The Freedom Life: October 2020

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what's it like to live as an expat in Tbilisi Georgia? Here's my daily life as a digital nomad travel blogger! #travel #tbilisi #georgia #expat #digitalnomad #travelblogger

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What I Was Up to This Month

This October, Chris and I took a little trip to Merisi for our one-year wedding anniversary! Shortly after, we moved to a new apartment and signed a year-long lease!!

While things have been going great here in Tbilisi, we’ve also had a huge spike in COVID cases. so it looks like we’re about to go into lockdown 2.0.

Where I Went

  • Tbilisi, Georgia
  • Batumi, Georgia
  • Merisi, Georgia

Highlights

Here are some of the best moments of October!

Anniversary Trip to Merisi

At the beginning of October Chris and I took a little weekend trip for our first wedding anniversary! We took the train from Tbilisi to Batumi, and then hired a car to take us the rest of the way into the mountainous valley of Merisi.

Here we stayed at Eco House Merisi, a tiny 2-cottage property I originally found on Tiktok. Yes, you heard that right. I saw the property on TikTok, and we eventually found their Facebook page and booked via Facebook messenger (because they don’t have a website and aren’t on any booking sites).

I have to say, Eco House Merisi did not disappoint. The cottage was absolutely beautiful, and we had a great time reading while admiring the view, and taking bubble baths in the deck jacuzzi. They even had one of those pretty swings you see on all the Bali Instagram accounts!

Finally, the food was incredible. Everything is made fresh from the owner’s farm to the point that when I asked for some milk to put in my tea, we needed to wait an hour for the cows to come home because they had just used all the cow milk to make cheese!!

Chris and I had a great time eating local Adjarian specialties like chirbuli (Georgian shakshuka but with more oil), sinori (lavash bread, cottage cheese, and butter), and borano (often called “Georgian fondu” made with silguni cheese and melted butter). While my tastebuds and heart were happy, my body was definitely craving detox afterward!

Overall, it was so great to just relax away from the computer, re-watch our wedding video, and spend some quality time together.

Tbilisi Apartment

Moving to a New Apartment

Chris and I have been renting month-to-month in a small one-bedroom for…. NINE MONTHS? (How did that happen?).

While we loved our place, Chris and I have been feeling a bit cramped with two cats and a teeny tiny kitchen. We also noticed so many amazing deals being posted on Facebook and realized that if we signed a year-long-lease, many reasonable landlords were happy to hand out incredible deals due to COIVD and the borders being closed. So… we started searching!

After a few days of house hunting, Chris and I found the most amazing apartment for $600/month just a few blocks from where we were currently staying. This place is only $100 more per month, but has 3x the amount of space with a huge kitchen and living room, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and two balconies!

I absolutely love the new apartment, and I actually don’t hate cooking now that I have more than 3 inches of counter space!

Halloween Tbilisi

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween!

At the end of October, I celebrated Halloween with a few close friends. We all got really into dressing up (my favorite!) and drank Georgian wine around a fire pit until around 3am. Whoopsies…

I used to get really decked out in the US, and even in China (one year I wore a different costume to class every day on the week of Halloween). But this year I have a capsule wardrobe, so I had to make do with what I had on hand. I decided to be a black cat, and wore a black dress, my black cat tights from ModCloth, black boots, and even did my hair in little buns to look like cat ears!

I also did intense cat-eye makeup, which was fine except for the fact that half my makeup barely works anymore (who needs eyeliner when they never go out?), and the fake eyelashes I bought had probably been sitting on the shelf for six years because the glue was SOLID. I did try out some pointy fake nails to act as claws which was fun but also ridiculous. How do people with fake nails do ANYTHING?! Please inform me, because my nails weren’t even that long, and sending a text was a nightmare.

Eco House Merisi

Eco House swing!

Easy Absentee Voting

A few weeks ago I cast my absentee vote for Biden/Harris and it was the simplest vote I’ve cast since living abroad! Washington state is very liberal so of course, they make voting from abroad easy (no voter suppression over here!). All I needed to do was print out my ballot, sign it, scan it and return via email.

While voting via email has been a thing these last few years, I love the new online voting system Washington has developed! Once you submit your ballot, you can actually log in and see if your ballot has been received!! This is amazing because I always worry my ballot won’t get counted and will end up in some email spam graveyard.

This isn’t just for absentee voting either. Even mail-in or drop-off voters can use this system! Seriously, other states should take notes!

Hilton Batumi

At least we had a nice view from our room!

