You might be wondering why we're still in Georgia. It's been eight months now since we've entered this country. We didn't expect to hang around for this long. We thought that by now we'd already be roaming over the Kyrgyz grasslands or, if we had followed the original plan when we left Ireland in October 2015, we'd be crossing the African continent.
Yep, a lot of “would's” here but instead of tenaciously sticking to our plan, we followed life's course (and our intuition) and it has always lead us to the right place at the right time. That right place turned out to be Georgia. Here are four reasons why we're still in this beautiful country and haven't continued our journey.
1. Georgia is a great country for (digital) nomads on a budget
We left Ireland in October 2015 with $5000 for the both of us and were living on our last $200 when we arrived in Georgia in September 2016. Luckily we discovered online teaching while we were traveling in Turkey but the NiceTalk app - that we were using to teach - allowed us to make just enough money to cover our food expenses. Travel blogging is not exactly the fastest way to make money!
In our final 2 weeks in Turkey, I started working for Hujiang, a proper online language school but I was teaching kids and didn't get as many bookings as I was hoping for. We stayed positive as this wasn't really the first time that Niko and I were going broke. We had both been in worse situations during our previous travels when Niko was sleeping under bridges in Mexico and I was getting fed by a Hare Krishna community in Australia while living in my tent. These weren't exactly the highlights of our life (nonetheless very interesting chapters) and having $200 in our pockets upon our arrival in Georgia seemed to be nothing to worry about in comparison to what we've been through in the past years of our travels.
Thanks to the fact that we didn't have to pay a fine for overstaying our Turkish visa we had just enough money to rent something in Tbilisi (the capitol of Georgia) where we were determined and convinced we would find a way to make and save up enough money so we could continue our journey through Central Asia.
Literally the day we arrived in Tbilisi, my online school contacted me to see if I was interested in teaching English to adults. I was almost jumping up and down with excitement because this meant that I would get a lot more teaching hours! That very same day we also found a cozy and affordable studio. Everything seemed to be perfectly timed!I like to call this the magic of setting intentions!
It was also the first time that Niko and I could afford to pay the rent! If you travel alone and you like having company, you can find a shared flat in Tbilisi where you'll pay around $100 - $150 per month. If you like to have your privacy or you travel as a couple, there are decent flats available from $150 - $300 (the more you pay, the bigger your flat). Monthly utilities (gas, water, electricity, internet) will be around $30 - $40. I've included some good resources on how to find a flat in Tbilisi and other cities in Georgia at the end of this article. Here's an overview of how much it cost to live and travel in Georgia.
2. One year of visa free and stress-free living
Georgia isn't only a country where the wine and chacha flows freely, it's also very generous when it comes to visas! Travelers from the European Union, North America, Australia and other countries on this list can visit Georgia for one year without needing a visa! This was for us more than welcome as we definitely needed more than three months to fill up our piggy bank. We planned and calculated that with this new job opportunity it'd take us about six months to save enough funds.
We had in mind to spend the winter in Georgia, resume our hitchhiking journey in spring, travel 4 -5 months through Central Asia and enter China in autumn to reach SE Asia by winter. Well, that was the plan ... Woody Allen once quoted “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans”. God must have been in need for a good laugh because as soon as the money was coming in, we had to start spending it.
In the course of less than four months Niko first had his wisdom tooth removed (dental care is luckily affordable in Georgia), then our camera broke (how are we supposed to make videos and blog without this precious tool – I rather eat dry bread for a whole month than not being able to take photos!), then my laptop decided to give up (huge panic reaction from my side because I needed it to teach) and to give our precious savings a final blow, Niko's laptop also stopped working (he remained calm as usual - guess you now know who's the emotional one of the two...). At least we had enough money left to pay for rent and 8 months left on our visa. So no stress!
3. Traveling the world with almost no money is tough
We're now four months later and have four more months left on our visa. We left Tbilisi to live and work online in Batumi, a chaotically and strangely beautiful city by the Black Sea. The holiday season started there a few days ago, the tourists were coming and the prices for rent were going up which meant that it was time for us to move again. We're now living in a quiet town called Gori (a town about 80 km from Tbilisi) where we'll spend our last months in Georgia. We're still working hard and making the most out of our time.
