and travertines, terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water.

In plain English: Pamukkale is a vast white hillside with streams and pools that have been depositing white minerals for thousands of years, creating an amazing landscape that looks like a snowy hillside, but which is really nothing but rock.

Pamukkale is a World Heritage Site, and for good reason. It’s beautiful.

Posing for photos at Pamukkale
Your humble author at Pamukkale (photo by Nicole)

After our 3-1/2 hour trip, we spent the next 3-1/2 hours wading through the mineral pools. We could have spent much longer. Nick went off on his own while Linda, Dustin, Nicole and I slowly walked up the hillside, chatting and taking photos.

Posing for photos at Pamukkale
Dustin and Linda, posing for Nicole at Pamukkale

As four o’clock deadline approached, Nicole and I found Nick. Together, we walked down through the mineral pools. The cool water and the soft white mud were refreshing.

“I hope I’m not too late,” Nicole said. “I don’t want to miss my bus.”

We reached the station just as the dolmuş arrived. “Is this the bus to Fethiye?” Nicole asked. The driver said it was, but we couldn’t tell if he was telling the truth. She climbed aboard anyhow. The dolmuş made its way to the nearest bus station.

As we got in line for the bus back to Selçuk, Nicole left to find her bus to Fethiye. But it wasn’t there. “It’s left already,” she told us. “It’s gone.” But she didn’t seem panicked. She’s been traveling for six months, after all. And she’s been to India.

“There’s probably another bus,” I said. There’s always another bus. She went inside the station to buy tickets. (Nicole, if you’re reading this, please let us know you’re safe.) Nick and I boarded our bus and settled in for the 3-1/2 hour trip. I wrote. Nick watched Turkish movies with the sound turned off.

Posing for photos at Pamukkale
Unknown couple getting great photos at Pamukkale

As we rode into the darkening dusk, I couldn’t help but think back on a tiny event at the start of the day. When I left Nick at breakfast, I went upstairs to shave. As I shaved, I watched my talk from World Domination Summit.

In that speech [full transcript], I talked about personal transformation and about how I’ve grown and changed over the past five years. One of the key parts of my development was learning to say “yes” to the things that people offer me.

And here I’d just had a marvelous day — seen a World Heritage Site, taken some fun photos, made some new friends — all because, once again, I’d overcome my initial urge to say “no” and had said “yes” instead. I could have stayed to rest in the hotel room, but instead I had a small adventure. Lesson learned.

But I still need a rest day!

Postscript: Just for kicks, I tracked down a list of the 962 World Heritage Sites (as of 2012). I’ve visited 25 of them, including two already on this trip (and two more to come — one in Turkey, and one in the U.S.). Sounds like I need to more travel!

Five Days in Istanbul

Nick and I have been in Istanbul for five full days now, and we’ve barely scratched the surface.

Without a tour group and with no real agenda, we’ve explored the city slowly. In fact, there are still lots of things we haven’t done. Whenever we part ways — which we do at times during the afternoons — Nick ranges far afield while I explore old Istanbul, trying to get a better feel for the streets and neighborhoods.

Tulumba, the Turkish equivalent of a donutOur feet are sore, and so are our throats. (We can’t tell whether it’s pollution or allergies. It might be both.) But so far, the minor ailments have been worth it. Here are some of the highlights from our first few days in Turkey.

Overall, I’m not that impressed with the food. Maybe I’m just trying the wrong things. Before I left, people kept telling me how great Turkish food was, but I don’t get it. There’s just not much variety. (Jodi‘s given me a lead on a good kebab place (or “kebap” as they’re known here), but that’ll have to wait until I return to Istanbul in ten days.)

That said, there are some Turkish foods that I like — including Turkish coffee. I’ve only been drinking coffee for about six weeks, so it might seem strange that I’ve leaped into the deep end and am now drinking the industrial-strength stuff. But there you go. I’ve had Turkish coffee twice and loved it. I especially loved it with a small dish of tulumba, which are a sort of cross between a donut and a churro. (One of my super powers is finding the local equivalent of donuts no matter which country I visit.)

Just as I learned to love maracuyá (a type of passionfruit) in Peru, I’m learning to love pomegranate here. Pomegranate juice, especially. Between four and eight lira (about $2US to $4US) will buy a cup of fresh-squeezed juice. It’s very sour — much more sour than the Pom-brand stuff in U.S. grocery stores — but it’s delicious.

For two bucks, this boy squeezed me a glass of fresh pomegranate juice
For two bucks, this boy squeezed me a glass of fresh pomegranate juice

Actually, Turks seem to have a fondness for sour flavors. Many things, such as candies and juices are flavored with sour cherry (visne). I like sour things too — such as the afore-mentioned maracuyá — so, hey, I feel right at home.

