Every once in a while, you meet someone who completely surprises you. For example, this person may at first appear quiet and reserved, but the more you get to know them, you see that there is an exciting, adventurous, daring personality just below the surface. Once you get to know them, you find out that they've traveled around the world, seen mountains, explored cultures, and have a drive to better and help the world around us. I had the pleasure of meeting one such person in Georgia last month. She is Altynay, and here's why she's awesome.


It was St. Patrick's day in Tbilisi and a group of us at the hostel were planning on going out to see how Georgians celebrated this Irish holiday. I had already met Altynay about a week earlier and had several great travel conversations. Naturally, I extended the invitation for her to join, but since she had already said she was leaving for the city Batumi early in the morning the following day, I didn't think she'd be able to. I was wrong. She eagerly agreed and together we all went to a pub and danced like crazy as a local Georgian punk band attempted to play traditional Irish music.

Then, early the next morning while the rest of us were borderline comatose, Altynay woke up and made it to Batumi and proceeded to travel around the country by herself before making a stop back to Tbilisi to say goodbye. By that point, I already thought she was awesome... but that was just the tip of the iceberg. As it turns out, she left her home country of Kazakhstan to go pursue a Master's degree in Russia's most prestigious university (Moscow State University). She didn't know anyone there at first, but that did not stop her.

Altynay is someone who, despite a quiet demeanor, has this drive to both challenge herself and experience all the world has to offer. This holds true from travelling alone around the world, to climbing Georgian mountains, to entering the Moscow Marathon. And best of all is the way she does this, as it is not just for herself. Anywhere she goes, she makes friends and tries to give back to the place that hosts her. When I asked her about this, she even said that the reason she challenges herself and travels is to gain a broader perspective and get a better understanding of how people and societies are.

Be like Altynay: Challenge yourself, experience what's out there and do something amazing without the need to call attention to yourself. Balance being courageous and being humble.