If everything goes well, we'll have reached our financial goal and will be able to leave Georgia with enough money to support ourselves until we reach Southeast Asia. If possible, we'll keep teaching online once we're on the road again. It might not always be so easy, especially in the way we travel. We don't want to hitchhike from WiFi to Wifi, we want to leave space for the unexpected and not have to hurry and worry about finding internet. We also need a fast and reliable connection to give proper classes, which can be challenging since we mostly camp (unfortunately our tent doesn't come with WiFi) and we often find ourselves in off-the-beaten-path places. We'll try to keep our job and find a way to teach at least once a week (a requirement from our school) and at least we'll resume our journey with a financial cushion.
Why is it so important for us to have some savings? Aren't there many articles and people out there who are claiming that it's possible to travel the world without money? I've been traveling for 6 years now and I was broke the majority of the time (I once left my home country with only $20 in my pocket). The same goes for Niko. He's been traveling for more than 10 years and had more often than not no money. We managed, we survived and we're grateful for this experience.
But... it's really not always as fun as the authors of the “Travel the world for free” articles want to make you believe. It is possible to save up a huge amount of money by finding free accommodation, you don't pay money on transportation when you hitchhike and you can often live from the food you'll find in dumpsters. But it's limiting and you might find yourself in situations where you'll need to pay for a visa (not all the countries are as generous as Georgia), a plane or ferry ticket or even unexpected medical costs. And after years of traveling like this, you'll just get tired of it! It's empowering when you know that you can support yourself and your travels and there are many ways to earn that money without having to count on the generosity and kindness of strangers!
4. The advantages of slow travel: discovering the beauty of Georgia
And finally the most important reason why we're still in Georgia is that we really love it here! If we wouldn't have liked it, we would already be gone by now, money or not. Our well-being is after all more important than any money in the world. Luckily, Georgia has treated us well! When you live in a country for a long time, you get the chance to learn about the culture, the customs, the people and their daily lives. It's hard to know a country in depth if you only spend two or three weeks there. I often see these posts and articles passing by about people visiting 10+ countries in one year. And that's cool, I mean, I know that I'm privileged in time and freedom.
I don't have a house or a job to go back to, there's nobody waiting for me as I am traveling with my love and my family already knows that I'm not going back to Belgium. But that fast traveling and ticking off as many countries as possible in a short time is just not the way Niko and I like to roll. We hitchhiked very quickly through Europe and we both regret it a little. We saw amazing places but we didn't get to know the countries we've been in. Yes, we can tell you where to go and what to visit but I would rather be able to tell you how the people were and what the culture was like. And I'm glad we're now having the chance to really immerse ourselves into the Georgian culture.
We didn't know a thing about Georgia when we arrived here. At least we knew it was a country and not a state in the USA... It has its imperfections like any other country in the world but there's also a richness I haven't seen before. I'm not talking about money, because Georgia is still getting back on its feet as an independent country after the fall of the USSR in 1991 but there is so much culture, history and fierceness. Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world, it has its own unique language, an incredible hospitality (even the cops are super helpful towards hitchhikers), many spectacular and unique places ( Svaneti, Vardzia and Chiatura are just a few examples), interesting stories and legends and a beautiful culture.
Georgia is an underrated country and we're both glad that we had the time and space to truly discover its beauty! Our plan now is to stay here until the end of July (hopefully God doesn't feel the need to laugh at us anymore) so we're going to make the best out of it!
Here are some resources that can help you with finding a flat to rent in Georgia: Facebook groups:
-> Become part of the group and see what people offer or you can write a post with your request. These groups work very efficiently!
myhome.ge -> a great real estate website with countless rentals!
AirBnB -> you can often find a good monthly deal through AirBnB. That's how we found a flat in Batumi. If you use this link to make a booking on AirBnB, you’ll get $25 discount and we’ll also get extra travel credit for our next booking (win-win!) at no extra expense to you and you’ll help us to continue our travels!