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The Art of Wandering

In my mind, there’s a difference between travel and wandering.

Travel is intentional. It is often accompanied by an itinerary, a list of everything one wants to do and see.

Wandering? That’s when one lets chance take over, taking an interesting road just to see where it goes.

I would never in a million years say one is better than the other. In fact, some of my fondest memories comes from those journeys where the two overlap.

A few years ago during the pandemic, I fell in love with photography again. With everything closed up, I was going stir-crazy and, as a result, I was driving Corie mad. Being stuck with me when I’m antsy is no one’s idea of fun and relaxation.

She suggested, out of self-preservation I assume, that I grab the camera, jump on the motorcycle and go somewhere. She didn’t care where, just be back by the end of the day.

I had a great time exploring the little towns across Northern New Mexico. I had even more fun coming back home and going through the photos.

I decided to start sharing them and put together a little website and thought of a tagline: The art of wandering.

It seemed to encapsulate why I love roaming around with the camera, and it was an homage to my mentor, Paul Moloney, who had a regular column in the Greeley (Colorado) Tribune, the Wo(a)ndering Photographer. Through typographical magic that one could do on a printed newspaper page that’s not so easy with a word processor, the o and the a were stacked to make one word with two meanings.

Paul lived for wandering. He considered wondering to be an important part of wandering, so the two were intertwined, successful wandering must start with a sense of wonder and curiosity.

I learned a lot from Paul about cameras, films, and developing chemicals, but his eager curiosity towards everything was the best lesson I’ve ever learned.

Corie and I managed to fit some wandering in during our day trip to Dmanisi a few weeks ago.

On our way back from the site we saw a fortress perched on a steep hill.

It was raining. Hard.

Arman, the driver we hired, is also a bit of a wanderer. He motioned to the top of the hill and said, "Do you want to go?"

Of course we said yes. We weren't going to let a little soaking stop us!

Corie and I walked up a narrow pathway leading from the parking lot at the end of a winding road to the fortress entrance. By the time we ducked into the cave-like opening, we were pretty wet.

Curiosity kept us moving. We ascended a stone stairway that was the same as when it was constructed: uneven, no handrails. The invader’s safety wasn’t on the top of the builders’ minds, I’m sure.

From that perch, we could look over the patchwork of small farms and villages in the wide valley below.

There was a small chapel at the top, about the size of a large garden shed only quite a bit taller. Previous visitors to the chapel had tied dozens of fabric strips to a small tree outside the chapel door, creating flashes of color that felt like something one would see in a Tibetan monastery.

We ducked inside to escape the rain for a few moments before we scrambled back down the stony and very wet stairs and pathway.

Like most rainstorms we’ve experienced here in Georgia, this one didn’t last long and dwindled to a refreshing drizzle when we finally left the chapel.

By the time we reached Bolnisi, a small city about seven miles away from the fortress, the sky was blue, and the storm was just a memory.

Arman was eager to show us some unusual neighborhoods in Bolnisi. In the late 1800s, a number of Germans settled in the Bolnisi area, and many of the buildings and street names reflect their heritage. (My favorite Georgia travel writer, Emily Lush, has an interesting post on these German settlers on her website.)

I roamed around several blocks in Bolnisi but didn’t get to see everything I wanted to. But that’s okay. Since, according to Paul’s philosophy, wandering must be seasoned with wondering, and wondering seems to inspire more wandering.

It will be a good excuse to go back.

Chapel, Kveshi Fortress, Kveshi, Georgia,


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