It’s the wee hours of the morning and I’m on a Lufthansa Airbus A320 flying through the pitch dark, somewhere over a Sea that looks especially Black under circumstances like these. I’m the only one not sleeping, save for the stewardesses whispering to one another in German at the back of the aircraft and, hopefully, the pilots. I should be resting – I’ve just completed a long journey and have an even longer one ahead of me – but my thoughts have me wide awake.
The funny thing is that what I’ve written above is true not only now, as I depart from my trip to the Caucasus, but was also true before I stepped off the plane in Georgia two weeks ago. This trip has been about coming full-circle in many ways – and not just because I departed on the same red-eye flight that brought me here, or slept my last night in the same charming guest house as my first.
As I wrote in my intro post last month, the actualization of my maiden voyage to the Caucasus has been two years in the making, to say nothing of the decade or so that have passed since I first made a wish to visit the wild highlands where Europe and Asia kiss, and where empires spanning both continents have sent their young men to die. Although 14 days have now passed and my wish is now fulfilled, I feel that rather than moving past where I was when I walked onto the streets of Tbilisi just before sunrise, I have simply hit the reset button.
Which is to say, without going into too many personal details, that while I arrived calm, collected and ready (on paper, anyway) to give 110% of myself to the long lists of goals I’d laid out, there were a number of latent, invisible demons within me that could only be brought out by the trials and tribulations I would face traveling through this trying, turbulent region, from my trek in the shadows of the Europe’s second-highest peak, to my pit stop in in the Kakhetian wine country; and from the high on which I departed glitzy, glamorous Baku, Azerbaijan, to how trapped and despondent just four days in Kim Kardashian’s homeland left me feeling.
I lost the plot quite a few times during my two-week Caucasus trip – and my temper a few more times than that – but I am departing cleansed of the mental, emotional and spiritual toxins that only a travel-prescribed cocktail of culture shock, movement and humility can purge. I hope these photos make you want to visit the Caucasus but more than that, I hope they convey to you the transformation being here manifested in me.