Getting Married in Turkey During the Pandemic with Peter Gorman

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Getting Married in Turkey During the Pandemic with Peter Gorman by Expat Empire
Peter Gorman

Getting Married in Turkey During the Pandemic with Peter Gorman –Episode Description

In this episode of the Expat Empire Podcast, we will be hearing from Peter Gorman. Peter got bitten by the travel bug at a young age but had his first experience living outside the US through a university study abroad program in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Following an unsuccessful attempt at going to graduate school in Prague, he settled down into his life back in the US and became a restaurant chef. At the end of 2019, he had just started a great new relationship with a woman from Turkey, but they were tragically separated in March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic. After several difficult months apart, Peter decided to leave his life in Denver behind for Ankara, Turkey at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Listen to this episode to hear all the exciting and unforgettable details of Peter’s story navigating new cultures, relationships, and languages in 2020! 

LEARN in this episode:

✔ What it was like to move across the world and get married in the middle of the pandemic

✔ How to communicate with people in any country and language

✔ Tips for getting your English teaching certificates in Prague, Czech Republic

✔ The motivation that comes from doing things like moving abroad because you want to do them 

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Video Episode Transcript


Welcome to the Expat Empire Podcast, the podcast where you can hear from expats around the world and learn how you can join them.

Hey guys, before we get to the interview, I want to remind you that we’re offering free 30-min consulting calls to anyone interested in moving abroad. 

Whether you’re thinking about retiring somewhere warm, starting an international career, or becoming a digital nomad, we’re ready to help you think through the next steps in your journey. 

Send us a message at to schedule your call today!

With that said, let’s start the conversation.

Getting Married in Turkey During the Pandemic with Peter Gorman – Conversation:

David McNeill: [00:45] Hey Peter, thanks so much for joining us today on the Expat Empire podcast.

Peter Gorman: [00:49] Of course, it’s nice to be here.

David: [00:51] Yeah, you’ve done some great work on the site so far, and I know more about your story, but I think it’d be great for our listeners to get a sense of it too, especially because they’re probably reading some of your awesome blog posts. So, excited to talk through your various adventures over the last decade plus going to different countries.

Peter Gorman: [01:11] Well thanks, thanks. It’s been a good time writing.

David McNeill: [01:14] So, I guess just to start us off, if you could tell us a bit about your background, where you’re originally from, wherever in the world you’ve lived so far and where you’re living right now?

Peter Gorman: [01:25] I am from Denver, Colorado, and I lived there for basically 29 out of my 31 years. I have also studied abroad in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I also lived for about four months in Prague in Czech Republic. And right now I am in Ankara, Turkey, and I’ve been here for about seven months.

David McNeill: [01:56] Okay, nice.

Peter Gorman: [01:57] So, that’s the extent of my abroad at this point.

David McNeill: [02:02] At this point. And we’ll see what the future holds. So, it sounds like you had your start in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I hope I said that correctly.

Peter Gorman: Yeah.

David McNeill: [02:14] So, if you could tell us a bit about where your interest in living abroad and I guess where that particular experience and opportunity came from, I think that’d be a good place for us to start.

Peter Gorman: [02:24] Sure, yeah. Well, my parents gave me the travel bug. I was 14 when we went to Europe the first time, at least as a conscious person. I went there as a baby, so it doesn’t really matter, but we went to a few different countries there and I was just enamored with everything. I still vividly remember all that happening, I’m 31 now. So, after that it was just in my brain and I wanted to make it happen more, and by the time I was in university, I’d finished my second year at University of Colorado, Denver, and I wanted to do a study abroad.

So when I was looking through the list of options back in 2009, I saw, basically the common ones, Australia, China, Spain, Germany, Bosnia, and I’m like okay, I want the weird one, because I really just wanted like to have stories, that I didn’t know anybody else had. Like, I knew that one of my family members had been to Yugoslavia at some point, but I had only read about it, seen some documentaries of the war. So, it was just like, that’s the one, and I think as of a couple of years ago, I’m still the only one to ever take Bosnia from that school.

David McNeill: [03:54] So, you literally didn’t just go by yourself that year or that semester or whatnot, but you were the only person to have ever taken advantage of this study abroad opportunity.

Peter Gorman: [04:05] Yeah, at least the entire time I remained in school and kept in touch afterwards and everything, because obviously, it wasn’t a very popular program, but what we did was we linked up with a couple of grad students from University of Denver, and then that was basically our core group over there, but I was the only undergrad.

David McNeill: [04:24] Wow, that’s awesome. And so, what did you study while you were there?  And tell us about your first months and, well, I guess actually, maybe it wasn’t too long overall, I don’t know how long the entire program was, but what was it like stepping out from the airport, into now Bosnia where, this is your first time there. And maybe the first time anyone from your school had even been there.

