Imagine travelling one-third of our planet, from London to Ulaanbaatar, overland. Think of all the sights that you will see along the way, the countries and cities that you will pass through, the people you will meet, the food you will taste. Sounds like an awesome trip, doesn’t it?
I am talking about the Mongol Rally, in which teams from all over the world participate and travel by car from England to Mongolia.It is not a rally in which you race to win. (It is illegal to race on public highways and roads). You will not find teams that are on a race against time to reach Mongolia. The idea is to take it slow, and experience all that your route has to offer.
It is an adventure. Trip of a lifetime!
We had the opportunity to interview travel blogger Stephen Schreck of A Backpackers Tale, and a member of a team named “Drama of the Llama” participating in the rally about the epic journey that he is currently on.
He had some interesting things to say. Have a look.
Good Old Boots: What motivated you to participate in the Mongol Rally? From your posts and updates, it seemed like it was a spur of the moment thing. Did you have to change/postpone/cancel a lot of travel plans to participate?
Stephen: Yeah it was a spur of the moment change, just a couple months before the rally started. I really wanted to do the rally for two reasons. One was for the adventure, the rally isn’t a holiday and isn’t easy. You have long driving days in a slow car, so far the longest has been 23 hours. You also have to deal with language barriers, your car breaking down in the middle of the desert, and most of the time you have to sleep on the ground or stuffed in a car. It isn’t a joy ride, but that is why it is so rewarding.
The second reason is because it is a different way to travel Europe and Asia. Why, I have done a lot of road trips in America, I had never done one abroad and I wanted to see more of the country side of a lot of countries I’ve already visited, and a lot I never have.
Good Old Boots : What skills should a person have to participate in a long, grueling (and enjoyable) trip like this? What was the most testing time in the rally for you so far?
Stephen: I think the two most important skills you need for the rally is being able to adapt to unexpected situations and the determination to finish.
The most testing time was when my team totaled our car in Russia. This threw a wrench in our plans. None of us said, well I guess it is time to go home, instead we all started thinking of a way to finish. In the end we went with some great raillers that made space in their cars. Our team is now in separate cars, but in the same convey and we will finish the rally together!
Good Old Boots : I believe there were a lot of potential routes for the rally. What factors did you consider before choosing your route from London to Mongolia? Were visas a problem?
Stephen: Since I joined the team really late the route was pretty much planned. We all wanted to visit as many countries as possible which is why we choose our route. We all wanted to go from Turkey to Iran, but because two of us have U.S passports we were not allowed, so from turkey we had to swing up through Georgia and into Russia that way.
Visas were actually easy since the Mongol Rally offers a visa service, however our whole team got our passports back just days before our next flight which was extremely stressful, but eh, such is life.
Good Old Boots : How many hours do you guys drive each day? Do you guys drive all night, or did you chalk out where you will be spending the night each day before hand?
Stephen: Humm.. that is a tough one. It changes by the day, terrain, or if you are in a convoy or not. When you are on your own you drive at least 12 hours a day. If you are on a convoy with 2 or 3 teams you mess around, and you stop earlier to make a camp, play games and have a few drinks. You go slower but it is extremely fun.
As far as stopping each night it is not really planned. If you are near a major city you make that a target sometimes you reach it and sometimes you don’t.
Good Old Boots : Why the name The Drama of Llama? It’s a pretty cool name but is there a story behind the name as well?
Stephen: Sadly, I’m not sure too sure. The guy who named the team actually had to drop out, and I never asked him.
Good Old Boots: Lastly, do you think being a full time traveler is a viable lifestyle? How do you afford a lifestyle that allows you to travel fulltime?
Stephen: If you are willing to do some work full-time travel is a completely viable lifestyle. There are a million ways to make money when you travel.
Personally I travel off the money I make online sometimes it covers my monthly expenses and sometimes it doesn’t. I saved for 2 years straight before I started traveling full-time by following some simple saving tips. So I live off what I make online and my savings.
I think the best way is to do a bit of both. Save up travel, get a work visa somewhere, build back up your bank account and continue.
You can follow Stephen on his blog at A Backpacker’s Tale. Recently he has shared the story of how his car broke down in Russia. (Click here for the full story). Last time we checked, he was somewhere in Kazakhstan.
**Photos provided by Stephen Schreck