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How Mongolia Changed My Life

mongolia horse trek

When I set off to Mongolia in August, I both had a lot of expectations and none at the same time. How on earth did I manage that?

Beautiful people, wide, empty landscapes, adorable horses, oh and yaks.

But above all, I was expecting to be challenged. Pretty much everyone I knew who had been to Mongolia had gone on a organized driving tour in a big furgon or jeep, most of them to the Gobi Desert or just crossed Mongolia on the Trans-Siberian railroad.

Shuffled from ger (yurt) to ger with ramshackle itineraries and tight schedules, those experiences didn’t seem genuine to me and completely turned me off.

mongolia horse trek

I wanted to see the real Mongolia. I wanted to get dirty. I wanted to go to the places where no one spoke English and people yanked my blonde hair without my permission because it’s a rare sight to them.

As it turns out I ended up so far off the grid that I was in a part of Mongolia that wasn’t even Mongolian!

Talk about aiming high.

mongolia horse trek

mongolia horse trek

This time around I went with a small group tour, Zavkhan Trekking, it wasn’t really a tour. It was also the perfect introduction to remote Mongolia and gave me the confidence and inspiration that I can go back on my own one day.

Zavkhan is run by an awesome kiwi long rider named John, who has ridden across Mongolia for over a decade and decided he wanted to share the experience with other intrepid travelers. Partnering with locals in Mongolia, he has set up summer tours that are not quite tours, bringing people to his favorite off the beaten path spots and introducing them to the people he loves.

Now yes you can argue that Mongolia is pretty out there in and of itself, but since the 90’s there’s been a well-trodden tourist trail around it. I don’t know about you but I don’t like tourist trails.

But if you’re keen to dig a little deeper without doing it completely on your own, Zavkhan can make that happen.

mongolia horse trek

mongolia horse trek

But where was I?

Even as I packed my bag for Mongolia, I realized this would be different. Between my sleeping bag and mat, several merino wool layers (10 day underwear – the best!) and the 14 batteries and extra portable chargers, I was ready to disconnect and go off the grid.

I took a blank notebook again. This past year I had gotten out of the habit of writing my travel experiences by hand, being too rushed and too busy to take the time to process everything.

This trip would be different.

mongolia horse trek

Before I got on the first of many plane rides I had been struggling for a few months with the age old question of what I wanted to do with my life.

While I always want to continue traveling and sharing my stories here on my blog, I felt like I was stuck in a rut with no time or energy to think or plan more than a few weeks in advance.

But I have big dreams, bigger than blogging and bigger than travel. Mildly unhappy with how things have been going, I was hoping to have the opportunity to seriously contemplate my future and how to make my goals happen.

mongolia horse trek

mongolia horse trek

I want to write books. I want to find a place to settle for a year or two so I don’t have the pressure of an impending move always hanging over my head. I want to get better at public speaking and become more involved with inspiring people to get out of the house and see the world.

And wanted to have serious adventures and travel the way people used to; I want to travel like Hemingway and other great writers, inspired by their journeys to share my own. No more following other people’s trails, I want to forge my own.

I want to ride a motorbike from the top to bottom of Africa. I want to walk across New Zealand. I want to travel Iran alone as a woman. I want to volunteer in Syria.

In short, I want to seriously challenge myself on an epic journey. But I didn’t believe in myself, and realistically I thought it was impossible.

mongolia horse trek

mongolia horse trek

Mongolia was going to be a test. An introduction. 3 weeks of horseback riding through the most remote and unexplored region, and oh, did I mention I am not a horseback rider and I am morbidly afraid of riding animals?

Nothing in life is easy, and the things you want the most are often the hardest to achieve.

Before meeting me, people often assume I am some crazy adventurous person, but I’m here to tell you, I am not.

I am an ordinary girl with no special skills or gifts. I am not fearless, in fact I get quite afraid of a lot of things, especially this past year (thought that’s a story for another day). I have doubts, I worry, and to be honest, I am pretty clumsy, not super fit or that organized. I also cry a lot, usually in really awkward situations.

mongolia horse trek

But there are a few things I’ve figured out that makes me stand out from the masses, personality quirks and changes I’ve worked on improving over the past few years.

  1. I never give up. Never. If I start something, I finish it. Sure, sometimes it takes me a hell of a lot longer than many, but I do it and that’s what matters.
  1. I stay on the brightside and make the best of things. When shit happens, I freak out like most normal people, but I quickly let it go, focus on what can be fixed and move forward. I don’t let negative or unfortunate things hold me back.
  1. I always try new things, even if they scare me. I get embarrassed sometimes knowing that at first I suck. But I keep going. Saying no to something without even trying really pisses me off. Sometimes I say no to things, whine and moan, but then do it anyways. That’s what matters the most and it’s what makes you feel so good when you finish.

mongolia horse trek

I’ve come to believe if you can manage these three things in your life, you can do almost anything, and you can certainly manage a Zavkhan trip.

With that in mind I decided to head on a horseback riding expedition in remote Mongolia.

Bring it.

mongolia horse trek

mongolia horse trek

So how exactly did Mongolia change my life?

I’ll start with the most obvious. Simple living.

The ethnic Kazakhs that live in the Altai in far eastern Mongolia on the border with China do not have easy lives. They are the last of the true nomads on the Eurasian Steppe, their culture and way of life preserved, (mostly) unchanged since the time of Genghis Khan. With the occasional soviet jeep, Russian candies, or satellite dish thrown in there to keep things interesting.

mongolia horse trek

mongolia horse trek

They are horse people. They are nomads, moving with their families and flocks from place to place in accordance to the seasons. Higher lands in summer, down in the valleys in winter.

