A journey is made of places, of course, but it is also made of people, faces, smiles, personal stories, and tales. The Bitcoin Explorers' adventure in Turkey continues, and we left Istanbul to head south along the Mediterranean coast. Our destination is Izmir, ancient Smyrna, the third most populous city in the country, thanks to its more than 4 million inhabitants. It is also, we are told, the most open, the most secular, and the most progressive.

In the past few weeks, we have met many Turkish Bitcoiners. After all, this is the primary reason for our journey: to intimately understand the local reality through the firsthand experiences of its residents. 

Today, we would like to give a voice to their stories—the ones that particularly impressed us and the ones we consider most instructive. These stories will provide readers with insights into why, in this region, Bitcoin represents more than just a speculative asset; it is an opportunity for personal and financial transformation.

For example, meet F., a 27-year-old woman who believes in it. COVID-19 particularly scarred her by throwing her into a long and painful period of depression. She took on a lot of debt during that time, and when the bank knocked on her door, they took everything from her, canceled her credit cards, and confiscated her salary for months—without mercy or any consideration for her social situation or psychological state. 

Since that day, she has been keeping her savings in Bitcoin because, as she tells us, "this way, no one can touch them; they are mine and mine alone." Today, she works in a medical clinic, is happy, and dark times are a distant memory. She convinced the owner of her office to accept Bitcoin. "It was easy," she comments, "because she is very smart and a career woman."

When we ask her about her monthly salary, she hesitates. "I have a hard time telling because, thanks to inflation, the figure changes almost every month. But I can show you my Green wallet! What I don't need in the immediate term, my savings for the future, I keep them there now."

Very different is the story of B., of Kurdish origin, who today runs a barbershop in a nice suburban Izmir neighborhood, together with his brother. His store is his pride, evident in the care with which it is furnished and kept in perfect order. Thanks to his origins, B. knows what poverty, ethnic repression, and forced emigration mean.

He can't call himself a Bitcoiner; he doesn't understand much about it yet. But one of his loyal customers persuaded him to accept them, and he embarked on this adventure with enthusiasm. 

He uses Blink wallet because "it's very easy." He loves his profession so much, and he is excited to experiment with new payment systems if they can contribute to the success of his business. He is the first barber to accept Bitcoin in all of Turkey; he doesn't even realize it as he grins behind a shy smile, but he is a true pioneer—a revolutionary.

In the countryside, just over an hour from the city, there is an oasis of peace that literally stole our hearts. It is an almost idyllic community where, for more than 10 years, five middle-aged women have been living together. It is a great way for them to share experiences, expenses, and the dream of a more open and inclusive society. Each one of them has her own independent house within a large piece of land, where they grow olives, jujubes, grapes, and pomegranates. They produce honey and jams responsibly and sustainably.

"When I bought this land, there was almost nothing here," A., class of 1951 and founder of the community, tells us. "We even had to dig our own well because we had no running water either. We can't be completely independent, but we are working harder and harder to try to be."

In this little piece of heaven, A. organizes self-empowerment classes, guided meditative paths, music, and yoga to help people connect with themselves. There are dozens of beds available, and friends and clients come from Europe, especially Germany and Switzerland. All community products and services, without exceptions, can be paid in Bitcoin.

"I can't consider myself an expert in technology; at my age, that would be impossible," she tells us, "but the dream of separating money from the state, I know well. It was the same dream shared by the hippy movements in the 1960s, before the whole movement was swallowed up by the wildest consumerism. I immediately saw in Bitcoin something capable of succeeding where the summer of love failed. People say they want freedom but they don't actually want it. Because freedom means responsibility. And Bitcoin demonstrates this very well."

Today, A.'s community also opens its doors to local Bitcoiners, organizing meetups and educational weekends. It is her way of contributing tangibly to the community, and she dreams, one day, of organizing something with a more international reach.

It is difficult to describe the chaotic industriousness that crowds the narrow streets of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar; it is something that must be seen with one's own eyes at least once in a lifetime. It is a centuries-old institution, built by Sultan Mehmet II a few years after the conquest of Constantinople to facilitate trade in the new capital of the Ottoman Empire. 

Today it is one of the largest covered markets in the world, and more than 4,000 merchants have their businesses here. Among them is K., a young entrepreneur in his 30s; his store sells spices, dates, pistachios, and sweets.

When he hears us ask if it is possible to pay in Bitcoin, he lights up and immediately comes over to meet us. "This is a historic moment! You will be the first payment in Bitcoin that I receive!"

K. doesn't trust banks at all. He has seen too many of his colleagues go broke after losing everything to bank crashes. Yet when we get ready to pay, we realize that he has no wallet, only a Binance account. When we point out the absurdity of this to him, he looks at us a bit strangely and asks, "why don't you people trust Binance?"

It doesn't take us long to explain to him that, after all, centralized exchanges are even more dangerous than banks. They are private companies to which he is entrusting his Bitcoin but which can fail at any time, taking all customers' accounts with them.

"Ah, just like what happened with FTX!" he exclaims, with that terrified face of someone who had never thought about this possible scenario before.


Laura and Rikki are Bitcoin Explorers: a pair of activists and storytellers journeying across the globe to chronicle Bitcoin adoption, particularly in burgeoning nations. Follow their escapades on XInstagramTikTok, and their YouTube channel.

Share this article
The link has been copied!