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Chapter 33: At Home in a Hostel

Yanartaş to Kaş, Türkiye. May 28 to June 1.

The scenery had changed a lot throughout my journey from east to west in southern Turkey. Whereas the distances were big in the east with little variation between points of interest, the mountains in the southwest were dense and close to the water. Seaside cycling was always a joy, as if energy was drawn from the ocean itself. I looked left out to the sea as often as I could, knowing the view wouldn't last long. At the same time, I was mentally more than ready to wrap up Turkey with 1000 kilometers still to go. Realising I would be about two weeks slower than I originally estimated for crossing the country, I didn't have time to visit all the spots of remarkable nature, colourful town life or ancient history. I selected a few of them to pass on my route and continuing from Yanartaş, the next milestone was Kaş two days ride away.

I focused on myself with little interaction with neither locals nor tourist, staying the night in Demre which wasn't too noteworthy. There was, however, one meeting of significance: Hüseyin, a cyclist heading the opposite direction by the end of the hills caught my interest. Already from afar could I spot that he had great gear with most of his weight in the front, exactly what I had been looking for since the start two months before. Bike dealers had told me that Izmir and Istanbul were my best bets for this kind of apparel, where I anticipated a large store with imported velection. But what Hüseyin referred me to when I asked about his setup seemed more like a niche private business. Nevertheless, it was the best lead so far to finally stabilise my rear-heavy ride. As per my routine I grabbed all the contacts info, said goodbye to my newfound cycling friend and started the descent to Kaş.

Kas was one of the early recommendations from a Turkish friend back in Sweden. I expected a tourist paradise, but was not sure how that experience would shape up. It turned out it was indeed a tourist paradise, and allowing myself to be the tourist it became some of the most memorable days of the entire journey thus far.

It didn't take long after checking in at Sole'n Blu before the hostel crowd converged and we started pulling tables together to make room for everyone. It is very hard to place exactly what it is about a spontaneous gathering that make it attractive, what pulls people in to it. I helped in what ways I could, inviting people over if they sat alone, but it seems to me that the best ingredient for that pull factor is an Australian. In their natural way of being, even though they are all individually different, Aussies seem to attract attention without trying, and their outgoing spirit and jolly good energy prevent even the most jealous people to be mad about it. In these days at Sole'n Blu i Καş, that Australian was Dominik "Dom" Mappas.

I believe I have a history of such jealousy. In my youth I was never one that naturally attracted people, girls least of all, and it was somehow then hard to like those that did. Over the years this has changed, both my ability to be that pull factor and my appreciation for those with stronger attraction than myself. When Dom was just being him - joking, laughing, telling stories and making conversations left and right - I felt a tingle of that wounded pride, that jealousy, that competitive drive in an environment that was anything but. If given credibility, fuel and action, it is the kind of feeling that often lead people either to passivity of hostility. To fall silent and retreat in uncomfort of not being the most interesting person in the room, or to undermine and challenge to claim that spot for oneself. Too well do I know these reactions. Fortunately I did not adhere to that little uncertainty this time. I showed it respect, acknowledged its existence and did not judge it or myself. I told it "thank you but no thank you", and turned my attention back to those around me. This little internal decision, invisible to those around, would make all the difference.

I ended up staying in Kaş for three nights, all thanks to the warmth of the guest group that made the newly arrived heat wave seem chilly by comparison. The long morning breakfasts and the collective dinner cooking in the evening were highlights, along with chilling in the cushions in between refreshing swims. Despite that we were in the tourist hotspot of Turkey, we somehow made the experience, borrowing the accurate description by Dom, profoundly wholesome. And when I paid doser attention to him, I realised that he was not at all the character I thought.

It was not an overconfident and arrogant man that I saw. There was genuine kindness and generosity, and also something more that I sensed to be a kind of relief. The fake security that my self-absorbed jealousy had assumed was in anyone of ways with people was simply not there. I had many a reasons to appreciate Dominic Mappas, including a cake he made for my early birthday celebration, but the finest quality in him I found to be his honesty. There were many insecurities in him and he did not hide them. I would not liken their characters in general, but I find it worth to repeat the thoughts of Jon Snow when he speaks of his friend Samwell Tarly in A Song of Ice and Fire.

“The world was full of cravens who pretended to be heroes; it took a queer sort of courage to admit to cowardice as Samwell Tarly had.”

Dom was as raw as a man can be, which made it abundantly clear that he was also as good as a man can be. Suddenly, it was obvious to me why people were drawn to him, and I felt myself become one of them without minding it one bit. We spoke at length of our respective stages as adults, as travelers and as men, and what challenges came with them.

Aside from the fact that all our paths crossed in this time and place, there were some things that brought us all together, chief of which that we all truly were a bunch of misfits. Rose from French speaking Canada had, between the origins of her parents, her birthplace, her upbringing and her adult life about five different nationalities, but didn't quite fit into any one. Juliana from Colombia had lived in US before her marriage, and now after her divorce she thought to eventually settle in Europe but wasn't quite sure. Olga from Russia had moved to Montenegro when the war started. Anthony from New Zealand, with heritage from east Asia, had traveled for a year with no plan of going back. One way or the other, we all had pulled up the roots that take long to regrow.

But like Greta from Germany, who never planned to linger in Kaş but was now in her third week in the hostel, I believe I speak for all of us when I say that we, then and there, felt some kind of belonging. The relief that Dom radiated, resonated with each of us. If only for a brief moment, far away from the roots we had long left, we were home.


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