Very excited to have a guest post today from a veteran of the Mongol Rally last year and friend, Britany Robinson, who’s the travel writer behind Stars on the Ceiling – a blog for Millennial travelers and adventurers. She’ll soon be taking off on a 3 month road trip across the United States, putting her Mongol Rally skills to good use in her search for destinations that appeal to the Millennial generation.
Last year, I participated in the Mongol Rally, and one year later, it remains one of my favorite talking points. This 10,000 mile drive is ridiculous, stressful, overwhelming, and wonderful – and I can’t wait to live vicariously through Team Mongolistic 4 this summer! Mystery and surprise are what make this route so thrilling, so I won’t give too much away, but I do have some practical advice to offer Lola and her team…
McDonald’s are the new Starbucks
Looking for Wi-Fi and a predictable menu? McDonald’s are where it’s at. Even if you’ve sworn off McFoods (like moi), you may reconsider when you see how much nicer McDonald’s are in Europe. There is almost always the McCafe counter with options for the more health conscious. And they ALL have Wi-Fi, which you’re going to crave from the confines of your car.
Find Lodging Before Midnight
In Western Europe, there are plenty of truck stop motels along the major highways, but SURPRISE – truckers fill them up at night and it can be extremely frustrating to find a room, particularly after an exhausting day of driving.
Opt for early nights and early mornings so as to not waste time trying motel after motel.
Once you’re in Eastern Europe and beyond, you’ll likely start camping with more frequency – which is also a tricky (and shady) option come nightfall. Find your campsites well before sundown and give yourselves time to set up and make dinner before it’s dark.
Splurge When You Can
There will be plenty of opportunity for earning your “I roughed it on the Mongol Rally” badges, so don’t push it. Savor the showers and comfortable beds when you have them. Before you know it, they’ll be a distant memory!
Scarves are invaluable
Scarves were my savior on the road — not only for throwing over a dirty t-shirt and making myself relatively presentable, but also for sudden temperature drops at night, and for covering up in the more modest of countries.
Layer, Layer, Layer
Again with the temperatures – no matter your route, they will likely be all over the place. Mongolia was a particular surprise, as we went from desert surroundings to snow-capped mountains, and with that transition, the temperatures dropped drastically.
I wound up rocking the shell of a teammates winter coat while he wore the lining because I hadn’t thought to bring warmer layers.
Trust me, you’ll need them.
Cherish Your Alone Time
You love your teammates. You want to experience everything with your teammates.
Until, suddenly, you don’t and you’re secretly dying to speed off at the next rest stop while they’re paying for gas.
OK, maybe it won’t be that bad. But no matter how much you love each other at the start, hours on end in a car together will test even the tightest of teams. So enjoy your alone time when you have it. Exploring a city for the day? Take the opportunity to go see something your fellow ralliers might not be interested in.
Once you’re camping in the steppe, your only reprieve will be sleep – and even then you might listen to them snoring from their neighboring tent.
Go Easy on New Foods
You think a stomach emergency is rough in the shared bathroom of a hostel? Try facing this situation in the flat expanse of the Kazakhstan desert without so much as a healthy bush to hide behind.
Carry the usual stomach meds for emergencies, and err on the side of caution when sampling new cuisines along your route. (There’s a good chance you’ll accidentally eat horse at some point.)
Border Crossings are a Bitch. Brace Yourself.
We were pleasantly surprised by border crossings for most of our Mongol Rally route – until we got to the border of Russia and Mongolia and were held there for five days.
You just never know when some piece of paperwork is going to make your life extremely difficult. Factoring in an extra full day for each border crossing
Capture it all
Nobody wants to be that jerk that keeps the camera rolling when you’ve run out of gas on the side of a dirt road and its 110 degrees out and you’ve got half a bottle of scorching water and no food. Until the rally has concluded and you’re the one with the priceless footage of the most memorable moments. Be that jerk.
No matter what – it will be over too fast. Enjoy it.
There will be many moments where you’ll long for the comforts that await you at the finish line. Just remember that once you’re there, the adventure has concluded. Enjoy every flat tire, mosquito bite, border line, and bad meal. These challenges may feel draining at the time, but they’re what make the memories you’ll hold on to, and they’re what will make this story worth telling.
Good luck Team Mongolistic 4! I know you’re going to rock this rally with style!
Thanks, Britany, for all your advice including all my messages with silly questions. There may still be a few more before July 19th!
xo – Lola