Challenges

This month wasn’t perfect. here were the less-pleasant moments of October.

Staying Inside in Batumi

When Chris and I first booked our anniversary trip, Georgia had barely any cases of COVID in the entire country. So a little bit of travel around Georgia, while the borders are closed, wearing a mask in public seemed completely fine. The original plan was to stay one day in Batumi, and then continue onto Merisi for two nights.

But the problem is that over the summer tons of people took trips to Batumi, a popular Georgian city on the Black Sea, and of course, NO ONE wore masks. So at the start of October, Batumi was quickly becoming the COVID capital of Georgia.

Chris and I tried to change our schedule to avoid Batumi, but Merisi was completely booked, and there was pretty much no way to get there without at least going through Batumi for an evening. So, we decided that we’d just stay inside our hotel and order room service.

The train ride was great. There was no one in our car, and we had to wear masks the whole time. But when we got to Batumi NO ONE WAS WEARING A MASK. Seriously!!! Our hotel, the Hilton Batumi, seemed to be taking COVID seriously, but the rest of the city certainly was not.

I was honestly really excited to explore Batumi, but due to COVID and the lack of mask-wearing we ended up spending 90% of our time there in our room and while ordering in food delivery because the room service was overpriced and didn’t look great. They did try to charge us 7 lari for a fork though, so that was cool.

We did have the opportunity to walk along the beach at sunset, and we had a cocktail on the roof, but that was about it.

Daily COVID deaths Georgia

Daily deaths in Georgia

COVID Spikes in Tbilisi

Georgia did such a great job with the pandemic until… we didn’t. We went from having 17 deaths for the entirety of the pandemic to over 300 in a matter of WEEKS. It’s estimated that roughly 1/200 people in Tbilisi have COVID now, which is frankly SCARY.

Sure, you need to wear a mask in a taxi, restaurants can only serve you outside, and most shops kind of mandate masks, but when you look around, NO ONE is wearing a mask on the street.

I’ve seen events with a hundred people crowded into a little roundabout park, and with the election on October 31st, there have been massive political rallies with HUNDREDS of people not wearing masks.

Daily covid cases Georgia

Daily COVID cases in Georgia

To make matters worse, the current government has been refusing to put any rules in place and keeps saying there will not be a nation-wide lockdown. Many of us think that after the election they’ll all of a sudden start putting in new restrictions, and will enforce city-wide lockdowns (because it’s not nation-wide so it’s not a lie!!). Ugh, politics.

*Update: The current government just secured a new term, and as of November 4th we’ll have a mandatory mask policy inside and outside with a fine of 20 lari ($6.50 USD) if you’re caught without a mask.

Tbilisi apartment

Our new bedroom!

Moving House During a Launch

A few weeks ago Chris and I moved into our new apartment. While we don’t have a ton of stuff and our apartment is fully furnished, we still had plenty to move, including our whole cupboard and fridge contents, and two cats.

In addition, some of the things that were provided at our old place are not provided here, like a duvet cover, pillowcases, small trash bins for the bathroom, hand towels, etc. so we needed to head out and buy them.

Now, none of this would be a problem except for the fact that the week we moved, Merilyn, the business coach who I do social media for, was hosting a launch of her new WowArchetypes Personality Course for Entrepreneurs!

While I knew the launch was coming, I didn’t think about how the dates would line up with the move. My bad… Also, the launch involved a free Bootcamp held in the Free Facebook Group… that I manage.

So over the course of a few days, about 800 new people flooded into the Facebook group, and I wanted to make sure I welcomed and engaged with all of them… while moving. Excuse me while I sleep for two weeks straight now…

Tbilisi kitchen

Our giant kitchen!

A Little Short on Funds

In addition to working for Merilyn, I also work doing college admissions interviews for Chinese students. Because of COVID, the company I work for has partnered with TOEFL ITP, the exam Chinese students need to take to go to university in the US and Canada. Basically, I’m administering the TOEFL speaking exam, and then this exam is also recorded and sent to the universities the students are applying to.

But for some reason, in October, there were NO EXAMS. So… no exams means almost no interviews for Richelle. Which is great… when you get paid per interview.

During this time we also needed to come up with two-months rent upfront for our new place, and we didn’t get our deposit back on our old place because we didn’t give them enough notice (whoopsies). It would’ve been financially smarter for us to wait, but we REALLY didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get our current apartment, and there was another bidder who was happy to move in ASAP.