Here hospitality reigns strong and families live together 4 generations in ger. In winter temperatures drop to 40 below and sometimes killing off all their livestock.

mongolia horse trek

mongolia horse trek

Their lives are hard. To romanticize it is elitist and simplistic. I don’t envy them. Given half a chance I’m sure they would love to swap places with me.

I spent three weeks with them, and they taught me more about life than I’ve learned in my 26 years elsewhere.

First off, they are the happiest and hardest working people I’ve ever met. Ever. We are told all the time that money can’t buy happiness and material things don’t guarantee joy, but to see it, breathe it, experience it and live it yourself for weeks is something else entirely.

mongolia horse trek

mongolia horse trek

The books got it wrong. The movies got it wrong.

I’ve always been a materialistic person. I love shopping, spending money and buying things – I’m not (too) ashamed to admit it. It’s gotten better as I’ve gotten older and have had to support myself, and I learned that at the end of the day I would rather spend my money on an adventure than on clothes, but it’s still there.

To be thrown in a place where everyone wears the same clothes everyday because that’s all they have was a good smack in the face. Hell, I was wearing the same clothes everyday too, because it actually doesn’t matter, and you don’t smell that bad.

mongolia horse trek

Being invited into people’s home, have them share their food with a bunch of strangers and see how they really live is something I’ll never forget and not something you can put a price tag on. And to be able to share that experience and be welcomed in is not something you can put a price tag on.

For three weeks I ate nothing but sheep, Walter to be specific (Walter’s sad tale here). Mutton soup. Mutton dumplings. Mutton on a stick. And more mutton soup. I thought I would hate it, but let me tell you, after 6 hours of hard riding, you’ll eat anything put in front of you. And be grateful. I even ate the sheep’s head AND I didn’t hate it, though I drew the line at boiled stomach because it’s actually the worst texture in the entire world. Imagine wet fuzzy white rubber – god, makes me gag just thinking about it. Sorry.

mongolia horse trek

Sorry Walter!

Hours and hours in the saddle, no showers, drinking from streams, peeing in a communal hole, so cold at night you can’t sleep, I endured it all. And woke up excited every single day.

But sheep’s stomach aside, I was so shocked that not only was I ok with living like that, I imagined myself doing it again and for longer. All those little comfortable things you thought you couldn’t live without disappear without you even realizing it.

Being there and doing it myself made me understand that other ways of living are also worth it. It changed me.

mongolia horse trek

mongolia horse trek

But what else? How else did Mongolia change my life?

Mongolia showed me that I was tougher than I thought and that the rewards from overcoming personal fears is better than anything.

Over a year ago I fell off a camel in Jordan and almost broke my back. It was in that exact moment that my courage and confidence started to slip away. I no longer faced adventure or activities with open arms, instead with trepidation and eventually determination. But it made my way of travel infinitely harder.

mongolia horse trek

IMG_0619-2 copy

Riding horses in Mongolia is likely more terrifying for me than for most people.

After an initial mismatch with an ex-racehorse, I found Chewy, my stubborn little mule of a horse. Slow and steady, we were a match made in heaven.

Usually in the back of the group, the best I could get him to do was a half-assed trot behind everyone else. But it was fine with me because I felt comfortable knowing he would never bolt off. He did have a mind of his own and no qualms about stopping and not moving, usually in the middle of rivers.

mongolia horse trek

mongolia horse trek

I hated river crossings.

It was my one big fear on the trip. By the end I asked the wranglers to help lead me and Chewy through the toughest crossings while I held on for dear life (I should add that that was just me, everyone else was totally normal and fine). I just had visions of Chewy toppling over on me, breaking my leg and drowning my camera.

The wranglers didn’t seem to mind, they were always happy to help, and I think they found it funny when I was clutching the mane of my horse going “oh, I don’t like it, I don’t like, make it stop” behind them.

But I did it. And that makes all the difference.

mongolia horse trek

There were some really tough days, one was deep in the woods when Chewy stubbornly picked the wrong line and tripped, losing both front legs in a deceptively deep mud puddle and flinging me off into the rocks and mud in the process.

God damn horse.

Luckily I just had a few scratches and bruises, and of course covered in mud, and since we were on a narrow deer trail in dense woods, I had no choice but calm down for a few minutes and get back in the saddle. I think it would have been a lot worse if I had had time to think about it and brood.

mongolia horse trek

mongolia horse trek

My worst day was followed by my best day. At the very end of the trip I got up one morning only to realize Chewy’s hoof was scratched and I couldn’t ride him.

I was given Amangul’s horse to ride which within the first hour bolted and tried to bite me and all the other horses several times. After a few hours I was on the verge of tears, terrified of an animal which I knew I couldn’t control and feeling like a total failure. If you can’t trust your horse, you are in for a terrible time. Luckily Anar the translator swapped with me, though his horse wouldn’t stand still to let you mount her (also terrifying) and kept stumbling in marmot holes and thoroughly freaking me out.

By the time we arrived at camp 9 hours later, I had cried a few times and was angry with everyone and everything.

Luckily my friend Echo gave me some space before coming over with half a KitKat she had saved. Chocolate and friends solve everything.

mongolia horse trek

The next day I was able to ride one of the big white packhorses. He was a total sweetie, strong but happy to follow the group and not be in the front. I ended up riding with Khadaran, chief wrangler in the back while the group galloped off.

We ended up going a different way, and I didn’t feel any pressure trying to keep up with everyone. With him we practiced trotting and cantoring, as I got used to my new horse, getting more and more comfortable in the saddle. Eventually I felt the rhythm of the horse change and I realized we were galloping!

With Chewy I knew there was no way I could kick or whip him into a gallop so I figured I wouldn’t get the opportunity.

mongolia horse trek

mongolia horse trek

We galloped a few more times before arriving down in the valley a ger overlooking a lake. This time I was half an hour ahead of everyone else, giving me time to get to know the family and rejoice in my success as a rider. I also feel like I should add that all of this managed to happen when we couldn’t communicate in each other’s languages.

