During my June 2003 trip in Turkey I was interviewed (in Turkish) by Mr M Yüksel Özbek of TÜRSAB Magazine, the official publication of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies. The interview was published in the magazine’s August 2003 issue and on the TÜRSAB website in Engish and Turkish. (Sohbetin Türkçesi için burada tiklayiniz.)
Here’s the English translation:
TÜRSAB MAGAZINE, AUGUST 2003
Text and Photos, M. Yüksel Özbek
The American tourism writer Tom Brosnahan wrote 5 books related to Turkey and one Istanbul guide which sold nearly 300 thousands since 1971. If we suppose that 1.5 persons read each book, Brosnahan presented Turkey to 500 thousand persons through these books.
Tom Brosnahan, a US citizen and living in Boston, is a tourism writer. What differs him from others is that he’s a passionate of the culture of this country pointed out by these words:”Turkey is my nation and Istanbul is my city when I look down to the earth from the plane.”
Five books updated related to Turkey and one Istanbulguide book sold nearly 300 thousands since 1971. If we suppose that 1.5 persons read each book, he presented Turkey to 500 thousand persons through these books.
The writer has guide books related to Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Tunisia, Marocco, Egypt, Israel, Britain, Canada and New England. His books published first by Frommer and then Lonely Planet sold 3 millions all over the world. His books written in English have been translated to 12 languages.
Tom Brosnahan went to Turkey more than one hundred times and he stopped recently to be a tourism writer for the publishing houses; he’s now prepared to write his “memory” in Turkey described by himself as “a country having no bottom from the point of history”; he visited last month [June 2003] Turkey again in order to update the web site TurkeyTravelPlanner.com through which “he gained his liberty”.
Vietnam or Peace Volunteer?
Brosnahan worked as English teacher at Bornova Maarif College in Izmir in 1967 as a Peace [Corps] Volunteer.
He decided to be a tourism writer although he planned to be a professor of Ottoman history.
He tells that our country achieved an “unbelievable” development in the tourism and other fields in the last 15 years.
He’s speaking Turkish making the language more meaningful by using the words hayhay (certainly), s¸ükürler olsun(Thanks God), mas¸allah (wonderful), hanimefendi (lady), beyefendi (gentleman) and bey (Mr.).
He emphasizes that “Turkey has no bottom from the point of history!” and explains as follows how he became a tourism writer:
“I had two alternatives; I would go to Vietnam and kill people or be a Peace [Corps] Volunteer. The second alternative has been realised. I started to work as an English teacher at Maarif College in Bornova in 1967. I was gaining as much as the teachers in Turkey.
During the holidays, I visited the geographical, historical and cultural attractions of Turkey by spending just 2-3 dollars or maximum 5 dollars; I learnt the language, I had friends and acquaintances. So, I started to taste keyf (‘Turkish pleasure’) by the conversations accompanied with tea and raki even if it was difficult for me. I took pleasure of the Turkish cuisine.”
“One day, while going to the school…”
“One day, while going to the school I thought that there is no good tourism guide book for those who want to travel to Turkey on 5 dollars a day… The books on the market have been prepared for the rich tourists.
I offered a proposal to the Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of Tourism to write a book on this matter. I sent the same proposal to the Frommer publishing house in New York. Their answer was hay hay olur (sure, certainly); I was very happy. So, The Turkey travel book has been published in English with the title of “Turkey on 5 dollars a day” by Formmer in New York in 1971.
The book had a big success. It became more popular than the previous ones. The edition number started from 7 thousands and rose up to 8, 12, 15 thousands.”
“My aim was to be a history professor”
“For me, the tourism authorship was a hobby providing an income. My aim was to be a professor of the Ottoman history. I went again to the university in Boston. I finished the courses teaching Ottoman language and I made a study for 15 months in the Archives of Prime Ministry in Ankara [should be Istanbul] for my doctorate thesis. I was very happy.
Then I was back to US to write my doctorate thesis. Unfortunately, there was no job for me in the university where I’ve been the unique student of the unique professor; because at that time, the Ottoman history was not as popular as in those days.
Meanwhile, the publishing house proposed me to write a travel book related to the east region of Canada because I know French. Thus, the tourism authorship replaced my dreams of being a professor of history.
Since that time, the Turkish expression ‘Tebdil-i mekanda ferahlik vardir’ (“Changing place makes one feel good”) is hung on the wall of my office room at home. I travelled a lot, I took photos, I composed the informations that I got and I wrote books; the tourism authorship made me happy.”
“Tourism boom in Turkey”
“The years of 1978, 1979 have been very difficult for Turkey. The publishing house was not willing to edit an updated book related to Turkey. They believed that tourism is finished in Turkey.
In 1980, Evren Pasha took the power. At that time, I proposed to the publishing house to update the book of Turkey. Bur Frommer didn’t accept and I applied to Lonely Planet. They said: ‘Hay hay, prepare it. We will publish.’
In 1985s, during the government of Turgut Özal and when the Turkish tourism boomed, there was only one updated tourism guide book related to Turkey in US and it was my book.
My advantages compared to the other writers is that I knew culture, history and language of Turkey.
My book published by Lonely Planet has been composed of 300 pages; then the second edition in the second year had 400-500 pages; I was prepared for 900 pages but the publishing house gave up to prepare a new edition because of the higher costs and lower benefit.
Meanwhile, my guide book called “Istanbul” and then “Turkey Travel Atlas” has been published.”
The website giving liberty to the writer
“As the publishing house grew more and more, the growing bureaucracy gave rise to problems. So, I decided to use the electronic area to write my books starting from 1994.
Recently, my web site TurkeyTravelPlanner.com started to serve. It’s a very simple web site. Actually, it’s composed of 500 pages. But the context grows due to the links. Of course, the number of pages will increase.
The purpose of the site is to find answers to the qustions of tourists who will visit Turkey. In other words, to think as a tourist and to find answers to their questions. So, I have 10 questions on my web site. I provide answers to the subjects related to the security, transportation, accomodation and cuisine by asking first the question of ‘do you want to travel to Turkey?’.
In May, 35 thousand persons visited my site; 250 thousand pages were read. The comments of the visitors show that the site is simple, easy to enter, to visit and functional. The visitors are from US and Europe.
TurkeyTravelPlanner.com gave me liberty as a writer. My website has been awarded gold medal by Society of America Travel Writers.
I must come to Turkey once two years in order to update my books; I will visit more frequently Turkey because my website is active and widely read.
In 1967, while going to the school one day, Turkey oriented my life; it changed me. I had my honeymoon with my wife in this country. And we named our daughter Lydia which is the name of an ancient culture on this land…”
Tom Brosnahan is also an enthusiast of Orhan Veli Kanik so much that he translated his poems into English. Maybe, he’s travelling on behalf of Orhan Veli too who wrote the following lines:
“If I had sailed to the wind, if I had travelled across the seas
And one day early in the morning, If I had found myself
At a quiet and desert port.(…)
Oh my God! What a pleasure, what a pleasure”
…but he never could go out of Istanbul….