Peter Gorman: [04:49] Yeah, it was just completely a mind-blowing experience, because I was 20, I’d never really been to another country on my own. I think we drove to Canada with some friends once, but I got dropped off the plane in Zagreb Croatia, because flights to Sarajevo still remain pretty expensive these days.

So we met the local guides in Croatia and spent a couple of days going along the coast to just getting acquainted seeing some things there, and then popping up to Sarajevo,  which, driving in there, if anyone’s ever been there before, it’s like dry Mediterranean mountains, then you go through a tunnel and all of a sudden you’re in like Switzerland, it’s insanely beautiful up there. And then not only that, but Bosnia is a majority Muslim country, so it’s got mosques everywhere. Yeah, it’s completely mind-blowing getting up there.

David McNeill: [05:47] Yeah, I can imagine.

Peter Gorman: [05:49] The first few months, actually it was only three months, but it was just such an overwhelming amount of gratitude from the locals, basically they’ve all been traumatized, because of the Bosnian war. So they just wanted to see a foreigner there and someone who is interested in them. So I just got a huge amount of attention. We were literally on the local news when we arrived, as like, the American students came. Yeah, it was a big deal. And so people, as we went around Sarajevo, it’s not that big of a city, it’s 400,000 people, and we’d go into some bars and restaurants and people would be like, I saw you, I saw your picture on TV. So yeah.

David McNeill: [06:37] You got quite a bit of fanfare just coming in as a 20-year-old university student. It’s definitely a pinch yourself kind of moment.

Peter Gorman: [06:46] We went to the presidential palace, we were invited, we met the president a few weeks in and everything. It was just, it was wild. I’ve never met the president of any other country.

David McNeill: [06:57] Yeah. I guess maybe that’s a different experience from your other classmates going to Australia or China or Japan or anywhere else really, in Europe, so that’s pretty awesome. And did you have otherwise, I mean, obviously it sounds like quite a shocking and crazy experience, but did you have any particular moments of, I don’t know, culture shock, on the culture side?

Peter Gorman: [07:22] Yeah. Well you asked before too, what we studied there and it was basically just, it was two specialty classes over a month. Like we spent multiple hours a day doing this thing and it was basically just diving deep into what happened in Bosnia. At that point, it was 15 years after the war ended. So we met many people that were very involved in the conflict, either as victims or as military, we met some Bosnian soldiers. 

But the biggest experience by far, I’d say, which was like one of the formative experiences in my life at this point was in July of 2010, we went to Tuzla, one of the smaller cities in Bosnia, and we went on this March that takes place every year. It’s called the Marš Mira Peace March. And it goes from just outside of Tuzla, where the old front was during the war, basically where the Bosnian soldiers were stationed, then the path goes all the way to Srebrenica. And if you know anything about Bosnia, Srebrenica is where 8,700 men and boys were basically just slaughtered. It’s a horrible story, but it was basically the point at which when the world saw genocide. At that point, it was just awakening moment for the world. 

So what we did is we traced the exact path, back to Srebrenica, we went back to basically honor the fallen, on the same path that they went out. So, it took about three days. We walked through ridiculously beautiful hills and in every village we went to, some old ladies would come out and give us coffee. There were about, I think 7,000 people on this march. So it was not only that, but just like, I was talking to locals, internationals, people were absolutely amazed that an American, not only one but there were 11 Americans in the group with us. 

So just talking to people from there and from elsewhere in the world for three days, it was incredible and it really felt like a pilgrimage. Even though I wasn’t from the place I was going to, it really just felt like one of those mind-altering journeys, without the use of substances, it was one of those things, religious.

David McNeill: [10:16] Yeah, absolutely. Were you invited on it or it was just something that you and your other American friends and colleagues decided to join in on, or how did that work?

Peter Gorman: [10:26] It was a combination of the two. We were invited as basically the guests of the organizations we were allied with over there, and we basically all had to sign up because it’s not an easy walk, it’s 25 miles a day, and then you have to either sleep in tents that the army provides, or you can do what we did and pay a local family 10 bucks each to sleep in their house, that was a much better option. But yeah, we all definitely had to volunteer for that.

David McNeill: [10:59] Right. Right, and I guess just to take it back to the very beginning of your decision to even go to Bosnia for the study abroad opportunity, how does your parents and classmates and friends think about you taking that dive into a much more, let’s say unknown place than maybe the rest of the study abroad students?

Peter Gorman: [11:19] I’ve always had very supportive family and friends. So it was mostly just like a keep talking to us, be safe kind of thing. Nobody was saying to me, that’s a horrible idea, you shouldn’t do that. Not one person. I think I would cut them out of my life anyway if they said that to me.