Later on at the ended of the day I galloped into the camp with the rest of the group while the Kazakhs sang and chanted behind us. It was the best moment for me of the entire trip, and having it come after my worst day made it all the more amazing.

That was pure euphoria like I had never experienced before.

mongolia horse trek

And now finally, for my biggest takeaway.

It made me realize I wanted more out of life than what I had been doing. This trip was a teaser. It was an inspiration. It was the kick in the ass I needed to start thinking about my future travels.

As much as I love hopping around the world on blog trips, they have started to feel the same, even when I am planning them myself. I have been taking it easy.

I am starting to feel like I want something different, something more. Mongolia changed me, changed my outlook on life and travel.

mongolia horse trek

Surviving Mongolia and loving it, even the fucking river crossings and sheep soup 24/7 all while smelling like socks made me think, hey I can actually do these things AND I like it. Hey, I am stronger than I realized. Be proud, Liz.

Like my pep talk?

So now it’s time to write my own story. What will be my next adventure? What challenge can I find overseas that will inspire me as much as this?

mongolia horse trek

mongolia horse trek

I already know that one day I will go back to Mongolia on my own and ride across it in an attempt to join the Long Riders Guild (for riders who ride over 1000 miles on a trip). I dream of one day being able to gallop into Bayan Olgii and hug Amangul and go find the people who taught me to ride and who showed me that life didn’t have to be like what I knew and that happiness can be found anywhere in any situation.

The wheels and cogs in my mind have been turning and I have been thinking a lot about how I can continue to challenge myself on the road in 2015. I have several ideas in mind of places I want to explore and how I can explore them in a new way.

I can’t say anything yet because I don’t want to put my mother in an early grave, but let’s just say they are terrifyingly epic.

Wish me luck!

What’s a place you would love to go to be think is impossible? Have you ever felt like a journey changed your life?

mongolia horse trek

170 Responses to How Mongolia Changed My Life

  1. Ricky November 12, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    Beautiful photos, I enjoyed reading your story :), I’m amazed how mongolian people survive harsh winter (-40 in winter!!! OMG) with no modern device like electronic heaters.

    • andie November 15, 2014 at 9:15 am #

      No modern device like electronic heaters?Ahahaha, yeah its a miracle humankind was able to survive before electronic heaters. I guess they have this thing called fire.

      • donna November 19, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

        Thank you for your coming to my beautiful Mongolia and sharing your trip stories to others.

        • Liz November 20, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

          cheers!

      • Liz November 30, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

        your sarcasm is redundant

    • Liz November 15, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

      I know, it’s astounding. it’s the most amazing place!

  2. Leonie November 12, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    I would of never of thought to travel here but really looks amazing.

    Leonie ♥

    • Liz November 30, 2014 at 9:55 pm #

      Thanks!

  3. Katie @ The World on my Necklace November 12, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    I am also looking to push myself in the future and be more adventurous. Next year I will be travelling from Vancouver to Anchorage, primarily by public ferries, by myself which I am a bit nervous about but very much looking forward to. I definitely want to do a long trek by myself at some point (like Cheryl Strayed) but not sure what trail I would like to do yet. I will be trekking the Annapurna Circuit early 2016 and I’m sure that will be challenging although so many people do it every year. I would like to do a more obscure trail, and a longer one, for my big solo trek. Walking across New Zealand definitely appeals to me too 🙂

    • Liz November 15, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

      that sounds amazing! I started to read wild but stopped I got too depressed in the beginning, I need to reread. I am super keen to do annapurna soon too!

  4. Eden November 12, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

    Wow. What an incredible story. Thank you so much for sharing! It’s amazing how the Mongolian people live and make it work in their situation. Last Christmas my home was without power for 4 days (some homes in the neighbourhood were without power for two weeks!) due to a horrific ice storm. It was -30 Celsius, but we made it work for those 4 days. I cannot imagine how the Mongolians can survive their winter seasons when I could barely last for 4 days without power.

    At the beginning of the year I quit my job to finish my Master’s degree and travel. While I went to Asia, North America and soon to explore Europe this winter, I can’t say a particular trip has changed my life (yet) — but this whole year as been a journey within itself and it’s still continuing!

    • Liz November 15, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

      I know, it totally puts things in perspective. Now it seems I can do anything and put up with a lot more haha.

  5. Natasha November 12, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    Wow, wow, wow!! Amazing story. The first bit I though, man- can we be friends?!? Trips like this are not always easy, but they sure do show you what you’re made of! And now… I would also like to go to Mongolia! Keep up the great writing!

    • Liz November 15, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

      hahah we totally can! Thanks

  6. Jo November 12, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    Ahh liz! You know where it’s at! I loved this post because it perfectly sums up what I am feeling at the moment. 🙂 pretty sure we would be bff’s in the real world. Also if you need a partner on that motorbike trip across Africa then count me in. I’m deadly serious! I want big unique adventures, good honest writing, sweat, tears and dirt.

    • Liz November 15, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

      yes, that would be awesome! glad you want to have big adventures too!

  7. Lindsey November 12, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

    Liz, I love this. You are such a role model for me (even though you’re only a little older!). I too want to have grand, epic, expedition-like adventures, and I’m sure you’ll continue to inspire me to make my dreams a reality. Don’t ever stop doing you!

    • Liz November 15, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

      haha thank you! I needed to hear that.

  8. Kasia November 12, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

    This is such an amazing post to read. Truly inspiring! Thank you so much for sharing such an incredible personal journey with us. I’ve got such a thirst for adventure travel building too, especially after 3.5yrs living a nice expat life in a few places. I only wish that I had the balls to go out create epic adventures. I know exactly what the first would be…backpacking eastern and southern Africa! One day. I can’t wait to hear about your next adventures and what you’re going to be tackling!

