This last month I went to Istanbul to visit my friend. He's been living there since October. The flight took 10 hours by Turkish Airlines. (They served two meals, which were surprisingly good. They also allow up to two free checked bags. It was not half the sweaty, claustrophobic nightmare ride that it could have been. I would recommend this airline.)
Istanbul is split between Europe and Asia by the Bosphorus strait. I had never been to either continent before. I can tell you Istanbul is cleaner than New York City, with less people begging for money on the street. It's very pretty with the ocean and old buildings, and it's good for walking. I would describe it as European, but again I'd never been in Europe.
The food is cheap and the rent is moderate in Usonian terms. The quality of life is HIGH, if not the standard of living. People eat lots of yogurt and drink lots of tea (with sugar cubes). There is a ferry to ride on. Good jackets and dark hair.
In some places there are so many stray cats that it becomes comical—like a soft PUNK'ing. The stray dogs are tagged and lie around on the sidewalk.
There are men who pick thru the trash for useful things—purses, shoes, books, appliances—and take them around on carts for people to buy, like a moving thrift shop.
They have pay bathrooms in public places. I stole a shit (which would have cost ~$0.40) by tailgating someone who had paid before me.
People drink bottled water there. An anecdote: My Indian landlady came to the US in 2009. At first she couldn't drink the tap water; the taste of the chlorine would make her sick. So she could only drink bottled water.
In public, I like to pretend I'm an ethnic white person, Ukrainian or maybe Moldovan, who comes from a hard life of cell phone sales. I don't really act any different. It's mostly how I hold my jaw.
A thinky thing I thot
Everyone was well dressed, tourists from every country on Earth: good leather shoes or sneakers, well fitting pants, nice jackets, smart phones and cameras. Everyone eating at the cafe, shopping for clothes, etc. All wealthy, self-loving consumerists, as vulgar as any American.
No one really gives a shit. Not the European or the Arab or the Asian. Definitely not the Turk selling “selfie sticks” for 300% markup, or the one with blister packs of Viagra outside the Grand Bazaar. You can see foreign men strolling around with blood coming thru the bandages on their scalp, pleased as hell with their new hair plugs.
Travel is a luxury psychedelic, a chance to practice the word for coffee in a new language. The human is happy enough to stay in their home village for their entire life. I might as well never leave the country again.