It’s hard to trust people. Even something as simple as dropping off your dry cleaning can be a nerve-wracking experience, where you’re never sure if you’ll see your Tommy Bahama pants again. But sometimes you just have to leave faith in someone else’s expertise. Like letting your waiter pick the wine. Or, ya know, trekking through outer Mongolia.
This is at least the philosophy of Intrepid Travel, the Toronto-based adventure travel company that’s asking you to trust them to plan a 22-day uncharted expedition from Kazakhstan to Mongolia where the only thing you know is that you don’t know anything. Except where it starts, where it ends, and that you’ll be doing some epic shit along the way.
“The idea is to experience it all like a local, not knowing what’s happening every day,” says Leigh Barnes, Intrepid’s Director of North America. “But expect to be eating a lot of local food, interacting with locals, getting out and doing treks, and a lot of interaction with people who live there.”
If you’re not familiar, 30-year-old Intrepid Travel is known for putting its guests in the thick of local culture all over the world. Whether that means eating at restaurants you’d never read about online, staying with host families instead of hotels, or spending entire afternoons walking the streets conversing with people you’d never otherwise talk to.
Intrepid’s first trip was back in 1989, when the company’s co-founders loaded a truck with all their friends and took it on an unplanned trip through Africa. This trip harkens back to that spirit, though this time around they’ve liaised with local tour and transportation companies to provide experienced guides and a well-thought-out experience. You just don’t know what it is.
“We thought the world needed more intrepid people,” says Barnes. “Getting out, being curious, getting out of their comfort zone. Travel challenges people and makes them a better person, and we think of this as a different kind of challenge.”
The trip starts June 30, 2019 in Astana, Kazakhstan and finishes just over three weeks later in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. It’ll traverse all sorts of terrain, visit tiny towns you won’t even find on Google maps, and get you closer to the people and sights of this region than you’d get on any other type of group tour. As Intrepid says on its website, “One day you could be hiking through the world’s most remote and breathtaking landscapes; the next, soothing your aching muscles in a sauna in the middle of nowhere.” Intrepid promises there’ll be spotty-at-best Wifi, and no guarantees of electricity where you go. It’s limited to 10 people, and those interested must apply online.
The application process isn’t like applying to be on The Bachelor or anything. Barnes says the company just wants to make sure you have the physical abilities to so some of the stuff they have planned. He wouldn’t elaborate on what that was, but assume you need to at least be able to walk to your mailbox without gasping for breath. The adventure will set you back $5,650, but can you really put a price on a mysterious trek through the land of Borat and yaks? No, you cannot.
So, yes, trust is difficult. And if you have issues letting your co-workers pick the lunch spot then maybe this trip is not for you. But if you’re down for a three-week adventure through a remote land with people who’ve spent three decades curating once-in-a-lifetime adventures, then this may be the best five grand you ever spend. You’ll completely detach from reality and the modern world, and if that’s your idea of vacation, this’ll be your big trip for 2019.