    • Liz November 15, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

      thanks! I just need to pick one haha

    • Liz November 15, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

      wow that sounds so exciting!!You can do it!

  9. Kaleena's Kaleidoscope November 12, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    So much to say about this post! I love it all! Photos are gorgeous, for one. I recently read Grapes of Wrath and one of the quotes that stood out most to me was that you can always trust a poor person to help you. The ones with the least to give, give the most, and they appreciate everything that much more. It sounds like that’s what you experienced in Mongolia. Also, your new goals are really inspiring! I hope you get to do all of that and more! 🙂

    • Liz November 15, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

      Thank you!

    • Enku July 11, 2015 at 1:41 am #

      The nomadic people in Mongolia in my eyes, have so much to offer and are rich of culture that we can barely understand because we have been born and bred in a capitalist society where money is a value one can not live without. To nomadic people. their value is nature and their herd and money does not count as a factor on an everyday basis. So I would be very careful to use the word poor here as the standards of rich and poor are very different to westernized societies and nomadic peoples. The meaning of riches differ in the context of both lifestyles where one means to have great land and grass and water to grow herds where the other means money and power, respectively.

      • bolor August 14, 2015 at 12:19 am #

        Yeah. You are totally right about value differences and the meanings of wealth and happiness

  10. Gaye November 12, 2014 at 10:37 pm #

    Fantastic post Liz, very inspiring. Living simply, overcoming personal fears, and getting more out of life are at the top of my priorities now. Sometimes I think I wish I’d come to realise these things at an earlier age (like you) but really it’s never too late. Keep it up!

    • Liz November 15, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

      never too late!

  11. Miquel November 12, 2014 at 10:46 pm #

    This is amazing! I am incredibly inspired by this post and look forward to seeing what your future holds.

    • Liz November 15, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

      Cheers, thank you!

  12. Matt November 13, 2014 at 12:01 am #

    Amazing. i love it.

    • Liz November 15, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

      Thanks!

  13. Carolina November 13, 2014 at 12:12 am #

    Best of luck!
    What a great story, and such gorgeous photos! I want to go to Mongolia now.

    • Liz November 15, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

      great thank you, that’s what I like to hear!

  14. De'Jav November 13, 2014 at 12:41 am #

    Looks pretty amazing. Like the fact you have bigger picture things to accomplish. The simple life is sometimes what we all need to go back to. Great story

    • Liz November 15, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

      Thanks!

  15. will November 13, 2014 at 1:27 am #

    Nice. I lived in kyrgyzstan and had the same problem with the horses…horse bucked almost killed a girl i was with, luckily i saved her before i stopped to realize what i was doing. If you think Mongolia is amazing, try southern China and kunming…you would like it there. Exploring the chinese countryside is amazing and very few tourists.

    • Liz November 15, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

      I’m sure I’d love it there!

  16. Rose November 13, 2014 at 4:30 am #

    “Hours and hours in the saddle, no showers, drinking from streams, peeing in a communal hole, so cold at night you can’t sleep, I endured it all. And woke up excited every single day.”

    This is so true. The neighbors and I (4 women) did a 10 day pack trip w/our horses & mules in the Gila Wilderness and every day was fun and food never tasted so good. Never a saw a single other person. Though we didn’t have to pee in a communal hole – we could choose our own little places of heaven to sit and contemplate nature.

    • Liz November 30, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

      sounds like it was an amazing experience!

  17. Mariah November 13, 2014 at 4:51 am #

    Mongolia seems amazing! and while I haven’t been on the same type of long adventures, I can imagine what you mean.

    If you’re looking for more adventures, though a little more modern, I would highly recommend the Republic of Georgia. I spent 6 months there as a teacher, and stuck in the Soviet era, but with internet, it is definitely an adventure. You will never have the same day twice, but Georgia changes you in so many good ways.

    I could go on about it forever–it’s like a lover. Frustrating and tear-inducing sometimes, but man, when she’s good, she is really good.

  18. Petra @ The Global Couple November 13, 2014 at 6:42 am #

    You’re seriously inspirational, Liz! 🙂

    • Liz November 30, 2014 at 9:58 pm #

      Thank you!

  19. Elora November 13, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    That is an incredible story! I love your honest portrayal of how everything was–how hard, how beautiful. Very real. And I loved the pics! Can’t wait for more of your stories, Liz.

    • Liz November 30, 2014 at 9:59 pm #

      thank you!

  20. Elora November 13, 2014 at 7:31 am #

    Just as a side question, did you happen to learn what kind of eagle that was? It’s STUNNING!

    • Liz November 30, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

      Nope but I’m enquiring!

      • Trish August 22, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

        I vote for Golden Eagle.

  21. Laura P November 13, 2014 at 9:00 am #

    Sounds like you had a really transformative experience in Mongolia. I can’t wait to see what adventures it has inspired. I’ve been saving and working patiently towards making travel a greater part of my life for a couple of years now with the eventual goal of taking time out of work and doing some of the bigger trips I dream of. One is travelling overland between Nairobi and Cape Town. I’d love to read about your experiences in Africa should you go there.

    I read a lot of travel blogs and so many of them just do the same thing in the same manner. It’s so refreshing to read yours and really see you do your own thing in your own way. Keep it up!

    • Liz November 30, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

      I would love to go on a similar trip in Africa one day!

  22. Deasy Noel November 13, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    Wow, what a trip 😉 I didn’t realize it was possible to travel through Mongolia on a tour (though I’ve never really tried to look it up) but it sounds amazing, and I would love to go through what you did. Great blog post!

    • Liz November 30, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

      Zavkhan is the perfect way to experience Mongolia!

