Happiness is on the road,
not where it leads.
I am a true enthusiast of the Aegean; no matter what, I take a vacation on the Aegean every year. Besides, I am from the Aegean Region; I am familiar with the green, the olives, watching the sea’s tens of shades of blue, the cool breeze of the evening. For this reason I got excited when I saw Melih Uslu’s book Ege’yi Gör ve Yaşa (See the Aegean Region and Live), and immediately included it into my reading list.
Because I had read his previous books, I knew that Uslu does not give us a list of places to visit, but hands down what his eyes saw, his nose smelt, and the joy his heart felt. How the Aegean reflected on him, how did the unobtrusive and calm energy of the Aegean, which nevertheless is always pregnant to chance meetings, affect him? I was curious about the impressions of one who had been travelling for years, and who shared this with hundreds of people through the texts-books he wrote.
In the introduction to the book, the author writes about his life and his professional relationship with travel and travel texts in detail. We find out that the journeys he took during his childhood, especially those he took with his family from Germany to Turkey, shaped Melih Uslu’s thoughts on travelling and being on the road. He also dwells on how air travel has found a place in our daily life, and on his surprise at how this mode of transport has not been converted into a material for art as in train journeys. He is sure that this adventure he refers to as the sky culture will soon be reflected in different branches of art… As you can see, the introduction of the book appears to proceed a bit disorderly, but I interpret this not as disorderliness, but as the reflection of an excited meeting and introduction ceremony.
Travelling and seeing new places are chief among the activities enjoyed most by modern humans. Lists are made almost before the tickets are bought. Where must one go? What must one eat? Where can one take the best photographs? In fact, things have reached such an extent that we have started to make lists of things we must under all circumstances do rather than lists of what to do. The eagerness to share on social media and to prove that we actually were at our destination through photographs and videos that we probably will never look at again blinds us to the beauty of the moment. We look at the view but do not see it, because at that moment we are trying to take the photograph at the best angle. Even before smelling the fragrant jasmine, we grope at our telephones, trying to photograph the flower in the best colours. Being on the road without consuming, however, would be possible only by being involved in the moment, and taking pleasure in idleness, far from social media shares.
What I liked while reading Melih Uslu’s book, and what caused me to remember the book as a travel-enthusiast, was: This book is different from the travel books we are used to both with its narration and its distance from consumption travel. The author tells us to see and live the Aegean, but does not do this by giving us lists. He relates his experience, the smells, colours and sounds at the places where he travelled and saw so sincerely and strikingly that you too want to smell that thyme, to see the turquoise colour of the sea. Not neglecting to remember Çetin Altan, Halikarnas Balıkçısı and Azra Erhat, who were so fond of the Aegean, Uslu succeeds in reflecting the unhurried and unfussy character of the Aegean to his book.
May his readers and admirers be many!