This Friday, we fly to Helsinki, our last flight until the very end of September, and on Saturday we catch our first of many, many, so many trains, this one to Saint Petersburg, which means that that entire train ride I will be singing the following lyric from “Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812”, which is simultaneously impressive for the very high falsetto from Lucas Steele but also f-ing hilarious for the very high falsetto from Lucas Steele:
For the first week of our trip, our cousin Adam is meeting us! So fun! He was one of the OG’s at Weebly, which hosts this very blog, so hopefully he can help me bypass any blocks and post updates! After Petersburg and Moscow, we train on through to Vladimir, Suzdal, Yekaterinburg, and Irkutsk in Russia. Then, we minibus for like a whole day (ahhh where do I peeeeee) to Olkhon Island, which is a pain in the ass to get to but everyone says once you get there it’s so worth it. I’m so excited. I hope it’s not too cold to swim in the lake. After we hypotherm it up, we train to our last stop in Russia, Ulan-Ude, before entering Ulan Bator, Mongolia, WHERE THERE IS A LOVING HUT. By that point in our travels, I will be so excited to find an all-vegan restaurant that I don’t even care that Loving Huts make you swear allegiance to the cult of the Supreme Master before they give you delicious food that all tastes the same no matter what you order.
Once in Mongolia, we will be celebrating the annual national festival of Naadam. Naadam celebrates the “three games of men” – wrestling, horse racing, and archery, which (aside from the horse racing which I am crossing my fingers is non-violent but when is horse racing ever non-violent?) is a hilarious concept to base a festival around. I hope Robin of Loxley shows up for archery and I can yell about how someone split Robin’s arrow in twaaaaain. In Mongolia (I can’t believe I’m going to Mongolia), we are meeting up with our crazier-than-us friend Sivani from Ever the Wayfarer because when you say to the California-based Sivani ‘hey we should hang out again soon’ she says ‘sure I will meet you in Mongolia that would be easiest for me.’
After Mongolia, we finish Section 1 by training to Beijing, where we begin Section 2 – literally all of China. Well I guess not literally all but we have more than 40 days there so we are seeing a shittonne of it. Right now, the only song I can think of to provide the soundtrack is Tori Amos’s “China” which is kind of a downer so if anyone can make some suggestions I definitely need them. (Am I having a total brain fart or are there no China-based musicals? Booo.) We’re visiting Beijing, Shanghai (bunsssss! I want steamed bunssss), Nanxun, Hangzhou, Huangshan, Guilin, Yangshuo, Chengdu (origin (not) of my dad’s Chinese restaurant staple, Chengdu triple delight!), Xi’an, and then through the western border via Urumqi and Kashgar. I’m gonna see giant pandas!! And so much other stuff. A lot of stuff. It’s hard to wrap my head around anything past Moscow right now but hopefully I will figure out a way to blog while in China or at least very soon after we leave so I can share everything we do.
We exit China into Kyrgyzstan, which honestly I didn’t know was a real place until we decided to go there. We have a lot of hikes and a lotttt of horseback riding in Kyrgyzstan because that is how they get from place to place, and no matter how much I don’t want to do that, you have to in order to visit this country. The beautiful, remote places we will get to should make it worth it. After almost 2 weeks in Kyrgs, we bus (peeee???) into Kazakhstan, which we are really excited about because we are going to make sooooo maaaaany Boooooraaaat jooooookes. They will hate us but man alive is that going to be hilarious just to the two of us. Chinqui!
After Kazakhstan, we will be going to Uzbekistan, so by this point our trip is a huge challenge for Herman Cain to talk about. We see all the things (it’s not until SEPTEMBER I can’t fit the details in my brain just yet) before returning to Moscow via Volgograd to catch the train to Kiev, Ukraine. We are going to visit Chernobyl when there, which seems a little scary because of radioactivity but we decided to do it because who knows how much longer the planet has left anyway. From Kiev, we take the train to Warsaw, Poland, which I am really excited about because I’ve never been to Poland and that’s where the other half of my paternal ancestors are from (the maternals are all eye-tals it’s a spicy meataball! I’m so good at accents of my people). More of I go to old country! Finally, after Poland, we take our 500th and final train (at least of this trip) to Berlin, Germany, one of our favorite cities in the world, where Husband and I got engaged and the vegan food is beyond belief. Even though we won’t be there for three and a half months, I already know what I’m ordering from that all-vegan French bakery. Oh and vegan doner kebab! I’m going to be hungry. I have so many nuts and protein bars in my backpack.
From Berlin, we fly back to London, where we will probably have to be reacclimated to normal life like astronauts when they come back from space except hopefully we will have gotten better, not worse, at walking.
Jeez I’m tired just talking about everything we’re going to do! It’s going to be quite a challenge for me considering I’ll be doing without my four favorite things in the world (sleep, television, gyms, green smoothies with Vega) but I think I will be better for it. (Ha you thought I was going to say theatre but we already have amazing tickets for the opera and the ballet in the next two weeks dance dance dance emojis!)
I know it’s kind of scary to be going to some of these places at this turbulent time. And I realize how, um, awkward it is to be going to Russia when their involvement in the election is the top issue right now (and should be until it’s resolved). But as we learned in the last month, it’s just as safe, or not safe, in London as it is anywhere we could go. We’re all at risk of some sort as soon as we get out of bed each day, but we can’t let that fear dictate how we live our lives, because a sheltered unexamined life is easily wasted (although there is a good Broadway musical song extolling its virtues hello “Wicked” shoutout). I know that’s high talk coming from me, since I am the biggest scaredycat and worrywart (#scaredywortworrycat) out there, but I want to travel and I want to have fun and see the whole world and I can’t do that from my couch, as much as I love couch. You have to do stuff, is what I’m saying, and live your life without fear of the worst possible outcome, because all the other outcomes are pretty great, and regardless I think we’re all in some version of The Matrix anyway.
But on that note, I’m not going to be writing about any political issues or anything controversial in places like Russia and China, at least not while I’m in their jurisdiction. As outspoken and political as I am, it would be beyond stupid to risk anything in countries whose freedom of speech laws are more restrictive than I’m used to.
I’m not sure about the internet connection I’ll have over the next 3 ½ months, and when I do have internet, I’m not sure which sites will be blocked (except for in China, where I know everything is blocked). I’ll do my best to blog as much as I can, so make sure to keep checking back on the home page for updates (that’s the best way, because I know facebook and twitter updates will be hard if not impossible, and Weebly doesn’t have a program for sending emails to subscribers when new posts are up (dammit Adam!)).
So that’s the big exciting news! What an adventure it will be! Be sure to follow along. And if you have been to any of the places we are going to, please comment or email (link at top) with any tips, advice, and recommendations you have! Da svidanyaaaaa!