  23. Silvia November 13, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

    This story gave me goosebumps, Liz! You should definitely consider making a trip to the “Stans” – they’re similar to Mongolia but also each really unique and special. But my life changing trip was definitely backpacking solo through Iran earlier this year. Hopefully soon it will be easier for Americans to go to Iran!

    • Liz November 30, 2014 at 10:58 pm #

      I’m dying to go to Iran!

  24. Dalma November 13, 2014 at 10:37 pm #

    Great story Liz! I would love to do such a trip one day and it is great to read your inspiration and passion in this article. The only thing I wanted to say though, was don’t take it too far. Traveling is magical and wonderful and life changing but don’t start to feel completely invincicble and knowingly and stubbornly put yourself into dangerous situations. Your comment about traveling Iran as a single woman and volunteering in Syria really shocked me. I even know of 2 young Italian women who did that and were kidnaped and have never been seen again. Travel is wonderful but war is not, and I’m starting to get the impression you’re thinking like all those confident and romantic young men going off to fight in WWI, having no idea of what they were actually getting themselves into. No matter where you go or what you do, statistically speaking you have a greater chance of coming out in the end totally unharmed, but it only takes one second to ruin your life. Please keep doing what your doing but don’t stubbornly push yourself into life threatening situations just to prove yourself a point.

    • Liz December 3, 2014 at 9:08 pm #

      Thanks so much for that! I am actually very very careful, those are more “dream/whimsical” ideas of places I want to go but I am very very safety conscious, this past year more than anything taught me to evaluate things very carefully 🙂

  25. Katherine November 14, 2014 at 4:17 am #

    Hey Liz …. Loved loved loved reading about your Mongolian adventure. I became a member of the Longriders Guild by riding my horse “sola” across Spain & Portugal, from Andalusia to Galicia ( http://www.thelongridersguild.com/Boone.htm ) and I look forward to learning where you decide to go for your 1000+ mile trek on horseback. When I took off on my adventure it had been more than 20 years since I’d ridden a horse regularly, the only Spanish word I knew was “caballo”, I’d never been to Spain, and I’d never bought a horse. I booked a one-way ticket and didn’t give myself any deadline to finish. Took 4 months and what a grand adventure it was! And to top it off … two weeks after reaching Cabo Finisterre I found out my mare (Buena Chica) was pregnant the whole time (about 2 months along when I bought her) and four and a half months after the ride she had a beautiful filly … who I named Galicia (of course). Buena Chica is still in Spain and Galicia is here in California with me. I’d like very much to do another “long ride” in the future and eagerly await reading about yours!

    • Liz December 3, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

      Wow that sounds like the exact adventure I am looking for! I lived in Spain for years and would love to ride there too! I hope we can stay in touch!

  26. Charlie November 14, 2014 at 6:03 am #

    Amazing story, Liz! Very inspiration. The photos look incredible. I’m not sure I could hack three weeks living like that, I’m too much of a city girl. I know I should challenge myself more with my travels tho. Each time I’ve moved abroad has changed my life and I know my rtw travels next year will change me. I understand the need to challenge yourself tho, the more you get used to travel the harder it is to do unless you make the effort I suppose.

    • Liz December 3, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

      You never know! A year ago I could have never imagined I could cut it either and here I am!

  27. Liane November 14, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    Hi Liz! This is a really great post and I like the way how you let us take part in your journeys! Mongolia must be an awesome place. To be honest I never thought about traveling there but I should think about it. Your photos make me curious :).
    Enjoy your upcoming trips! Safe travels!

    • Liz December 3, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

      Thank you!

  28. Erin | No Ordinary Nomad November 15, 2014 at 12:58 am #

    What an amazing and inspiring story. It’s so wonderful that you managed to push yourself out of your comfort zone like that and really experience something unique. I recently completed the Everest Base Camp trek, and while it’s certainly a road more travelled than Mongolia, it really stretched me as a traveller and I loved every minute of it (even the times when I wanted to quit!). It really showed me that I’m capable of so much more, and inspired me to continue to seek out new experiences that stretch me. Thanks for sharing!

    • Liz December 3, 2014 at 10:55 pm #

      I really want to go to base camp one day!

  29. Julia November 15, 2014 at 4:43 am #

    Wow, that trip would be waaaay outside of my comfort zone right now! But your pictures and description of the country make me want to go there! 🙂

    • Liz December 3, 2014 at 10:58 pm #

      Thank you!

  30. Jim November 15, 2014 at 11:40 pm #

    Very nice travelogue and fantastic photographs. We just returned to Mongolia after 17 years away, and Zavkhan is now on my list of places for a nice (summer) getaway. Thanks for sharing.

    • Liz December 3, 2014 at 10:59 pm #

      Cool! that will be an amazing return!

  31. Rich - RichyFeet November 16, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

    Every time I see my Dad, we talk about one day riding the trans-Siberian to Mongolia (and on to Beijing). This post makes me want to make that happen as soon as possible and make sure I get a good long stay in the country. Wow!

    • Liz December 3, 2014 at 11:19 pm #

      what an amazing adventure that would be!

  32. Tsolmon November 16, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    When I see most comments by women, I wonder why mostly women likes to travel alone…

    • Batmunkh November 17, 2014 at 8:07 am #

      I think most of her readers are women, that’s probably why most of the comments are made by women.

    • Liz December 3, 2014 at 11:33 pm #

      because it’s awesome

  33. Martina Donkers November 17, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    Oh Liz, that’s incredible.

    Such an inspiration.

    I clicked straight onto this article when I saw it because I’ve actually just posted about my trip to Mongolia, so I wanted to see what yours was like. I did the more “normal” thing, 3 days stopover on the Trans-Siberian and visiting some families and national parks on the tourist trail. I LOVED it and it really wasn’t touristy compared to other countries, but it was nothing like your adventure.

