How I became a backpackerI am an experienced backpacker. However, there are travelers who are much younger than me with much more experience and travel knowledge. This is because my backpacking journey started late. I always had a very strong desire to travel around the world and I admired travelers who have visited dozens of countries. At the same time, I needed an external force or specific circumstances to make me start traveling around the world. You cannot learn backpacking because your life must put you in a situation where you have to become a vagabond for a certain duration of time. 

Getting out of your comfort zone is not easy. Usually, people don't leave their comfort zone intentionally. They need to be forced to exit their comfort zone. Thus, you either understand this situation very well and willingly escape your comfort zone and start vagabonding, or your life puts you in a situation where you have to become a vagabond. In my case, my destiny made me leave my comfort zone and become a backpacker. 


Resurrection ErtugrulSeptember, 2018. I was living my life, training in the gym, having regular meals in my comfortable flat, and staying in my comfort zone. One day, I went to the gym for my regular training. We had an unexpected conversation with my gym buddy. Specifically, we were discussing a Turkish TV show "Resurrection Ertugrul". It was a tremendously popular TV show which was watched in dozens of countries around the world. My gym buddy said that men from our country sent their photos for the show and were further invited to Turkey for casting. I didn't pay much attention to this and had no idea that this information would change my life. 

I came home and told my mother that local guys were invited to the TV show casting. She told me to send my photos too and assured me that I would be invited to the TV show casting. I searched for some Turskish TV show agencies and sent some of my professional studio photos. I didn't have big hopes and dreams. It was just a spontaneous action. Actually, it doesn't take much work and time to send your photographs to several emails. 


After two months, I received a phone call from Turkey. A young lady was on the line. She said: "We invite you to Istanbul for TV show casting. Your appearance is very suitable for the "Resurrection Ertugrul" show." The TV show was about ancient warriors, masculine men with beards and swords who fight and conquer their enemies. Indeed, my appearance was very fitting for the show. This phone call made me emotional and I felt a strong desire to travel to Istanbul, Turkiye to attend the TV show casting. 

My mother was the witness to this phone conversation and she assured me that I would be successful at the casting. Further, I had a small chat with that Istanbul lady on WhatsApp and she assured me that I should come. She was working for Reyting Ajans situated in Sisli, Istanbul.


ProBackpacker IstanbulAfter a few days, I bought a ticket to Istanbul and arrived in the city the same week. As soon as I landed at the Istanbul airport, I took a route to the agency's office. After an hour, I was in Sisli, the business center of Istanbul where the agency was located. 

I met the lady who was calling me as well as the director of the agency. They took my local Turkish phone number, which I bought immediately after landing in the city, and told me to wait for their call. 

After the meeting in the agency office, I found a good hotel where I would spend two weeks. At that moment, I wasn't interested in traveling and backpacking. I was actually worried. I left my home with big hopes and my family was expecting great outcomes from my trip to Turkey. My mother told me to go and visit Istanbul attractions while I was waiting for the call from the agency. I followed her advice, and for a week or a little bit more, I was visiting some of Istanbul's most famous historical and sightseeing places. 


After a few days, I received a WhatsApp message with an invitation from one of the agency's workers. I was invited to attend the TV show "Arka Sokaklar". I came to the office building where I saw a crowd of men who were also invited to the show. We sat down on a bus and were brought to a place where the show was directed. My role was non-existing. I had to sit in a cafe, drink tea, and play cards while the main actions of the TV show would happen nearby. In the evening, everything was finished and the same bus brought us to the Sisli district. 

I wasn't much impressed with the outcomes of my arrival in Istanbul. My future was hidden beyond dark clouds and I had no idea how it would finish. My mother was constantly asking me whether I was accepted to the TV show or not. It was putting pressure on me. 

After a few days, the casting agency member told me that they would send me to the "Resurrection Ertugrul" tv show site, but I had to make an insurance. And to get insured in Turkey, I had to get a work permit and a residence permit. 

I truly hate different types of bureaucratic paperwork and similar stuff. I started calculating the cost of getting the insurance, residence, and work permit. In conclusion, it would cost me approximately 1000$ and days or even weeks of waiting to get all the necessary paperwork done to be permitted to try my luck on the TV show.

I asked myself "is it my dream to be an actor in the show?", "do I want it so badly that I would spend 1000$ for this bureaucratic paperwork?" The answers to these questions were negative. 


Now, I was in a very difficult situation. I came to Istanbul to attend the TV show and supposedly become a star and make a lot of money. Instead, I had to spend more money and the outcomes of my efforts and financial expenses were unpredictable. Nobody promised me a lead or at least a good role in the TV show. They told me that I would be a simple soldier at first. 

My expectations were ruined. At the same time, I couldn't return home because it would be a shame to go to Istanbul with big anticipations and goals and return so quickly. Plus, staying at the hotel was expensive. Every day, the hotel was draining my money. 

I don't know how, but a life-changing idea came to my mind at that moment. I said to myself that instead of returning home, I would start vagabonding for an indefinite period of time. I Googled "how to travel without money", and got some good advice from people who have successfully done it. I had money, but I realized that a long journey would drain it if I didn't know how to travel on a budget. Google supplied me with good advice on how to start vagabonding on a budget.


The same day, I packed my clothes into my luggage and left the hotel. Instead of staying at the hotel, waiting for unknown things, and draining my money, I started traveling in Turkey. 

The summary and details of my journey are topics of my further blog posts. Suffice to say that I hitchhiked from Istanbul to Batumi (1 275 km) stopping in each major city (Izmit, Gebze, Duzce, Bolu, Sakarya, Trabzon, Rize, Ordu, Samsun, etc)  and visiting its historical and sightseeing places. By the middle of my travel, I got an idea to enter Georgia and travel there, but I wasn't permitted to enter the country (I will tell the details in my future blog posts). After I was denied entry to Georgia, I hitchhiked to Southern Turkey (900 km) and visited cities like Artvin, Erzurum, Erzincan, Bitlis, Batman, Van, Diyarbakir, Sanliurfa, Hasankeyf, Gaziantep, Adana, Osmaniye, etc. From Osmaniye, I traveled to Konya and visited its historical places. 

It was late summer and it was already cold in Turkey. After Konya, I hitchhiked to Ankara. From Ankara, I was lucky to hitchhike a car that got me directly to Istanbul airport. 

After three months of wandering and vagabonding in different parts and cities of Turkey, I came home. Thus, a trip to a TV show casting turned into a long journey that completely changed my life. 


During my vagabonding journey, I had no backpack, no sleeping pad, and no sleeping bag. I was a complete amateur wandering in the huge country with a 35-kg suitcase. Nonetheless, that journey taught me a lot of things and gave me a good travel experience. Eventually, it transformed me from an inexperienced vagabond into a seasoned backpacker. 

I started researching and reading about backpacking, backpacking gear, backpacking clothes, and backpacking philosophy. I started my new journeys with a solid backpack packed with the most high-quality backpacking gear. 

This is how unrealized expectations and ruined anticipations can turn into something much better than what you wanted. This was my story, and these were circumstances that forced me to get out of my comfort zone and explore the world.

Written by ProBackpacker
I am an avid backpacker who shares his knowledge and travel tips with the world. Check out my latest journeys, travel guides, and backpacking gear reviews.