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From the Diaries of a Traveller

By Anil Polat
Thursday, July 12
I have been traveling my entire life, but began to do so full time 4 years ago, when I started an open-ended quest to visit every country in the world. In that time I've been to over 55 countries and recently added Georgia to that list. Before then I was a professional computer hacker for 6 years (the good kind) and helped some of the world's biggest companies protect their digital assets. Now I pay for my travels through my blog, ebooks, and other projects related to my journey.

I've had an unorthodox life thus far to say the least.

I originally decided to visit Georgia because not many people have or do outside of its Caucasus neighbours. Typically, places where others don't go is where I make my plans. Often those places, like Iraq and Moldova for example, are nothing like what I read about before arriving. When it came to Georgia, I had heard nothing but good stories and experiences from fellow travelers. I wasn't expecting much then when I arrived in Georgia and I'm happy to say I couldn't have been more wrong.

After I arrived, I couldn't stop asking why aren't more people visiting Georgia? Tbilisi at first sight is a cultural collage, the streets are safe, prices inexpensive for travelers, and the cuisine is uniquely covered with tastes I haven't found elsewhere. (There is a special place in my heart for nigvziani badrijani.) Although Georgia certainly grabbed my eyes and my appetite, what really captured me were the Georgia people, some of the warmest I've encountered in the world.

Generally I hate it when travel writers say the people somewhere are "friendly". Mostly, people are good and friendly (travel around the world is the best way to prove it to yourself if there are any doubts.) And then there are Georgians, who practically define the word for me now, along with Filipinos. On marshrutka rides fellow passengers went out of their way to make sure I didn't get lost, curious Georgians would join me for a beer, but most of all, everyone made me feel at home. That is a special quality I won't easily forget about Georgia.

I now deeply hope more travelers put Georgia on their plans, not missing the views and wines of Telavi, and definitely not leaving without eating several plates of eggplant Satsivi. At the same time I worry that an influx of travelers coming to enjoy Georgia's low prices, drinking habits (something we have in common), churches, monuments, beaches and the rest might take away from what I experienced. Glowing passport control officers thrilled to see a traveler visiting their country is something I can't recall ever experiencing before and hope I see again, the next time I visit Georgia.

One of the questions I get the most is what are some of my favourite places in the world? It is hard and nearly impossible to draw lines in experiences; I've got many favourites. Though if I were put in a corner I could say that Boracay in the Philippines is where my favourite beaches are and immodestly add that Istanbul is my favourite city in the world. I love the artistic feel of Seattle - my favourite city in the United States - and think there are few better places in the world to eat than southern Spain.

My list is always changing, being added to and modified so now there is an entirely new category, where Georgians sit at the top. A warmth and hospitality. An appreciation for travelers before they turn into droves of somewhat annoying tourists. But overall the feeling of being invited home into an entire country where I was just a passing foreigner isn't easy to encompass into a simple favourite. Next time I'm asked, it will turn into a story, which is much more fitting for my time in Georgia anyway.

Anil Polat is a blogger with Turkish origin who travels around the world. This April he spent a couple of days in Georgia and shared his impressions for the readers of The Messenger.