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Published: October 26th 2017
I can tell you the exact spot where I was sitting when I made some pretty big promises to myself and some specific demands of my future. It is not a moment that enters mind very often, but after this trip to Mongolia, I can't help but wonder how that flashpoint in my life is still affecting my decisions today.
I was 12 years-old and had spent the day rotary mowing at Shamrock Farms in order to earn some walking around money. I was sitting on a rickety old tractor, soaked in sweat and covered in the dust and bugs that inevitably get kicked up when doing such work. I had spent the day doing nothing but driving and thinking. Rotary mowing is the sort of job that affords a lot of time for thinking, even in the shallow waters that are a pre-adolescent's mind. I will never have a job that is dependent on the weather.... I will never have a job that wears down my body and is impossible to do as I age.... I will never take the financial risks that ranching requires...I will go to college.
I was granted the
luxury of having a very happy childhood, rich with adults who cared about me, constant safety and a lifestyle that gave me access to all the animal friends a child could want. But in the security of this Norman Rockwell-esque childhood, I had a front row seat to seeing my family trudge through the farming crisis, fret over how their days and bottom line would be effected by Mother Nature and manage the disappointment of fluctuating livestock prices.
We never lost our ranch. We were fortunate. And by fortunate, I mean my parents and aunt and uncle were willing to take desk jobs to keep the land and livestock.
Apparently none of this adult stress was lost on my 12 year-old self, a youngster demanding to grasp onto security in adulthood. So I suppose seeing these struggles, the labor of love, the sweat of hard work and the financial risks, it is not too surprising today I am pretty risk adverse, especially in financial matters.
The desire for stability has lead me on a pretty conventional life path. You know the drill, punching a clock, making mortgage payments, managing household duties...yada, yada, yada. Not too
hard to see I follow the safe and narrow path, probably all thanks to the declarations made by younger self.
But I can't help but wonder if my 12 year-old self really understood the nomad that lives inside and dreams of worldwide adventures. There is no doubt being a fifth generation rancher gets into your genes and almost tethers you to the land. But it cannot be forgotten, it was not all that long ago my Great Grandpa Tom was riding on a covered wagon and heading west with true pioneer spirit and grit. Maybe that is the spirit that fuels my desires to be a true globetrotter.
In Mongolia, I could not help but hear my inner nomad relishing every little moment and begging for more. Was it the camels? The geography? The mission? I can only imagine that it was at least partly due to the people who called us there in the first place. Steppes to the West
Sometimes you hear about someone's lifestyle or career and you cannot help but to want to know more. That was certainly the case when I first learned of these expedition members
who make up the Steppes to the West
team. They are dreamers, doers and most positively never listened to anyone who encouraged them to take the safe route. They would have hated my 12 year-old self.
They are an ambitious lot who has decided to walk from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to London, England alongside 10 Bactrian camels. It will take them at least 3 years, they will travel more than 12,000 kilometers and they will trace the enchanting Silk Road. This journey will lead them through China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Hungry, Romania, Austria, Germany and France. Did I mention they will do this all on foot?
They are following dreams, advocating worthy causes, settling some internal struggles and proving that they can survive a lifestyle that is anything but conventional. Their progress with be dependent on the weather, livestock and the support of others who just want to see them succeed. This is certainly not the safe route.
These walkers are interesting to say the least. They have chosen a lifestyle many of us will only read about in National Geographic
and they will experience moments most of us can't fathom. They are not
deterred by difficult terrain, ominous border crossings or possible failure.
I have friends ask me why this group would chose to do something this strenuous, time-consuming, risky and monumental. They never seem satisfied with my "why not?" answer, so I felt compelled to nail down a more descriptive response. Of course the therapist in me had many theories. And my internal romantic proposed some other thoughts. But I think it was the voice of that nomad that confirmed the most plausible answer.
There is no doubt each one of these walkers is doing this for distinct yet varied personal reasons, but I think they are also doing this for all of us whose safe, pragmatic decisions guided our life choices that ultimately tamped down that internal nomad constantly yearning for an adventure. Steppes to the West
is an opportunity for the rest of us to be armchair adventurers, to be swept up in the romance of an epic challenge, to revisit the rich history of the Silk Road and to cheer on someone who is attempting to achieve an outrageous endeavor. Further Information
My vague recount of this journey does not
do justice to the magnitude of this venture or the experiences of this professional expedition team. I highly recommend checking out the Steppes to the West
website and Facebook page.
I also recommend reading more about the many accolades bestowed upon these individuals. They have published books, been featured in countless articles and even been the subject of documentaries aired in cooperation with National Geographic
. Recounts of their adventures have appeared in The Washington Post
magazine, Lonely Planet
magazine and The Guardian
. They move forward on this journey with years of experience and knowledge and they leave us wanting to learn more.
As with any astronomical challenge, the biggest obstacle can simply be funding. If you want to support the team, the camels or the expedition, there is a Go Fund Me account (The Impossible Camel Journey
) or you can contact Karl Bushby
(firstname.lastname@example.org) or Angela Maxwell
(email@example.com). www.steppestothewest.com www.shewalkstheearth.com www.vpacconcept.org Photo credits disclaimer
: As noted in previous blogs, the high-quality photographs that appear to be nothing short of art are provided by Gillian Barber
. Any of the blurry, off-center snap shots are most likely my doing. Thank goodness
we have Gillian!
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