It is 7:00 am and all I want to do is sleep.
Less than 48 hours have passed since I left Armenia, hopping into a marshrutka to Tbilisi on just four hours of sleep after a crazy last night out in Yerevan. I am physically and mentally exhausted and I have been fighting back tears since I arrived at the Tbilisi airport to fly first to Istanbul and then to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan – my first stop in Central Asia.
After two flight delays, I arrive in Dushanbe at 4:45 a.m. a tired, sweaty, emotional mess. Two hours later, I have finally made it through immigration and am relieved to find that my backpack managed to join me in Tajikistan. I exit the airport and find a taxi to take me to my hotel.
And as the receptionist unapologetically tells me in Russian that they do not have my reservation – that there is no free room for me, I finally lose it.
All of the emotions that have been simmering for the last few weeks finally bubble to the surface –the stress, the disappointment, the sadness, the fear, the anxiety.
It all hits me at once and the tears start to flow uncontrollably.
The last three months have been the best of my career break trip. I have caught up with old friends and forged new relationships. I had more fun in the weeks I spent in Armenia, Italy and Turkey than the rest of my trip combined. I found a comfort zone in Georgia and Armenia that made it hard to leave.
But I am physically exhausted from a hectic (but great) last week in Yerevan, sightseeing during the day, going out nearly every night and getting very little sleep.
And I am mentally exhausted from the stress of getting my visas, the disappointment of something not working out the way I hoped and the sadness of saying goodbye to people who have become good friends.
And I am terrified of what comes next.
It probably sounds silly considering I have been on the road now, mostly on my own, for nearly ten months. I have survived miserable homestays, freezing temperatures, horrendously long ferry rides and Turkish scam artists. I have crossed over a dozen land borders without incident, even making it into Azerbaijan, where many people said I would hit big problems.
Yet the ‘Stans – Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – just seem more difficult.
I am afraid I won’t know what the heck I am doing when I try to teach English in Tajikistan, that I won’t be able to handle living in mountain villages for a month and that I will be horribly, horribly lonely.
I am afraid I will turn into a lobster from the sun beating down mercilessly on this fair-haired, light-skinned girl with Scandinavian roots.
I am afraid it will be so hot I won’t even feel like seeing or doing anything. There is a reason I spent most of my trip in cold-weather countries during the winter – I like the cold. I originally planned to hit Central Asia in April, May and June – before the heat would be unbearable. My timing now of June, July and August is far from ideal.
I am afraid I will have difficulties with transportation and border crossings. I picture border checkpoints in the ‘Stans being much less organized and much more chaotic than anywhere else I have been to date.
I am afraid I won’t be able to find internet access to stay in touch with friends and family, to keep up with my blog and to keep up with my work obligations.
I am afraid I will have trouble finding ATM machines that accept my cards and that I will quickly exhaust by backup stash of US dollars.
I am afraid I will attract much more attention as a female traveling solo than I have anywhere else. While I enjoyed Turkey, I absolutely hated the stares I got everywhere I went. I am afraid Central Asia will be even worse
I remind myself that so far nothing on my career break trip has turned out to be as bad as I feared, but I am still afraid.
Arriving in Tajikistan also represents the beginning of the end.
When I leave Kyrgyzstan in mid-September, I will be on my way home for the first time in nearly 13 months. And that is scary too. While I have said before I am ready to know when I am going home – and I have a fairly good idea now of when that will be – it also terrifies me.
I am scared that I won’t be able to find a job before my savings runs out.
I am scared that I won’t fit in with my friends any more – that I won’t be able to relate to anyone and vice versa.
I am scared that I will have a hard time adjusting to being home and that I will be miserable.
I am scared that I will go insane living with my parents again for the first time since I was 18.
I am scared that the memories of everything I experienced, the lessons I learned and the friends that I made on the road will fade too fast and that I will be left wondering whether it was all worth it.
And so when the hotel finally finds a room for me – possibly the worst hotel room I have ever stayed in – I fall onto the tiny twin bed and just keep crying until I finally manage to fall asleep.
And I wake up five hours later, feeling ever slightly so better.
But still scared.