I was in a twisted spaghetti string of streets deep in the famed Turkish Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey. The air smelled rich with spices, like an old-world storybook. The chatter of salesmen with thick accents wanting to sell me leather and antiques buzzed in my ear. Large masses of people slowed my step as they congregated near beautiful glass lamps and in front of wooden barrels brimming with traditional candies. In an unassuming shop, where everything was coated with a layer of dust the color of burnt sugar, I stumbled upon a tiny canvas with a faintly printed phrase in English.
In an instant, everything will change, it read.
The humble message sat with me and seemed to pause the busy echo of the market. I wondered when the instant would be that I would change how I viewed traveling with my three-year-old son, Connor. I wallowed in the stress of vacationing with a tiny traveler—the expectations, the want to see and do everything while operating on the pace and schedule of a child.
In between watching the smoky pinks reflect off the Bosphorus Strait at dawn to late-night cab rides back to Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus, where the enchanting glow of mosques dotting the hillside lit the way, I had been left feeling like whenever we got home from a trip not one of us seemed satisfied. In the overwhelming pull to do everything, we ended up doing nothing. Subsequently, our passport pages had fewer exotic stamps and more Mickey Mouse stickers.
The next day I had planned to slowly meander to the mouth of the Black Sea by ferry, to feel the briny air on my skin, awaiting that most magical moment when the rush of a new culture puts a spell on me. Naturally, my plan was thwarted. The air was sharp with rain and the sky was a dauntingly dreary soot-colored mousse.
So, instead, I did something decadent, and what felt like borderline selfish. I booked a spa appointment at Four Seasons to experience a traditional Turkish Hammam. Alone.
I tried to lose myself in the sweet smell of lemon trees that lingered in the air; the air thick with steam that felt grounding and heavy, and the warm water washing over my face. The moment felt incredibly surreal. It felt like a vacation.
As I lay on the hot stone, the young Turkish lady performing the treatment started loosening me up, but not just with a massage, with a story. She told me the roots and history of the Hammam treatment, and how growing up in a rural part of Turkey that her grandmother did not have a proper place to bathe. Every week, she and her grandmother, along with her mother and sister, would go to a Turkish bath and partake in the traditional Hammam. She told of how she and her grandmother had a secret wink if the air felt too hot or the scrubbing was too rough.
Now her grandmother lives in a new home right across the river with two bathtubs, and yet still every Sunday they all gather together for a trip to the Hammam. She still winks if it’s too hot and afterwards they all go for tea.
In an instant, everything will change.
As a family, we may not be able to soak in every moment together, especially while our son is so young. But we can create something. It doesn’t have to be grand. It doesn’t have to be everything. Just a simple moment that will one day become a story.
Andrea blogs at andrea-stanley.com.
Read more about Istanbul in Four Seasons Magazine.
Andrea Stanley is a freelance writer. She lives in a shoebox apartment in New York City, along with her husband, Greg, and three-year-old son, Connor. Her work has appeared in Glamour, SELF and the Chicago Tribune, among various other publications. When not wandering around the world, she can usually be found wandering around her neighborhood, macaroon and Joan Didion book in hand.
View all posts from Andrea
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