An adorable, vibrant girl with amazing hair stood in front of me as our walking tour of Munich began. As our tour progressed we realized she was going to be a really awesome friend to hang out with, and we were blown away by her story. Everyone, meet Dilara.
Asking Dilara where she comes from can lead to a very interesting story.
“I’m originally from a small town in Cyprus, and Istanbul, Turkey.” Dilara tells us, “I’ve kept moving all my life which has made me think of myself as a global citizen. I’m not quite sure where I belong, but some of the places I consider home are Turkey, Cyprus, Canada, US, France, England, Thailand and Nepal.” I envy her travels so much and her ability to consider so many places ‘home’.
How are there so many places Dilara calls ‘home’?
She was fortunate to have parents who traveled often for business, “As I was growing up they would take me with them. I was always exposed to different cultures and places. As I grew up traveling, travel has become a part of me. I have taken every opportunity presented to travel as much as possible starting at a very early age that it has become a part of my identity as an adult.”
She continues, “I have traveled for Model UN conferences, participated in two exchange programs in high school, took two gap years, volunteered abroad, interned abroad, and studied abroad three times during my time in university.”
Further, her adventures have carried her to the faraway lands of Thailand, Nepal, Canada, Nicaragua, the Bahamas, New Zealand, the US, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Cyprus, Turkey, the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Vatican, Italy and Portugal.
Dilara wants to change the world.
The beginning of her journey into this huge task is by studying Political Philosophy at the London School of Economics. “I would like to think of myself as a boss lady as I seek to be a leader advocating human rights in the future.” Dilara’s largest goal is one of monumental importance. “My ideal goal is to work at the United Nations Human Rights Council on protecting the fundamental rights of individuals, and closing the social and economic inequality gap,” says Dilara.
Dilara continues, “Travelling gives you the opportunity to be exposed to many different situations. Your reactions to such situations help you get to know yourself better. I have found myself to become more and more mature as I travel. I am inspired to travel because it helps me understand my priorities and values at a deeper level.”
As I grew up in different countries, I have realized that people usually focus on their differences to create exclusive communities and a sense of us vs them.
Connecting With the World
“Yet, traveling made me realize how similar we are in practice. Such realization makes me feel way more connected to the world because it strengthens my trust and belief in everyone, all humans everywhere. It’s also really cool to see how different economic and government systems are applied around the world. It opens your mind up by proving to you that there are alternative ways of doing things and they all work relatively well so there is no point in closing yourself and limiting yourself to just one.”
“Every place I have been, I have learned as much about the culture and daily life thereby interacting with locals. I have learned different languages, traditions, cooking skills and party tricks. I have made a lot of memories extremely meaningful for my personal growth. My favorite thing about traveling is the experiences and knowledge it leaves you with.”
The Most Amazing Experience
While for most, the people we meet on our journey can have the most impact on our lives, for Dilara, it was a gorgeous elephant whom has touched her the most. “I have volunteered in an elephant sanctuary in rural Thailand where I have connected so much with the elephant I was working with who was abused in her past. Animals have psychological capabilities to feel way more than we think they do. I had the amazing opportunity to realize that we all are a part of such rich nature and cognitive abilities when she saved my life by handing me her ears when I was about to fall down and be crushed by other elephants.”
Dealing With A Nightmare
Many of us fear being robbed the most while traveling. For Dilara, it was a harsh and terrifying reality. “I was robbed in a taxi at 2 am in Warsaw, Poland. The taxi driver charged me significantly more than what I was supposed to pay.”
When I didn’t want to pay, he started yelling at me in a language I didn’t understand as he locked the doors of the taxi and started driving me outside the city. I was so scared I gave him the money.
“He then left me in the middle of nowhere in a rural area. I missed my flight which I was in the taxi to catch, had 3 percent battery and about 10 euros with me. I ended up walking for one hour with my 50 L backpack to reach the city, then took a bus to the airport, and booked another flight directly back to London which is where I live.” Though she was originally planning to continue on to Kraków, her experience being robbed left her exhausted and just wanting to be home.
However, being scared by one bad situation isn’t enough to stop Dilara from loving all the planet has to offer.
“By realizing that safety is a problem anywhere you go, and thinking about extra precautions I can take in the future to avoid similar situations. Traveling has made me a good problem solver, and I appreciate that.”
From One Lady to Another
I asked Dilara what her advice for female travelers and first-time travelers is. Her amazing advice included a packing tip and a research tip. “Get packing cubes and color code them,” she says. “For example, casual clothes in the pink cube, night out clothes in the green cube, PJs, and underwear in the yellow cube. You can also put bottoms in one cube, tops in one cube etc. This makes packing, unpacking and putting clothes on way easier as you change hostels.”
She also advises to “always read travel blogs and feedback from female travelers about places you are planning to go. Check out what some of the scams you might face there and how to avoid them. Check to see if the country you are planning on visiting has cultural dress codes for women. Always know your way back to your hostel, and bring a charger with you if your battery is low. Never drink an opened drink that wasn’t made in front of you. Never hesitate to say no to things or people who you don’t feel comfortable with.”
Go To Italy, Bella!
Dilara recommends Italy for your first trip abroad, saying “Italy was my first backpacking trip, and I found it to be quite easy to manage everything and travel around the country. It’s a beautiful country that is mostly safe for female solo travelers, and there is so much to see in terms of art and history.”
For those who are a bit more experienced or adventurous, “I recommend Nepal. It’s an intensely spiritual place where people have a completely different culture and way of living than people in Western societies. There is so much history, such rich culture, and beautiful nature. It’s a cheap country to be in, and people are some of the kindest you will ever meet.”
Dilara is currently raising money to climb the Everest Base Camp and is working with Hope for Children, “charity that provides access to education and healthcare for children who are in need”. You can help Dilara make a difference here.
On her personal Facebook Page, Dilara shared her announcement that she will be climbing and the following information:
I am taking on this challenge because I believe every child deserves a happy, healthy and positive childhood. In the past, I have spent some time tutoring children in Nepal and Nicaragua which has allowed me to see the very tough reality that the inequality we have created through markets and institutions have a devastating impact on many children in parts of the world many don’t even think about. I have been trying to find a meaningful way of giving back to these children for some time now, and I decided this to be it.
Through this campaign, I hope to bring hope to children who have fallen through the gaps. If you would like to support this campaign, or want to see me try to climb the tallest mountain in the world when I can barely climb the stairs in the library (elevator love can’t help me this time), please considering donating to my page. Even the smallest amount is greatly appreciated, and will have a life changing impact on vulnerable children around the world. All proceeds will go directly to providing access to education and healthcare to children, and all donations will be matched by the UK government through the Head Held High Campaign. If you would like to know more about any of this, please please do not hesitate to send me a message, and I will be more than happy to tell you all about it. Thank you so so much”
How to Follow Dilara
Want to follow Dilara on her epic journey? “I’d love for those interested in traveling to follow me. Instagram is where I post most of my travel photos and tips. Feel free to follow me, my account is lifeofdilara. I will soon start a travel blog focusing on female solo travel which I will post about on Instagram!”