At this moment, I was meant to be 30,000 feet up in the air somewhere over Europe getting ready to soon land in Istanbul and speak at the World Tourism Forum.
Yet, here I am writing this post from my living room office. I was excited about visiting Istanbul again and travelling solo, but sometimes the Universe has other plans for you.
You might think it’s because of the recent bombing in Istanbul that happened in the main tourist area near the Blue Mosque. It wasn’t, although I will admit a feeling of relief at not travelling with that edge of fear within me.
I was freaked out by the tourist bombing, but I made a decision still to go despite it. I understand that terrorist attacks can happen anywhere and I’m a believer that we don’t let our fears of something that has low odds of happening destroy our sense of freedom.
Turkey, however, is a little more unstable than most regions at the moment.
I did deliberate over going mostly because of the girls. Did I want to put myself in a possible dicey situation and jeopardise them? I’m not afraid of dying, but is it a good idea for me to risk it and unbalance their lives?
I decided that fear was not going to win, and it wasn’t that risky and I’d be still okay to go. I was excited and even went shopping to buy some winter dresses.
A few organizational issues
I sent the organisers an email to ask about security and whether there would be an increase given what happened. I also wanted to get their take on what the situation was like there. Just a little something to set my mind at ease. I had no reply.
For the next few weeks, I sent several emails asking about security, my accommodation, itinerary and role expectations. I didn’t even know what I was meant to be speaking about. I wanted to organise my own itinerary, book some tours, and plan to meet up some people.
Yet, all my emails to various organisers went ignored!
(A big shout out to Ryan, an Aussie in Istanbul who owns Authentic Turkey Tours who reached out to meet up and then did respond to my emails and gave me very honest and reassuring feedback about security in the city. Check out their tour company when in Turkey!)
I started to get cranky.
I was flying all the way from Australia via Singapore to speak at their event, yet they continued to ignore my emails. What was that all about? I get people are busy, but really, a quick email in response is not a big ask, especially when a speaker is asking about security for a tourism event when something like a bomb aimed at tourists recently went off.
I originally agreed to speaking at the forum because I was told Kofi Anan was headlining the event. That was an offer too good for me to say no to, even though it was a long way to go just to speak on a panel.
But, when I checked on the website to find out schedules, as none were arriving in my inbox, he was nowhere to be found.
The President of Turkey was speaking instead, a man I do not respect or revere like I do Kofi Anan. Now my belly started to sink. I was going to be speaking at an event that he was headlining.
Then my fellow travel blogging speakers began to notice that our speaking time in the program kept getting reduced. In the end, I was going all that way to possibly say a couple of sentences at an event headlined by the President, they-who-shall-not-be-named’s number one enemy at the moment.
The inner voice speaks
We were on the flight home from Singapore last Tuesday morning and I was feeling rotten. I couldn’t sleep, it was a horrible flight, and I felt my body breaking down. I’d eaten gluten in Singapore and I felt the reaction to the poison happening.
“I’ve got to do this again next week, but all the way to Istanbul.”
There was no excitement about the trip only a sinking feeling of dread. “I’m flying all that way to speak at an event for 5 minutes and they can’t even reply to my emails. Is it even worth it?”
Then the voice spoke.
“Pull out. It’s not in your best interest to go.”
When the plane landed and I checked my emails and still had not heard a response, I turned to Craig, “I don’t think I’m going to go to Istanbul next week.”
I felt bad for reneging on my commitment, but I knew that it was the right decision. I don’t ever ignore that voice even if I don’t understand why.
I don’t know why it spoke so clearly when it did. Perhaps it was trying to before when I was nervous about going to Istanbul for the girl’s sake, but I couldn’t hear it as I was more determined to make decisions that did not reflect my fear.
Maybe it found the opening in this moment on the plane when I was tired and cranky and in a better space to evaluate if it was really worth it.
Perhaps, it’s spoken now to protect me – from terrorist activity, maybe, who knows? That can happen anywhere so probably not. Maybe it’s protecting me from exhaustion. Maybe it knew that this past week I was going to be really sick and end up taking myself to the hospital at 2 am in the morning.
I‘m still not better, so I think I would have pulled out anyway.
Maybe it needs me here in Australia for something important, or maybe it’s nothing, it just knew the trip to Istanbul was no longer worth it.
On the train ride home from the airport, when I was still working through those guilty feelings of pulling out at last minute, I looked up and saw a poster on the wall of the train and the following jumped out at me in big yellow letters,
Thank you for the confirmation!
At about the same time, my very good friend, Nikki, who is also super business savvy, responded to my Facebook message asking for advice, saying the exact same words.
Trust your instincts
In a world dominated by our logical brain, it often feels like the unsafe choice to follow this inner voice that calls us to action. We want to know where it comes from, why we should listen, and often get confused because it steers us down paths we hadn’t planned for.
You cannot ignore it. The times in my life when I did, I ended up on a thorny path that almost bled me to death.
Making decisions can be a fraught with confusion, fear, and unhelpful emotions like guilt. But when we listen to our inner voice all of these meltaway and we get clarity!
Here I was rejecting free travel and a chance to explore Istanbul, a city I love, on my own. There was a time in my life where I’d label myself as insane for doing that. Priorities change. There’s so much more that’s important to me.
I don’t care so much about free travel.
I care about doing good work. I care about my health. I care about my children.
I knew that flying all that way to Istanbul was going to damage those three things and I came to the realisation that it’s just not worth it.
I possibly would not have come to that realisation if the organisers did not ignore my emails for weeks and kept me informed.
It’s okay to say NO
Listening to your inner voice and learning to say no when things aren’t right for you are two very powerful things to learn how to do.
It’s okay to say NO! There’s power in it and it will lead you to situations and opportunities that are more suited to you.
How do you know when your inner voice has spoken?
It takes practice to hear it’s authenticity, it has to poke through a lot of conditioning to help you learn to trust it again.
For me, it speaks from my gut but resonates through my entire body. There is no doubt attached, just a very strong knowing that this is the thing to do. It feels like it places a wall in front of me that I have no chance to get around.
When it spoke to me on the plane, I felt an energetic wall was built with a big sign that said, “No Istanbul.” I knew at that point that, no matter how guilty I felt, there was no way I was going. The voice had spoken.
I always pay attention to the signs after it as well, just for further clarification in case I need it.
As mentioned with the poster on the wall of the train.
Then an update from a travel blogger, Wandering Earl, who I really admire appeared on my Facebook timeline. I saw his profile picture and thought, “I haven’t seen anything from him in some time.“ (thanks Facebook for never showing us the people we want to follow!!) He was sharing a post called, “Why I always trust my travellers’ instinct.”
The post was about his inner voice speaking to him to leave Istanbul the day before the bombs went off. He was staying just 400m from where it happened. He spoke about Istanbul, a city he loves, and how it didn’t feel right to him when he was visiting. It felt changed and he was more on edge and nervous. He felt that persistent voice putting up the ‘No Istanbul’ sign.
I knew for sure I’d made the right decision to trust my instincts.
Please Note – This does not mean I don’t think Istanbul or Turkey is a place you should not visit. You listen to your inner voice and let it tell you what to do. I don’t think my inner voice told me no because it’s dangerous, it’s just not right for me at this time. It probably has more to do with my health!