Three Lessons from a Gobi Desert Train Ride

Last weekend I was able to travel to the Gobi Desert with Jonathan and Tunga so that Jonathan could renew his visa and continue working here in Mongolia. On our way down there were a couple wonderful things that we were able to experience beyond the beautiful Mongolian landscape and the fact that, after my first train ride ever, this is definitely my new favorite form of transportation.

Friends Are The Best Company
Trips are always more fun when you're travel with people you love. On the train ride we were in a small cabin and since it only fit four people we almost had the whole thing to ourselves. With one new friend each way, the four of us stayed up late playing cards, games, talking, laughing, shooting video and eating tons of random snacks we had gathered for the 17-hour trip. What could've been a very long ride seemed to fly by and it was one of the best trips I have ever had.

We Are All Part of A Legacy
This trip reminded me that all of us are part of a legacy (several usually). When we arrived at the station, at the border town of Zamin Uud between Mongolian and China, we were greeted by my fellow Peace Corps Volunteer Cameron who was kind enough to meet us at seven o'clock in the morning when we arrived. He took us to a wonderful little hotel that we never would've found on our own, which was the perfect price for three of us, very comfortable and very close to the small ger that he lives in next to his host family. Later in the day after lunch he showed us around his ger, a traditional Mongolian home, introduced us to some of his Mongolian friends and really made us feel at home. Being part of the Peace Corps legacy allowed all of this to happen - connecting us together even at the edge of the Gobi Desert. But then an unexpected legacy connected us together while we were visiting Cameron's ger. Looking around I noticed several Boy Scout books that he had on his shelf and asked if he was a Boy Scout back in America. Not only was Cameron involved but so was Ben, another Volunteer who happened to be visiting. Boy Scouts has made a huge impact on my life and it turns out it was a big part of their lives too. After some great conversations, a few days later we were all back in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, meeting with my friends at the National Mongolian Scouting Association. We have already gotten several other Peace Corps Volunteers involved in the past week and it looks like it's going to be a great year helping a great organization. You never know how you'll connect to others, how the legacies of organizations you are part of interweave and link you to your past, present and future.

We Shall Not Pass This Way Again
Legacy is a very interesting word in English. It means looking back to where we come from and honoring the traditions that have brought us to where we are, and it also means looking at what we're doing now and how that is going to impact us later in our lives. I love that Chris uses the words legacy project to refer to what he does at The Art of Non-Conformity. I feel similarly that Advance Humanity is my legacy project, the thing that I want to define in my lifetime and then have continue after I'm gone. That's the third thing this trip helped me remember - trips go by quickly. Great memories, videos, pictures and writings help us remember wonderful times, but whether it's a trip into the Gobi Desert or a journey anywhere else on the planet, our time is short. As Stephen Grellet famously said, "I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again."

I hope you're having a wonderful time on your journey right now, wherever you are.

Have you checked out our growing Advance Humanity community on Facebook?