Proving the Pessimists Wrong – Datishvili on the Joys & Difficulties of His Bike Journey to Edinburgh

Exclusive Interview

Sandro Datishvili is a 25-year-old Georgian architect who cycled all the way from Tbilisi to Edinburgh, Scotland- through Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Austria, Hungary, Germany, Luxemburg, Belgium and France, to the UK. Sandro left Tbilisi on June 1 and made it to Scotland on September 4, two days ahead of his schedule: his goal being to arrive in the capital of Scotland on September 6, the date of the rugby match between Scotland and Georgia.

While he was in the UK, the BBC wrote an article about Sandro and his impressive 113-day bike journey. Now, he is getting back to his normal life in Tbilisi, GEORGIA TODAY went to talk to him about the joys and difficulties of his journey from Georgia to Scotland.

“At first, before I decided to put the theory of cycling into practice, I realized how unusual cycling is in Georgia and saw how the countrywide pessimism is something of a disease; killing every creative idea its habitants might have. The bike thing was just a hobby to interest and humor myself at first. But then, I kept calculating how much time it would take to travel from here to Germany or someplace else and each time I tried to share it with someone, they would start talking about the troubles the trip could (and would) bring, not the possible happy days and moments, the adventures that it would surely offer. So I decided to give them [the Georgians] an example of how to deal with difficulties: how to set a goal and accomplish it.”

Why the rugby match?

I’ve been a big fan of rugby for a long time. So when the match was announced, I got my second important motivator to finally put my theory into practice. I didn’t think there would be another chance like it to conclude such a journey with triumph.

What were the biggest challenges you faced on your journey?

The mistrust and pessimism of society, I would say. No-one believed I would cross the finish line. Consequently, it became nearly impossible to find sponsors or get any kind of encouragement. The moments they would try to change my mind or stand in my way were very annoying. It was even more frustrating that those who could have made this journey a better project chose a state of disinterest – they couldn’t have cared less.

For me, traveling is an essential part of those enchanted by the world of art, as it is a great way to get new sources of inspiration.

Did you do any physical or psychological training before you set out?

I started thinking about this trip one year before I headed off on the journey, psychological training of a kind. It the belief in my mission and psychological readiness that helped me most through the difficulties on the road. About the physical training – I didn’t have time to do much working out because of my job. I bought my bike a few months before I left Tbilisi! So, to say that I met the start of this trip in the shape of a true sportsmen would be a lie. However, a well-planned-out route made it much easier to make the journey.

Were you always sure that you would reach your destination? Didn’t you ever want to give up?

I was always confident I would reach my goal. When hard times hit, I never thought about giving up. What I did think about then was taking a break, resting, and then carrying on. The rugby match between Scotland and Georgia was something that kept me focused – I knew I had to make it in time.

What is your advice to those who might want to follow in your footseps, or rather, your bike tracks?

My advice is to get to really know yourself; find out what your abilities and wishes are so that what is expected and what is a likely reality do not part ways and there is no room for disappointment. Plan the route in detail, as much as possible, and listen to those who have done it before you. Each misguided calculation can really ruin the experience.

What is the most memorable moment from your journey?

Each kind person I was lucky enough to cross paths with on this journey is a memory I treasure. The biggest accomplishment is the relationships I have formed through this experience.

Did you ever imagine that your story could become so talked about?

Even before I headed down the road, I was sure the project would be a subject of interest. However, even with that realization, it was never part of the point or main goal. And during the trip itself, I realized that it was not such a big deal to the public. The BBC did write about me, though, and a very good article, at that.

In your opinion, could such active cycling and adventure-seeking become a norm in Georgia?

The biggest things needed here are self-improvement, empowerment and getting more experience. Tourism is interesting everywhere. However, it can be rather tough in Georgia because many routes are in bad shape. On the other hand, this is balanced with picturesque nature and historical monuments. The only two things that cause obstacles for cycling becoming part of everyday life in Georgia are laziness and the wrong mentality.

Any interesting plans for the near future?

I can’t imagine life without change and novelty. I guess I’ll think of something but right now I’m concentrated on getting my strength back and getting back into the swing of my normal life. I hope that lots of interesting things lay ahead.

By Nini Dakhundaridze

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