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Off to Mongolia

By Christopher Schonberger

I'm "mailing" this post in via BlackBerry because I've been hustling like a madman to get ready for my trip to...Mongolia!?! There was a time when I never would have predicted that I'd ever go to Mongolia, but life is funny like that—you find yourself a girlfriend, her father's a diplomat, and the next thing you know you're booking a flight to Ulaan Bataar. Now I'm finally at the airport and the reality is settling in. I'm off to the land of Ghengis Khan, yak-drawn carts, and people with names that sound like they were born in a fantasy fiction novel.

Taking the facts above as a given, I don't think I've ever been on a trip where I knew so little about the place I was going. I feel like Marco Polo! Though I'm sure Marco didn't get vaccinated for infectious diseases before hitting the road....probably why he's not still with us today.

[20 minutes later...]

I've made it through security. I'm Batman! The flight boards soon and I need to track down a terrible rap magazine, so I'll leave you with three things I learned getting ready for this trip.

1. Going to Mongolia is expensive. The financial reality of going on vacation takes on a new meaning after college when you start calculating costs as "x paychecks" or "y months of rent." In many ways, this trip is inappropriately expensive, but when else am I going to go to Mongolia? My best advice is to really make an effort to be frugal for the month or two before going away. Xbox is great and all, but I find that nothing motivates good budgeting habits better than the promise of an amazing vacay. Also, if you really have a "once in a lifetime" opportunity, it might be time to call in some "early birthday presents" or IOUs from family members. One of the overlooked benefits of having divorced parents is that you can ask both of them to help you out with a trip and they both think you don't feel comfortable asking the other. Cash back!

2. You can get vaccinations done last minute, but it's not recommended. I literally made an appointment at a travel clinic yesterday morning and got jabbed in the afternoon, but I'm sure I paid for the convenience. And fortunately I didn't need any of the shots that you need to get at least a week in advance. My problem is that I don't have my medical records (thanks mom!), so I was basically just doing guess work as to what vaccines I'd already had. Do yourself a favor: track down this info, and when you do get vaccinated keep the yellow sheet they give you recording the details. This way you won't end up paying for extraneous injections or getting typhoid because of a cavalier attitude. (Incidentally, my other problem is that when you put me in a room with some vaccines, I'm like a girl at an outlet mall. Diphtheria? That sounds bad, fire it up. Rabies? Yes please. That weird Japanese disease? Arrigato!)

3. Taking a vacation is more complicated when you're working. No longer does everyone get the same 3 months off to read one book. Now, two weeks is considered long and you have to make arrangements so that you don't throw your colleagues under the bus. Plan ahead so that you don't end up writing blog entries 5 minutes before take-off on your blackberry!

On that note, I gotta jet. I'll see you on the flipside, hopefully with a few tales to tell.

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