I love traveling alone. I’ve found it to be a great way to relax, rebalance, and explore. When I started TLG, I assumed I would have plenty of chances to see Georgia on my own. After all, if you’re moving to a foreign country where you don’t speak the predominant language and you don’t know anyone, you have to be comfortable with a bit of loneliness and some solo activities. I looked forward to a year of reading, learning, and independent travel.
I have read a bit and learned a lot, but I’ve never traveled alone within Georgia. TLG is part of the reason. I arrived with 30-something other confused foreigners, who eventually became confused friends and travel buddies. My host-family and village bear most of the blame. They greeted me with warmth and excitement, as well as with bewilderment as to why and how a girl in her early 20s would pick up and move to a foreign place. This (typical-of-TLGers but crazy-in-Georgia) situation caused my host-mother to have patroni mode turned on to code-red. My host-parents both work and I usually finish lessons before they come home. No worries, my host-mother recruited my neighbors and extended host-family to make sure I was rarely alone. Before I had time to unwind, it seemed like a string of friendly Georgians were working shifts to accompany me. It didn’t take me long to realize that, in Georgia, alone time is a rare treat.
In October, I finally found my old motivation and used a Friday of cancelled lessons to head out on a solo weekend in Kakheti. I started in Davit Gareji. The isolated monastery, tucked away in an expanse of brown and orange valleys, was a perfect starting point. From there, I took a cab to Sighnaghi and enjoyed the ride with an uncharacteristically quiet taxi driver and a Russian hip-hop soundtrack.
That ended up being my last moment to silently mull over things. After I settled into my home-stay in Sighnaghi, I linked up with a group of friendly Israeli tourists who became my travel partners around Kvareli and Telavi. Then, of course, appeared other TLG volunteers. There were monasteries, wineries, and funny moments with Georgian guides and other foreigners. By the end of the weekend, my solo trip resembled my other trips in Georgia.
At first, I felt annoyed at myself that I had squandered this chance to do some “serious” self-reflecting. Truthfully, if I had really wanted a solo trip in Georgia, I could have brushed off other travelers and stuck to my original plans. Then I realized, how I think about thinking has changed. Before Georgia, some loneliness seemed essential for me to learn something. I felt like I needed to “filter out” other people and experiences to reach my own conclusions. I thought of my mind as a petri dish, of sorts, that needed sterile conditions to produce good results. Maybe because my living arrangements make alone time rare, maybe because people in Georgia, natives and foreigners alike, are a friendly bunch, but my thinking process has changed. I’m still on a life-long quest to find my true voice, but this is a day-to-day journey, not one solved in lonely escapes.
Teaching and learning, my friends. Teaching and learning.