Sitting in our offices, gazing out of the window, many of us may dream of travelling the world as a past-time, but only a small few turn that dream into a reality. One sunny day in spring we caught up with two “born wanderers” who’ve managed to just that. Mike Powell and Jürgen Horn from the USA and Germany respectively, have created a travel blog in which they travel the world, visiting cities or regions for 91 days at a time. Istanbul is their ninth stop.
How did the idea come about?
M: We met in Boston and have both always been travelers, together we went to Ireland for a year, and then to Spain for 3 years, but we got bored. Over a bottle of wine one evening we got inspired to travel continuously and realized it was possible because we both have mobile jobs and nothing else tying them down. However we didn’t want to just do it for a week at a time.
J: I took a photography course and Mike is a computer programmer. We keep our roles completely separate - I take the photos and he writes the blog entries.
What made you decide on 91 days days? Is it hard to stick to?
J: 91 is 365 divided by 4 and rounded up. The concept can be a bit flexible but we feel like it’s a good amount of time to explore a place and we always try and keep it to around three months.
M: Sometimes we do cities like Busan, South Korea and Buenos Aires, Argentina and other times whole regions or countries like Sri Lanka and Bolivia.
J: But if you come to somewhere like Istanbul, that’s enough. There’s so much of Turkey we’d like to see but it takes so long to travel and we’re already worried about how we’re going to fit in all the places we want to visit in the city.
How do you pick your list of places to visit? Do you do a lot of research in advance?
M: We try and do a lot of research, I’ve been using the Rough Guide to Turkey and Istanbul Eats, while Juergen uses Twitter to ask for recommendations.
J: The list we have right now could keep us busy for three to four months and of course we are constantly getting extra tips.
M: Meeting local people is the most useful resource, for example we met Mehmet, the son of the owners of Hatay Akdeniz Sofrası and he’s been so helpful - now he just sends us lists.
What have been your highlights?
J: Some of our highlights have included Santral Istanbul, Rahmi M. Koç Museum, Üsküdar, Kadikoy, Zeyrek, Rumelihisari, walking the Land walls and Vefa Bozacısı. But often the most fun days are spent visiting the more underground sights and exploring different neighborhoods.
M: What amazes me the most is that all the tourists are concentrated in 3-4 different sights. When there’s so much to see just nearby. I wrote about Ayasofyia because we had to not because we have anything more to add. I think our blog is useful because we have the time here to explore more -we’re spoilt in that we have time and can choose the days we visit places.
J: We love the moments when we get invited into people’s shops. It’s nice to find people actually making stuff, whether its baklava or shoes.
Has Istanbul lived up to your expectations? What has surprised you the most?
J: to be honest I had no idea about Istanbul. I come from Germany and we’re surrounded by Turkish culture and think you have an idea about what Turkey is about, but then you get here and you realize you didn’t.
M: I think we were both surprised by how cosmopolitan and European it feels. In some ways, Istanbul kind of reminds me of Buenos Aires, it’s this huge metropolis and you can never run out of things to see and it’s just so varied, Cihangir is worlds away from Faith but we feel comfortable in each place.
J: I like the fact that you’re in this huge city but still get woken up by the mosque – it sets the tone. Despite being so massive and so different, it’s very manageable to live here and we could easily stay here longer than 91 days.
M: Although it has been a lot more expensive than we expected.
And what do you have planned next?
M: Well there will be an e-book available to download, ‘For 91 Days in Istanbul,’ which is more like a travelogue than a travel guide. I think the people who will get the most out of it will be the people moving to a place.
J: There is no point in going against something like the Rough Guide for example. Instead, what we want to portray is how a place leaves an impression on someone just arriving, we want to inspire people to get out there and see things. We’ve had some really nice comments from people who say we’ve made them want to find out more.
M: After Istanbul we’d like to go somewhere further afield – after Korea we did Idaho, so maybe somewhere really different like Iceland. But we’ve given ourselves a five year limit, after that time we’d like to be based somewhere and maybe just do two to three locations a year
J: But we think we’ll come back for sure, to make an updated edition, and to see everything we didn’t manage to fit in this time!
To find out more, visit their blog: istanbul.for91days.com