David McNeill: [11:36] Yeah, that’s probably a good idea. So, I guess in total it sounds like it was about three months, so not the longest time that you can get a lot of good experiences and really indeed have those wonderful memories.

Peter Gorman: [11:49] It felt like a year.

David McNeill: [11:50] Yeah. I think I was in Singapore to study abroad for four months and it also, yeah, it’s just so much packed into a short period of time, right? And I just love to get your thoughts and recommendations for others out there that might be interested in studying abroad. Based on your experience, would you recommend it? Are there any specific tips or advice about picking maybe an off-the-beaten-path country, or anything like that?

Peter Gorman: [12:17] I mean like first and foremost, absolutely do not be deterred by a place that doesn’t speak your language, it doesn’t matter. Like truly, you can get along. Everybody when put in a semi stressful situation, like going to a new country. I mean, just crossing the border can be tough sometimes, and once you’re actually there, you can communicate with caveman language. You can communicate with your hands, it’s fine, and then in a few days, you know enough words that you can buy food and everything, you can go to the store and just point and figure out numbers and then give them money. It’s easy.

And your brain just works in such incredible ways that when you’re given a challenge like that, that you can really just adapt to it. And all of a sudden, within a couple of days, you just feel natural once you’re there. So yeah, language seems like the scariest thing, it’s definitely one of the easiest things to figure out on a rudimentary level.

David McNeill: [13:21] Sure, sure. Did you find it difficult to pick up the language at all? I mean, obviously, maybe you didn’t have a lot of time to be able to dig in, but what are your thoughts?

Peter Gorman: [13:31] I mean, you learn the basics, yes and no, but a lot of Bosnians speak English too. So it was like a give and take. I learned some words and had to improvise or somebody would help me, but along the way, as long as you’re talking to people, you’re going to communicate, it’s going to work out.

David McNeill: [13:52] Yeah, absolutely. Have you been able to make it back since your study abroad experience there, or is that on your shortlist of places to go or do you feel like you’ve kind of gotten that out of it? And I mean, it can be hard to go back as well, because then you go, and you compare it to those old experiences and memories.

Peter Gorman: [14:09] Well, that’s true. I mean, since basically everything there was positive, but I had tickets, I had plans to go back in April of 2020, and then everything…. So, thankfully though, my now wife, she’s Turkish and she has been to Sarajevo and she also wants to go back at some point. So it’s definitely in the docket somewhere.

David McNeill: [14:37] Sounds good. So you come back from that, was there a challenge for you at all to reintegrate? Let’s say, to the place that you were from and indeed ended up spending 29 of your 31 years in.

Peter Gorman: [14:52] Yeah, it was just like, coming back home was boring. Not like a cruel kind of boring, but it was like, I had the stimulation of trying to figure out a new place and learning about a new place, and I just wanted more of that. Like, it was completely going back to your own jungle so to speak. Going home can be nice for a time, but a couple days in being back in Denver, I was like okay, what’s next? It’s like getting a new tattoo or something or like eating some of the best food you’ve ever had, you’re like okay, I want more.

David McNeill: [15:39] Right. Definitely. So I guess it took a couple of years until you were able to get more then, or I’m not sure if you had any travel experiences in the interim, but how did it kind of come about that Prague was the next spot for you and how did you make that happen?

Peter Gorman: [15:57] So, my mother’s side of the family is Czech. She was born there, and my grandparents were born there and everything. So I’m a first-generation American on that side. My grandfather went to Charles University in Prague. So, I found a program that I was interested in at the time, it was Geopolitical studies, and so I applied, I was admitted and everything. I was in Prague going to school, but I gave myself a month beforehand to kind of get grounded and find some work. 

So I spent a month teaching an English course, which paid off in 2020, so I learned that for about a month and then jumped into grad school. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to really get grounded because the whole visa process just got really long, like I’ve learned Eastern European bureaucracy really well. And at that point I was running out of money, soon to be illegal and I just decided to tuck tail and run, honestly. It was just going to be a situation where I was going to be broke, alone in another country, it was going to be not so fun.

David McNeill: [17:33] Not so fun.

Peter Gorman: [17:33] So I went back to the US.

David McNeill: [17:35] Fair enough. I guess you always have that option.

Peter Gorman: [17:39] I’m privileged to have that option.

David McNeill: [17:42] Yeah, definitely agree there, same here, but how was that experience for you? Just recognizing that hey, this one isn’t going to work out, and I mean, I suppose you weren’t there also for the longest time, and so maybe then again, reintegration back into the United States maybe wasn’t so profound as the first time when you’re going and meeting presidents of countries. How did you process that and how did you decide what was next for you?