    What you’ve said about finding more adventure has really struck a chord with me. Travel and life are about more than hostels and full moon parties and banana pancakes. It’s about adventure and exploration and really living.

    While I know it’s technically impossible to travel the way that the old travellers did, because the world is more discovered and connected than it’s ever been, there are still places to explore, where there are no guidebooks and more to see that you can even fathom. And isn’t that the whole point? Not knowing what you’ll see when you get there.

    Thanks for suck an inspiring post. 🙂

    Martina

    • Liz December 3, 2014 at 11:26 pm #

      Thank you! That was such a lovely comment to read. I wish I could still travel like they used to but I will find my own path and style one of these days…glad you know what I mean though!

  34. anar November 17, 2014 at 4:47 pm #

    So Proud of u Liz, even most Mongol girls cannot handle what you did.

    • Liz December 3, 2014 at 11:19 pm #

      Thank you Anar!!

  35. Att November 17, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

    Nice travel

    • Liz December 3, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

      thanks!

  36. Inga November 17, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    @anar, true not many local girsl (ones that grown up in city) will be able to go through what you did Liz.

    Its interesting how different views you get from foreigners travelled around your country. Its a bit shame that we dont do much of it ourselves.

    You encouraged me to explore more of my country while i am cruising around yours (assuming you might be an aussie)

    • Liz December 3, 2014 at 11:22 pm #

      nope I’m american

  37. Curtis November 17, 2014 at 11:09 pm #

    That’s my beautiful country

    • Liz November 26, 2014 at 1:16 am #

      Yay!

  38. Marcia @ CuracaoVacationAccomodation November 18, 2014 at 4:20 am #

    Mongolia is a wonderful place. I’m really glad you’ve managed to find that part of Mongolia that amazed you.

    • Liz November 26, 2014 at 1:15 am #

      I loved the Altai!

  39. Katelyn @ Diaries of a Wandering Lobster November 18, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    I’m a little behind on your posts, but this one is truly a beautiful piece. I read a lot of travel blogs and I always keep coming back to yours. I love the fact that you’re totally real and raw with your stories and feelings. Most bloggers would just talk about the positives and how wonderful each location is, but it takes a special person to dig deep into their inner thoughts and put those feelings to words. I have no doubt that Mongolia changed your future and I can’t wait to read about what you have in store for 2015. And if you ever want a travel buddy to ride a motorbike (although I much prefer the two push-pedal type!) from top to bottom of Africa, I would gladly keep you company! 🙂

    • Liz November 26, 2014 at 12:57 am #

      Thank you! I would definitely love a buddy in Africa one day!

  40. Eric November 19, 2014 at 12:40 am #

    I am a Mongolian myself and would like to tell you that I Really enjoyed your post Liz.

    The lessons your learnt and the things you experienced made me realize that we should enjoy what we whilte it lasts. Appreciate everything around you. Be not materialistic, be greatful for what you have. Don’t take more than you need.

    • Eric November 19, 2014 at 12:40 am #

      *what we have while it lasts

      • Liz November 26, 2014 at 12:39 am #

        thanks!

  41. naidan November 19, 2014 at 4:45 am #

    Hi liz first off all thanks for sharing your beautiful trip story .i was born and raised in mongolia (proud to be mongolian) .yeah i know we have one of harshest weather on earth but our nations warm hearts welcoming always make comfortably our guests. You wrote beautifully about my country
    .specially nomaden people are the happiest people on earth cause they do not anything else from outside world they can survive on any conditions .again tnx for your story .u made me miss my home

    • Liz November 26, 2014 at 12:38 am #

      Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed my story about your country, it’s a very special place for me

  42. itsgoa November 19, 2014 at 7:27 pm #

    Did u meet Zenghis khan over there ?….:)

    • Liz November 20, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

      um nope haha

  43. Rebekah Voss November 19, 2014 at 11:40 pm #

    Liz, your story is really inspiring. How cool that you got out your comfort zone and traveled to Mongolia. I wanna be like you when I grow up!

    • Liz November 20, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

      Thank you, that made me happy to hear!

  44. Shinee November 21, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

    Liz, I just stumbled upon your blog and I already love it! I’m from Mongolia myself, but I can’t say I grew up in such environment. I’m both inspired and amazed at your bravery to take on such a trip and experience the harshest of harsh. I love to travel, and I don’t like to do touristy stuff, BUT I never go beyond my comfort zone, which is the shame. Thanks for inspiration. Truly amazing!

    PS: Mutton everything and wet fuzzy white rubber made me giggle.

    • Liz November 26, 2014 at 12:25 am #

      Thank you!

  45. Jade November 22, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

    Wow for the photos alone and even more for how epic this sounds. I recently spent 5 weeks trekking in the Himalayas and completely understand the feeling of having a more simple way of travelling and loving every second.
    I can’t wait to see what ridiculous adventure you take on next!

    • Liz November 26, 2014 at 12:17 am #

      thanks! Working on some big ones now!

  46. Puujee November 24, 2014 at 4:52 am #

    Thank you for your trip to my beautiful Mongolia and sharing.

    • Liz November 26, 2014 at 12:10 am #

      Thanks! It’s such an amazing country!

  47. Kieu November 25, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

    Liz, can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading this and about your experience in Mongolia and what it did for you. The photos are stunning — I’d love to visit one day. But more so, this is beautifully written. Thanks for sharing.

    • Liz November 26, 2014 at 12:09 am #

      Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed it!

  48. john November 26, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading this, it’s made me realise it’s not too late to go out into the world and experience something new

    • Liz November 30, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

      never too late!

  49. Natasha Amar November 26, 2014 at 9:24 pm #

    Realizing that you’re tougher than you thought is a priceless feeling, even better than when someone else says, “You’re tough”.
    Great post here! I would love to experience Mongolia like this.

