Getting Ready to Roll

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lately, the Borderlands Lounge has been a hotbed of activity. Now that most of the work related to my book has been finished and the semester is over, I've been able to turn to other things.

For one thing, I've managed to spruce up the Borderlands a little bit. During my earlier years at MSU, and especially over the past year and a half or so, it's been hard for me to write much. Unless there was something more pressing going on, I felt like I couldn't really justify writing stuff online when I had a book to write.

That was an unfortunate decision, I think, because it's good to have hobbies, and this is something I like doing. Nevertheless, I found it hard to justify spending a lot of time in the Borderlands, so I mainly just pounded away at the book. I think that's probably one reason behind the recent blast of activity that's been coming from these parts.

I've also been trying to attend to other aspects of my life that have been neglected lately. I cleaned my house, brushed my teeth, clipped my toenails--you know, the kinds of things that can get brushed aside over the course of an 18-month pressure party. I found a massage therapist and got some bodywork done. I threw a party. I did the sorts of things that I thought I'd thought about doing many a dark night last winter.

Yes, there have been some good times, but it hasn't been only fun and games up at the Borderlands Lodge
These are exciting times for me. I'm soon going to be taking a trip to Turkey--my first vacation in a very long time. There will be some work, as the book is moving forward, but not at the pace that I've been working for most of the past year.

I traveled last summer, but I was also working really hard. I spent about six weeks in Turkey and Georgia (as well as some time in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, which was fun), but mainly I was writing. I actually felt really inspired to be on the road. In Istanbul I hung out at the Bebek Kafe, pouring over my manuscript and pretending I was a pan-Turkist. In Georgia, I spent long hours in libraries in Batumi and Tbilisi. It was productive, and was great to be in these places, but I was also under a lot of pressure to get as much work done as possible so it wasn't always easy to relax.

This summer will be different. I plan to spend the next month backpacking in Turkey. I'll be in Istanbul for a few days, but for most of the time I anticipate traveling around Anatolia. Mainly, I'm interested in seeing places that I've never been to.
The Asian side of Turkey is called 'Anatolia'

Back when I lived in Turkey in the 1990s, I spent about ten months of the year in Istanbul. Living in the country as a foreigner, I often chose to spend my vacations outside of Turkey because, frankly, I usually wanted a change of pace. Although I traveled to dozens of destinations all across Turkey during the seven years I lived there before graduate school, the bulk of my summer travels was usually invested in the sorts of extended backpacker journeys outside of Turkey that feature in the photo page on my website. For this reason, as well as due to the fact that travel in the southeast was a lot more difficult in the 1990s than it is today, there were a number of places that I'd hoped to visit but had never seen by the time I returned to the US to start graduate school in 1999.

For the past fifteen years, most of my travels have been work-related. Every year in graduate school I would travel to Turkey or the ex-USSR to do archival research somewhere. It was a different kind of travel experience compared to what I'd been doing in the 1990s. When I was working as an English teacher in Turkey I would tour a region like the Balkans or the Middle East over the course of a couple of months or so in the summer. Now that I was in graduate school, my travels became more directed. Instead of traveling from town to town with a backpack, I would head to a city and rent an apartment. Sometimes I'd stay for a year or so, sometimes just a month, hanging out in places like Istanbul, Kazan, St. Petersburg, Ufa, Simferopol--you name it. Nevertheless, it wasn't really life on the road.

So this year I decided to shake things up a bit. For one thing, I felt like I really needed a vacation. I'd stayed in Bozeman over Spring Break, Winter Break, and Thanksgiving. I hadn't really gone anywhere (unless you include Butte, which is a cool place) since I got back from Turkey in the middle of last summer. I know there are lots of people with far more difficult working conditions than mine, so I'm not complaining, but after all of this work I did feel that I could use a change of scenery.

I'm looking forward to being on the road, and especially to just spending time in Turkey unrelated to research. Actually, it's not totally unrelated--I think I'd like to write a book about Turkey, so I guess I'm kind of searching for inspiration on this trip. But to the extent that these travels will have anything to do with my work, it's mainly with respect to thinking in big terms and re-acquainting myself in some ways with a country that's been part of my life since I was twenty-two. 

In any case, this summer felt like I good time to clear my head of the pan-Turkists and move on. My massage therapist was telling me the other day about how stress stays within the body if the muscles aren't moved properly over a long period of time. As she was working on me I thought I could really feel the pressure leaving my body. Some of it was psychosomatic, I'm sure, or else just psycho, but I'd never felt like the pressure felt by my mind and body had ever been so intertwined as they have been over the past year and a half. It's nice to start trying to break them up. It's also nice to strap on the backpack again.

As I rode my bike around Bozeman today, the snowflakes set in my hair and my eyes squinted against the sun. It's cold here, and blustery. Only at the end of the day today did it get really pretty, but even then it was chilly.

I think I little time in Turkey will do me good. At the very least, it could warm me up.
But who knows? We'll see what the time brings.
More links, commentary and other stuff can be found at the Borderlands Lounge.


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