Transformational travel has been one of the biggest travel trends in recent years. Put simply, transformational travel is taking trips with the specific intent to experience something life changing in order to learn and grow as a person. Certainly more and more travelers are taking the opportunity to use their vacations as a way of developing and nurturing themselves, whether that’s through a yoga retreat, a volunteering experience or spending time in a more rural region of a country and getting to know the local people and culture. While these experiences can definitely change one’s perspective on the world, some trips can completely transform someone’s life. This happened to me four years ago when I decided to take a three-week vacation to Georgia.
In 2015 I was working a 50- to 60-hour week in a job that I had long lost my passion for. I lived in the city of Krakow, which, for all its massive advantages, had seen a huge gap grow between the cost of living, and the wages people receive. I was finding it hard to make ends meet financially; no matter how much I worked, I still didn’t have enough money coming in. As I was working so much, I stopped eating properly, I drank way more than is recommended, and what little free time I did have I felt shouldn’t be spent cleaning my apartment, so my living conditions declined. Mentally I was burned out, my physical health suffered and, worst of all, my relationships were massively affected – I just wasn’t fun to be around any more. Something had to change and, luckily for me that change came later in the year.
In September that same year I took a trip to the Republic of Georgia. Located in the Caucus region of Eurasia where Western Asia and Eastern Europe intersect, Georgia is a rare country because the native language is unique and not connected to any other. For a very small country, Georgia has a very diverse landscape that offers a little something for everyone, from adventure sports and beautiful scenery to an eclectic mix of old and modern architecture and a rich history.
My first stop in Georgia was the city of Kutaisi that is known for the centuries-old Bargrati Cathedral. Kutaisi wasn’t the most beautiful place I’d ever seen but I found the city captivating. I also fell in love with the food. Georgian cuisine has to be one of the best in the world, especially for lovers of cheese like myself.
I traveled to many places in Georgia and found that each stop offered something unique. I found myself relaxing for the first time in months; managing to forget about work and my life in Krakow. There was simply too much stuff to see and do. I enjoyed the cafe culture, experienced a Georgian amusement park in Tbilisi, visited Stalin’s home town of Gori, hiked up a mountain to walk along the border between Georgia and Azerbaijan at Davit Gareja, and I soaked up the relaxed atmosphere in the heart of wine country, Sighnaghi. Every day brought a new experience that helped to slow my brain down and start enjoying myself again.
In the latter part of my trip I visited the town of Borjomi, a resort famous for its natural spring water and national park. It’s an incredibly green city and there are plenty of places for strolling among nature. It was on one of these strolls that I came across a small stream running through a canopy of lush green trees, so I took a moment to sit on a rock and take a moment to really appreciate my surroundings. My thoughts turned to comparisons between how I felt in that moment and how I’d been feeling back home throughout the previous months. It was at that point that I started to realize something had to change for the sake of my mental and physical health. I sat there for quite a while thinking about what I really wanted. I wanted to travel more. I wanted to write more rather than be stuck doing a job I hated. I wanted to foster better relationships with the people around me, as well as meet new people. Most of all, I wanted to be happy. I had made the decision to change my life but I just wasn’t sure what that “change” would be.
When I was in my final destination of my trip, the coastal city of Batumi, my then manager began messaging me continuously, wanting me to take on even more work when I arrived back. After nearly three weeks of keeping thoughts of work to a minimum, I wasn’t particularly happy about having my holiday interrupted constantly over two days. By the third day I am ashamed to say I lost my temper and told her stop messaging me as I was on holiday. She reacted by emailing me to tell me she was cutting my hours to five per week since there were “better workers available”. Presumably my boss did this to prompt me to apologise; in fact, all it did was inspire me to resign. Instead of feeling petrified that I was no longer employed, I felt liberated and motivated; I was no longer in the job I disliked so much plus I had to move quickly to make sure I wasn’t without an income for too long.
By the time I returned to Krakow I had lined up work in my friends’ hostel in another city just to bide my time while I thought about what to do next. I spent a year working in different hostels in Central Europe before becoming a full-time digital nomad, which I still do to this day.
Georgia will always be in my heart, not just because it’s such a wonderful country to visit and I loved my travels there, but also because it’s where I managed to pull myself together. Georgia afforded me time think about what I wanted for my life and how I could go about changing it for the better. Although there have been a few rough points along the way, I can say that I’m happy with what I’m doing now and I’m thankful for that one trip to Georgia for pointing me in the direction I needed to go.