STATS – Day: 56 | Distance: 11,048.6 miles | Location: Schinnen, Netherlands | Money Spent To Date – Transportation: $1,019.65 (includes airfares) | Food: $227.27| Stay: $307.73 | Play: $155.26

I’m in Schinnen, NL taking a side trip from Istanbul to visit friends that I’ve met over the years. Some I meet in unexpected and surprising ways. Incredible, interesting people are everywhere. 

I believe if we take time to get to know one another, to listen to their life stories and to openly share our own, we as an individual human and as a society become more aware and appreciative.

Here are two examples of beautiful people who surround us every day.



Tommy is a rock-n-roll’er from Newcastle, England. He’s been coming to Istanbul for the past 9-years to play gigs in the bars and pubs of Taksim. His love of music was cultivated by a friend who served as a surrogate father and Tommy started playing professionally at the age of 18. He’s jammed with Keith Richards, Chrissie Hynde and others. He tells me stories of his life on the road and how he once drank his own pee to cure a throat infection. He swears by the cure.

I’ll keep the info filed away in my brain in case I ever need a cure.

Tommy has a BIG, BIG personality which can be a bit jarring at first (okay, it’s just jarring). He has absolutely no filters and says exactly what’s on his mind regardless of the situation.  One night he threatened to put a fork in the eye of a man who was being a bit of an ass. A bit.

Tommy also has a big heart and gets to know the people around him and their stories. As we walk through the streets of Taksim, he calls out to people by name and they do the same to him. He tells me about one of the children begging in the street, about how his electric wheelchair broke down and now his friend pushes him around until he has enough money to fix it. He finds out that one of our residents of Paprika is a videographer who is not able find work, so he takes him out and introduces him to musicians who do videos to help make connections.



Oktay is like a breath of fresh spring air -magical all by itself. Currently he lives in a wonderfully quaint apartment with a balcony that overlooks a colorful residential street. During the day he transcribes books and movies into Turkish. He self-taught himself English and his home is filled with dictionaries, although with today’s use of the internet he doesn’t need to consult them as much.

The books feel like old friends lining the walls.

Oktay enjoys photography, especially photographing seagulls in flight. He has captured the most incredible emotions on print – you can actually feel it and see it in the bird’s expression.

He shares with me his story of being a political prisoner for 14-years. The 1960’s was a time of great change in Turkey, just like many countries – mobilization, migration, urbanization, and the social welfare system was not managing unemployment and widespread poverty. Turkey faced a crisis of legitimacy representation of political and economical government.

“It was the 60’s, I was a revolutionary.”

He was around 22 years old in the late 60’s, studying at the university in political science. The rural workers were being exploited and Oktay organized the workers to stand up against capitalism.

He was sentenced to death, by hanging.

A change in law abolishing the death penalty saved his life from ending. His sentence was changed to 30-years. Then in the early 80’s a change in law ruled his time served as commuted. He had been imprisoned for 14-years, during the societal “prime years of life”.

This blows my mind.

He sold harmonicas on the street when he was released. He still sells them from time to time when he travels. He is full of life and light and seeks to learn and understand everyone around him. He’s a treasure.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. – Maya Angelou

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5 thoughts on “#LifeStories

  1. Am glad you are able to share these stories. We would never know about the larger than life Tommy or the courageous Oktay.

    Keep on being Piper…the world needs you.

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is excellent. I bet this is the best part of your adventure, hands down. Keep up the good work. It’s great to hear people’s stories and learning what makes them tick. Thanks for sharing!


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