Thankful in Tbilisi, Georgia

I’ve been quiet lately, I know. My writing ebbs and flows with cycles of introversion and extroversion, contemplation and communication. I tend to go quiet when I have nothing to figure out; my mind isn’t trying to solve some giant life puzzle: I am simply living contentedly. I also go quiet when I’m busy working on something that will change the whole direction of this blog and my life (more on that later). And yes, those two can both happen at the same time.

I have a lot to catch you up on: Ukraine, a 5-country river cruise on the Danube, a short stop in Greece, and being laid up with a bum ankle in Kutaisi. But first I’ll share where I’ve stopped traveling to build a nest for myself: Tbilisi, Georgia.

I chose this city sight unseen: it looked perfect on paper. It’s only one of three countries in the world that American passport holders can stay visa-free for 360 days, which is how it got on my radar in the first place. It’s a rapidly emerging destination for digital nomads and expats, so the English-speaking community is large and quite active. The city itself is both ancient and beautiful, and the surrounding landscapes – mountains, lakes, national parks, and even wine country — rival Switzerland.

I’ve been happy to discover that reality matches the hype. I spend weekdays at the Art House – a luxury complex in the Fine Arts museum – where I work in one of three lovely and quiet spaces, exercise, swim in the heated rooftop pool, relax in the dry sauna, and meet up with my lovely Russian language teacher. This plus my rent (cute cottage studio with private garden near the metro) costs me less than $500 per month. It’s easy to meet people when I’m feeling social — there are events literally every night of the week, and I’ve made some great friends already. And when I want solitude I simply wander the streets with my camera.  

The question I’ve been pursuing in this blog for the past few months was “where do I belong?” I partially answered it at an expat dinner on Thanksgiving: I belong wherever there are people with nomadic, adventurous hearts. Someone at the party said it well: the people who end up in Tbilisi don’t tread the beaten travel path. Many are also working through a transition; thanks to the easy visa and affordability, Tbilisi serves as a cocoon for people who are taking time to figure things out.  I belong to a shared mindset that transcends cultures and geography, and I’m thankful that I’ve found this tribe.

And because I’m a nomad, I’m starting to feel that itch to get on the road. So tomorrow I’m renting a car and exploring the landscape with my camera for a few days. More to come…

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