It sounds crazy, I know. Why on earth would you travel to a country that scares you?! That doesn't sound safe/sane/smart! Hint: I'm not talking about going to Afghanistan, or any other war-torn country. I'm talking about countries that force you to leave your comfort zone. Countries that are vastly different from your own. Countries that will test you, over and over. And over. Countries that scare you because they seem too different, too hard, too intense.
What is your favourite travel souvenir? Is there a great story attached to it, or is it something that caught your eye while you were out exploring?
I don’t buy a lot of souvenirs when I travel. Part of it it due to space, and part is due to money; and my desire to travel ‘on the cheap’. That doesn’t mean I never buy souvenirs, it just means I am extremely picky!
I may not have made it to Mongolia, but I did make it to Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan! Writing about not finishing the Mongol Rally was difficult, I think because I was admitting (more to myself, than others) failure. Okay, perhaps failure is a rather strong word. And perhaps I am harder on myself than I need to be. I do take pride in what I do, and when I don't accomplish something I set out to do, it bothers me. But, did I actually fail? Maybe not...
Today is one of those “OMG, this is what the Mongol Rally is all about” days.
This morning Charlie and I left the apartment we’ve been staying in here in Baku, Azerbaijan (thanks DJ & Maggie!), and made our way to the Turkmenistan Embassy to pick-up my transit visa. It seemed like a simple process. The Turkmenistan Consulate in Istanbul said my visa would be ready for pick-up in Baku, so I didn’t foresee any problems.
The roads in Azerbaijan are surprisingly good, and as we made our way to Baku Charlie suggested a detour north, into the mountains. The towns north of the city sounded lovely, and we were making pretty good time, so we went for it. Although the roads were good, the road signage was not, and there were a couple times when we would find ourselves driving into a city, and having no clue where we needed to go. So, instead of driving around and getting more lost, we would pull over and ask a local man for directions.
When you're in the middle of an intense adventure, and your gut says something is wrong. Do you follow your gut, or ignore it?
I realize it sounds as though I am in the throes of having to make a big decision, but, truth be told, I already made it; my question is more of a delayed query.
Are you confused? I don't blame you, in some ways, I am still confused. Allow me to backtrack a wee bit.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Asia, so I'm used to things like crazy drivers, and the lack of road rules (or at least I like to think I am), but traveling through countries like that, and driving through countries like that, are two totally different things. The cows walking around the Turkey - Georgia border should have been a hint of things to come.
Leaving Istanbul behind was bittersweet, but the thought of the Black Sea Coast was invigorating. I felt like I should have tried to squeeze out more energy; or something (in Istanbul). I had such high hopes for Istanbul, and they kind of crashed; along with my energy, when I was there. This seems to be a running theme.
Our weekend in Istanbul has been good. I had a chance to meet with a couple Mongol Rally teams, hang-out with Charlie and Sherry, and find a way to have some alone time. The latter being the most important part of my journey so far - aside from trying to secure my Turkmenistan visa.
Istanbul has been a blip on my travel destinations radar for many years now, and the thought of going there for the Mongol Rally had me really excited. Istanbul, Turkey! Oh my gosh! Oh, this would be the best time ever (don’t you love how I hype things up? Man, I should stop doing that!).