[ Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia ]
Tomorrow I leave Mongolia. I’m out of sorts, reeling from an unexpectedly intense melancholy which is, I suppose, to be expected. The past six months have been an adventure- and culture-filled high—and coming down is precisely no one’s idea of a good time.
Consider some basic numbers:
Thirty-five hundred kilometers on a heavily laden bicycle, through ten provinces—from the easternmost town on the Mongolian map, to the westernmost—over one hundred days on the road, eighty nights in a tent, hundreds of hours spent in gers breaking bread (and drinking vodka) with scores of nomads. Five trains, two vans, one bus, and a chartered boat into the wilderness of Khovsgol Nuur. Ninety days in the capital, dwelling with a typical urban family—a family which eventually took me in, adopted me.
What actions do these numbers signify?
Over the past half-year I have forded rivers on horseback, slept in gers and amongst rockfalls, herded yaks, ridden reindeer, been attacked by a female raptor. I have hunted marmots, and picked wild berries with itinerant workers. I have been stung by bees, bitten by ticks and spiders, afflicted by plagues of flies and mosquitos and giant grasshoppers. I have defended a Mongol maiden’s honor. I have been sunburned, windburned, frozen. I have pushed my bike nearly two hundred kilometers (half the distance between Houston and Dallas) up steep and muddy passes, I have navigated roadless steppe, been defeated by sand, denied access by the Border Patrol, detained by Immigration (and ultimately deported—but more on that later), and cowed by sanity-eroding winds. I have been lost, found, accompanied, and utterly alone. I have traveled through an ancient wilderness, eyes open wide in wonder, and I have been changed by the passage.
Yeah, yeah, I know how that sounds: Hyperbolic. Overwrought.
Yet it’s the truth. My knowledge of life has deepened, my faith in humanity’s goodness intensified, my empathy expanded and fine-tuned. I have witnessed first-hand—yet again—the callous cultural and human destruction caused by a pathological lust for Empire (vis-à-vis the West, China). I have experienced—over and over and over again—incontrovertible proof of the interconnectedness of all people and all things.
Again: Yes. I know how that sounds. Again: yet, it’s the truth.
It is also a hell of a lot to process; I’m still working through it.
As I leave this adventure behind me, I would like to thank those who have followed my exploits in real time. Through this website, and my presence on Facebook and Instagram, I received encouragement, feedback, and moral support from a gratifyingly large number of folks around the globe. When things in the field were difficult, demoralizing, or flat-out scary, it was a great help to know you were all out there—waiting to hear about my latest brush with the elements, the locals, or (most frighteningly) my own foolhardy ignorance and bravado.
Until Next Time,
Your Friendly Neighborhood Transglobalist,