I’ve been reading Sian’s blog for the last few months. It’s a lifestyle blog. More specifically a ‘life in Turkey’ blog which of course I can identify with. However what sets it apart is its outrageous positivity. Not in an alienating no-normal-person-can-possibly-be-this-happy way, but in a seize-life-with-both-hands-and-run-with-it way. Sian is a self confessed optimist, a person who doesn’t see the point in waiting for life to happen but actively thinks “sod it, let’s go for it.”
I am not quite sure what to expect when I go to interview her. I’ve never actually seen her in person, though candid snap shots pepper her blog, and more than once her collection of tattoos, and her distaste for wearing dresses, is mentioned. I know she made the somewhat unusual choice to move to Turkey way before retirement age, and not in the company of a significant other – she’d been happily single for fifteen years at that point – but with her two rather elderly cats. I know that since arriving she has fallen in love with a man (and his motorbike) and that she is an active volunteer for The Calis Children’s Charity, aka the 3 C’s. I have no idea how all these rather disparate puzzle pieces fit together, but I am looking forward to finding out.
We meet in the beach-front Eyna Cafe, the home of the 3C’s charity shop, the 6TL for coffee and cake deal, and an immense rubber tree that provides the cooling type of shade a plastic awning-extension just can’t. I have been half expecting her to be loud, maybe a little sweary, to have the kind of hair that says ‘recently I was a completely different colour’ or ‘a few more days and I’ll turn into dreadlocks.’ She is none of these things. In fact my initial reaction is surprise at just how reserved she is.
She tells me how she discovered Turkey, the seven visits in three years to a friend who’d recently made the move and how she began to research the possibility of coming herself.
“Things just fell into place. I managed to sell my flat in Kent. I got a part time online job with a UK firm. Then most important of all the quarantine rules were relaxed and I could bring my elderly cats without them having to spend six months in limbo. I just didn’t have any excuse not to come.”
Getting a residency permit.
As a person who relies on their Turkish partner to manage all the paperwork of living in Turkey it seems a daunting task to take on alone. Sian wasn’t fazed by it.
“Bureaucracy is different here, sometimes it seems like the left arm doesn’t know what the right arm is doing, but I don’t think you need a Turkish person in your personal life to do it all. I used Yakub from Hippy Chick to set up my residency and it was so easy. He did everything and then called me to tell me I needed to go to the passport office to collect my permit.” She shrugs.
“You do have to be careful. You hear a lot of horror stories about swarmy people wanting money, and there are people like that of course, just like there are in every other country. Don’t hand over your money until someone has actually done the job they’re said they’re going to do. But for me personally I’ve been amazed at how people who run local businesses bend over backwards to help you.”
Meeting other expats.
“I was so nervous when I first came. I wanted my friend to hold my hand the whole time, but within three weeks I was starting to get it. My friend introduced me to the 3C’s and I started volunteering with them so I could meet people and they all made me feel so welcome.
“I’ve never been charity minded, I joined to get to know the community, but it’s really come to mean a lot to me. We help disadvantaged and under privileged children, and go into schools and buy them furniture and equipment. We have the shop and we run lots of events. I’m on the committee now and I’ve been put in charge of social media. I rebuilt the entire website. I’d never done that before so it felt like quite an achievement.
“I’m trying to work on getting to be part of the Turkish community now, it’s harder, I don’t speak much Turkish. I’m learning though. Angel at the Nil Bar in Calis runs free courses over the winter and I’ve done one six month one and plan to continue this coming winter. I can understand more, it’s nice because I really like to earwig on buses. It’s hard though because everyone wants to practice their English on you. I’ll probably never be fluent, but who knows? I’m going to persevere.”
Tips on moving to Fethiye.
She is so blasé about making such a huge move I wonder if she has any tips or advice.
“Visit more than once. Don’t just come on holiday. Research how much things cost. Think about how you are going to live – remember the interest rate fluctuates. It’s pretty high at 10% but it’s not guaranteed and you can’t work here without the right visa or you run the risk of being deported pretty swiftly.
“Don’t come out here looking for a ‘Little Britain’. I hear people complaining sometimes about ways some things are done here, and maybe I agree and I don’t like it too, but this isn’t Britain. Be laid back, takes things as they come. If it doesn’t work out shrug your shoulders and move on.
“Step up and get involved in things. I was surprised after a while that my life started to feel a little pointless, after all, back in the UK I had over 250 people relying on me to make sure their work day ran smoothly. The 3C’s has really helped me have a purpose here. My life has really changed since I moved here. I’m in a relationship after fifteen years single. My partner is British too, we’ve bought a house together. I never expected that. But he is an estate agent and I’m pretty nosey so I love accompanying him on visits to new clients… Live life to the full and take every opportunity as it comes. If it doesn’t work out look on it as an experience.
“I still call the UK home, but I don’t really mean it. When I go there I can’t wait to get back to Turkey. I’m not sure if Turkey is my forever-home. I wouldn’t want to go back to the UK, to live that lifestyle again, working all hours, but there are a lot of other countries…”
We’ve been talking for so long I’ve forgotten my earlier surprise at how demure she is, how perfectly glossy and well behaved her hair is. The confidence that explodes out of her blog isn’t just a front, it’s at her core – a calm acceptance of herself and a quiet joy in really living.
If you’d like to read more about Sian’s life I can recommend checking out her bucket list, there are a lot of spectacular photos of her jumping off bridges, and a particularly awesome one of her printed onto a plate taken when she had her first experience riding a horse.