It started with a meal; not just any meal, mind, but a really really terrible one. My fiancé and I were in Istanbul, it was dinner time and we were feeling hungry.
Having spent the day taking in the Turkish city’s sights and smells, wandering past ancient mosques and temples, through bustling marketplaces, spice markets and rug shops, we were positively ravenous by the time we stumbled across the traveller-friendly Sultanahmet district.
After strolling down the street, looking for a nice restaurant at which to stop and fuel up, we settled on one with comfortable outdoor seating and a desperate-looking waiter standing out front.
We must have been hungry because we seldom ever settle on a restaurant so quickly – but if you’ve ever been to Turkey then you’ll know that restaurants there rarely ever disappoint. It’s rather difficult to stuff-up doner or shish kebabs.
It’s difficult but not impossible.
That’s right, we picked a dud. Not only was the food terrible but we both ordered the exact same thing.
Normally one of the best things about travelling as a couple is ordering two different meals and then sharing them. You can mix and match flavours, try more and, more often than not, finish off your partner’s meal.
Alas it was not to be on that fateful night in Istanbul. Our soggy kebabs had been drowned in sauce, the salad was sparse and the meat was, shall we say, “gross”.
But just as every superhero has a turning point, a defining moment that makes them stand up and choose a life of truth and justice, that meal represented ours. No, we did not become crime fighters (how awesome would that be?!); instead, we vowed to never order the same exact meal again.
And we dubbed it “The Istanbul Pact”.
And so it came to pass that my fiancé and I would never order the same meal as each other in a restaurant again – no matter how much we might like to.
And it’s helped us out countless times. Every now and again when one of us orders something, shall we say, “gross”, we simply share the other meal – or swap them if the other person (usually me) likes the so-called “gross” one.
Of course, there have been times when we’ve been tempted to order the same thing – at Japanese restaurants, for example, where we’d both want to order our favourite katsu curry dish (yum!) – but we always settle such arguments the old-fashioned way: whoever says it first gets to have it.
Backpacking through Asia, too, living up to the Istanbul Pact would often prove challenging – but we’d always be happy we stuck to it.
Sometimes it meant we couldn’t both order something “safe” and “familiar”, other times it would mean we’d have to try something new – pho in Vietnam, for example, or khao soi in northern Thailand – but we’d always stick to this choice couple’s travel tip.