Meet Günes

We have undoubtedly met some incredible people during our travels.

 

But none more remarkable than Günes.

Turkish women

We first met Güneş in Ecuador. While we were partaking in spa treatments and casually enjoying the immense beauty of the area around Baños de Agua Santa, she was white water rafting and jumping off of bridges.

I should mention that at the time, she was 65 years old.

I’ll never forget what she said to us while we dined together at the hostel in Baños, enjoying her carefully prepared Turkish feast. I was gushing over her bravery, not just for bridge jumping, but for her pursuit of travel. While it is true that Turkey has vast differences in social and economic levels and that there are many woman living no different then those in the western world, it is still a country where honor killings sometimes grace the local news, and where one in five women are illiterate. Yet here Güneş was, by herself, bravely (and unusually, for a Turk) taking on the world.

In response she said: “When you lose a child, you no longer live with fear.

We know a little something about loss. I couldn’t entirely understand her own plight, but I could empathize.

Gunes house Bodrum

View from Güneş house

Fast forward two years (almost to the day), and we sat with her again, this time in her home country of Turkey, enjoying another home-cooked feast. From common traveler to gracious host, she showed us all around her beautiful city of Bodrum, and spoiled us with her natural hospitality.

We excitedly got caught up on each other’s lives.

Güneş recently returned from Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. She suffered a bout of “cat scratch fever” (Yes! That is a real thing!) and also had another close call with her other child. She’s been a couchsurfer and a couchsurfee. She’s even published a book – a remarkable tale of her travels over the border from India to Nepal, and how she charmed her way around eight road-blocks to get to her destination, all the while cruising on the back of a scooter.

Lunch with Gunes

 

She is itching to get back out on the road again. Cuba is calling to her (wanting to see it before Castro is gone), and she is planning a return trip to see friends in Nepal. She also will include Canada in her travels this summer, and I only hope that our home country treats her as graciously as she did us and the other many travelers who visit her from around the world (which I am sure it will).

As Pete and I returned home from visiting Güneş, the final bus down our local road was near full. The bus attendant was challenged when the final two single female passengers strode on, trying to find them seats. The only empty seats were next to single men. As it is the rule in this country that women can not sit with strange men on buses, the attendant shuffled patrons around to make room.

In some parts of Turkey, solo women traveling can mean disgrace to their family. In extreme cases, it may have tragic consequences.

But for one amazing woman in particular, it has meant an exciting life. And a better one for us too, for getting to know her.

 

I encourage our Turkish speaking friends to check out her book here! We got the condensed, English version of her story and can promise it will be a highly entertaining read!

 

38 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own

  • April 11 2012

    How wonderful. It just goes to show, you are never too old to live the life you want. Thanks for sharing this uplifting story…
    Colleen Setchell recently posted..Going Live – My Brand New Website

    • April 12 2012

      That is exactly right! Güneş is an amazing woman and I hope some people can be inspired by her!

  • April 11 2012

    Thanks for introducing to us this amazing woman.. It’s good to hear about your travel, but to tell you honestly, when I looked at your photo (the first one) I was not looking at you..haha! That beautiful cat caught my attention..
    Well.. looks like you both have a good time there! Have a save trip!
    Karyn18 recently posted..The right attitude and ethics for those working from home

    • April 12 2012

      Haha! That is her kitty Angel, who is absolutely one! We could post a whole album just of pictures we took of Angel. :)

  • April 11 2012

    What a heart warming post! It is because of such people we meet during our travels that we remember our trip long after its over.
    Have a nice day:)
    Arti recently posted..Temples on the Ghats of River Yamuna: Yam -Yamuna Temple and others

    • April 12 2012

      Thanks Arti! Güneş is a very special woman, impossible to forget! :)

  • April 11 2012

    . . most people pass each other with barely a ripple – others hit you like a tidal wave and make you stop and examine life, the universe and everything.

    • April 12 2012

      Beautifully said…and so true.

  • April 11 2012

    She sounds like a marvellous woman. My reading skills are not great when it comes to Turkish but I know a lot of other Turks who would be very interested to read her story. Sometimes we are blessed in life when we meet people that do nothing but inspire us.

    • April 12 2012

      Oh Natalie – PLEASE pass her book info onto others! I believe she is even having a book signing in Izmir soon! :)

  • I love that Cuba is calling her! What an AWESOME woman!!!

    • April 12 2012

      That she is! I want to get to Cuba again too!

  • April 12 2012

    Dear Dalene,
    Thank you for your generous complimemts. You were such lovely guests. I hope more older people will be running after their dreams when they read your post.

    • April 12 2012

      Thank YOU for having us Güneş. And, I hope that a special someone (my MOM) paid close attention to this post! :)

  • Günes seems like a bad-ass woman who serves as an awesome inspiration for us younger folks! I hope I’m that tenacious when I’m her age. Heck, I wish I was that tenacious now.
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..How To Get Started Scuba Diving: Everything a Beginner Needs to Get PADI Certified

    • April 12 2012

      Haha, no kidding right? I can’t believe all that she does, I feel so lazy and unadventurous in comparison!

