I squinted my eyes and peered out onto the bush filled mountain searching for the trail. “Look, do you see it?” he said as he placed his hand on my knee. “The trail is right here.” Pointing across my body.
I still couldn’t really see it but decided to fake it since it would bring these charades to an end and we could just keep on driving up the mountain. He was driving me to the old village of Belören where he had taken Warren and Betsy earlier that morning to begin their climb. Instead I had planned to spend a couple of hours coming down the mountain while leaving my heavy pack behind at his pension. A way to enjoy the views, solitude, and do the part Warren and Betsy skipped. Plus he said that it was one of the most beautiful parts of the Lycian Way.
As we continued to drive up the narrow, deserted, gravel road in a weird delayed reaction my mind fixated on the slightly out-of-place hand on my knee fleeting moment, which occurred earlier. My mind worked it over a bit and even though it was strange, it was short. And Warren, Betsy and I had developed quite a rapport with him over the last day so I dismissed it as a friendly, yet odd, gesture.
We met this lovely man and his family when we were searching for a place to stay in Demre. He owns Kent Pension located near the trail and was willing to cater to our every hiking need. He was the first person we had met who was really forming his business around hiking the Lycian Way. He provided laundry, early breakfasts, packed lunches, water for the trail, and assistance on the trail through his network of friends. He did pickups and drop offs – and on top of all of this assistance he had immense passion for the ruins, the trail, and the history. As Warren, Betsy, and I sat in the comfortable lounge drinking a beer we all remarked on what an amazing find he and his pension was.
We told him we were all writers who were covering the Lycian Way in the hopes to bring more people to the trail. We all chatted that night about Turkey, history, and festivals while his wife cooked us up a feast and his little daughter watched Justin Bieber videos. Such a perfect evening that when we went back to our room to sleep I remarked, “What a great man. Normally there is some ulterior motive when I meet people like this and I spend the evening trying to figure out what it is. But I think what drives him is his passion for history and the trail. Sure, he’s also interested in money, but it feels like it’s driven by passion. I love meeting people like him – it makes me believe in humanity again.”
The car continues to climb uphill and I continue to make small talk asking him about the trail and his family. He points out a ruin in the distance and suddenly his hand is on my leg again – and it’s staying there. I’m in shock. I don’t say or do anything for a few seconds as I try to process this betrayal.
He started telling me how beautiful and sweet I was and while still in shock – all I could say was “No, no, no. I have a boyfriend at home.” He took his hand away and apologized saying he couldn’t help himself I was so beautiful.
Mind you – I was wearing a baseball hat and dirty hiking clothes that covered every piece of skin. As he reacted like a giddy schoolboy I did a mental inventory of what I wore the night before thinking about if I was culturally appropriate and I was always covered in the right places.
All of a sudden he now grabbed my hand and was trying to hold it. I immediately reiterated “No, no, I have a boyfriend. And pulled my hand away.”
“Yes, yes – I have a wife.” he replied, which made my blood boil even more. I detest disloyal cheaters with a hatred that runs deep. Yet my main thought running through my head was “Fuck – I’m alone in a car with this asshole going up to an abandoned village. No one knows where I’m at. He could do anything to me and no one would know.”
I never normally put myself in these situations – but I had let down my guard as I was traveling with Warren and Betsy yet he took them up to the village earlier and I had no way to reach them – or anyone. My mind was in a full on panic at how vulnerable I was in this situation.
I told him thank you but I am not interested as he continued to gush like a schoolboy. I decided to try to keep it pleasant and non-confrontational at this point since I couldn’t communicate easily with him nor him with me. He spoke English – but it wasn’t great. I didn’t feel like it was necessary to get forceful yet and was hoping I could stop any further advanced with civility. Had I been in the US I don’t know that I would’ve done the same but in foreign cultures you sometimes need to adjust. Screaming at them in a foreign language will probably not work.
He took me up to the old village and showed me a few things but did not touch me again. He then drove me to the trail where I happily exited the car like a bolt, said thanks and started hiking down the steep trail. I turned around a few times to see if he left and he was still there watching me, waving, telling me to be careful. Finally he left and I could sit on a rock out of site and process everything.
Anger was my main emotion at him, at all men, and at myself.
I was pissed that he would make such a stupid move as I was genuinely excited to write about his business as a great resource for hikers. How could he be so stupid to screw that up? I was pissed he would so easily screw over his wife and family. And I wondered if he had that typical stereotype view that some Muslim men had of Western women – that we were all easy and looking for sex. This thought made me mad because I travel the world and write about it because I want to diminish some of these horrible stereotypes media has provided us and I really didn’t want to be a part of perpetuating them.
Read about 3 ways to minimize travel disasters
I was mad at myself for allowing myself to trust him enough to go off alone in a remote situation. One of the things I would love to change about myself is to be a more trusting and open person. Yet as hard as I try my first reaction when I meet people is to withhold and not trust them. In fact, I’ve been marveling at Warren and Betsy’s ability to be so enthusiastic about meeting strangers. I had been analyzing myself as I watch them on this trip and have wished that I possessed that openness and enthusiasm they have when meeting people. I’ve wondered why I’m so jaded, I’ve wondered if it hurts my ability to have a relationship. And here I was trying to step out of my pattern and trust people first and it backfired. I was mad it would make me even more untrusting now. I understand this isn’t’ the most healthy reasoning, but it’s what was going through my head. It was a sort of mental “I told you so” battle between my brain and heart.
I hiked for 2 hours downhill thinking about the situation and having to consider the fact he was going to pick me up at the end and I was staying at his pension again for the night but without Warren And Betsy this time. I considered moving to the next town instead.
However, I’ve put up with these kinds of advances before on the road many times but I am in a space where I’m not remote or alone and can normally brush them off and feel safe because there are people around nearby or people I know. Since I was staying in the pension where his family and other guests were I decided to stay again. It was getting late and as long as I wasn’t ever stuck alone with him I felt ok. However you can be sure I locked my door tight that night and was on high alert.
The rest of my day/night in Demre was a big downer as I processed all of these thought and feelings. I know time will make the anger go away eventually, however I hope the incident doesn’t leave too deep of scars. Trust and having an open mind is important when you travel, yet you always have to be prepared for the assholes in life.