"ANTALYA? The place where people go for veneers and hair plugs? You know you can get kebabs in Istanbul?" My husband, not for the first time, is bewildered by my choices.

"I know, but listen, hear me out...". At the beginning of the year my husband and I agreed to take five days to ourselves, me to write, and him to draw. It won’t surprise any parent who’s desperately held together a Zoom meeting while a kid off camera shouts "I’ve done a prickly POO’" or who’s tried to file a deadline with whiny Bing, the constantly forlorn rabbit, bellyaching about his next crisis on telly, that five days' quiet is golden.

So, we decided we would both take some time away alone to focus on our work away from Cbeebies, constant demands for Pepperamis and sticky little fingers at our keyboard or sketchbook. And I chose Antalya, Turkey for a DIY writing retreat.

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I am not new to writing retreats. In fact, I’ve been tutoring at Arvon and Moniach Mhor for almost a decade. I would unreservedly recommend them for writers who seek expert advice, community and beautiful places to write in peace. However, not to galvanise the myth of writers being misanthropic hermits, for this occasion, plotting out a new thriller set in Glasgow, Budapest, Sarajevo, Seoul and Bangkok, I did not want expert support, or community or even, really, peace. What I needed was a jumpstart for my imagination.

And so I found the cheapest flight I could. Yes, it did mean flying on a Boeing 737 plane, a model which was recently temporarily grounded in the US after safety issues, and with an airline where its staff found a whole snake’s head in their meal. And Antalya is not somewhere I’ve ever been desperate to visit. Like my husband, I associated it with aesthetic surgery tourism and package holidays (no shame, they’re just not for me…). But it seems I’m in the minority since a new Euromonitor International account revealed that Antalya has a stunning 16.5 million international visitors making it the fourth most-visited city in the world.

I chose it in fact, because unlike Istanbul where I’d happily spend many months roaming the streets and not get bored, I thought it would not be particularly diverting. Yes, there would be the beautiful Lara Beach with its waterfall, clear waters and moody Atlas mountains on the horizon and I’d enjoy a good kebab but mostly I expected I would sit in my room and write for a fraction of what a Premier Inn by my house would cost.

The Herald: This was the perfect place for a writer's retreatThis was the perfect place for a writer's retreat (Image: Kerry Hudson)

Could I have done this at home? Perhaps. Except any mother knows that the strings of maternal responsibility stretch a long, long way and are constantly plucking for attention. Yes, even when I’m not with my kid, I’m thinking about dinner, booking tickets for toddler cinema, that he’s outgrown his wellies and that message about a head lice outbreak from the nursery.

Did flying to another country stop that? Honestly, no. I was still on video call to him several times a day and I wouldn’t have traded those moments of seeing his sleepy little face in the morning, his hair a tangle of white blonde like the softest dandelion.

But also, after the first few days, I did find I was able to think more clearly about my thriller, gradually, the story started to come together. I knew how I would turn the voices, pictures and fragments in my head into an actual novel. This perhaps shouldn’t be surprising, it is, after all, my fifth book. I coach others successfully on how to start, write and, crucially, finish their manuscripts. Still, it will always surprise me that when I sit down and give it time there’s another book waiting to be written.

But my greatest surprise was Antalya itself. Not only did I want to explore every street, I felt compelled to. What I needed, as much as anything, was the adventure of a new place and the presence of mind to take it all in.

From the airport taxi that turned out to be a party bus resplendent with disco lights and a dusty bottle of Bollinger, to the freak storm with knee-deep puddles, fork lightning and hail the size of marbles, I was continually surprised and inspired by the city. A Turkish breakfast under the shadow of a minaret while the song for prayer echoed and a chorus of bright-eyed cats competed for scraps. A whole street of wedding shops, their windows filled with diamante encrusted enormous meringue dresses. Watching people file into the nearby park for the Ramadan Festival complete with fairground rides and rangy stray dogs enjoying the party.

Like Istanbul, modernity and tradition can be found within a 10-minute walk of one another in Antalya. I went to a traditional hammam, next door to a mosque. I lay warming my naked body on a marble slab, was scrubbed by a woman who I’m sure would have been a fishwife had she been born in colder climes, lathered into a white cloud of rose-scented suds and then had a brutal oil massage during which we spoke in halting English-Turkish about our babies while she curiously examined my C-section scar.

On my last night, I videoed my toddler goodnight from a stylish, lively cafe in the old town. I realised that yes, I had needed time, space and quiet but more than that I walked a bit taller from the confidence you gain by discovering a place completely by yourself, especially as a woman. I did not need a community of writers to converse with, but instead interactions with kind and interesting strangers who offered new perspectives. And yes, it was nice to have the beach but when I felt most like a writer, when my best ideas came to me, I was aimlessly wandering back streets saying, "Merhaba" to those I passed.

This will certainly not be my last visit to Antalya and while I’m not sold on veneers or hair plugs, I am all for the rejuvenation of new places, sounds, smells and people. And yes, a good kebab too.