In spring 2016 a friend of mine sent me a link to The Mongol Rally website. About an hour later we had decided that the following year, four of us would be driving a tiny car a 3rd of the way around the planet to Mongolia. It sounds crazy but having just returned from finishing the challenge, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
That sounds stupid, dangerous and my mum would be worried sick
The Mongol Rally is an event that sees over 300 teams of adventurers driving from England to Mongolia for charity. There are only three rules: you must do it in a rubbish little 1-litre car, it must be completely unsupported and you have to raise at least £1000 for charity. When I first read the rules I had the same reaction as what I’d imagine you to have; that sounds stupid, dangerous and my mum would be worried sick. But for some reason, we decided to sign up anyway.
I never thought I’d do anything like this challenge. I’ve always loved keeping busy and having fun with friends, but I’m also the kind of person who gets homesick when I’m away at university and sometimes even at festivals. However, The Mongol Rally kept me so busy, both in the year leading up to the trip and actually on the rally, that I barely got a chance to consider what it was we were actually doing. It was a year so jam-packed with fun and excitement that I didn’t look back once.
It was fantastic for my organisation skills
From early summer 2016 until the launch in July 2017 we were constantly thinking about fundraising, creating a strong online presence, working out which route to take and getting our visas sorted, it was fantastic for my organisation skills, and kept my mind off the fact we were driving to central Asia with no support! We did car boot sales, spoke at local schools, made youtube videos and even a charity single to raise awareness for our trip and our charities.
It took until launch day for it to actually dawn on me what I was about to do. It was incredibly exciting but rather scary at the same time. The thing about The Mongol Rally is that although it is unsupported, The Adventurists, the company that runs the event along with several other crazy adventures, are very clever in the way they organise it. For starters, the fact that over 300 cars take part means you can always convoy with other teams. We met some great people who I’m sure will be friends for life now, teams we could always rely on for help pushing us out of some loose sand, or even for a tow if everything went tits-up with the car! It’s a challenge that encourages team spirit. As well as this, The Adventurists seem to know that the countries we’d be going through are relatively safe. Some of the people we met along the way were incredibly friendly and always helped us out if we needed. Even the teams that travelled through Iran said that the people there were some of the nicest and hospitable they had ever met.
The Mongol Rally is a risk, but a small risk that is totally worth taking
A lot of gap year travelling involves a rather sheltered view of tourist heavy places, whereas the rally is one of the few travelling ideas I’ve encountered that allows pure freedom and a sense of adventure. You can go wherever you want in as much time as you want and you get to see the world from a different perspective: places no one else has seen. We live in a world which seems dominated by health and safety, this trip is a little escape from that. The Adventurists say “If nothing goes wrong, everything has gone wrong” and it’s so true. The breakdowns forced us out of our comfort zones, talking broken English to a Kazakh local to find out where the nearest garage is.
“The Mongol Rally is about getting lost, using your long neglected wits, raising shedloads of cash for charity and scraping into the finish line with your vehicle in tatters and a wild grin smeared across your grubby face.”
It’s a trip of a lifetime; a fantastic concept that I’d recommend to anyone. I’m actually considering doing it again in a few years time but taking a more ridiculous car and a more dangerous route… I’m not sure mum will be happy…
See our journey!