28 Kasım 2015 Cumartesi

Being on the Road... (10) Happy Thanksgiving!

Discovering new lands is amazing but if you ask me what I love the most about my travels, I'd say reunions with friends. Well, they are actually more than friends now, they are family... They are the ones who remind me that my life is so rich and meaningful.

There is a bunch of them on the east coast, a bunch on the west, one in Boulder, Colorado, a bunch in Turkey, and a bunch more all over the world... Lucky me :)) No matter for how long I don't see them, every time I meet them we just pick up from where we left of.  They are home. 

I was lucky to see my friend Putu and her family with Ferron over Thanksgiving. Here are some pictures!.. :)) 

26 Kasım 2015 Perşembe

Being on the Road to LA from Vegas… (9)

Speaking of coming out of the comfort zone, today was one of the toughest days of our lives. 

We didn't rent a car because of the thanksgiving weekend the prices were way too high. So we said why not, just take the bus from Vegas to Los Angeles!

It was a bus full of Gremlins: A bunch of crying kids and really loud adults. For 6 full hours they cried, sneezed, coughed, yelled, laughed and talked. When you are in the process, you feel like it is never going to end… Just like when you are having difficult days, you can't see the light. Just like that. We were suffocated. 

At the end of the 6 hours, towards the dawn of the day, it only got worse… Our bus dropped us off on one of the scariest streets of downtown LA. I say scariest, shame on me! And that scary place is their home… Streets are filled with homeless people… One of the guys walked towards me screaming and I noticed that he was drunk afterwards. He did scare the hell out of me.  

Feeling fear, helplessness, compassion, love, hunger; between wanting to cry and puke at the same time, wreck tired with a headache and we still had to be alert to find our bus towards the airport hotel. We walked 5 minutes to take the first bus and then we lost our wifi connection. 

A big "shooooot!" We didn't know which bus we were going to take, we didn't know where we were going to be dropped off. No matter how professional you are at traveling, you can always come across with things that you don't expect. At that moment on, my mind went black and I stumbled over to another dimension: Surrender.

We walked towards a chain restaurant to find a wifi connection and we did. Yes, even though streets were still a little too scary, things were turning around. We found our destination, had a cup of coffee from that chain restaurant (that I would never ever use in my daily life) and waited for the bus. We finally reached the hotel but we had not eaten for hours. Since I couldn't find anything on Yelp, I asked the girl at the reception if there was any good places to eat around. She said, "yes, but since it's a holiday, everywhere is closed by now." I thought, ok, since we are here safe and sound, I can go to bed hungry tonight. No problem. 

But walking over to the hotel, I had seen a food mart nearby. And yes, it was open and yes we were grateful gobbling down our microwaved bean and cheese burritos; which I would never touch on my daily life. Whaaaat?!? Frozen stuff?? Nooooo waaaaay! A note to self: "Arzu, you don't know what hunger is. If you are hungry, you will have to eat it. So, be humble." 

Sometimes life brings you to the edge. I'd say just surrender. 

I know that there must be someone out there to look out for me when I had enough and didn't have the energy to try harder…  And when I do that, I haven't been let down; not even once. 

Being on the Road… (8) Las Vegas

Before I start writing about it, I do feel the need to explain why Vegas. Pretty much everything in Las Vegas (as my friend Ferron says) is "cheesy" and artificial. We usually focus on nature, culture, fresh food and the amount of hiking we can do on our travels. We don't like, nor support the consumption oriented approach in the world. And this city could be among the top 5 consumption oriented places on earth. 

This city triggers and reinforces all the taboos of humankind: Sex, alcohol and gambling. Luxurious hotels, high heels, breathtaking shows and big drunken fights on the streets… Racing cars, huge shopping malls and a big nothing… 

I find it actually way too legendary to create a huge fake nothing in the middle of nothing. That's why I will write about this place that actually is worth a visit once. 

My friend Karoly said it so well: "You may like it, because Vegas is sincerely fake!" 

Yes. That's probably it; its sincerity that draws us to this city. 

See: This place calls their burgers by pass burgers :)) How sincerely unhealthy!
Do we get this for vegetarians? 

Here are some of our favorite Las Vegas picks and pictures for you :))

* Venetian: Fake Venice. Even Venice doesn't have that clear water and those sexy gondoliers! 

* Paris Paris; it's fake Paris. 

