Mary has a dream holiday in mind and she’s not leaving anything to chance. She’s planning to travel in 2018 but flights have already ‘gone live’ on Skyscanner and JetRadar and, with the unparalleled efficiency of somebody suffering from severe OCD, Mary has swung into action. (After all, every fool knows that international flights are cheaper when booked 335 days before departure, right?)
Mary’s partner, Maina, sighs. Multiple evenings stretch for months ahead, centred around Google research, with Mary’s face blinking back at a blue computer screen for hours on end, barking out questions for which she will not require answers.
“What currency do they use in Turkey?” Maina opens his mouth to respond, “Don’t worry, scratch that, it’s Turkish Lira,” Mary interrupts, hands flying over computer keys faster than she can think.“Which suburb do you think we should stay in?” Maina picks up his phone to call a friend who visited Turkey last month but doesn’t get a chance to dial. “It’s okay, I’m going for Sultanahmet, it’s got 5 stars on TripAdvisor.”
The hotel booking process takes an agonising month of obsessive refreshing of searches on Booking.com, Agoda, Expedia and HotelBeds in the hunt for specials, while making the occasional extended foray into Airbnb.
“This one has four stars but one reviewer said that there’s a chance that we’ll get lumped with a ‘town side’ room looking over a brick wall. And apparently the reception staff won’t help us with our bags.”
Maina rolls his eyes while surfing sports channels.
“This one sounds nice but the dining room has horrible yellow walls,” Mary muses.
“Really?” Maina says incredulously (under his breath). If only he could be left in peace.One might think that after booking flights and accommodation, Mary could rest but she’s barely passed the start line. Now it’s the time for the itinerary to take shape. Planning excursions, looking into public transport options, discount passes and nailing down the cost of a kebab allows for the all important budget to be put together. The Excel spreadsheet is taking shape. Each day has been planned down to the last scoop of ice-cream and Mary has downloaded a map app to help her plan their route.
“Do you think that $10 is excessive for two wraps and will one hour be enough to do the Dolmabahçe Palace?”
After filling in the application forms for visas, Mary sets aside a day to visit the Turkish embassy. She has already learned some basic Turkish greetings and tries testing them out on the consular staff who appear nonplussed, possibly because she’s stringing all the phrases she knows into one sentence.
“Nasılsın? Tesekkür ederim. Merhaba!”
Mary has taken over the living room wall with her ‘Turkey travel mood board.’ Maina peers at the ambitious five-day itinerary and emits an involuntary shudder. Whatever happened to kicking back on holiday? While Maina appreciates that Mary’s diligence doubtless saves them money and ensures they definitely don’t miss out, he does long for a less scripted experience.
For the next few weeks, Mary obsessively follows Turkey-related Instagram accounts to get under the skin of the place and downloads budgeting and travel apps to use while they are there. She’s looking into the perfect day dress, footwear and smart casual evening wear. After some ‘drill down’ research on Pinterest, capsule wardrobe packing is the way she’s planning to go. A first aid kit has been assembled (you never know, right?) and just the right size of wheelie suitcase selected.
Maina sighs as he lies in bed, desperate to switch off the light.
“Come to bed now, Mary, honestly, the packing can wait. We still have six months to go.”
Frances is author of blog www.africaexpatwivesclub.com