The bartender looked at us in confusion.
“So, let’s get this straight, you boys are going to travel 1/3 of the surface of the planet in a small euro van through 23 countries and end up in Mongolia while raising money for charity?” Yes. Yes we are. Or something like that.
I couldn’t help but laugh as our beer glasses clinked and we yelled cheers to a trip that would change all of our lives forever. Looking back on it, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. But the one thing we did know was it was going to be one hell of an adventure and that’s all that mattered in the moment.
Fast forward one year later and the three of us had found ourselves in the desert of Turkmenistan. Matt Gosse recalls his experience.
“Everyone told us this rally would be difficult, that crossing the largest land mass on earth in a small vehicle would not be a walk in the park. I think I let my enthusiasm, wanderlust and previous travel experience delude me into thinking that this would just be another backpacking trip, that we would simply point the compass east and rock out to some good tunes. Up until Azerbaijan, that was nearly the case. The interesting thing about driving these distances is that you don’t simply fly into another culture, you watch out the window as forests turn to alpine mountains, deserts turn to grassland and London high street eventually becomes a Central Asian bazaar. Up until now, we have gradually become sensitized to the local customs, road conditions and culture. That all changed when we disembarked the cargo ship from our trans Caspian crossing and placed in the strange and desolate country of Turkmenistan; one of only two Stalinist states in the world, the other being North Korea. A country where the self proclaimed “president for life” a few years ago banned long hair, ballet, listening to music in cars, and renamed the month of January after himself.”
A trip like the Mongolia Charity Rally is not a trip I think everyone has in them. It’s rough and rugged and half the time you’re lost, hungry, and tired of driving every day, all day. But having said that, I would trade any amount of hardship for the beautiful places we saw, the great people and culture we got to experience and the amazing stories we have to tell for a lifetime.