* If you like adrenalin, take the rides on New York New York (as you can imagine, it's fake New York) If you need some adrenalin, the roller-coaster  at this hotel is the best. Stratosphere top of the world rides are a little too much for me… 

* Wynn wins the best ambience prize overall.  




* Go see a show! Preferably Cirque de Soleil (Le Rêve seems the be the most popular nowadays) We won Show Stoppers for free, it was pretty amazing, too!)


* It's obviously very popular to go to a Buffet in Vegas! (Wynn buffet has a lot of vegetarian & vegan options) Did we go? No... I can't eat so much food all at once. So I didn't think it was worth my $48 :)) 

* Don't miss Fremont Street! :)  

Fremont Str.

Also, wherever I go, I seek for nice and fresh food. I did the same in Vegas. First few days were difficult for me to adjust to the food in Vegas: All greasy and really bad quality. But finally I sought and found the most amazing fresh and vegetarian food in good prices, even in Vegas! If you love your food, too, check out my "Worth the Prize" deals!! You should just get a little off of the Strip for most of them. :)) 

Cleo(patra) Restaurant (Strip) at SLS is one of the best restaurants of all time. Seriously. Meditarrenean delicacies & the ambiance are so good. Especially their lebaneh with feta and tossed almond mushrooms are to die for! Your palate will be satisfied… 

Satay Thai (Paradise Road) Really good Thai food. If you are just a little hungry, their happy hour is quiet reasonable. We have been there twice. We had Pad Thai, vegan egg rolls, tofu salad, salt and pepper tofu and fresh rolls. They were all delicious.  

Their fresh rolls are so good! :) 

Salt and pepper tofu

Urban Turban (Indian, Paradise Road) You must try their 12 dollar lunch buffet. So good! 

VegeNation (Downtown) is one of the healthiest and yummiest options you could find in Vegas. Their mushroom pizza is epic! If you like it a little sweet like me, you will also love the sweet potato ravioli. :)) 

Simply Pure by Chef Stacey Dougan (Downtown) Their lasagna and pesto angel hair zucchini pasta are so good! 

Anthony's New York Pizzeria (Downtown) makes amazing pizza with fresh ingredients.  If you are planning to order delivery this is one of the best! 

The Goodwich This place is heavenly! You must try their fresh falafel sandwich. It's warm and really filling. Yumz! 

Thai Pepper This is a local place & great for lunch! Especially their veggie soup is to die for. Fresh and good quality food for reasonable prices. Their yellow curry is so good! 

Yellow Curry Lunch Special 

Makers and Finders Coffee We went there for Christmas eve brunch. It was not cheap but food tasted pretty good. Especially their coffee is epic. We haven't tried but their lavender latte is pretty famous. 

(We haven't been there but I checked their menu; Bronze Café also seems to be pretty good.) 

P.S.: You can check out all the restaurants on Yelp before you go. :))

Being on the Road… (7) Joshua Tree National Park

29 Palms Inn 

 Our room at 29 Palms Inn

 Our room at 29 Palms Inn

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park - The Skull Rock

A must visit place if you are at Joshua Tree!! :) 

25 Kasım 2015 Çarşamba

On the Desert Road… (6)

When you are on the road to discover new lands, you are basically going to the unknown. And that unknown keeps you alert all the time. That's one of the things I love the most about traveling: My meditative, in-the-moment mind. 

No matter how much you read about a place, it's unlikely that you will find exactly what you imagined it to be. It has a lot of components and whether the vibes of the place resonate with you or not defines your entire adventure. You learn to be open and accepting to what may come and be ready for various surprises! I guess that's what is making me more flexible than most people I know… Because I learned that only a wondering and flexible mind can be at ease and ready for what the roads may bring… This is actually also applicable in life. Roads teach me a lot about life, that's why I call our journeys a "pilgrimage"… 

Yesterday was one of those challenging unknown days for us. My limits were pushed and I had to be extremely flexible… We went through a day of intense emotions and full of learning… 

Cagri (my husband) went out to rent us a car to travel to Joshua Tree National Park; -a place my friend Augustina suggested us to go- while I was waiting for him at the hotel with our luggage. I waited for him to get back for 3 hours. (Normally it should have been 1.5 to 2 hours tops.) I didn't have a phone nor any means to reach him. (Yes! We didn't get a phone package here, so we had no means of communication…) I silently weeped on my own, feeling desperate and imagining catastrophic scenarios in my mind. "What if he had a car accident?" "What if I call all the hospitals?" "Who should I reach out to?" "What if he got lost and was robbed?" My mind usually doesn't work like that. I almost never feel this worried nor anxious. But this time, my mind purged whatever it had in stock. 