Peter Gorman: [18:14] I have a very strong connection with Czech culture, so it was just a completely easy integration on the way there, and making the decision, it was really just a hundred percent financial, if any of us had the money to continue, we would in most situations. But getting back to the US I had failed out of grad school, so luckily, I got my bachelor’s degrees that year as well, but coming back in 2012, I needed something else to do.

And in high school and some years in university, I worked as a cook, so I went back into line cooking at the beginning of 2013 and got some praise for what I was doing. So I was like okay, let’s continue on this path, and after a while I had basically risen to the ranks in one of the most interesting restaurant companies in Denver. I became a sous chef and I was a manager at Linger in Denver, and that’s when everything happened in 2020, I was there. So it was just kind of an escalation of that job path, and I was traveling internationally as much as I could the whole time, as long as I could afford it.

David McNeill: [19:43] Right. Where did you go or how did you decide where to go, rather than make travel a priority in your life? I mean, how did you also work in the time or get frankly, the opportunity of logistically to be able to make that happen?

Peter Gorman: [19:59] I used my vacation time, plus some. I always stayed over and basically I just got my foot in the door every time with requests off, I would be like, eight months out, like okay, these are my dates, I don’t know where I’m going yet, but I’ll just make it work. If I choose the dates, then it’s going to be wherever I can go cheapest in that time.

So, between 2013 and 2020, I went to Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, Malaysia, Netherlands, Belgium, France and Spain, in those eight years there. And then I had like I mentioned before, I had plans to return to Bosnia and do a few newer places in central Europe during that time, but instead, I came to Turkey.

David McNeill: [20:59] Right, right. So, if we could just pause on that for one second, because I want to make sure to get this out of the way before we go down your most recent.

Peter Gorman: [21:11] Down the rabbit hole.

David McNeill: [21:11] Yeah, the rabbit hole. So you did go, and as you’ve said, it’s been very useful recently for you to get your English teaching credentials and do the courses. So, do you have specific advice for other people that might be interested in doing that, in terms of what credentials they should go for or how they should go about it? What the process was like, how you learned those things? It’d be great to hear your thoughts.

Peter Gorman: [21:36] Sure, Sure. So, I basically just chose it as one of those ways I knew I could get work somewhere. Prague is one of the places that everyone goes to, to learn English, the other place is South Korea. So, I just chose a school that looked reputable, it was about a thousand dollars for one month of courses and they’re pretty intense courses, five days a week, all day, so I definitely spent a lot of time with that,

And the biggest thing is like, I’ll go back to how to choose study abroad is, you don’t need someone else’s language to communicate, and when you’re teaching, you can start with the absolute basics. You can just point to your head and say, Peter, and then you can point at an Apple and say, this is Apple.

And that’s how you teach language, it’s like going from the absolute basics, and you don’t need to translate to learn languages. The translation is actually a really bad way of learning languages. So yeah, the certification I got was teaching English as a foreign language, I got the TEFL certificate, but I got that certificate in addition to teaching English as a secondary language, a TESOL certificate. So there’s a T-E-F- L and T-E-S-O-L. And I got both in the time span of a month there.

David McNeill: [23:17] Is it important to get both of them?  I guess I’m not super clear, obviously, I don’t know the space that well, but what’s the main difference, because it sounds kind of similar.

Peter Gorman: [23:27] Yeah. Well, if you get the TEFL language certification, then you can teach English to people, that’s the main definition there, but TESOL, a little bit different is that you basically want to teach English to students that are trying to learn other languages. So it’s like teaching English in the world of teaching languages. You want to be able to not only be certified in teaching English to somebody, but if you knew how to, you would be able to teach maybe, Spanish or something else. Like, my second language is Spanish and I might be able to teach a Czech person Spanish, for instance. At least the basics. So it’s just kind of branching beyond just English as well.

David McNeill: [24:24] Yeah, and were there programs that you, maybe evaluated that were longer than a month or is a month kind of the standard, and what people should expect going into it? Because it sounds, not only affordable but reasonable time-wise and just overall investment for the opportunity to have that skill set and be able to leverage it now or in the future.

Peter Gorman: [24:44] Well, I’ve also seen TEFL courses that are 16] hours, and I don’t know exactly how many hours I did in a month, but definitely a lot more than that. So TEFL is a fairly easy certificate to get, but I think a month is about the standard, but I’ve been far out of that search for a little while, for nine years now.

David McNeill: [25:09] Yeah. So is it something you have to read up and sort of getting refresher courses on, or once you have it, you’re good to go?

