If you have a traveller’s soul, it is not so difficult for you to meet likely minded people on the road, in a cafe or online. That’s how I met Esin Merdan, in a sudden and unexpected moment.
Her story is an example of determination. She shows us that if we really want something, we can make it happen by overcoming our obstacles.
That’s why I asked for an interview with her to inspire us and she accepted.
You have walking disability from birth and you had 5 surgeries to be able to walk. Now you can walk with a crutch and you are 23 years old. You travelled to many places in Turkey and in other countries. What makes you different than your peers?
I like daydreaming and going on adventures. Each country I can visit means a whole new adventure to me.
Speaking of travelling-even though we don’t like counting- how many countries have you seen so far?
I went to 16 countries thanks to various youth exchange projects and bus tours. If I write it in order it’s Italy, Vatican, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Germany, Czech Republic, Netherlands, France, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Belgium, Sweden, Finland and Russia.
What about the places you have travelled in Turkey?
I saw each region of Turkey except for East and Southeast Anatolia with my family. I spend most of my time in Middle Anatolia and Aegean regions.
Taking the first step to travel is usually difficult and challenging. How and where did you go abroad for the first time?
I did my first trip abroad when I was 17 years old. The high school I studied was participating in a Comenius project about empathy and cultural diversity. I was chosen as a participant and I went to Italy & Vatican for 1 week.
Did you come across any discouraging comments such as “What will you do abroad, stay at home otherwise you will have problems, it is unsafe”?
Of course I did. We grow up as people that rely on our family and environment in our culture. When I told my family that I wanted to go abroad, even they made discouraging comments about it. They said that I was disabled and I would have many problems. I wouldn’t be able to go by myself. They didn’t believe in me when I told them that I had applied for youth exchange projects. They laughed it off and said that I wouldn’t be chosen anyway. However, when I was chosen to participate they sent me abroad and I got the chance to know about different cultures, as well as to improve myself. Nowadays I keep hearing similar discouraging comments because we can’t agree about my future goals. Still, I believe in myself and I know that I can live abroad. All I need is a good opportunity.
Were there any situations where your disability stopped you from doing anything?
When I did my Erasmus at Germany last year, I began having sudden cramps on my lower back and my walking difficulty increased. I had to stop travelling until I went to see a doctor and got treatment. If this had not occured, I was going to join an annual feast at Venice, Italy. Also, I was unable to finish one of my homeworks when I broke my glasses by falling from a sidewalk at Russia. Having such incidents made me quite upset.
Did you have any difficulties or things that bothered you while travelling?
I had thought that I would come across physical obstacles while travelling. However, the real problem I had was making friends because people kept complaining about my slow walking and they wanted me to go faster. You know tours, they are usually packed with several groups of friends who already know each other. But I ended up being by myself most of the time and I was really sad about it. Then instead of sitting and crying, I chose going around and learning about each country with my own steps. Later on I shared my travel experiences on social media.
Which country has impressed you the most?
First of all, Italy. It was so warm and sincere that it fascinated me a lot. Italy was fabulous with its food, architecture and culture. Secondly France because it was full of artistic places and I really like places with lots of culture and art. Other than that, Latvia and Finland were among the places that left a wonderful impression on me. I felt so calm and happy that I found myself thinking “How would my life be if I could live here?” while visiting them.
What is the most unforgettable moment of your life?
It was the summer of 2016 and I had participated in a youth exchange about refugee issues at Estonia. On my way back home, I visited Riga, Latvia for one day and I had the turning point of my life there. I was going around by myself and I came in front of the Cat House. I wanted to take my photo there but at that moment my phone battery died. When I was thinking about what to do, I saw a group of tourists coming towards my direction. I tried to speak to them but they didn’t understand me. I looked at them more carefully and noticed that they were deaf. Despite not knowing any sign language, we managed to get along well and understand each other. I wrote in a piece of paper and asked for their help to take my photo. They were so kind, they took the photo and sent it to my email address a few days later.
Now whenever I see that photo, I remember that disabilities and differences can be overcomed. After returning home, I shared that photo in a travellers’ group on Facebook and they sent me plenty of encouraging comments. From then on I decided to keep travelling and create awareness for disabled people, so I shared my travel experiences on social media.This moment helped me to realise my living purpose.
Esin graduated from Hacettepe University English Language and Literature (bachelors) this year.
What are you doing now?
Now like everybody else who graduated recently, I have been looking for a job. I would like to live abroad, that’s why I need a suitable job. I am a free-spirited person and I love travelling. I had to stop travelling for a while due to economic difficulties.
What are your goals for the future?
For now my priority is to find a job abroad. Then I would like to save up money and do masters, also visit different continents. Another goal of mine is to participate in international projects and activities related to disability field. I want to reach out to many people and inspire them. Joining a travel program or a similar activity can be a good idea.
You told us that you are looking for sponsors, so let’s help you out. Would you like to say something about that?
I am in need of sponsors to achieve my goals such as doing masters abroad and travelling to different continents. If you contact me, I can help you to advertise your brand by using your products and sharing them with my followers on social media.
Last but not least, what other question did you want us to ask you?
I wanted to see a question about my hobbies and dreams. I love listening rock music, dancing and doing activities about Japanese culture (watching anime, reading manga, doing cosplay, participating in cultural events, etc.). My biggest dream is to go to Japan! Also, being able to live in an accessible country that won’t be too challenging in terms of physical or social activities. Unfortunately, my current environment makes it so difficult for me to go around or live by myself.
Anything else you would like to add…
I think it was a wonderful interview, the questions were amusing and they made me think at the same time. I had so much fun while answering them.