Sunday, July 29, 2012

Preparations

Hello again people who happened upon this page,

It's something like...36 hours(as I write this) until I leave Mongolia (my math could be wrong). So I'm finalizing my preparations for Egypt and Turkey. I've got a few more signatures to collect on my paperwork and a few more souvenirs to purchase, but the bag (notice the lack of plural there?) is packed, the plane tickets are purchased and accommodations have been found.

Since I'll be traveling in largely Islamic countries during the holy month of Ramadan, I've decided I should observe some of the rituals to be respectful, so I'm going to begin fasting tomorrow at sunrise. I know I missed the start date, but better late than never applies to everything, right? I've also found a decent headscarf, but I feel silly wearing it. We'll see if that's really expected or considered important. I'll try to keep the blog updated as I make my way up through Europe, but no promises.

Now... I had said I would write something about Mongolian travel, so here we are.

I'm sure everyone has had experiences when traveling that were frustrating. Tires pop, flights get delayed and sometimes friends bail on plans. Sure it might make you want to tear your hair out, and sure maybe your entire trip has to be scrapped, but these instances of unpreventable trip disaster are the exception rather than the rule.

In Mongolia the opposite is true. It is exceptional when a car ride doesn't result in some kind of breakdown. It is remarkable when scheduled buses leave on time. It is almost unheard of that all passengers arrive on time. Sounds unbearable, doesn't it?

Thing is, that it is bearable (for me anyway). These things, these travel catastrophes, are out of my control. They are an inevitable part of travel in a country with no roads and few off-road vehicles. And since they are inevitable, I just have to give myself up to the fates and accept what happens. I I have adopted a new travel philosophy here that makes travel almost a zen experience. There is no point in getting upset, getting impatient, getting frustrated, or feeling despair. None of those things will alter your ETA in the least. The only thing that they will do is make my trip less enjoyable.

As a supplement to this Hakuna Matata travel mode, I also simply decided to trust in the driver. You do this when you get into an airplane as well. You surrender control and simply expect that the pilot knows how to fly a plane better than you. You cannot judge his methods because you yourself are not a pilot. With cars it is different. If you can drive, then you judge the driver. Why did you take Main St? Peachtree has fewer speed bumps. The speed limit is 75 and you're only going 60 (or you're going 85). You typically cannot refrain from offering advice or comparing the driver's way of driving to your own. I've stopped doing that here. I trust my driver to get from point A to point B through a network of roads that don't really exist except on the map. The reason I trust my driver is the same reason you trust your pilot. He has the skills and experience that I do not have and never have had. The Mongolian countryside is at least as confusing and strange as the world above the clouds, so if the driver choose to drive on the grass rather than the paved road, I trust that he has a reason.

I enjoy traveling in Mongolia. When I travel, I give up control of my life for a dozen or so hours. I trust in the universe and in my driver to deliver me to my destination unharmed. And so far at least, they always have.

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