A month in, and 2020 has already brought some exciting life changes. Read on to find out what I’ve been up to – and where I’m travelling to next.
There are few places in the world where I feel more at home than Georgia.
Apart from, well, my actual home in Australia.
Since my last update, I’ve been in Brisbane enjoying a life of travel-free routine and basking in all the comforts of familiarity. I spent time with family, reunited with friends (some of whom I hadn’t seen in years), and on February 1st, I got married.
After four years away, I fell in love with my hometown all over again. And for the first time in a long time, the idea of moving back to Australia didn’t feel scary at all. I was actually looking forward to it.
But 2020 has also brought some challenges. Since wrapping up our 10-month trip back in August, our plan has been to find a place to settle down. But come crunch time, we faced a lot more uncertainty and indecision than we had anticipated.
After a few false starts, we found ourselves seriously entertaining the idea of moving abroad again. Despite having committed to make our next home base somewhere in Australia, in the end, curiosity beat comfort and we decided to take a leap of faith.
Tbilisi… Again? Really!?
If you haven’t already guessed, the big news is that we’ve decided to spend a big chunk of 2020 in Georgia!
In fact, we’re already here – huddled up in an Airbnb in Tbilisi, gas heater crackling and a pot of khinkali on the boil. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be back!
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that Georgia and the Caucasus is a place very close to my heart. Ross and I have been toying with the idea of moving to Tbilisi ever since we spent a month here in 2017, and I can honestly say that not a day has gone by when I haven’t fantasised about living here long-term.
Our decision to move to Tbilisi temporarily shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. But it still feels like a big life decision – one we grappled with for many months before finally booking our one-way tickets with 10 days notice.
My travel plans for 2020
If there’s one thing I learned from my time in Hanoi and Phnom Penh, it’s that there’s a huge difference between travelling and living in a city.
This time around, we want to experience life in Tbilisi – warts and all. We may be on the other side of the world, but our priorities for 2020 are basically the same: Settle down, establish a good routine, focus on work.
That means travel will be taking a backseat this year. I’m only planning to do a few trips, so I’m being very selective about where I go.
I do have one trip already in the works, however – and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
Partnering with Geotrend
On my first trip to the Caucasus, it was the people that had the biggest impact on me and left me wanting to return to this part of the world again and again. Since then, Georgia in particular has become a lot more popular among tourists, and although I think this is largely a positive, I know it’s also introduced a host of problems.
I always try to support small businesses and projects that benefit local communities when I travel – including here in the Caucasus. Last summer, I had an opportunity to visit two places in the region – Pankisi Gorge in Georgia and the city of Gyumri in Armenia – where responsible tourism is really taking off. It was incredibly inspiring and made me realise that I could be doing so much more.
After that trip, I got talking with a responsible tourism company here in Georgia called Geotrend. I was so impressed with their ethos that I wanted to find a way to partner with them in 2020. Now I can finally announce that I’ll be joining their ‘Gem of the Caucasus’ tour this spring – an epic two weeks travelling around Georgia to discover some of the country’s best ecotourism projects.
What does responsible tourism look like in the Caucasus?
This will be my first ever group tour experience, so I wanted to make sure it was with a company that shares my values. Geotrend is a member of the Georgian Ecotourism Association and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. They put local communities and the environment at the forefront of all their activities – which makes them quite unlike any other company I’ve come across in the region.
For starters, they limit their tours to small groups of 10 people or less. They also stick to family run accommodations, and visit small farms and private wineries instead of large-scale producers. All their guides are locals, and come summer, some of the itineraries will be done by train instead of flying or travelling by road.
But the thing that most excites me about Geotrend is their focus on off-the-beaten-track destinations. I’ve already spent quite a bit of time in Georgia, but some of the places on this itinerary I’ve never heard of let alone visited. I’m most looking forward to seeing the organic tea plantations in Western Georgia.
Over 14 days, I’ll be working with Geotrend to gather lots of information about ecotourism in Georgia. My goal is to hopefully play a small part in promoting socially and environmentally responsible tours in the Caucasus.
Are you planning to visit Georgia in 2020?
Even though I write almost exclusively about independent travel, I still get lots of questions about group travel in the Caucasus. One of the biggest learning curves in running this blog has been gaining an appreciation that everyone’s travel style is different. I know many people find the idea of a group tour appealing – another reason why I’m excited to be working with Geotrend to bring another perspective to my coverage of the region.
If a group tour of the Caucasus is something you’ve been considering, Geotrend offers a range of multi-day itineraries in Georgia and in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, plus private and customisable tours.
I haven’t travelled with them yet, so I can’t speak to the tours. But I have been working with Geotrend for several months to offer my readers tickets for the Tbilisi-Yerevan and Tbilisi-Baku trains. Every review I’ve read – and every interaction I’ve had with Geotrend – has been positive and professional. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they run their tours.
If you do decide a tour with Geotrend is something you might be interested in, Akmal and his team have been generous enough to offer a discount to my readers. The code OMAD2020 is valid for any group tour booked for 2020. Use it to get $100 USD off the tour price – and I’ll get a small commission for referring you.
I’m curious to know – have you been on a group tour before? What should I expect? Would you consider doing a tour of the Caucasus, or do you prefer to travel independently?
Thanks as always for your readership and support – be on the lookout for lots of new Georgia content from me in the next few months!
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Transparency: Geotrend is hosting me on the ‘Gem of the Caucasus’ tour in exchange for honest and unbiased coverage. This post was created in partnership with them. All opinions and recommendations, however, are 100% my own.