    • Liz November 30, 2014 at 9:51 pm #

      Definitely priceless!

  50. Daniel November 27, 2014 at 3:20 am #

    I enjoyed reading this very much

    • Liz November 30, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

      Cheers!

  51. Christine | The Traveloguer November 27, 2014 at 7:00 am #

    Hi Liz, great blog you have! I’m feeling envious of your adventure in Mongolia, it sounds truly amazing. I’m glad it had such an effect on you, and I hope you get to travel more like that in the near future. It really sounds perfect, and fitting for an adventuress! 🙂

    • Liz November 30, 2014 at 9:49 pm #

      Thanks!

  52. Kelly November 27, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

    Inspiring post! Loved reading your story, and such great photos too! Would love to visit Mongolia one day x

    • Liz November 30, 2014 at 9:49 pm #

      Thank you!

  53. Laila November 29, 2014 at 1:31 am #

    I have thought about visiting Mongolia for some time, it seems like such a different place. So nice to see all your photos! I can somehow relate to you experience, living in Cuba for 4 months also changed me in many ways!
    travelnotesbyher.wordpress.com

    • Liz November 30, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

      Wow that must be such a great experience!

  54. Raj Express December 10, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

    nice article!informative

    • Liz December 12, 2014 at 11:27 am #

      cheers!

  55. Susan Fox December 15, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

    Quite an adventure you had! I’ve been going to Mongolia since 2005 and love it for a lot of the same reasons you found that you did. I hope that as you travel that perhaps you will connect with what becomes your heart-place and, in a constructive informed way, get involved in something like conservation, which I have been fortunate enough to do in Mongolia.

    One small correction: the ethnic Kazakhs you met are not the only herders still moving their animals around. 40% of the population of Mongolia still lives that way and most of them are part of the Khalkh Mongol majority (86% of the population).

    I love mutton and also the summer dairy products. There is no other place like the Mongolian countryside and I look forward to my time there every year.

    Up thread someone asked about the eagle. It’s a golden eagle. The Kazakhs use them for hunting.

    All the best to you on your journeys,
    Susan Fox

  56. Marie December 18, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    Mongolia is one of the countries I want to visit the most. Thanks for sharing this and the travel company you went with!

    • Liz December 18, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

      You’re welcome!

  57. Barrie G. December 24, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    Loved reading this post…. made me slightly homesick for Mongolia. I’ve never done what you did there, but have been there 4 times and LOVE IT.

    • Liz December 26, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

      I can’t wait to go back one day!

  58. Himachal tour January 7, 2015 at 10:03 pm #

    wow ,,great great great pics,i think its your best trip .i dont know much about mangolia but after read this i want to go there at least one time in my life,thanks for sharing your experience.

  59. Glamourous Traveller January 18, 2015 at 11:00 am #

    This is simply amazing. My lifelong dream is to do what you did – go into the outbacks of Mongolia and just ride and appreciate nature and life. A time to decompress and reflect on the life we have and what the future may hold.

    But at the same time, I deff am not ready to do it solo. So appreciate the tour recommendation!

  60. Su January 20, 2015 at 2:32 am #

    Liz – I’ve been to Mongolia myself and I can totally relate to your story. I brought tears to my eyes because it felt I was there again. Amazing country, amazing people – I love the pics, I have similar ones hanging on my “picture wall” at home. There’s a lot of space to contemplate and re-think your life. Thanks Liz for bringing back these wonderful memories!!!!

    • Liz January 20, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

      Thank you!

  61. Zaid February 1, 2015 at 9:51 am #

    What and inspirational, classical adventure – but with so many tests. Out of your comfort zone, to the extreme!
    I’m considering a visit to Russia in 2 months time, but Mt Elbrus seems to be drawing me to the south

  62. Carina February 1, 2015 at 11:14 pm #

    Hey Liz,
    thanks for this inspiring article and your amazing pictures! Mongolia has been on top of my bucket list for a long time already. Reading this encouraged me even more to go there soon!

  63. Monika February 15, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

    That’s incredible reading, trully inspiring. And the pictures are stunning. Mongolia is high on my bucket list and I believe I’ll be able to visit it soon. Riding a horse through Mongolian steppe and sleeping in a yurt is one of my ambitions! Thanks for the post.

    • Liz February 16, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

      Thank you, glad you liked it!

  64. Karan R March 16, 2015 at 7:32 am #

    Lost your blog
    Makes me wanna quit everything and globetrot
    Greece is first on my list, thanks for all your info about it

  65. Karan R March 16, 2015 at 7:33 am #

    Love, not lost! ;_;

  66. Rick RAkauskas March 30, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

    I was talking to John the other day and he mentioned that this blogpost had really helped his business move forwards.
    I can see why. Your enthusiasm shines thru, and Mongolia will have other adventures in store for you, especially the planned solo ride.

    When you get around to it please let me know – we’d love to help (so would John I suspect).

    Well wishes
    Rick Rakauskas

  67. Bob May 12, 2015 at 7:48 am #

    Hello Liz,

    I am booked on the Altai Expedition for mid August 2015!
    I am getting very excited about it.
    I did quite a bit of travel in New Zealand and Australia years ago with Active Earth Adventures and Connections 18 to 35.

    Your writing and pictures of your adventures are terrific.
    Thanks for sharing them.

    They were a great help for me in regards to understanding what I was committing to.
    I feel bad about the sheep though. poor Walt.