There are cats everywhere in Istanbul. Just like the dogs in Cusco, Peru, the cats live and interact with the humans on a daily basis. They have their own cat agendas, almost as if they have jobs. There’s an orange cat that hangs out at the benches benches between the Blue Mosque and Haigia Sophia. And today I stopped to rest at a coffee shop. A small calico kept bringing bits of meat off the street and carrying them to a back room. “She has a litter of kittens back there,” the shop owner told me. “I’m letting her stay.”

Kids playing with a cat near the Blue Mosque
Kids playing with a cat between the Blue Mosque and Haigia Sophia

Salesman are aggressive here, and tourists are suckers. How do I know? Because I’ve been a sucker already, and so has Nick. Nick paid 40 lira (about $25US) for a shoeshine. I paid 75 lira (about $45US) for a meal that should have cost 20 lira. But you’re only a sucker once. (Sometimes twice.) After that, the aggressive salesmen have to find new suckers.

A mild-mannered shopkeeper, selling his lamps in Istanbul
A mild-mannered shopkeeper, selling lamps in Istanbul

Surprisingly, I’m getting plenty of practice with my Spanish. I have a Spanish-language map, Spanish-language guidebooks, and I pick up Spanish-language brochures at each museum or site. We’ve befriended a shopkeeper named Ramazan, who speaks a bit of English and a bit of Spanish. He and I speak Spanish with each other whenever go in to buy water or deodorant or chips. When I’m accosted by the afore-mentioned aggressive salesmen, I pretend to speak Spanish, which usually (but not always) gets me out of having to deal with them.

The tourist attractions are neat, but they’re very much tourist attractions. This includes the fabled Grand Bazaar, which now seems like the world’s largest souvenir shop. (It’s huge beyond words.) There’s plenty of life to be found in the streets and alleys near the tourist attractions, though. My favorite part of the trip so far has been the afternoon that Nick and I just wandered aimlessly in the streets, absorbing the vibrancy of the people and the place.

The bustling real-world marketplace outside the Egyptian Spice Market
The bustling real-world marketplace outside the Egyptian Spice Market

Finally, I like a couple of my snapshots from Haigia Sophia, so indulge me.

This cat was guarding the Imperial Gate at Haigia Sophia
This cat was guarding the Imperial Gate at Haigia Sophia, but it let me pass

The ceiling (and great chandelier) in Haigia Sophia
The ceiling (and great chandelier) in Haigia Sophia

A group of tourists gathered near the apse of Haigia Sophia
A group of tourists gathered near the apse of Haigia Sophia

This morning, Nick and I will take the ferry and bus to Izmir, which is a couple of hundred kilometers south of Istanbul. We have no hotel reservations and no idea what we’ll do when we get there (which will probably be around 17:00 local time). So far, things have been easy, and we’re counting on that being the case in Izmir as well. It may be a bad assumption. We’ll see.

Until next time, my friends, be well.

Getting a Haircut in Istanbul

Tonight, I got the best shave and haircut of my life.

One of the things I like to do when I travel is to get my hair cut in other countries. I’ve also become accustomed to getting a shave. (A professional shave can be expensive in the U.S., but it’s surprisingly cheap elsewhere in the world.)

In Cusco, Peru, I asked for a shave at the hotel salon. It was terrible. The woman was very nice, but she had no idea what she was doing. She shaved my entire beard using teen tiny amounts of shaving cream. It was essentially a dry shave, and it hurt like hell.

Getting a Shave in Cuzco
I had a nice chat with this woman, but the shave was miserable

I had to finish the job myself back in the hotel room. It was a miserable experience.

A few weeks later, though, I had a great haircut from a young man in La Paz, Bolivia. We tried to talk to each other, but my Spanish was just too weak. (Though it was better than his English.) The haircut was great and only cost about $7 US, including tip.

Getting my hair cut in Bolivia
Getting my hair cut in Bolivia

So, of course, I told Nick that one of my goals while we’re in Istanbul is to get a shave and haircut. I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon.

But today after we toured the Dolmabahçe Palace, we took the funicular up to Taksim Square. From there, we walked down İstiklâl Caddesi, a pedestrian mall lined with shops and restaurants. The place was jam-packed, but the side streets were much more interesting and much less crowded. (On one side street, we tried stuffed mussels. But Şalgam, the drink I chose, was awful!)

Near the bottom of İstiklâl Caddesi, we passed a barber. “You could get your haircut and shave here,” Nick suggested.

“Nah,” I said. “I don’t feel like it.” But at that moment, the barber saw us and beckoned us inside. This is a very minor come-on compared to most in Istanbul — merchants are aggressive here — so I gave in. I did need a shave and a haircut, after all.

“How much?” I asked, but the barber didn’t speak English (and I don’t speak Turkish). Still, he understood what I meant. He pulled out a ten lira note. I agreed and sat in the vacant chair. The barber’s partner entered the shop and put a towel around my neck. The process began.

