The Offline Challenge – Without Internet in Turkey

offline travel travelling no phone no wlan no internet

Let us be honest: Travelling has never been any easier than today. We book our hotel online, our flight, check-in online, Wifi at the airport, sometimes even during the flight… When abroad within Europe, we can even continue using our domestic Internet package as if we had never crossed any border. You don’t know how to reach the beach? Google Maps has it all figured out for you and provides a valid solution to get from A to B in most countries I have been to. It even calculates any potential traffic jam and takes into consideration if there are any current disturbances in your metro line. If you want to find out more about the “easy” modern travelling with smartphones and Co., please have a look at this post: Travel app hacks – the convenient way of travelling. But what if all of this does not apply? What if we are on our own again, offline travelling like in good old times? When travelling was an adventure still? Can we gain anything by deliberately going offline? I have asked myself that question in Istanbul.

I wanted to experience Istanbul real and offline. That’s why I have written every address I would need in my little book and turned off my phone. Within the first four hours of my stay, I got lost twice. So it worked great!
It might take longer, but there are advantages to travelling like this. You get to know more things. You learn to read metro maps correctly again and to not overlook the “this line is under construction” sign – in the rather tedious way. I have perceived my surroundings much more consciously. When I got off at night in Bostancı, I searched in vain for the official bus stop. I had probably taken the wrong exit. In the distance, a small minibus honked and flashed. From a Turk I had learned that these so-called Dolmuş (turk.: „filled“) are popular means of transportation in Turkey. They had no fixed schedule, stopping where people wanted to get off. Without this information the situation would have felt even more weird to me I guess.

As it was, I started sprinting, climbed over the guardrail and pushed myself into the crowded bus. The bus started, I had no idea where it would go. My metro trip before had already shown me that only a few Turks spoke English. The same applied here. Astonished I was observing how the two Turk Lirasi were paid to the Dolmuş driver. Each guest handed his money over the hands of the other passengers to the front. The driver changed, sometimes 8 Lirasi, sometimes 48 Lirasi – and somehow in this tumult of hands the respective change arrived back at the right person.

I handed my bill to the woman in front of me and everything took its course in its disorderly-orderly manner. I was not sure if I had missed my opportunity to get off the bus. My little book contained the address of my next corner point. Turkish words. Discussing gestures. My book wandered through half of the bus. “Sorry, only English,” I said with an apologetic look. Hubbub. Other Turks trying to decipher my writing. Somehow my question made it to the bus driver who loudly gave the answer backwards. The helpful Turks next to me said “Ah, Late. Late.”. The bus driver stopped. They pointed to me and then to the door. I had gone too far. “Taksi, tamam?” I was better off with the taxi from here. I sincerely thanked those friendly people and got my book back.

A little later I was sitting in a taxi. The driver spoke Turkish. We laughed because we did not understand each other. He spoke with Google Translate in his cellphone. Normally, he would not take people within the city. He would be an airport taxi. He would have to drive a fixed route. We both laughed as – after three more U-turns – we saw the name of my small hotel glowing in the night. I said goodbye with a heartfelt “Teşekkürler” and fell in my bed all sleepy.


So what was in it for me having no internet for a week in Turkey? In an area where only a few people spoke English? Here are my Pros and Cons for offline travelling.

Offline Travelling Cons:

  • It really took longer to get the information you need. In the end, you travel slower.
  • Under certain circumstances I would fall back to more expensive alternatives like cabs as I could not find the cheaper travel methods or was simply not content to wait any longer for a bus that eventually would not even depart from where I was waiting.

Offline Travelling Pros:

  • I got into contact with local people, their thoughts and their way of life. That is the reason why I am travelling after all.
  • I experienced hospitality that I have neither experienced nor expected and that I have rejoiced at heart
  • I got better at approaching people and getting the information I need. That also worked somehow when one spoke English and one spoke Turkish. A foreign language should not keep you from travelling to another country, in my opinion.
  • I perceived my environment way more intensely as though looking on the shimmery display of my smartphone to keep track of the route.

As you can see, I must have liked it. Somehow it is a trade-off between convenience and making new experiences, too. Sometimes I just want to go back to my hostel as fast as possible or sometimes I am just not content spending money on an expensive cab. Sometimes I am curious about other people, sometimes I would rather have a moment for myself. In the end, I don’t want to be a speaker for or against offline travelling. Instead, I want to share my impression with you that especially without our smartphones we are even more active, more social and feel more alive.