Peter Gorman: [25:17] Well really, it’s just like a certificate that you get, and then after that people look for experience. So as long as you keep teaching, those basics always remain with you. You spend more time teaching the language than you do learning teaching techniques, so you really just have to have to use your time in the lessons to teach yourself more. Yeah, it’s just a thing you get with experience.

David McNeill: [25:51] Sure. So you get that, then we talked about your career as a chef, and I was curious during that time, of course, you traveled as much as you could, given the vacations and breaks that you had, but did you have any intention to try to live abroad again, let’s say outside of the United States for any long period of time? Of course, we will get to how it all managed to happen in your case, but did you have any idea of, maybe you can get to some premier restaurants in some other part of the world or anything like that?

Peter Gorman: [26:23] I kind of wanted to use restaurants as a stepping stone to get somewhere else. I had applied to a few random jobs at points like I applied to work on Etihad Airways as a plane chef at one point. I had applied for, like six years in a row, I wanted to work in Antarctica just for the summer season and that’s a pretty built-in community, so they don’t really hire outside of their community very often unless they have to, but I never got callbacks for that. I definitely wanted to go spend a lot of time in another place, but it was always the limitations of the job, I was needed in a kitchen in one place.

David McNeill: [27:11] Right. Sure. Okay, so that takes us to 2020 now reveal. So I’ll let you take it from here, but if you could just kind of run us through, I guess, the play by play to the extent that you’re able to, and whatever you want to talk about, and talk us through, it’d be great to hear what you’ve been up to the last year.

Peter Gorman: [27:31] Yeah. So December ’19 I was still in Denver, still very much involved in the chef life there, and I met my now wife there. We were just dating at first, starting in December and then things moved pretty quickly. It was just, it was obvious, I’ve been in enough relationships at that point to just know when something was completely straightforward. It was a priority from the first day of meeting each other.

So everything happened for people in the US around the second week of March. So, my date when everything changed was March 16th of 2020. We had made the decision, the painful decision of sending her back to Turkey on March 14th. Basically, I came home one night, she was staying with me at that point and she was completely distraught.

We both stayed up most of the night just talking about it and bought a plane ticket for her, and I knew that there would be no way for me to adjust that quickly, so I had to stay behind, and not only did she leave on the 16th, but I also potentially, as well as everyone else in the city, lost in my restaurant job.

Luckily, I was kept on first as a volunteer, as we close the restaurants down, but then we got back up to a takeout only kind of state, and then we basically moved back into half capacity by the summer. So I was still employed through that time, thankfully, but that basically got us up to August, but in the meantime, unfortunately, she just really knew, she knew that she needed to go back and be with her family. In May of 2020, her father has diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. So I don’t know if that’s just on a higher being kind of level, that her father knew that she needed to come back, and he was basically saying, I want to see you before I die, that’s intense.

David McNeill: [30:12] And he said that back in March?

Peter Gorman: [30:15] He said that before she left basically. He didn’t know he had cancer at that point, at least from a diagnostic perspective, but yeah, he was diagnosed in May and he passed in August, nine days before I got there, or before I got here. I had my plane ticket and I knew that he was very sick, but we didn’t make it in time. I was able to meet him on video calls, so that’s good.

Yeah. So I got here in August 15th, basically leading up to that, I wasn’t in a good headspace as most people I think were. I was just increasingly depressed from not having my partner, even though we had only been together for a short time and also, just the prospect of losing my job again, was just really like on my mind constantly.

So, I came to Turkey with just one goal. I just needed to be with her and I was going to make it work in any way possible. So, I came with the essentials, basically, I have things here, like enough to go on a few weeks trip, but we moved into an apartment that’s where we are now, now we live in the hills of Cankaya, which is one area of Ankara and it’s a good, good apartment and a good neighborhood. 

In October we got married, we just knew that the best chance of us being together, smoothing out all of the details were going to be getting married. It’s quite obvious that if you’re in a long-distance relationship and something like Covid happens, then you need to be married in order to be together. And I never thought that I would be the one to get married without knowing someone for more than a year, but it happened. It was just so obvious the whole time.

David McNeill: [32:34] Right. So, to that extent, it sounds, like as you say, it’s so obvious, so what they say about, you’ll know kind of thing when you meet somebody, I guess you would agree with that as well.

Peter Gorman: [32:50] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, going through a few relationships before, like some good, some bad, and then, it’s cheesy that when the right person comes along you know, it’s true. I’m really glad that I had enough of the headspace to just know that about myself, is like that’s the one.

David: [33:17] Right. Right. Yeah, that’s great to have that certainty. So, thank you so much for sharing your story, I think it’s inspiring to me and I’m sure a lot of the others that are listening, and not to get too in the weeds or too technical on it, but just generally speaking, I imagine some people are wondering, how did you make this move in the midst of Covid, the pandemic? I know a lot of people are stuck in place or things like this. So if you could just tell us a bit how you actually got out of the United States and got into Turkey and how it happened in a more like logistical sense, that would be great.