I thought about the enormous love and care I felt for him. I promised not to ever be the bitch I become during my PMS. (Hormones!) He came back at the end of the 3 hours and I cried, kissed and hugged him. He was worried that I would be worried and he actually had found a place to go online and sent me a whatsapp message that I never got because I wasn't online… Anyway to cut the long story short, we took off for our great adventure to the desert. When we took off, it was 4pm already but because it was only 3 hour drive, we decided that it was ok to drive a couple of hours in dark. 

It was not ok! We were driving on narrow empty desert roads and leaving the darkness behind. It was extremely spooky! I prayed, prayed, prayed during the entire trip. We were worried because the road was deserted and damn dark and if some crazy person dressed as a police officer pulled us over and simply got rid of us, none would ever hear! (Too many movies haha!) 

When you feel desperate, you actually remember how fortunate you have been so far and how your life has been filled with so many good things. Your life may not be perfect but the amount of joy you experience in it, actually defines the quality of your life. And I believe that this kind of joy stems from feeling fortunate and grateful for the things that are already there. 

We almost cried when we found our hotel. Wow what an intense day it was!..

The owner of our hotel was an Indian guy. He welcomed us at the doorstep, compassionately saying that he had been waiting for us. I had missed that kind of compassion and care since we have been away from out families who care for us like that… His reception decorated with Ganesha statues and incense smell made me feel at home.  

We briefly told him the story and he suggested us to go to the park and watch the sky in darkness… After having an exceptionally delicious Thai food, we went down to the entrance of the park and watched the bright sky filled with a galaxy of stars... Wow!.. It was magic. 

While embracing my husband and watching the star full sky, all I was feeling was gratitude, so much gratitude… 

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Being on the Road… (5)

To me, traveling actually is finding the limits of my comfort zone and expanding them. It looks magical from outside. And that is true. It's amazing in many ways. And most people who choose to spend a lot of time on the road as a way of living absolutely love and adore it (just like me) but I have to tell that the challenge is as big as its great adventure and fun. 

First of all, when you are on the road, you don't have a routine. For example, the only routine of our day is to have coffee in the morning and check and arrange tickets and hotels to our next destination for half an hour or so. Although it can get boring from time to time, daily routine makes life comfortable and more predictable. Did I miss my routine? Not yet. 

Being on the road for long periods of time can also be an emotionally challenging process. Small things like making coffee, doing laundry and finding a good place to eat could be somewhat luxurious from time to time.(I don't even mention about finding the kind of manicure and pedicure I am looking for hahha :D ) But the moment you stop wining about it and start taking these small challenges as a game, you are on top of it. You became a good traveler already! 

22 Kasım 2015 Pazar

Being on the Road… (4)

Santa Monica & Venice Beach

I was sitting on the beach watching the humongous waves beating the shores… 

When you physically come across with the vastness of this universe, you stop worrying about little small things and start thinking big… We are at least 6 billion people living on this planet and we all function in our own reality and within the limits of our designated identities…  We go through different feelings throughout life… 

Santa Monica

We get ambitious, jealous, angry, annoyed or sad based on what we were believed to be real and true, mostly depending on our culture and conditions… Some of us are more open to change than others… We become intolerant mostly to what is different from our point of view. 

Only a few of us is aware that as 6 billion people, we are just one organism, radiating from all different frequencies… Just like the sand in the ocean… All different but actually one…

Santa Monica

6 Kasım 2015 Cuma

Being on the Road… (3)

First day, Venice Beach… 

When I am on the road, I realize how insignificant I am in the vastness of the universe. I sit on the beach and stare at the ocean… I can do that for hours. I watch people surf at sunset and think about my surf in life… All my ups and downs, all my mistakes, stabilities and instabilities… I think what I can do differently to create a better version of me on a daily basis… 

Somewhere between Venice Beach and Santa Monica

We live our lives mostly in its delicate routine. We have responsibilities; there are things that we need to get done and people to sustain. This routine is sometimes boring but mostly safe. Some of us even freak out when the routine is broken. When it gets boring, we take holidays, we go to that new restaurant around the corner, we buy stuff or -sad but true- some of us have kids... 

