Welp, I’m not dead yet. The world took it’s best shot, but I’m still kicking. Sometimes being a travel writer means traveling, not writing, for little spurts in time. Meeting two awesome British girls is one of those times. But rest assured, I will not be swayed again (I will probably be swayed again). So in the spirit of getting back into the game and giving people ideas of things to do around the world, I’m gonna start tossing my slogan (“Partake of the World,” pithy, no?) into a list of cool things, not necessarily events, to do around the world. Here’s entry one.
I live for adventure. It doesn’t even have to be much. Right now, I’m sitting on a rooftop in Vietnam, typing into my Macbook and eating a hamburger. Few people, if any, would consider that an adventure. But I’m in Vietnam. I’m roughly 7,000 miles from home, I have very little money and no real clue what I’m going to do next. And so, I consider that an adventure. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you do, too.
So believe me when I say that what I’m about to write about is so far beyond an adventure. Calling it one is like calling that $300 steak with gold flakes on top is a case of the munchies, a “pizza covered in skittles in the microwave” level gastronomic stutter-step. What I’m about to write about is probably the most thrilling, most dangerous, most ridiculously stupid thing you could possibly do in your entire life. I’m talking about the Mongol Rally.
I’ll set a scene. You and two friends have been wasting away at a desk for too long. Your backs are beginning to look like the inner edge of the Arc de Triomphe and you just can’t take it anymore. When you get down to the core of biology, humans are monstrous creatures. There’s a dam in every man that threatens to burst if he doesn’t get to do something primal, so at this point, you’ve got more testosterone in you than sense. You need to do something crazy. You need to test yourself. You need the Mongol Rally.
So you go to go to London. You and your three friends pool your meager office wages and buy the shittiest car you can find. I’m talking the kind of car you need a tetanus shot just to look at. Ideally, it should be old enough to have its own driver’s license. Have I ever mentioned Bay-To-Breakers, the San Francisco fun run that involves less running than drunken stumbling, often caused by the ridiculous costumes that are now essential to the experience? The Mongol Rally is the Bay-To-Breakers of the auto world (maybe combined with the Iditarod, with a little splash of being lost in the Sahara). So once you have your lemon, you slap a few hundred bumper stickers on it to let everybody know where you’re going. The guy next to you strapped a phone booth to the roof. That guy wins.
And then you’re off. You pile into your embarrassment of a car and putter off down the road. It’s a 10,000-mile meander from London to Ulan Bator, Mongolia, where the Finish Line hangs like an arbitrary death knell to your bout of manliness.
This is the part where I need to explain: the Mongol Rally isn’t a race. There are no winners. It’s not about speed. Hell, half of the time the roads are so bad you’ll be lucky to hit 10 miles an hour. If you really try to push yourself to finish the race first, then you’ve missed the point – you’re here to have an adventure, to test yourself against the forces of nature and machine. There’s no straight line, no point A to point B. Most cars don’t even finish (I told you you’re buying the shittiest car ever, right?). There’s no qualifying time, though at a certain point, they take down the finish line assuming anybody else is either stranded or dead. There’s no real point to doing it, except to prove that you can.
You make your own way – a full third of the world is laid bare for your exploration. Will you take a northern route? The Arctic Circle should be nice this time of year, especially if you’ve always wanted to see the Aurora Borealis twinkling above you while you sleep on top of your sagging roof, huddling with your friends for warmth. You could head south. For all the shit the Middle East gets, it’s got some beautiful landscapes. You may have trouble reentering your country with an Iran stamp in your passport, but I’d say the souvenir is worth the three-hour interrogation by a sack full of nickels in a closed room. Or hell, just go ahead and make the straight shot through the former USSR. Chernobyl isn’t all that bad of a tourist destination nowadays.
This isn’t just a road trip. The way to Mongolia is dark and full of terrors, fraught with open landscapes where breaking down means radical self-reliance or death. People have died on this journey. Many who start don’t finish. It’s not for the weak of spirit or skill. But for those who are up for it, there’s just nothing quite like it.
This year, the Mongol Rally underwent a few rule changes to bring back the spirit of adventure that had gradually eked out through the steady advancement of time. The restrictions on cars are gone – you can bring the ugliest beater you can find if you think it’ll get you there. And most importantly, the ticket price has been halved. So now, you have no excuse to miss out besides a crippling fear of having your corpse eaten by vultures in the middle of nowhere. And frankly, I can’t think of a better way to die. At least it’s good for the environment.
Registration opened this week. The first 30 cars and 10 bikes to register get the super early discount of £425 for a car or £275 for a bike. The price then rises to £525 for a car or £325 for a bike until October 31st. So go get your team together. Go to Mongolia. Partake of the World.