  • April 12 2012

    I love the vitality of this lady. Please pass onto her my email address and if I am around when she is in Calgary she would be welcome to stay with me. I sure hope I can live like her when I’m 65; what a marvelous attitude.

    • April 13 2012

      I think she is planning to spend most of her time in BC, but I will definitely pass on your info to her! Thanks Leigh!

  • April 12 2012

    Yet another reason why I love the traveling community! Maybe she’s me in a future-sideways life kind of way… I hope lol
    Hogga recently posted..Don’t Judge Me!

    • April 13 2012

      Haha!! I can only hope that as well!

  • April 12 2012

    Man, what an inspiring post to read. I love reading about people like this, who challenge the “norm” and get on with living their lives how they want to. Great stuff :D
    Laurence recently posted..In Photos: Street Art of Angoulême (Part 2)

    • April 13 2012

      Thanks Laurence – she really is a fabulous lady.

  • April 12 2012

    Oh, I love this. I met a remarkable woman in Croatia. To have someone share that strength, beauty and wisdom is an amazing and fortunate thing. :)

  • Ceren Newman
    April 13 2012

    I love this article, but as a 36 year old Turkish woman who was single for the first 32 years of her life, this is the first time I’ve heard that it is a rule in Turkey that women travelling alone cannot sit next to single men! This is simply not true! Although there are parts of the country where people are extremely conservative, this was clearly a quirk of that specific attendant. I believe the only way we can wear down the subjugation of women in countries like Turkey is to start by challenging such perceptions. Respecting what one might perceive to be local customs is commendable, but not at the risk of helping squash women’s rights, and worse yet to give it credence by advertising it globally.

    • April 13 2012

      Hi Ceren – thanks so much for your comment! Perhaps my choice of the word “rule” was the wrong one – but I know that it was not just a quirk of that specific bus attendant. I had been told about this even before coming to Turkey, and reminded by people who live near our area as well. It is definitely a common occurrence.

    • April 13 2012

      Slm Ceren,
      I am so sorry to say that it is the rule among even with most reputable companies such as VARAN, ULUSOY, METRO and others. Maybe you have not witnessed such practice yet. Just ask any bus company and they will tell you about it. As I said to Dalene we have woman in highest positoins in business life. We are so much different from Afgan and Arab woman. Millions of Turkish woman are going around in tiny bikinies on the beaches each summer. Millions of them are living lives no different then any other western woman. That is the contrasts we live in Turkey. Lives are so different in different economical and social levels and there are still honour killings every day on the news.

  • April 13 2012

    As a Turkish woman I want to add that this “rule” is not so much a rule set by the companies themselves but something put in place due to the demand of the women. Usually when booking the ticket you can “request” a seat next to a female, but I have sat next to single men when travelling with these companies because I said I did not mind with whom I sat. It’s not that single women cannot sit with men…

  • April 13 2012

    Amazing story – inspiring lady! Meeting people like Gunes is one of the best parts of traveling, isn’t it?

    ps – I had to move seats when traveling in Turkey because I was by myself and couldn’t sit next to a man… it may not be a rule, but it definitely happens!
    Angie Away recently posted..How Do You Define Plane Crash? My Near-Death Experience in Kenya

  • April 13 2012

    I dont like this discussion as a turkish citizen .İt s no use talking over it .In my opinion this is a positive discrimination.If a woman admits a man can sit next to her, also no boy will tell a girl not to sit next to her .shortly ı dont think its so serious to discuss.turkey is a very huge country of course there are some social and cultural differences between east and west .

    • April 13 2012

      Mustafa, we encourage such discussion, as it as a great way for us all to learn.

  • April 13 2012

    Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  • April 13 2012

    Güneş is pretty bad ass. To have that kind of boldness and certainty is proof enough that she can do anything. Great post!
    Alexa Meisler recently posted..Organic Hair & Skin Care On the Go with Intelligent Nutrients

  • Love her! Glad you’ve had the opportunity to get to know such a wonderful, interesting woman. One of the best things travel gives us.

  • Ali
    April 27 2012

    I love this post! She sounds amazing!
    Ali recently posted..Changing Plans on the Road

  • Gunes sounds like an amazing woman and I’m happy that you were able to meet her in your travels. She is inspirational to me and I’m sure to many others. However, it saddens me that it seems like human nature to wait until a loss to start really living life. I waited until I had lost everything I knew before I could live the life I wanted and put the fear aside. I hope I grow up to be Gunes!
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..10 Amazing Lakes For Your World Travel Bucket List

    • May 25 2012

      We can totally empathize with Gunes story, as it was the same for us. It wasn’t until we went through some substantial loss that we realized what we really wanted to do with our lives…

  • June 12 2012

    What an inspiration! Meeting people along your journey is perhaps the best part of traveling!

  • Love this. The people really are what makes the whole travel business all worthwhile!! xx
    Mariella (Bridgekeeping Traveller) recently posted..Anecdotes – The Time I Was Taught About Defiance

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