11 Q: Sherry Ott Rallies (in Mongolia!)

Posted on: Saturday, January 21st, 2012
Posted in: Work/Life Hacking, Blog | Leave a comment

If the career-break movement really ever does catch wildfire, some of us will get so rich that we go on perma-break, right?  Until then, the people provide a rich enough payoff.  Like meeting Sherry Ott, who’s graced these web pages before and motivates thousands through Meet PlanGo, her own travelblog Ottsworld, and more.

Although she’s highly inspirational, she also may be crazy.  I mean, who else signs up for a 10,000-mile car race through remote Mongolia’s deserts and mountains—all for charity, chills, and thrills—that in the end leaves her wondering,

What will I ever do to top this?”

Why not ask her yourself…when Sherry guest-stars in our Breakaway meetup on Monday night (1-23-12), and tells tales taller than Mongolian mountains.  We’ll be at Wilde Roast, on the river, sipping wine and spreading the career-break gospel (and gossip).

Meantime, please enjoy Sherry’s responses to the BreakAway 11Q.  You’ll get a taste of Sherry’s unique travel genius—and of what it’s like to take an outlandish journey with three veritable strangers.  Just for kicks and craziness.

We hope to see you Monday night!

  • Biggest getaway challenge

Getting out of a Kazakhstan police station I was being held in.  (you need to come out and meet me on Monday to hear the rest of the story!)

  • Grandest arrival

Our first day arriving in Brussels to stay with my friends there.  When we arrived at 11PM after driving all day from the kickoff party in London, we walked into their apartment and they had champagne, wine, cheese, and a grand feast for us all prepared!  We ate like kings and stayed up until 2AM giddy with excitement from the beginning of the rally.

  • Favorite place

Camping in the middle of nowhere in Kazakhstan under a full moon.  I have no idea where we were, but drinking beer until midnight sitting on our little camp stools under a full moon was perfect.

  • Logistical nightmare

Navigating Mongolia.  Geez – where do I start?  There are no roads in Mongolia, there are only dirt paths that spread out like tendrils of a complex spider web.  We used a compass and an out of date map to attempt to determine our way.  And consider this, with no roads, that means there are no bridges either.  Water crossings were an adventure and a nightmare at the same time!

  • Most meaningful moment

The first glimpse of Ulaanbaatar (exactly 5 weeks after we left London) sent chills through my body.  I was overcome with emotion – a giddiness and sense of accomplishment that is unparalleled.

  • Worst disaster(s)

Knock on wood – we didn’t have any major disasters.  But here’s the ones that sort of qualify:

Mechanical – busting our exhaust system and muffler, as well as our front shock in Mongolia.

People – There were some pretty major fights in that little car.  Tears, yelling – you name it.  One that ended in the car screeching to a halt in a cloud of dust and people getting out screaming at each other.

Technical – The day we left London we ‘bricked’ my iphone and it no longer even booted up.  Since I’m a travel blogger I rely on my smart phone for staying connected while traveling.  We had to try to get it repaired along the way and ultimately I had to buy a new one while in Germany!

Administrivia – We didn’t have the right paperwork for our car’s title which is a big issue when crossing borders in this part of the world.  We were able to forge a copy of our title while in Kiev and we’d hold our breath through every border crossing hoping they didn’t realize it was a copy and not the real thing.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

Other Teams – A team we had been caravanning with were out at a nightclub in Russia when someone drugged their drinks.  They were taken out in the forest outside of town and robbed.  Even after the incident – they kept going and made it to the finish.

  • Serendipitous experience

In Aktobe Kazakhstan while stopped at a stoplight we were lost as usual trying to read maps and make guesses on which way to turn.  A man pulled up next to us in an old, white car and beeped.  We all looked and he started to try to speak to us; he simply said “Tourist?”  We said yes, and then he gave us a little heart shaped key chain and drove off.  It was an odd encounter, but we attached that key chain to the headrest of one of the seats, and after that moment our luck started to change.  When we turned in the car for the auction in Ulaanbaatar, the key chain was still there.  Despite that fact the many children were asking for it, we always kept it for good luck.

  • Strangest encounter

Once we arrived in Mongolia, everyone wanted to buy our car; our beat up, dirty, sticker-filled, falling apart car.  Locals would stop us at gas stations, accost us at a stop light or ride up to our camp site and try to communicate with us to find out what we were doing there.  We’d try to explain through charades that we were driving to Ulaanbaatar for charity, but they’d always ask us if they could buy our car.  Some would also ask if they could buy our tents, camping gear, and headlamps too; they wanted to purchase every last bit of stuff we owned.  We were like walking billboards to these people who had money, but didn’t have products to buy.

  • Requisite health dilemma

Nothing major on this front.  I think all of us are full time travelers and were pretty used to ingesting foreign bacteria!  Our biggest health issue was that early on while in Europe one person had a cold and inevitably we all got the cold since we were stuck in a small space together coughing and sneezing.

  • Profound take-away

Traveling by car in this manner, completely independently, was some of the most challenging travel I’ve done.  Every day you are faced with decisions and you have to make decisions based on the unknown (road conditions, language barriers, mechanical issues, where will you next find food).  But I was once again taught the lesson that people will always try to help you when you need it.  We relied on locals along the whole route; they gave us food, directions, parts, did repairs for us, brought us gifts, and took care of us.  The more unknown you have to deal with, the more you have to simply surrender control and rely on others.

  • Re-entry vibe

I was left with this post-event low and lingering question of “What will I ever do next to top this?”

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