If you had asked me just a year ago if I had plans to visit Georgia (the country), I probably would have said, no, not really. To date, I have visited 34 countries which now include this very country I am speaking of, the one I didn’t really know anything about and which wasn’t exactly on my radar… until now.
When I signed up for the FITUR (a tourism expo taking place every year in the month of February in Madrid, Spain, I wasn’t exactly sure what my plan was. It wasn’t until I received a message from one of the exhibitors to come and chat with her about Parma, Italy, that I even started looking at who was going and how I could make use of this for my small but growing culinary travel company, Let’s Eat The World. I had been so busy working that planning for the trip was the last thing on my mind. Shame on me, I know, but there are a lot of loose ends to tie up at the start of the year and I really was planning on going as somewhat of an observer.
The Italian connection spurred me to start making shortlists of destinations I thought I might like to have future tours and to see if I could get a few minutes of the exhibitors’ time to explain what I was doing and see if they thought we could collaborate. Collaboration, I had already learned from my super business mentor, Natasha Kennedy, was the key to successful growth.
But you are reading all this and wondering, what does this have to do with visiting Georgia? Well, it went like this. Having been to Turkey before, it made my shortlist of places I thought I might like to see a food lover’s holiday take place. I liked the food we enjoyed when there and I was definitely impressed by history. It was actually at the Turkey stand that I was handed a business card for a company there representing Georgia and I was curious enough to say, what the heck, let’s go check it out.
The welcome I received after I boldly told the young ladies I met that I knew nothing about their country and was not even sure I could say 100% where it was, was overwhelmingly positive. They smiled and asked me to sit. They showed me a map, they brought me food and wine, and it was an instant connection. I knew that I was going to visit their home.
You’ll think me a pushover, I love travel so any excuse is good and while that is true there was already something very special about this meeting – probably one of the better ones I had that day and the positivity just came through.
We were both sold from the minute we sleepily arrived at our hotel at about 6 in the morning, and had a chance to nap a few hours before our day’s guide Data met us for our walking tour. We continued to be enchanted as he took us through the city of his home city, brought us to a very late lunch in a food court, and treated us to so many traditional dishes that were all bright and delicious. We couldn’t believe we’d never had Georgian wine before – it was just that good. We learned so much during that one meal that it struck me like a bolt of lightning that THIS WAS WHY I wanted to do these tours. I was ready after those few hours to become an ambassador of sorts to a country I had never ever considered setting foot in. There was just so much to unravel including the (it’s not as easy as they claim it is), Georgian language. So Garmajoba one and all, we’re going to Georgia – the country.
I want to share with you a few things I learned about Georgia summed up in a “love letter” I wrote towards the end of our trip:
There are Georgian flags everywhere. Our driver wore a Georgia baseball cap. You get a sense of fierce pride. Pride in their language. Pride in their cuisine. Pride in their culture. But not the kind of pride that looks to exclude others. Warm, inviting, and passionate are words I would use to describe these people – my new friends. A nation that has seen its share of invaders – Arabs, Mongols, Ottomans, Persians, Timurids, to Russians. They have never known a time of lasting peace. So why would I even think to suggest that you visit such a place? Well, the answer to that can be summed up into three words my friend repeated to me and I took as the catchphrase most appropriate to describe this great nation – “This is Georgia!” There is so much to discover and enjoy here and the Georgian people are ready and willing to share with big hearts, big laughs, and a shot of chacha. I ❤️ Georgia.