My older daughter works at a summer camp. Mixed in among the campers making fire with bow drills, kids tracking animals through the underbrush, and rampaging hordes of kids dressed as elves, there are counselors wearing shirts that read ”You are doing it wrong.”
The first time I saw this I was a little taken aback. This was definitely not the “kumbaya, everyone gets a bead” message I was used to at summer camp. But when I asked my daughter about it, she said there is a second part. “You are doing it wrong. Now do it better.”
I think I am doing the Mongol Rally wrong.
When I first signed up for the Mongol Rally, it was a total lark. The rally bills itself as being perfect for people who do the least amount of planning, fly by the seat of their pants, and generally have faith that things will work out. Anyone who knows me will tell you this fits me to a T. “How hard can this be?” I thought as I clicked the registration button. “I’ll fly in, get a cheap car and drive towards the rising sun.”
The next morning reality set in.
I am fortunate to have a job that allows me an incredible amount of free time in the summer. Being a middle school teacher my summers are spent alternating between spending time with my daughters, starting projects that rarely get finished (or if they do, it is at the very end of summer and only with a lot of encouragement from my wife), and accumulating credits to maintain my license. This summer seemed like the perfect time to take on an adventure like the Mongol Rally. My daughters are both getting older. One has a summer job and the other is looking to get one as well. I have enough summer projects in various states of incompletion that I don’t need to start any more. And I have already accumulated all of my credits. So, the summer is wide open.
But school starts again in the Fall (actually, late August).
This is the sobering thought that brought me back down to ground. Most people who take on the Rally do so with the vague intention of eventually reaching Mongolia. It is not uncommon for people to take 6-10 weeks to complete the journey, stopping along the way to enjoy the sights, take in the local culture, and make necessary repairs to their failing vehicles. It dawned on me that I will not have that luxury. School is in session six weeks after the start of the rally!
Now, instead of focusing on all the amazing places I want to see and all the fun things I want to do along the way, I am focused on getting to the finish line in time to catch a flight home. It is a race against the clock instead of a drive across the world. I knew somewhere in the back of my head that this would be somewhat of a reality. I figured that I would be driving through Europe in my own version of the Cannonball Run, but I guess I had been deluding myself that the frantic pace in Europe would transform into down days and quiet time beside Tajik rivers. Alas, it is not to be. Those kids are not going to educate themselves! The stress is starting to get to me. The single day that I have scheduled for seeing the entirety of Constantinople is beginning to seem like an unimaginable luxury! How can I see the Hagia Sophia AND have time to fix a flat tire in Kyrgyzstan???
But then it hit me.
I’ve been so focused on getting to the finish line and shaving off days here and there that I have not stepped back for a bit to recognize the monumental feat I am attempting. 10,000 miles across two continents in a 29 year old vehicle that has no business going off road. 20 countries. 2 major mountain ranges. Four deserts. Scenes of breathtaking beauty. Experiencing cultures that are thousands of years old. Making memories that will last a lifetime.
So instead of focusing on that first day of school deadline, I need to keep my eye on those magical five weeks of epic adventure.