It’s been a long journey to say the least and I’ve been painfully bad at keeping people up to date with the daily occurrences, but in my usual style, I have to impart some few tidbits of advice for the future female mongol ralliers in a nod of solidarity and support for my kind as well as to encourage more women to do the Mongol Rally because if there was one theme throughout, it was that this adventure was mostly a man’s world of fun.
First, you should do it.
If you’re an adventurous lady and have even had the slightest of daydreams about going on a road trip of this proportion, you should do whatever it takes to make that happen. After finally finishing this trip in 40 days and nights almost a year and a half after I first got the idea, I will say that the experience was extremely trying on every ounce of patience I have for the traveling process, but in the end, I’m still glad I went through with the trip if only for the sake of satisfying my curiosity.
I had originally wanted to do this trip with a group of girlfriends and believe that I put in a good attempt at trying to convince a few of them, but lo and behold it didn’t quite work out for any of my friends and I wandered off to find another team. Of course because of their hesitation, I ended up finding not only a team, but a wonderful man to call my future travel partner, so I really shouldn’t complain. Still, even at the starting line whilst checking out some of the teams, I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of cars were filled with rambunctious dudebros (thanks to Sean Knox for introduction of this word in my vocabulary) ready to start creating their stories of adventure and debauchery to share with many curious and sometimes jealous friends back home. I immediately thought that us women can be just as obnoxious and party hardy and longed for the hijinks involved in a reunion weekend with Lea and Jaime.
After further thought, I came up with three reasons why women should go on the Mongol Rally. First, a road trip of any kind is a bonding experience and the Mongol Rally is your average road trip to Grandma’s house in the country for milk and cookies on heroin. You have to deal with an endless amount of confusion about road signs, currency conversions and where to find everything you need to survive on a daily basis and as a result of such stress, barriers tend to fall. Granted, with the fallen barriers of being able to openly discuss your digestive processes, come added frustrations that naturally rise due to being confined to a little car with other people who are not you. Still even so, I can say from personal experience that even with the aggravations I’ve experienced, I love my boyfriend more than ever and I even love random people I’ve met along the way more than is probably socially acceptable at this stage in friendship.
Second, since I wasn’t blunt about this point earlier I’ll be blunt now: It’s a sausage fest. So, if you happen to be a straight and single lady looking for some short-term or long-term love, the Mongol Rally starting line party is prime hunting ground. If this were a consulting interview question, I would estimate that in any given year, with about 250 teams, let’s say 85% male and average of 2.5 people for vehicle, 75% of those being single and available, you’re looking at around 400 available men to 95 women (most of which are probably pansies and doing the rally with their boyfriends or husbands). 4:1 are good odds and I’ll also fess that the majority of those intrepid skirt chasers are probably on the younger side so if you’re a cougar, even better. The simple summary here is: The Mongol Rally is a good place to search for man love.
My third reason is simply that women need other women. There have been multiple times along the journey when I wished there was another female I could converse with. I think it actually became standard practice that anytime you did in fact run into another female rallier that you run to her with open arms and talk about skirts, ice cream and singing the soundtrack of Rent. I had this moment with Schuyler in Mongolia after 4 weeks of traveling. She made red lipstick and braids a new fascination for me and I was confused at first as to why I was drawn to her, but then I realized it wasn’t actually a lesbian moment I was having, it was just that I needed a girl to talk to about my problems. I felt better ever since knowing I could sing freely and wear makeup without ridicule from at least one person on this journey.
Second, consider the Mongol Rally Charity instead of The Adventurists.
Now that you’ve whole heartedly decided to commit to doing an exciting road trip across Asia with your best girlfriends and/or complete strangers, the next thing you need to decide is which group to go along with. I chose The Adventurists because quite frankly, I didn’t even know that there was another game in town. At first, I thought they were great and this was a great idea but as the ever so cheeky e-mails started piling upAnother frustration of this trip was borne of the dealings with The Adventurists. After a year and a half of planning for the rally, I just don’t have positive feedback for this group. If you really think about the organization and consider everything that they do, the group really just boils down to a business that entices adventurous people to pay them money for the privilege of raising a bunch of money for a charity you may or may not be passionate about. For the entry fee that you do end up paying, you get a string of e-mails with cheeky language that become tired after a while
Third, don’t be a hero.
However you decide to do the rally, my one strong suggestion is to not do it alone. Even if you have an overwhelming desire to drive by yourself, make sure you travel in convoy with other teams. This isn’t some kind of admission that women are incapable of traveling alone and need men, it’s acceptance of the realities of what this trip demands. Driving a car through vast emptiness with questionable roads is a team effort. Even if you are a super woman who can drive manual cars, strangle wild animals and fix every mechanical problem in a car, who the hell is going to push your car through the sand while you’re revving the engine? Who’s going to help you repair a spring with a spongy flip flop? Who’s going to tell you funny stories while you’re driving so you don’t go completely insane lost in your own thoughts? It’s just silly to forego a group of trustworthy travelers for the sake of going alone. Plus, don’t forget about your friends and family. Even if you are the world’s toughest, most self-sufficient and independent female mechanic out there, your friends and family are going to worry about you. Don’t needlessly stress them out by being stubborn and making a bid to go alone.
Fourth, keep a stockpile of US dollars
Girl, you don’t wanna be dependent on some “man”. Get yourself your own cash. But seriously, I’ve always been adverse to having cash on me because of my former job and the engrained philosophy that electronic cards are safer, so when I travel, I don’t carry much besides my ATM card. This was a faulty practice when it came to driving through countries in Central Asia where it was a couple of days before I could reach an ATM and currency exchanges at the border were non-existent. Luckily, Dillion was on the ball and had an engrained philosophy that you should always have some greenbacks on your person (partly because I think he was a small-time mobster and/or drug dealer in his past). Therefore, whereas on my own, I would have been screwed, having teamed up with Dillion, I got past nuances like paying for automobile insurance at the border in US dollars.
Fifth, keep your hair and nails short
I didn’t realize at the time how dirty and knotty my hair would get at the beginning of the trip, but my instincts were telling me at the beginning of the trip that chopping off my hair would not be a regrettable idea. I’m glad this was one of the few times I chose to listen to my instincts. In Western Europe or to put it in equivalent terms, on proper tarmac roads, not having showered and driving didn’t pose major problems to me. Once we entered Kazakhstan and shit got real in the driving sense, I found that even my shorter hair was turning into dreadlocks after but two days of driving through hot sweaty desert landscape. From that point until the finish line in Mongolia, my hair was never really the same even after a quick shampooing in the random hostel here and there. It took 3 thorough scrubbings of my head to finally get all of the grit out, a task that would have been exponentially higher if I still had my massive mane. As for nails, cut them, but get over the fact that they will never be clean for more than 3 minutes after cleaning because at some point, you’ll have to touch your dusty/muddy car and/or go through all of your dusty/muddy belongings. I suppose the alternative to this reality is to get yourself some fabulous acrylic nails so you don’t actually have to see all of the dirt under them.
Sixth, bring a good supply of feminine products.
How do I put this lightly? Pooping in a hole you dig in the middle of the desert in Kazakhstan isn’t that bad, but not having the proper supplies to manage your menstrual cycle in the middle of the desert will most likely result in an unnecessarily unpleasant experience. I can’t stress enough that you will be dirty on this trip more often than not no matter how hard you try. Don’t add extra obstacles for yourself by being unprepared in the menstrual maintenance department.