Peter Gorman: [33:55] God, that was a really, really hard process. I’m always on websites looking at airfares and stuff, that’s how I chose my trips in the past, right? And so in July of last year, I was just kind of looking through different ways to get there, but so many borders were closed, it’s something I’ve never had to think about before, having that American passport, that privilege, everything’s open to us. I think at this point, most places are still open to us. So, the traditional way to fly from the US to Turkey would be through Europe, through the Schengen Area and the Schengen area has been sealed shut. I haven’t checked recently, but I think it’s still sealed for us.

So, I had to find another way to hop around because they weren’t even allowing transit through the airports, so I couldn’t even fly through Amsterdam or something. I had to go either over or around. So I looked at a flight for Qatar airways that was going to be good. I saw one through Morocco that I was going to make happen, and then the UK came up, it was fairly easy to buy a British Airways flight.

So what I did was first, I went from Denver to Portland, Oregon, where my dad lives now, and so I spent a couple of days with him and then kind of launched back East and went through Chicago, then London, Heathrow and Istanbul, and finally Ankara. So, with those four flights, four flights in one day, none of them short except the last one, it was basically like 30 hours of nonstop travel from Portland to Ankara, and extremely hectic during that time, August was a really bad time in the world, and so having the mask on, it was rubbing my nose, tugging my ears because I had it on for 30 hours and didn’t have a chance to shower. I’m thinking, the whole time my brain is buzzing, like the border is probably going to close while I’m in the air, like who knows what’s going to happen.

So I was expecting to get to Turkey and just be like, nope, you’re getting on a repatriation flight, you’re denied, but Turkey was open, almost the whole time. The borders of Turkey were closed between last December, December, 2020 and a few weeks into January, and that was just because there was a big spike, and actually, getting here was a lot better than I thought it was going to be.

I even came to the customs in Istanbul, just ready to feel like someone escaping world war II, just like, my wife is here, I was going to say wife, she wasn’t yet, but my wife is here, you have to let me in. I had papers and everything, and she scanned my passports and she’s like okay, here you go.

David McNeill: [37:18] Yeah. You’re like, you looked at my documents, right?

Peter Gorman: [37:24] Yeah. She was like, everything came up electronically. Turkey does e-Visa, so everything was on the screen in front. And wow. I was expecting the whole Soviet-style, I need to check your papers.

David McNeill: [37:39] It’s good that it didn’t happen that way, but it is quite fortunate then,  that it ended up being Turkey that you were headed to, and of course that your wife was living there, given this very specific reason. I mean, if nothing else, right?

Peter Gorman: [37:54] I mean, if it was Schengen, we would still be separated if it was anywhere in Europe or Canada. I mean, if she was Canadian, I still wouldn’t even be able to do anything like this, so I just know how incredibly lucky we are, it’s ridiculous that everything panned out the way it did, and especially with how hospitable Turkey has been to me.

David McNeill: [38:17] Yeah, definitely. So have you been to Turkey before or this was literally stepping off the plane and in Istanbul the first time?

Peter Gorman: [38:25] Bosnia is the closest thing I’ve been to, it used to be Ottoman, but yeah, stepping off the plane in Istanbul. I’ve gotten flavors of Turkey before, like I knew I knew the food fairly well and speaking with my wife, I had known some basic Turkish, but completely foreign land, foreign smells and everything. It’s like stepping off the plane and smelling the air for the first time, that’s always my regulatory experience, my epiphany. It’s like oh, I’m here.

David McNeill: [39:00] Yes. Yes, exactly. And what were those first days, and even first couple months like? And of course, not even talking about the marriage part, but just getting your head around being in a brand-new country, a new culture, everything being new.

Peter Gorman: [39:17] Well, I isolated at first, we still didn’t see each other for another five days after I got in, because I got a PCR test and they still weren’t very quick or advanced at that point, so I just sat in the hotel for most of the day and I would go outside to get food and you walk around, but still no contact with people.

And then on the sixth day, we finally met and we reunited and it was so strange, with everything that happened it was just surreal. We were, and truly, we only knew each other for five months on our phones and looking at a screen, so touching each other for the first time in five months, just like a simple hug, it felt like I was a glitch in the matrix and something was wrong, it was just such a surreal feeling. And then after, like a day, it really started to sink in that we’re back together. It was just so strange.

David McNeill: [40:29] Because I guess, doing the math in my head, unless I’m mistaken, you were actually apart at that point for longer than you’ve been together.

