Thoughts on loving and leaving Batumi, our lockdown home – plus an update on our Georgia travel plans.
When we made the decision to leave Tbilisi in anticipation of a lockdown scenario in Georgia, we were prepared to stay in Batumi for the long-haul. Still, we had no idea our planned 4-week visit would turn into a 16-week forced residency.
After months of complete isolation, only venturing out on Fridays for groceries, Georgia’s lockdown started to ease off a couple of weeks ago, giving us a chance to tentatively explore Batumi and Adjara region.
A realistic end to this saga finally came into sight, and we realised we had to make the call: As much as we loved Batumi, we feel it’s time to move on.
Here’s a quick overview of what’s been happening since my last update in March, and a preview of our travel plans for the next couple of months.
Living in Batumi
I’ve travelled all around Georgia and I love every inch of this country. But Batumi was honestly pretty low on my list of places to return to.
Batumi is Georgia’s main Black Sea summer resort city. It has a reputation for a particular brand of summer tourism that revolves around gambling, partying and sun-worshipping. When we first came here in 2017, Batumi didn’t leave much of an impression on me. We decided not to come back on our return trip last year.
Never in a million years could I have imagined I’d willingly spend four months of my life here.
But I’m so, so glad things turned out the way they did. As strange and challenging as it’s been to be so far away from home, I honestly couldn’t think of a better place to be ‘stuck’ during lockdown.
On the whole, Georgia has done a remarkable job of containing the virus. Adjara region, where Batumi is located, was one of the first places in the country to be greenlighted as virus-free. There’s still a long way to go – and who knows what the weeks and months ahead will bring – but if past response is anything to judge by, I think Georgia has proved itself more than capable of handling a crisis.
All the things I didn’t like or didn’t understand about Batumi first time around melted away during this long-stay. The fresh air, green space, beachfront boulevard and laid-back vibe was exactly what we needed to get through the past couple of months. Even the tempestuous weather has been enjoyable (there’s nothing like watching a storm roll in over the Black Sea as the sun sets).
I feel so lucky to have had the chance to get to know Batumi on a deeper level. Had it not been for the lockdown, I might not have bothered.
Everything I’ve seen, learned, experienced and felt these past few months, I’ve poured into my newly updated Batumi city guide. Coming in at over 9,000 words, it’s one of my longer and more detailed posts.
I’ve also enjoyed writing shorter blogs about our mini adventures around Adjara. Here are a few favourites:
Behind the scenes
What you see on the blog and especially on social media is of course a filtered version of reality. Behind the scenes, I’ve experienced some pretty dramatic highs and lows over the past few months.
I’m incredibly lucky to do what I do – and to have a supportive partner to pick up the slack plus savings to fall back on. But like everyone else who works in the travel industry, my business has taken a massive nosedive since March. Losing 75% of your income overnight doesn’t exactly do wonders for your self-confidence or motivation!
Instead of pivoting, rethinking the destinations I write about or abandoning travel altogether, I followed my heart and made a conscious decision to double-down. When tourism returns to the Caucasus, the Balkans and Southeast Asia, I know my website will be a stronger, more resilient and hopefully more useful resource than ever before.
Like the restaurant owners and hoteliers who saw lockdown as an opportunity to gut and refurbish their venues, I’ve dedicated a lot of time to improving the foundations of the website. That includes a lot of technical fixes and some structural changes. Most of this is invisible to my readers.
There are a few projects I’ve been able to complete that I’m particularly proud of, including updating my Caucasus itinerary and Tbilisi restaurant guide, and putting together a Georgia Travel Page to centralise all my country content in one place. These three pieces alone account for well over 30,000 words and hours of research.
If you get a chance to use any of these pages, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Updating, reworking and improving content is an ongoing job and I rely on your feedback to make it work!
After a premature move to reopen borders on July 1, Georgia is now planning to welcome international tourists from August. Domestic travel has been back up and running for a few weeks now, and this was a big part of our decision to move on from Batumi.
From what we’ve seen so far, things are going pretty well. Hotels are required to pass an inspection process and put precautions in place before they can start welcoming guests again. The same goes for restaurants and shops. Intercity transport has fully resumed, with mandatory masks and temperature checks. I hope it’s enough for the small and independent businesses that have really been struggling to start on the road to recovery.
As excited as I am to get moving again, walking out the door of our Batumi Airbnb for the last time this morning was harder than I thought it would be. For someone who loves travelling as much as I do, I hate moving around. Up-rooting after such a long period of comfortable routine was a huge challenge, and it will probably take me a few days to find my feet again.
Things are still uncertain here, so our plan is to start off slow. We’re currently on our way to Tbilisi. From there, we’ll be spending the next few weeks at one of our favourite guesthouses and working on an exciting small project. More about that in my next update.
The rest of our summer will be spent in Tbilisi. I have some fun ideas in mind for autumn and the harvest season that I hope we can realise – but we’ll have to play things by ear.
We still don’t know when we’ll be able to return to Australia, so Georgia is home for now. How lucky am I?
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