It was a tough and rewarding day travelling, and I was over the moon. So proud of myself – this was exactly what travel is to me:
- A journey out of the beaten track
- Where experience is as important than the destination itself
- Travelling by my own means
- And suffering a little bit on the way, real travel shouldn’t be too easy
After breakfast that morning, I had only a vague idea of what the day would bring to me: my goal was to wander around, into the non touristic Northern neighbourhoods of the Georgian capital, to potentially check out a few landmarks I found about in Google, and see what else I would find on the way.
I love these days spent walking, with a broad objective in mind, and letting encounters distract me and my plans. I spend the whole day observing, experiencing, analysing; getting to new insights about the place and its people. It really makes me high.
That day, I walked during 8 hours, including a 45-minute detour just to check a building that looked interesting at the other side of the river.
That day, I also took a bushrutka – OK that’s a word I made up, because it was a vehicle of a size between a proper bus and a marshrutka (a van in Russia). And guess what: the journey was horrific.
The bushrutka was 45 minutes late. It was so incredibly crowded that it felt it was going to explode. It was too heavy to go uphill, and incredibly slow. It was incredibly hot inside. I was feeling privileged but cheating because I had a seat.
When we reached a bus stop and I saw a man stand with 2 children, I didn’t believe my eyes: they did actually try and get in. I sensed the trap, and immediately grabbed someone’s bag to put it on my lap; good choice, as just a second later my neighbour had a child on his. Tap on my own shoulder: oh yes I’m an experienced traveller.
At the top of the hill, I gave the man by the door a heads up that I was planning to get off at the next stop, so he would let me pass. His severe face expression confused me and I jabbered and didn’t express me really well. He said no and looked away.
That day, I learned the difference between hospitable and friendly. Georgians are incredibly friendly with tourists because they are incredibly hospitable – they love having you there in their country and want you to experience all what’s great about it. But that doesn’t mean they are particularly friendly outside the beaten track, especially if they don’t know you’re a tourist.
I had to fight a little, but I did eventually manage to extract myself from the overcrowded van.
I was starving, as it was Easter Monday and Georgians are serious about Christian holidays: all shops and restaurants were closed and I didn’t find a single thing to eat or drink the whole day.
I was happy and proud: it was a real day travelling, outside the beaten track, experiencing the real life and its daily struggles, just for the sake of it. A bit of a painful process at times, hence even more rewarding.
And the next day, I came across this article posted by a fellow traveller in a Facebook community I belong to: 22 Reasons You Are A Travel Snob.
Reason 1, tick. Reason 2, tick. Reason 11 obviously, and 13, and 17 perhaps, 20 possibly, and certainly, oh yes, reason 5:
You equate pain, suffering, long and arduous journeys and doing without as more authentic than traveling without pain, suffering, long and arduous journeys and doing with.
My heart skipped a bit: I may actually really be a travel snob!