Peter Gorman: [40:38] Yeah. Yeah, exactly, and still, everything was so obvious. It was like, what, what could we do? Break up on a video call and just basically never have the opportunity to see each other again, like who knows what was going to happen at that point, right?

So August was just such an unstable time in the world, it was just like, I had to do it at that point or never.

David McNeill: [41:05] Right. Yeah, I can only imagine.

Peter Gorman: [41:09] Her family has helped along the way, and her and her friends too, most of her friends speak English since she met most of them in university, and so, I’ve just had an incredible support system here.

David: [41:24] And then I guess, again to get to the nitty gritty, but I’d be curious to know how you’ve managed to support yourself, and I guess your wife now. In terms of being able to make money there, and knowing that you came from a chef career and seeing if you’ve been able to keep with that or do something entirely different?

Peter Gorman: [41:42] It’s a bad time to be a chef and some have managed to make it, but the wages in Turkey for a cook are just really not high enough for me to sustain us both, because she’s a teacher and the schools were remote learning for a while, so not only that, she’s a special ed teacher, and so you really need her physical presence there. So she’s hoping to get back to work in the fall, but in the meantime, we’ve just been finding work online. I’ve been using the English teaching, thankfully that happened, and I had that certificate to go find a job with. So mostly, that’s most of our wages right there is the English teaching, and then we do online work, collaborations with Expat Empire, that kind of thing.

So, just along the way, we’ve been just having to hustle, honestly. I’ve never had to, just reenter a job market like that before, I had years of other jobs to build on. So yeah, hopefully soon she’s going to get work again, like steady work, because our wages now are basically keeping us afloat, but it’s not something to build a life on really.

David McNeill: [43:10] Got it. Got it. And I guess to also get into a bit of the romantic side. So I’d love to hear about how the wedding or the marriage came together? I mean as you say, it was, I guess so obvious from the beginning, but still, I know a lot of people, maybe you and definitely me included, were thinking about how to make those decisions about being together as a multinational couple, I guess you could call it. Dealing with the thesis, dealing with all this stuff and where marriage kind of factors into that, assuming you’re not already married before you go to a new country.

Peter Gorman: [43:48] Yeah. Well, it wasn’t hard for me, thanks to my American passport. I really do think that that gave me preferential treatment, than a lot of cases here. They know that I’m not a refugee, they know that I’m not from Syria, which is the big one here. There’s 6 million refugees from Syria in Turkey, it’s the largest refugee population in the world, I think right now. So there’s this huge animosity towards immigrants from anywhere else in the Middle East, and Turkey is really taking on a non-hospital culture towards the refugees, just because it’s so difficult to make lives for 6 million more people when there’s already poverty in Turkey.

It’s an advanced country for sure, but it’s definitely one that’s in several various sticky situations right now, but to get back to like the marriage of it is, all I had to do really was, I had to prove that I was me. I had to get some documents together. We visited her place of residence, office, the marriage office specifically, and just fill out a lot of forms and paid some fees, and then when it came time to set a date, we were given October 10th, 10-10-2020. I mean, what’s more romantic than that? Getting an easy to remember marriage date after all that struggle. Yeah, just going through the process, I would say it was made easy for me, because she’s a Turkish person from Ankara, so, in her own jungle

And when we got up to the wedding and everything, it was completely a hundred percent a civil ceremony, because they don’t offer weddings in Turkey in religious buildings, since it’s a secular Republic. And we got married in the Sincan Belediyesi, it’s the municipal office building. Sincan is one of the towns around Ankara and it’s where she lived for 15 years, where her mom still lives, and we got married under a picture of Ataturk and the Turkish flag and everything, and my mom made it out there, and it was incredible. She stayed with us for five weeks.

David McNeill: [46:29] Oh wow, cool.

Peter Gorman: [46:30] Yeah, it was beautiful. After we told the family that we were getting married, she basically broke down and said, I have to go, and she flew out. She did the journey herself having a mask on for 30 hours, it was incredible. Twice. She flew back too.

David McNeill: [46:51] Right, right, yeah. Wow.

Peter Gorman: [46:54] Yeah, and she stayed with us, and we hopped around the country, but the marriage was quick, I think all in total, it was about 45 minutes, and then we went to a restaurant, where we could social distance the tables, and we basically got a wedding hall for three hours in a larger restaurant and then we got gifts from everybody, we did the ceremonial cutting of a cake with a really long sword.

David McNeill: [47:29] Did you get to keep the sword after?

Peter Gorman: [47:32] I was hoping they would hand it to me for good. Then afterwards, we went to a restaurant and had some fun times with some friends and called it good, that was it. It wasn’t like a big build-up, weekend-long ceremony that I was imagining an Eastern Europe, Middle Eastern kind of wedding to be. So that was culture shock for me, just how quick and formal the wedding is, of course, but just how, there’s not that much fanfare, especially in Covid times, it was just like got to get it done and you can celebrate later kind of thing.

