Sunrise – and Stranded – in Istanbul

My original plan, when we were putting together this whole excursion to Bangladesh, was to get to Dhaka for our visit and then fly back to Hawaii, switch my bags out, and fly to Florida to meet up with Scott and our friend Sarah for the Princess Half Marathon.

I’d signed up for the half marathon way before this trip hit the horizon. I didn’t worry about it, because originally the trip was supposed to take place in January. Bangladesh’s election issues, protests, and the threat risk to the work we were going to do shoved the trip into February, but it wasn’t going to be a big deal – I still thought I’d have plenty of time to get back.

That was before sandstorms hit Dhaka.

Dhaka already struggles with terrible pollution issues, but add sandstorms from the north into the mix, and you’re getting flights grounded for brownout conditions. So we were stuck in Dhaka for two days before I was finally able to find a carrier flying out – Turkish Airlines.

They weren’t flying east as I wanted, though, because of the sand. Instead, they were headed west to Istanbul. And after talking to an airline representative in a cramped little room up in the sweltering attic of the airport, where airline personnel made adjustments in computers with green-on-green screens that hearkened back to the ’80’s, I figured that I could get to Istanbul and then board a direct flight to Chicago, and from there, connect to Orlando. And I just might be able to get there the day before the race.

I decided to chance it, and hopped on the plane, only to hit a snowstorm in Istanbul. Which meant 24 hours on the ground in Istanbul. Which meant I just might be able to get into Orlando by midnight the day before the race.

I didn’t have a lot of options, so I decided to get on the flight to Chicago the next morning. In the meantime, I decided I was too old to camp out in the airport, so I hopped a shuttle to a local hotel, got myself settled in the room, and ordered a bottle of Turkish wine and a terrific dinner to help me cope with my jetlag.

It worked until the first light of the sun started creeping in through the drapes.

I got up, bundled myself up, and stepped out on my porch to see the first light of dawn lighting the city, highlighting skyscrapers and minarets on the horizon, and in the far distance, twinkling off the sea.

Sunrise brought the magic rushing back in. This trip was no longer one of necessity and inconvenience. It was a thing of wonder.

I was standing in the heart of an absolutely amazing city, one I might not have seen otherwise, and I was enchanted with the feel and the look of it. Dappled with snow, glittering with the morning glow, and calling to me to be explored.

I was no longer figuring out how many hours I had until my plane flight. I was hoping they would stretch out long enough for a trip to the Blue Mosque and the Old Bazaar, and would give me time to walk to a cafe and get a stout cup of Turkish coffee to start my day.

Unexpected adventure makes for a better story.

~Lynn O’Rourke

The trip turned into an adventure again. All I needed was a little bit of sunrise, and a little light to see the absolutely amazing place I had accidentally landed, to reawaken my gypsy soul.

How many of you guys have been on an accidental adventure? What places have you unintentionally ended up in and ended up loving?