My barber — whose name was Ibrahim — started by lathering my face for what seemed like an eternity. It was very relaxing. Then, he shaved me in short, sure strokes. He pulled my skin taut and scraped quickly. Before long, he’d stripped me of all my facial hair, even my mustache and goatee.

A cleanly-shaven J.D.
A cleanly-shaven J.D., which doesn’t happen very often. Nick is to my right.

“Chai?” Ibrahim asked me. At first I refused, but eventually gave in. He scurried next door and returned with a glass of hot tea for me and one for Nick (who had succumbed to the other barber’s pressure and was getting a shave in the seat next to mine).

After I’d begun to sip my tea, Ibrahim shaved me for a second time. When he was finished, he pulled his fingers through my hair. “Cut?” he asked. Again, I refused, but Ibrahim’s gentle insistence was enough to win me over. Even though I just got my hair cut two weeks ago, I agreed to let him cut it.

The haircut was meticulous. He took twenty minutes going over every single hair on my head. It was as if he were manicuring a lawn.

Then a couple of surprising things happened. I was sort of drifting off to sleep (I still have jetlag) when I felt a strange burning on my ears. I opened my eyes to find — WTF!?!? — Ibrahim was singing my ear hairs with a cigarette lighter. In my 43 years on this earth, I’ve never had a barber do that to me. I didn’t even know it was a thing!

Getting my ear hair singed
Getting my ear hair singed by the best barber I’ve ever had

Next, Ibrahim had me put my head face-down in his sink. He turned on the water, lathered up with soap, and then washed my entire head, front and back. Strange, but satisfying.

Finally, he doused me in aftershave and cologne. The aftershave didn’t just go on my face; he poured a generous amount over the top of my head and massaged it into my scalp. After give squirts of cologne, I felt as if no woman could possibly resist my scent!

When Ibrahim had finished, he whipped away the apron with a flourish and waved his hand to indicate the master had finished his performance. “How much?” I asked. He wrote the answer on a pad of paper: just 25 Turkish lira. I gave him 35, or about $20 US. Best haircut I’ve ever had in my life, and a bargain at twice the price.

I’m telling you folks: If you want to have fun, get a haircut (or a shave) when you visit another country. Or find something similarly mundane. When you don’t know the language and you don’t know the culture, the commonplace can be a fun way to connect with other people.

Highlights from FinCon 2012

Defining your purpose with why, how, and whatI’m in the air, somewhere over Michigan, on my way from Denver to New York City (and then on to Istanbul). I spent the past four days in Colorado at FinCon 2012, the second annual Financial Blogger Conference.

In the past, I would have written a conference summary that highlighted all of the key insights I gleaned over the weekend. I don’t have to do that anymore. Instead, I can focus on how much fun I had seeing old friends and making new ones.

Each time I attend a blogging conference, it’s an intense experience. I’m “on” from the moment I reach the hotel until the moment I leave. This time, I was “on” even longer.

When I boarded the shuttle from the airport on Thursday afternoon, I sat next to Linsey Knerl (from 1099 Mom). She and I (and two other bloggers in the van) chatted the whole way to the hotel. On the early Monday morning shuttle back to the airport, I rode with Andrea and Shannyn and Sarah. From van ride to van ride, I was in constant Social Mode with very little sleep. It was overwhelming — but awesome.

“You’ve changed. You look good.” — Linsey Knerl‘s funny “compliment” to me on the shuttle to the hotel

Friends and Colleagues

My favorite part of blogging conferences is connecting with my friends and colleagues. I’ve “known” some of these financial bloggers for almost seven years, but we rarely have a chance to connect in person.

Ramit won't eat sno-balls, not even for moneyI went to lunch with Jim and Luke on Saturday. There, we hatched a possible business collaboration. Could the three of us become business partners? Possibly! We’ve worked loosely together in the past (and Jim and I even partnered on the Personal Finance Hour podcast), but never had a formal business relationship. That may change in the future.

As always, I spent time with Adam Baker, who may be my best friend among this community. He and I and Ramit spent some time talking about the past, present, and future of blogging, and about what each of us hopes to accomplish in the days ahead. I tried to convince Ramit to eat some Hostess sno-balls, but he wouldn’t do it — not even for twenty bucks. That’s some discipline!

In what is becoming an annual tradition, Kylie Ofiu and I escaped from the crowd for a quiet dinner alone. Kylie’s a sharp young entrepreneur from Australia. Our backgrounds are similar, so it’s interesting to compare notes.

