Dateline: Phoenix, AZ USA—27 Feb. 2017
I’ve decided to cash in my chips and hit the road for a while. This trip is one of those where I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but only bought the tickets a few weeks ago. It will also give me a chance to test out some of my MVW strategies, as I’ll be traveling light.
I’ll be leaving tomorrow (28 Feb.) and my trip begins with a 28 hour flight.
So where am I going?
Georgia of all places. No, not the US state. The Republic of Georgia, the country in east-Eastern Europe. I say east-Eastern because going any further east will put you in Asia (or Azerbaijan if you’re not going fast enough). For reference, it’s due south of Moscow and shares its northern border with Russia.
I’ll be going for three weeks and have no set plans. But I do have several goals in mind.
This is an all-you-can-carry-in-your-hands sort of a trip. I’m only taking a international-sized carry-on backpack and a small camera bag. I’ll also have a small purse that fits my mobile office stuff (iPad Mini and folding keyboard) but it has to stay inside the backpack while I check-in and board the plane.
This is so I don’t have to drag a roller bag over the cobblestones. I can also keep moving as I bounce between cities and don’t need to find a place to stay right away. The ideal of toting around a large bag would make the trip unpalatable.
I’ll also get to see what I can learn to make the next trip easier. And if the world decides to prove me wrong, they have stores.
This is the part I’ve put the least effort into. I have a homestay booked through booking.com for the first night mainly so I’ll have an address to put on the customs form. I would imagine that border guards would frown on someone showing up without a place to stay.
After that, I’m open. I’ll find more places the same way, or hopefully get some personal recommendations from people I meet. I don’t want to be stuck in one city for too long. There’s a lot to see.
What to see
I’ll be landing in the capital city of Tbilisi and figure I’ll spend the better part of a week there. It’s also the main population center of the country with a population of around 1.4 million people. Pretty much anything important that happens seems to happen in Tbilisi. So it’s worth a big chunk of my time.
But there are a lot of other places too. The legislative center is in the city of Kutaisi which is located about halfway between Tbilisi and the Black Sea. It looks to have most of the services of Tbilisi with about a tenth of the population. Overall, it looks like a good place to spend a few days to see what it’s like.
The last stop of my train ride to the sea will be at the end of Georgia’s main rail line: Poti. This coastal town is the country’s heavy industrial port. It also has the distinction of being bombed by the Russian Air Force during a short war in 2008. My main interest here is that Poti seems to be one of those places that gets overlooked because of it’s not a touristy place.
There’s lots of places in between the coast and Tbilisi, and depending on how my schedule works out I’ll stop and see them on the way back east.
So why Georgia?
This is the more complicated part. On a certain level it appeals to me because it’s not developed the way the West (and especially America) is. The country is still struggling with the economic collapse that followed the political collapse of the Soviet Union. The standard of living is lower, and I’ll be forced to reorient my suburban sensibilities while getting away from the 24⁄7 media bombardment we live with in America.
It also has a unique language with its own non-Latin script. I’m not sure how much I’ll learn over three weeks, but it’ll be fun to try. The language might be one of the reasons Georgia doesn’t get much love from the western world. Everyone my age and older also speaks Russian, as that was the common language of the Soviet Union. The only Russian I know is “Да” and “Нет.” So I’m just going to start with Georgian (“კი” and “არა”) for those following along at home, that’s “yes” and “no”.
But the main reason I chose a country that’s literally halfway around the world is because it might become my next home.
A large part of my trip will be devoted to figuring out exactly how much it costs to live there. I know it’s cheap because of the USD-GEL (GEorgain Lari) exchange rate. But I also want to find out what the cost of living is in the native currency. This will have the largest influence on what happens next. If the reality is in line with my estimation, I only need a slight bump in my freelance earnings to support a decent standard of living. This would, in turn, open up a new world of opportunity for me. One that wouldn’t be possible for me given my current situation.
Also the visa requirements are fairly liberal. As a US passport holder, I can can stay and work in Georgia for up to a year without needing anything other than an entry stamp. I won’t be staying that long on this trip, but it’s nice to know there’s not a ticking immigration clock on my stay.
In addition, the European Union has just granted Georgians visa-less access to the Schengen Zone of countries for 90 days. This has the chance to significantly transform how Georgians travel. Something like this doesn’t happen every day, and I’m interested in seeing the knock-on effects.
This is also a great way to put my MVW strategy to the test. I’ll be in-and-out of wifi range most of the trip. Since I’m taking the iPad and camera, the iPhone is staying at home. It was originally on the Sprint network, and because of that it doesn’t take international SIM cards. I have a basic burner phone that will take care of my calling a texting needs.
So with my wifi-only iPad, this will be a true test of getting the writing done with a minimum of gear. Plus with a whole new world outside my hostel door, I’m hoping I can break out of some of the ruts I’ve dug for myself recently.
I’ll also be doing my news and stock photography with the same gear. Recently Alamy upgraded their site so they no longer require Adobe Flash to manage my uploaded photos. This means I can upload and do any image management tasks from the iPad. So if I run across something newsworthy, I won’t need a PC to add in the metadata that isn’t pulled from the the IPTC information in the image file.
Overall, this is a working vacation and expatriate scouting trip rolled into one. I plan to post daily during the trip, so I hope you follow along!
Use the MVW Travel tag to see all the posts in this series.