The Colors of Mongolia
hile looking at the world map and planning the summer of 2018 experiences I was started surfing through G Adventures Tours; Mongolia popped up. Hmm...this looks interesting! I thought. ‘Live like a nomad’ Isn’t that what I already do? I’ll answer that question later.
I investigated further to find activities like: horseback riding and soaring with the eagles. I never considered Mongolia, but all the activities sounded exactly in line with my interests. There was one spot left on the tour...I grabbed it! The very unique thing about this trip is I didn’t have any expectations. Bonus it started on my birthday!
After the amazing Vietnam G Adventure tour (with the most outrageous and outstanding tour guide, Dee), it was going to be difficult to match that tour experience. The Mongolia tour group was also very different than I’ve ever experienced. Half of the members are older than me and other half were younger. The dynamics of a group certainly affect the energy of the Adventure. Nyamka our tour leader did not disappoint. His positive outlook and attitude created a daily excitement for the experiences of living like a nomad.
This will be difficult to keep short and sweet because each and everything I experienced during this trip this week was completely new and unexpected.
Just to name a few new experiences I enjoyed: I sheared a sheep, I milked a goat, I churned butter, learned how to tap a tea bag to prevent dripping, watched homemade vodka come to life, rode horseback in the rain for over an hour, I galloped on horseback for the first time, learned how to open a bottle of wine with a spoon, and I ate enough mutton for a lifetime - breakfast, lunch, and dinner! The Seinfeld reference became the joke of the week: “that salad ain’t got nothing on this mutton!” After 3 meals I became a vegetarian for the remainder of the trip.
The truly soulful experiences I had were from the people I was spending time with, day in and day out. The Mongolian nomads’ hospitality was incredibly generous. My fellow travelers were comrades before we even left the first meeting place. Throughout the trip, I had an opportunity to bond with travelers from around the world from 16 to 80 years old and they will all forever have a place in my heart.
We all had our own personal challenges on this tour; the food, the lack of modern conveniences and just being out of our comfort zones. The most intriguing part of this trip was watching everyone deal with their unique experiences and challenges.
I would have to say the largest hurdle for me was the “toilet”.
The greatest joy, next to the people, was being in nature 24/7: horseback riding almost every day and going out on our own personal treks and hikes. The colors of Mongolia were simply natural earth tones. We were surrounded in all shades of greens and browns. The brightest colors amongst the earthy landscape were the people, their clothes, and the inside of their dwellings - the Ger - painted with bright cheery colors.
Packing for Mongolia:
What to pack for a trip to Mongolia, in order of importance:
- Biodegradable baby wipes (that will be your shower)
- an open mind
- experienced campers will be fine, newbies should bring clothes that can endure adventure and not be washed for a week (merino wool worked beautifully)
- hiking boots
- layers from a tank top to thermal long sleeves (it gets cool in the evenings).
- Keep it minimal. Small to medium backpack.
This tour was unique, humbling and one of my top [experience] trips to date.
The Take Away: Watching real nomads live as they do, is still something I am processing. I came from a life that was rooted down in one town with many comforts of modern society. Giving up that rooted life has been very freeing, but watching the Mongolian nomads live as they do, moving from place to place, not long enough to grow crops, and living with minimal materialistic items was legitimately humbling.
So to answer my own question from above...no I don’t live as a true nomad, not even close.
I would add a day or two on to a Mongolia visit to fit in a trip to to the trip Ulaanbaatar is worth exploring. Stop in Mary & Martha shop. The Fair Trade Way.
The Journey: At this point I have no plan as to where my life will wind up. I know where I’ve been and am present in the moment but tomorrow remains a mystery. I started out on a journey to travel the world and learn what I can about other cultures. This journey has turned into way of life. Currently my list and desires continue to grow the more I travel. I guess what I like most about traveling is the personal journey I am having with myself. When you are traveling solo, you have a lot of time to think uninterrupted. I find it impossible not to be honest with myself.
I have found a meaningful balance of the many options in travel: going solo, meeting up with good friends and family, and taking advantage of tour groups and they all have to offer. Observing the interactions and dynamics of the different groups indulges in my desire to always be learning more about understand as much as I can of human behavior.
Many new experiences of this trip allowed me to ask myself the question “Can I handle this?” But more importantly “Do I want to handle it?” For instance, when I came down to slaughtering animals, I chose not to watch. Not because I couldn’t handle it, but I didn’t want to handle it and I guess that’s a really good life lesson, if you have a choice. Some things you can’t unsee. Sometimes you just don’t need to think, but trust your instincts.
Following my gut on this trip really opened up the internal communication between my instincts and my conditioning, my internal expectations.
I learned to trust myself, be honest with myself, and most of all accept myself without judgement. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience to further understand my own human behavior.
I’d like to give kudos to G Adventures yet again for setting up an amazing cultural experience with another fabulous guide as well as the hosts nomad families of Mongolia, and especially our drivers.
The 4 wheel driving for hours on end was grueling, but they were exceptional drivers. If you get car sickness, I would take precaution because it is rough and goes on for hours. Several people got sick, and yet one of my car mates had no problem sleeping through the rugged terrain.
Lastly, I’m beginning to think that every great group tour should end with the karaoke night! Never in my wildest dreams would I EVER imagine that those words would come out of my mouth, let alone the songs I am now able to sing in front of other humans. I am absolutely the worst singer, but it didn’t matter, we were all in it together.
Next stop Guam…