Saturday, March 12, 2011

True Beauty

My real mom has a theory that every place is beautiful. Whenever I would tell her that I want to travel to this place or that place because it looked beautiful in photos she would ask me to name a place that’s not beautiful. I definitely think my mom is right (I even find garbage dumps beautiful because of all the different colors present in one place) and Armenia is no exception.

Armenia has breathtaking physical beauty; the mountain towns and stone churches are so striking they seem magical and the capital has a real cosmopolitan feel to it. I only spent about six days in the country but I was able to learn a lot about myself and what makes a trip worthwhile to me.

One thing that I learned was that even if a country can have gorgeous things to see, that does not necessarily make a trip worthwhile.

See, there was something missing from my trip: I only met two Armenians. Sure, the two Armenians I met were wonderful human beings, but getting to know just two locals on a week long trip seems laughable.

In fact, I think it was impossible for me to fully immerse myself into Armenia because I basically only perceived the country through the eyes of tourists; none of the people I was traveling with had much of a connection to anything we saw. Yes Roman our taxi driver-turned-tour guide was great (he even took us to his home in Garni to meet his family and bought me a bouquet of flowers after one of our long chats) but there was just something missing from every sight we looked at.

I would have loved to travel around the country with more Armenians. After being in Georgia for six months I really think that people are what make a country great.

I CouchSurfed with one Armenian guy in Yerevan who told me that the spirit and charisma of the Armenian people are what gives the country such heart. Artak, my host, was by far one of the most hospitable and altruistic beings I’ve ever met. Even though he and his huge family live in a small apartment, they still wholeheartedly gave up three beds for me and my two friends and the entire family just slept in one room together. Artak even insisted on getting us coffee, tea and drinks and paid for every cab we needed to take.

Both the kindness of Artak and Roman seem almost unbelievable. Sometimes it shocks me how above and beyond people go to make strangers feel welcome. I mean, asides from Mamuka in Telavi, who’s ever heard of a cab driver taking clients to his home for coffee and compote?

I plan on doing a lot more traveling while I’m in Georgia. There are still lots of cities and towns right here in Saqartvelo that I want to see, and I’m venturing into Turkey and Azerbaijan before I fly home at the end of June. Despite the many sights I want to see, I’m going to make it a point to meet many people. Tourist attractions and landmarks are great, but meeting people and having stories is what makes a trip memorable.

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