While we’re okay financially, not having any interviews and needing to pay a deposit on a new place has made our finances a bit tighter than I’d like, especially when I really want to buy some things to decorate our new big space.

Masks on train

Taking the train to Batumi!

My Computer Battery is Broken

Finally, my computer has now started shutting off randomly, especially when I watch a video, or do anything that involves Zoom/ Skype. If my battery is less than 80% charged and I dare to open a Zoom call or watch a Youtube video, my computer will shut off with zero warning.

I checked my battery and it says that “Service is Recommended”. Great.

Now I just need to leave my computer constantly plugged in and find a time in my schedule when I can be without my computer for multiple days in a row so I can pay who knows how much to get it fixed. Good timing!

Batumi black sea

Batumi’s Black Sea

Blog Posts I Wrote in October

As promised, a wrote a blog post every week this October! Here are my posts from the last month.

An Inside Look at My NEW Tbilisi Apartment! (I Moved!!) – Check out the photos of my new place and hear our house hunting story!

The Relentless Pursuit of Happiness: Confessions of a Happiness Chaser – How constantly chasing happiness and yearning for the future actually makes you miserable, and why it took slowing down for me to discover this.

A Day in The Life of a Location Independent Travel Blogger – So… what exactly do I DO all day?? Here’s an average day for me.

The Freedom Life: September 2020 – See what I was up to in September!

Milan

Wearing my purse in Milan!

Travel Product of the Month

Today I want to introduce you to the purse that I’ve been using for the last YEAR. I literally use this purse every single day and it goes with pretty much every outfit I’ve brought with me to Georgia.

What does this have to do with travel? Well, I got this purse to fit with my winter/spring travel capsule wardrobe, and I’ve been using it daily since.

I love this bag because it’s the perfect size to fit my phone, wallet, passport, glasses case, chapstick/lipstick, kindle, and anything else I might need without being bulky. I’ve even fit a water bottle in here! It also looks very polished and goes with everything. Also, it’s super affordable!!

This purse is not an anti-theft purse, but if you’re looking for an everyday option for life/ travel, this is it. Firstly, it’s a crossbody which means you’re hands-free. But it also has a clasp and a zipper, with a smaller zippered pocket inside, meaning it’s hard to get into. When I walk in crowded areas I just hold the bag in front of my body so no one can get to it. The purse also has a zippered pocket on the back, which is perfect for train tickets, subway cards, or even your passport.

Seriously, if you need a new bag that holds up to everyday wear, I’ve used this purse literally every day for a year. I ONLY have this bag and a small clutch, that’s it. I’m highly considering buying another one in brown when the weather heats up again.

Find My Favorite Purse on Amazon!

Eco House Merisi

Breakfast in Merisi!

What I’m Reading Now

Last month I finally finished reading The Honest Enneagram by Sarah Jane Case from the Enneagram and Coffee Podcast. This is my go-to recommendation for people who are new to the Enneagram because it was written in 2020 and it’s really simple to understand and easy to read.

That said, despite the book being super short, it took me FOREVER to finish reading because, to be honest, it was all pretty much review for me, so I was bored. While it was fun to read about Sarah’s interpretation of the types with a kind, helpful spin… I really didn’t learn much. So, while this book is great for beginners and beautiful on your coffee table, I don’t recommend it if you already know a fair bit about the Enneagram.

After this book, I moved onto The Complete Enneagram by Beatrice Chestnut and I LOVE it. I’m already learning so much, and the book was only written a few years ago, so it’s much less dense than older Enneagram books like Wisdom of the Enneagram. If you’re into the Enneagram I highly, highly suggest picking up this book.

I’ve even started listening to her podcast with Uranio Paes called Enneagram 2.0 which is really good. They even have a nerdily-fantastic Enneagram rap song intro which makes me die laughing every time. I don’t think it was meant to be funny but… I can’t help myself.

Kindle hotel

Finishing up Honest Enneagram!

My Favorite Blog Posts of October

Both of these posts are from the first few days of November… sue me.

What I’m Up to in November!

Probably another lockdown to be honest. My plans are to learn to cook more awesome meals, maybe start baking in my new oven, and not die of COVID.

Also, we’ll have the results of the US election which hopefully does not result in a US Civil War, but I guess we’ll see??

Live as a digital nomad in Tbilisi Georgia! Here's what it's like to be a location independent travel blogger in Tbilisi! #tbilisi #travel #georgia #travelblog #travelblogger

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The Freedom Life: October 2020

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About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I've spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

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