We are traveling in Mongolia with a map that is 5 years old. This normally wouldn’t be that big of deal, but in a country where roads are only dirt and they change every season as new tracks are made, this IS a big deal. Every day we start off confident of our direction. Then about 30 minutes later a plague of doubt drifts into the car – sort of like the Angel of Death creeping into Egyptian streets via a glowing green cloud in the movie The Ten Commandments. Slowly it enters each of our minds first…a little nagging voice, “Are we going the right way?” “Where is the main road?” “We haven’t seen any other cars for a long time.” You shake it off and silently think – of course we are on the right road. But the voice comes back, again and again…until it finally finds volume and someone verbalizes it in the car. Then the group worrying begins. Compasses come out, maps are unfolded, and we all look for any person or vehicle along the road that we can ask.
We have become really good at stopping moving vehicles (mini buses, construction vehicles, SUV’s, and people on horseback) to ask them if we are going the right way. We’d bring a map, try to pronounce the town we were hopefully heading towards and then point in all directions in a frantic motion. They didn’t need to speak English to understand what we were asking. 99% of the time they pointed us in the direction we were already heading. We’d get back in the car confident of our navigation…for a whole total of 30 minutes before this process would start again!
One thing that held true for our entire time in Mongolia was that we felt that the road we weren’t on was always better than the one we were on. I don’t know that there is any truth to that – but that ‘grass is greener’ attitude has a strong pull in the brain when you have miles and miles of roads ahead of you and too many options!