David McNeill: [48:17] Yeah, right on. Awesome. Well, it’s been great to hear that story so far, so I’m curious on what the future for you looks like, if you have any plans for the next couple of years, or whether that’s staying in Turkey or going elsewhere, going to the US, obviously, I mean, passing this current situation, but if you look forward another year or two, what does that look like for you?

Peter Gorman: [48:39] I did get my residency card and everything. This allows me to be in the social system for the next three years, and then after this, I can apply for a citizenship if I want, we’ll see if that’s necessary, and in the meantime, we’re doing the same thing for her.

So we’re currently in the middle of the application process and waiting to hear back from various offices in the U.S. and so, the idea is that we have residency in both countries, so that whatever we choose, we can easily be with one another.

And so, if for instance, we have to move back to Turkey for something, I’ll be able to apply for my residency again, or just have citizenship, and then she’ll be able to come to the U.S. if need be, but having either one of the visas is going to give us the opportunity to live anywhere in the world, if we want to.

David McNeill: [49:36] Yeah, absolutely. And if you have any specific advice in closing, for people that want to live abroad and especially in a place like Turkey, I guess you’ve only been there for what, seven months now or so. So, it’s probably still early days, but I’m sure there are other people that are interested in those options, especially maybe in that region of the world that we aren’t able to cover as frequently so far as I would like in the podcast. So any thoughts would be great.

Peter Gorman: [50:01] I just know that whatever it is, it’s going to be hard. There’s absolutely nothing about moving, where you think like oh, that was just like normal life. Everything you do is going to be, either a change in your habits or is going to use some sort of your skills to get by, and thankfully, I’m very happy to always do the bureaucratic work, and so that’s one thing that helped me along. But it’s like, just embrace the challenge. There’s nothing in your life that’s worth having, comes to you easy. So just know what exactly what you want and just push for it as hard as you can, and you’ll get it.

Living abroad is an incredible experience, and I wouldn’t want anyone to not feel like it’s for them, if they want to. There’s no reason to be deterred except for our physical means, we should just do what we want because we want it, I think.

David McNeill: [51:12] And I guess to that end, did you have a certain amount of money, thankfully set aside or available to you, to be able to make that move when you did in August? I imagine some people are thinking about how they need to prepare financially for such a move, and yours was in, I guess, an interesting kind of a precarious time, so you were able to make that, but do you have any thoughts about how people can prepare for that financially, outside of the mental and emotional aspect?

Peter Gorman: [51:41] I had a few thousand dollars ready to go, when I left in August, and then it was after that, we needed to sort of move quickly. So once I got the job going, I finally got paid in November. So there was a three-month stretch where I had to last off of savings. So yes, you need savings. Even in a place like Turkey that’s relatively cheap for Americans, and even with my support system, we still needed to have that thing to back us up and that’s what we’re building again, to move back to the U.S. for maybe a short amount of time or move somewhere else, we just need to have that savings.

David McNeill: [52:23] Yeah, that makes sense.

Peter Gorman: [52:24] At least some sort.

David McNeill: [52:26] Yeah, definitely. So to that end, for our listeners that are interested in finding out more about what you do and what you’re up to, is there any way that they can keep tabs on it on, I don’t know, any social media or websites or anything?

Peter Gorman: [52:39] Yeah. So like David mentioned, I’m writing for Expat Empire once in a while, we’re putting out articles together. So, apart from that, I have an Instagram, it’s just one-word @petersoutthere, and so it’s been a pretty heavy chronicle of the places I’ve been in Turkey, but I started it before we left, because I knew that if there was ever an opportunity to kind of share what’s going on in a very visible way, that was it. So, @petersoutthere is basically showing exactly what I’m seeing on a daily basis in Turkey.

David McNeill: [53:20] Right on. Well, there’ll be links in the show notes for that. Hopefully more people will follow you there, I’ll make sure that I’m following as well, just to keep tabs on what else is going on in that side of the world. But thank you so much for sharing your story with us today. It’s been awesome to hear about your adventures in the last year and looking forward to more adventures with you and your wife, whether in Turkey or other parts of the world.

Peter Gorman: [53:42] Yeah. Thank you, David. It’s been great, and great talking about it. It’s still a surreal thing to talk about.

David McNeill: [53:48] I can imagine. All right. Talk to you soon.


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As the founder of Expat Empire, David McNeill is focused on inspiring people to move abroad and showing them how to do it. David started Expat Empire because he has a genuine passion for living abroad. He left the United States in 2014 and has since lived in Tokyo, Berlin, and Porto.