I gave it a little thought about the routine of my own life. Did I want a routine or did society want it for me? Did I want to live where I lived or was it chosen for me? Could I get out and forget the story that I was told? Did success really mean to succeed at what I did or to simply be happy and make the best out of the moments that I was granted and be the best I can? Was life meant to run after a piece of paper, eat, drink, enjoy and die or was there more to it? Was it only that one layer of reality that most of us survive on or could I get through and open my eyes towards another reality that everyone seemed to  have forgotten? Did I really have to be ambitious or was it enough to simply allow things to happen? How much did I need to control things and how much to let go? Did I have to build a big house to set roots or was a plane ticket enough for me to recognize that this earth was my very home?

I was well aware that it wasn't going to be easy. Roads and unknown territories are always tiring… But it's in my blood. I can't help it. I had to break through and rewrite my story… As I quiet often do… 

Santa Monica

So I did pack to hit the road, not to wander as a tourist but to find my souls' calling… I call it pilgrimage, even though it doesn't exactly look like one… 

Being on the Road… (2)

We started our journey from Venice Beach, California. One reason why we picked this area in Los Angeles was that we came here last year and we were charmed by the energy of this place. Unfortunately, we only had one night to spend. This year we wanted to explore the area. Plus, the weather is nice all the time, people are friendly, food is amazing (when you seek for healthy places, Los Angeles is a heaven for that) and my husband could continue writing his books and surf when I go to my yoga classes, perfect combination! 

Venice Beach

Besides, since I left U.S. for good 12 years ago, a part of me has been wanting to spend more time in this land. I lived in the East Coast but -even though I spent a couple of weeks here in the West last year- I never got a chance to make this place home. (Making a place home to me means to have enough time to get to know the locals, hang out at the local coffee shops and restaurants, wander in its streets (even though everyone seems to drive!), shop for groceries and become familiar with the street names when a foreigner asks me for directions.) 

East Coast and West Coast are significantly different. Even though I don't like to freeze all the time, I personally still feel like a New England girl. Weather matters a loooot though! I am not "Oh well, I don't mind the cold…" type of person. Actually, I do mind the cold. Even more than the cold, it's the sun I am desperately in need of.  


So, enough explanations! Let's begin with the adventures, places to go and explore at Venice Beach & Santa Monica area… And moreover, my inspirations on the road…  

5 Kasım 2015 Perşembe

Being on the Road… (1)

Santa Monica

When you are on the road, you are nobody. None really knows who you are and you are important to none (unless you spend some time together and become significant for them). Becoming none is partially freeing and partially scary and alone…  When I am on the road, I am out of my daily routine and definitely out of my comfort zone and this uneasiness leads me to think, reflect, and let go of the unnecessary garbage that I am holding on to. Every destination frees my soul and inspires me to fully open my arms and accept what may be… My heart fills with joy and I enjoy my role as none. Absolutely none. 

Venice Beach

It was on a rainy day last winter in Istanbul. I was sitting on the couch in my yoga studio, kind of feeling the uneasiness when I feel at times of necessary change. I suddenly recognized that it was exactly the same sensation that I felt many years ago when I decided to go to New Zealand: I had to go. This realization was like an ice water splash on my face. All my protective agencies rushed into my system as worrying thoughts, of course! "What about your career? What about the classes and sessions? What about your clients? How will you tell people? How will you make money? Is your husband going to be ok with that? You are so busy, how will you detach from so many things? But you will miss your friends and this place… It won't be easy." Blah blah blah… Compared to the enthusiasm I was feeling inside when I imagined myself hitting the road, this chattering was too small; almost insignificant. 

Most people let it sit for a while. I didn't. (People who know me well know my impatient patterns.) My calling, my passion, my urges never let me down before… I may have longed for some of the things that I had to let go. I may have missed them. But they were the necessary pains to bring me to this point in my life where I am absolutely satisfied and grateful for. So this was another "letting-go period" for me. I didn't know how it would unfold but I knew that the process had started... 
I immediately rushed into our office room where my husband was quietly meditating. I spilled it all out all at once. As the cool guy he is, he smiled. (I never said it was going to be easy to put up with me but I guess he already knew that.) As he is immune to my even-though-seemingly-abrupt-but-when-you-think-about-it-usually-sane-ideas by now, he drew us a financially sustainable savings plan and we started planning to hit the road for a couple of months… 

This one is from Bodrum