I liked the three metal bracelets Kylie Ofiu was wearing. Each was engraved with one of her favorite sayings:

  • “Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.”
  • “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”
  • “I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”
Kylie's bracelets, which I love
Kylie Ofiu has engraved her favorite quotes on a series of bracelets

I also took time to meet with Pete, who goes by the moniker Mr. Money Mustache. He has a hot early retirement blog, and for good reason. He offers solid advice in a strong personal voice. I loved his presentation at FinCon; his blogging philosophy and mine are closely aligned.

Mr. Money Mustache gives a presentation at FINCON 2012
Mr. Money Mustache gives his presentation at FinCon 2012

I had a chance to chat with lots of other financial bloggers, as well. Neal Frankle and I had several long, interesting conversations. I’m half tempted to leave Turkey early so that I can visit him and his family in Israel.

“People lock themselves in their own prison…If you don’t live with gratitude, you’ll always be poor. You will always be in poverty.” — Neal Frankle, on being grateful for what you have

Ryan was again a great source of inspiration. Last year, he shared a Spanish proverb (“no hay mal que por bien no venga“, which loosely translates as “every cloud has a silver lining”), which had a profound impact on my life. This year, he was again a well of knowledge, teaching me about everything from Turkish tourist spots to blog optimization to simple, tasty breakfasts.

Recipe! Here’s one of Ryan’s favorite breakfasts, one I’ll be sure to try: Fry some chunks of pepper bacon in melted butter. Add shredded parmesan. After the parmesan gets crispy, add eggs and scramble. Serve over sourdough toast..

I didn’t just reconnect with old friends. I made some new ones too. I met dozens of other bloggers, such as Adam, Corey, Karen. I especially enjoyed chatting with Paula from Afford Anything and Shannyn from Frugal Beautiful. I also got to meet my stalker from FinCon 2011, Andrea from So Over This.

The Future of Financial Blogging

J.D. in the channel 9 newsroomThe conference wasn’t all fun and games, of course.

I spent a lot of my time meeting with representatives from financial services companies like USAA and T. Rowe Price and Ally Bank. I listened to pitches from companies with interesting financial apps, companies like RetailMeNot and Budgetable. I did two television interviews.

Plus, I attended a number of lectures and workshops. I appreciated Adam Baker’s thoughtful opening keynote that encouraged us to identify our “why” before trying to find our “how” or “what”, Linsey Knerl’s presentation on connecting with mainstream media, and Mr. Money Mustache’s instructions on how to build a cult-like following.

“Everyone dies in the middle of their lives.” — Adam Baker, about how nobody expects the end of their lives to be the end — they still feel as if there’s more of their story to be told

Some of the most fun I had was during the “How I Built My Million Dollar” blog panel with Jim, Luke, and Will. We got to sit on stage for an hour, fielding questions from other bloggers about the business of blogging. I get a kick out of sharing what I know with other people, and it was especially fun to hear how the four of us had different ideas and opinions.

Expert panel at FINCON 2012
Kelly Whalen puts a question to the “all-star panel” at FinCon 2012

Last year, I gave the opening keynote to FinCon 2011. Most attendees remember the speech because, in order to make a point, I recruited my friend Benny Lewis to storm the stage dressed as a Klingon (complete with bat’leth!) This year, I gave the closing keynote, and it wasn’t nearly as exciting.

My talk was on the community and the future of financial blogging. Rather than ramble on about my own half-baked notions, I recruited eight of my fellow bloggers to join me on stage one at a time to share their views.

J.D. interviews Flexo at FINCON 2012
J.D. interviews Flexo about the blogging community at FinCon 2012

Perhaps my favorite part of the whole talk was being able to introduce Karawynn from Pocketmint to a larger audience. Karawynn’s the reason I’m a blogger. I first found her online journal back in 1997, and it inspired me to start one of my own. Then, a decade later, she contacted me because she was starting a personal finance blog. She had inspired me, and now I was inspiring her. Love it.

FinCon 2013

Though I’ve retired from Get Rich Slowly, I’ll be at FinCon 2013. For one thing, I’ll be writing about money here now and then. For another, I’m about to resume my duties at Time‘s Moneyland blog. And, most of all, I want to see my friends and colleagues once more.

Others seem to feel the same way. In fact, I’ve managed to make plans to see some of these folks again on this long trip. When I return from Istanbul to New York City in early October, Luke and I plan to see a show on Broadway. After that, I’ll fly for a speaking engagement in Atlanta, where I hope to have dinner with Paula. And when I make it to San Francisco, I intend to meet with a couple of the companies that talked to me this weekend.

But now? Now it’s time to set business aside. This plane has almost reached JFK. For the next three weeks, I’m going to forget about financial blogging and focus on fun. Next stop: Istanbul!

Less Than Stupid

Remember how I said that domain squatters want $18,000 for morethanmoney.com. They’ve changed their mind. They want more!

More Than Money domain name email
May I have two, please?

In theory, I’m somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, on my way to Istanbul. Updates from Turkey soon!