  68. Miranda July 30, 2015 at 12:10 am #

    Great post, I loved the pictures, they’re so alive! We’re thinking of booking a trans-Syberian tour from Travel all Russia and it seemed like a fun adventure, but your post made me wanna pack right now!:)

  69. Anni August 4, 2015 at 5:34 am #

    Hi Liz,
    Loved to read about your adventure in Mongolia. As I was reading I kept thinking that you are just my kind of traveller, always out of the beaten track! Such an amazing experience! I found this page while researching about traveling in Mongolia on a horse, and after reading you I went straight to Zavkhan website and although I found it fantastic I couldn’t see anywhere the price per person, would you be able to give me an idea of how much you paid for your 3 weeks if that is not too much to ask?
    Thanks a lot!

    • Liz August 4, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

      Aw thank you! I think you’ll have to email for a quote, really depends on the trip!

      • Rana Worden February 10, 2016 at 8:56 am #

        Liz, your travels are so thought provoking, and the photos amazing. I almost felt I was there! When planning a trip to Mongolia, what type of things should a traveler bring (or not bring) to leave behind for families. A thank-you gift, however small, for their hospitality. I don’t want to interfere with their culture, or lifestyle, but a small token of appreciation. What would you suggest? Thanks again for sharing your wonderful story. Rana

  70. B.C. September 13, 2015 at 6:04 am #

    Thank you for this fantastic account. Your photos are really beautiful. I moved to Mongolia from the UK just 3 weeks ago. So far I have only been an hour outside of UB, but your post has made me really excited to explore this beautiful country. I hope I will learn my own lessons from experiencing a different way of life for a time. Good luck with your other adventures! X

  71. Claire November 3, 2015 at 12:30 pm #

    If I could spend my life camping and riding horses…! This post is amazing and I can’t wait to visit Mongolia!

  72. Leah November 4, 2015 at 7:45 pm #

    It sounds amazing – I would LOVE to do the same! What was the closest airport and then how did you make it there? I’m sure that was an adventure in itself!

    • Liz November 6, 2015 at 10:32 pm #

      Ulaanbaatar!

  73. Lena November 7, 2015 at 2:03 pm #

    Thank you for this! I saved a picture with Mongolia yurt and stars on my phone and put it on my screen saver… It’s my dream now! I am imagining how I could take a trans-siberian railroad across the entire Russia and then end up in Mongolia wilderness, riding horses, meeting local people, sharing their everyday lives. Just living a simple life…

  74. Michelle January 7, 2016 at 4:17 am #

    Hi Liz,

    This is the kind of trip I was looking for but I did not know who to contact and how should I go about planning for such trips. Would you mind sharing some contacts and how you found someone to liaise with?

    I ended up being in one of the touristy trails but I really love the horseback riding.

    Thank you!

    Cheers,
    Michelle Kwok

  75. Courtney January 16, 2016 at 4:34 pm #

    I am truly inspired! I just book my ticket to Beijing with the idea of taking the Trans-Mongolian train in to Mongolia for nearly a month this summer. I don’t really have a plan- just me, myself and the vast AMAZING country of Mongolia.

  76. Timo February 29, 2016 at 7:22 pm #

    This kind of trip would do good for all of us western people. Beautiful pics.

  77. Ogi April 4, 2016 at 4:07 pm #

    Funny and cute story! Thank you for sharing my beautiful Mongolian nature! Good luck for your future traveling around the world. 🌎 You’re brave girl.

  78. anywherejourney April 13, 2016 at 6:47 am #

    I loved reading this. Really inspiring. Mongolia has always been a part of my travel bucket list and reading this makes me want to go there more! “Happiness can be found anywhere and in any situation”.. inspired!!

    • Indian solo traveler girl May 14, 2016 at 4:11 pm #

      Awesome gr8 share..
      I guess i ll face troble to have Vegetarian food..as i dont eat non veg. Not even egg.
      I knw egg is not possible in Mongolia.
      But looks only grass and potato save my life 😉

  79. John Michael July 7, 2016 at 3:05 am #

    I would love to do a trip with my son in Mongolia. He is 7yo right now. How old would you say would be safe and enjoyable for him?

    Thank you

    • Henry GP October 13, 2016 at 4:50 pm #

      well just traveling around city and such would be perfectly fine. I think dusty roads and nomadic lifestyle might be little too overwhelming for 7 y.o kid well thats of course if i am being honest. As a Mongolian who was raised in city when I go visit my relative in countryside, it was not my best moment of my life at the first. But usually kids are fearless and very curious to unknown things. They do things that even adults are afraid of. So I’ve learned riding horse and living the way of nomadic lifestyle. So deciding if going to Mongolia or not should be yours to decide. As a father of your son you would know him better than anyone. If things work out and you travel to Mongolia I believe you will have good adventure 🙂

  80. antonio August 28, 2016 at 2:23 pm #

    i would love to contact you, im planning on visiting mongolia instead of an eurotrip and i think im going alone, i could use some tips, thanks.

  81. Kelly December 15, 2016 at 6:00 pm #

    This is awesome! Just the kind of trip and experience I want in traveling; now I’m going to look into this guys company! So I’m curious what other adventures you have in mind?! I just got done motorbiking Vietnam from North to South, which sounds right up your alley as well!!

  82. Davis Marret January 4, 2017 at 5:27 pm #

    Hey, we are thinking of going to Mongolia this April but only have maybe 11 days total travel time. Do you think that would be enough time to have a great trip, or too short? Your trip sounded awesome!! We just got back from Nepal. If you havent made it there put it at the top of your list. Have a great day!!

  83. Brendan January 21, 2017 at 11:33 am #

    Hi Liz,

    I am planning a horseback trip for the coming year and hopefully you can help me out with a couple blanks in the itinerary.

    I’d like to horseback ride from Ulaanbaatar to the Altai Mountains. Did you start in Ulaanbaatar or Olgii?

    Also, was it easy to find a host family? I’d like to try my hand at eagle hunting but want to set something up without a travel company taking all my money 🙂

    Thanks!

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