Worth it: A Weekend in Cappadocia
I wasn’t going to go.
Although, my new friends and I had decided that we would enjoy our weekend getaway in Cappadocia together, I couldn’t decide if the hassle was worth it. As luck would have it, I had just come down with the flu which meant that all of the muscles in my body ached. My nose had also turned into a waterfall that required nearly all the toilet paper in my Airbnb to damn up.
Unsurprisingly, considering the circumstances, I didn’t feel like making the journey.
We had chosen Cappadocia because one of my friends was already there. She had decided to spend her final month in Turkey working at a friend’s hostel in Göreme. The other one was an engineer from the UK. Suffice it to say, she could afford to buy a ticket for the one hour flight on short notice. However, the way my finances were set up, the only way I could afford to get there was by bus. The ticket was cheap, but the journey was long. It would take over 10 hours to get there on the overnight bus. Not exactly an ideal situation for someone who felt as awful as I did.
So, while I was excited to meet up with my new friends and have an international “Girls Trip” style weekend, my better judgement was telling me to stay put. Besides, I tried to convince myself, it was better for my health and cheaper for my wallet to stay in Istanbul and chill. As the disappointment set in, I readied myself to write to my new friends and tell them to enjoy the time away without me. And even though the probability was doubtful, I wanted to assure them that we would meet up again sometime soon, someplace else when my money was right and my body wasn’t ill.
But as the weekend came nearer and nearer, I found that I just couldn’t send the message. But funnily enough, I didn’t buy the ticket, either. Despite the it seeming by all appearances to be a rather inconsequential decision to make, like many times before during my journey, I had unintentionally reached a spiritual crossroads. The reality was that this was a place that I really wanted to visit. On top of that, these were people that I wanted to be with. And while it was true that I wasn’t feeling my best, I wasn’t dying. And that was when my deeper self—the one who had made the decision to come to Turkey piped up and asked: what was the point of coming to Turkey if you are going to miss out on amazing experiences?” It was then that I realized that I’d spent the majority of my life playing it safe and backing away from life at the first sign of discomfort.
But this time was different. I was different. And I realized that I had the rest of my life to be comfortable and play it safe. This trip was the perfect opportunity to lean into discomfort and enjoy my life despite myself. So, the day before we were to meet in the city of Göerme, I bought my bus ticket.
It wasn’t that simple of course. As it turns out, buying tickets online is rather complicated—especially if you aren’t Turkish. Why? Well, not only is there a language barrier that you must content with, but many of the sites require you to have a Turkish ID number and phone number. And if you make it past all of that, you still might have issues processing your credit card.
I should know. My card was wrongly processed several times by the bus company Metro. Eventually, I gave up and tried to use the Turkish equivalent of Paypal, but that didn’t work either. Panicked, I went online in search of an alternative route. I eventually came upon a small online travel agency that was able to purchase the ticket for me. I was to leave Istanbul at 9pm and arrive in Göerme at 8am the next day. It was all arranged perfectly. Finally, I felt relieved and readied myself to make the journey. I bought snacks and replacement toilet paper for my Airbnb host. I was all set to make the trip, but one minor inconvenience came up.
I missed the bus.
Yes, that’s right. While the bus drove away promptly at 9pm, I didn’t arrive at the station until 9:20. I couldn’t even blame myself for being lazy or tardy. The problem was that I was just too new to the city to properly gauge how long a journey like that would take. On top of all that, I was still sick. So despite the fact that I had set out nearly 2 hours before departure, I still, got there 20 minutes late. It was like the universe was conspiring against me.
The biggest hurdle, I realized in hindsight, were the hills. Like Rome, Istanbul was said to have been built on seven hills. Much like Lisbon, these hills seemed practically vertical and were difficult for me to traverse on a normal day—much less when my lungs were full of mucus. According to my GPS, it should have been a 20 minute walk from my apartment to the subway station, but in reality it took me nearly twice that time.
By the time I arrived at what I thought was the subway station, I was gasping and drenched in sweat. Coupled with the cool breeze of the early fall air, I was feeling sicker than ever and pinched for time. So following the big “M” sign, I walked to minutes under the labyrinth that made up the Istanbul public transit system. I went through the metal detectors (yeah that is a thing here) and took the escalator up to the tram—not the underground metro. It was at this point that the pinch of lateness opened up and bled into the certainty that I was going to miss the bus.
Despite all my best efforts, I arrived at the Kamil Koc bus station 20 minutes after the bus had gone. Yet, at first I wasn’t too worried. Buses from Istanbul to Cappadocia were among the most popular routes. There had to be another bus. Just had to be. And there was—at 5:00 in the morning. What’s more, this one wouldn’t get in to the city until 4pm the next day. Unfortunately, I several online English classes scheduled for that time. I had arranged for all my classes to begin after I’d arrived in at the hotel in Cappadocia, but now that was shot to shit.
But I wasn’t ready to give in just yet. There were seemingly a million bus companies at the bus station. One these had to go to Cappadocia. So, I walked around. First, I hit the larger companies. Then I hit the smaller ones. At about the fifth stop, I came across a tiny sliver of an office. I walked in and asked the young man sitting at the desk if he spoke English. He did. Delighted, I asked him if that was a bus heading to Cappadocia. He said yes. At 12:15am there was a bus heading to Kayseri—the largest city in the region. As this was the same city where the airport was located, I assumed that I would be able to make to the smaller city of Göreme without a problem.
So, I charged my phone, got on the bus and got comfortable; certain that I was going to make to my destination, just a few hours later than I originally planned.
But of course, it wasn’t that simple.
As it turns out, the bus didn’t go directly to Kayseri. Instead, it went to the capital city of Ankara. From there I had to change buses and ride another two hours to get to Kayseri. By this time, the my English classes had begun, so I had no choice but to teach them…on the bus. But if I have learned nothing else from traveling, it’s been humility and shamelessness.
But eventually I made it to Kayseri and was only an hour away from my final destination. All I had to do was take one more bus, one more bus and I’d be there. But at this point, you have to know that that wasn’t going to happen. Unlike in Istanbul, I didn’t have to look for a bus. Here they came looking for me. Again, I found a small bus company who was heading to Göreme—sort of. This one was heading to another small town. From there I had to take yet another bus to Göreme.
By the time I finally got there, it was 3:30 in the afternoon. My wayward journey had gotten me to the city only 30 minutes before the 5 am bus would have gotten me there. And even though I was tired and sick and frustrated upon arrival, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. Because despite all the drama—it was worth it.
My girls and I had a fabulous weekend full of drinking, shisha smoking and general merriment. We ate well, slept in the fanciest cave I have ever seen in my life, and woke up every morning at 6am to watch both the sun and balloons rise. I could call it a once and lifetime experience, but in my mind I’m already heading back.
And that my friends, is the hallmark of a great and necessary journey. It may be stressful, disappointing, or make you feel out of control, but in the end the change in you that it inspires will be more than worth the trials it took to get you there!