Greetings from Limassol, Cyprus!
We've just recently returned from 'crossing the line' on a very interesting excursion into the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Many of you may remember the partitioning of the island into the North and South Republics, which began with a coup by Turkey back in 1974 and led to a declaration of independence for the northern part in 1983, though it is officially recognized only by the Turkish government.
Today most of the points of disagreement remain unresolved, and there remains a fair bit of tension between the two sides, though thankfully we are some years removed from any violence.
Interestingly from talking to locals on both sides of the line here it seems like the division is almost entirely political - there is very little animosity toward one another and undoubtedly a preference for peaceful coexistence above all else.
In fact, by far the most resistance we encountered was from the tourism boards when we were trying to put this program together, who were not particularly pleased that we wanted to explore both sides of the story.
To me that's utterly ridiculous, and it flies in the face of one of the most important reasons we design our trips the way we do - we're here to learn and understand the history and culture, warts and all; not to simply sit in a resort somewhere sipping cocktails. (And so we found a way to do it, and it was entirely worth it!)
In some ways all this talk of lines and division echoes the current situation in Ukraine, where political animosity and the twisting of history and culture have led to a situation that is disrupting and destroying the lives of ordinary folks, and where we could see another spurious claim to sovereignty unrecognized by most of the world.
It's striking how these lines and divisions, often completely arbitrary constructs born purely from political maneuvering, have such an outsize effect on the lived experience of the local people.
And yet, for all the negative outcomes the lines produce in places like Cyprus, we travellers might not have nearly as much to explore without them. Europe is in many ways so interesting because of its borders and the remarkably different cultures that exist so close to one another.
Ultimately however I am left with one of the most consistent perspectives travel has given me over the years - humans aren't really all that different, no matter where you find us.
The vast majority are after the same things - food on our plates, roofs over our heads, loved ones around us.The differences that do exist are to be celebrated, as they give us a reason to expand our horizons, and in doing so expand ourselves.
It's all a good reminder that we must not leave the responsibility of defining our views of the world to the politicians...much better to cross a few lines and learn a few things about the other side ourselves.
P.S. I'm very pleased to release our 2023 Malta LiveAway this week, as part of our 'Mediterranean' series of LiveAways for next year. You can find the full itinerary in your newsletter, or here 🙂