When preparing for a trip abroad, it can be tempting to plan out every moment—after all, on a once-in-a-lifetime visit, you don’t want to miss a single highlight. But sometimes fate (or Mother Nature) has a different agenda, and you may find yourself experiencing a moment you never expected. For Judy O., that spontaneous moment turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of her Mongolian adventure.
By Judy O., 20-time traveler & Vacation Ambassador from Rockland, MA
In late August 2013, my husband, Tom, and I set off on an amazing back-to-back trip: Mongolia with the pre-trip to Kunming followed by the Baltics with the pre-trip to Kiev. We talk about this trip often as it was so wonderful, and we called it “Following in the footsteps of Genghis Khan,” for he, too, went to almost all of the places we visited.
One of my favorite stories from this trip occurred while we camped at Lake Khovsgol in the north of Mongolia. On September 8th, while we were out visiting a nomadic family, the snow became so heavy that our guide had to postpone the rest of the day’s planned activities. Instead, we spent a wonderful afternoon in the lodge playing the Mongolian game of ankle bones. While we had loads of fun and laughed a lot, this is just the precursor to my story, which occurred on a very best September 9th.
On that day, we did the rest of the activities that we’d missed on the 8th, as well as the ones that were already planned for the 9th. When it came time to go on the mid-afternoon horseback ride, I was feeling rather tired and not full of adventure, so Tom decided to enjoy his ride without me. While he was out, I stayed near the lodge, enjoying the invigorating fresh air and bright blue sky as I knitted outside.
Soon, the nomadic women came and set up their wares near the walkway, and when they were done, two of them sat down to knit. I took my knitting and sat beside one of them, and she noticed that the heel of my sock was knit differently than hers: Mine was double thick as it was reinforced. She gestured about this and I explained it was reinforced and then proceeded to show her how to knit it my way. She and her friend watched intently and then tried it and got it.
She went to her blanket of wares on the ground, came over with a black stone bracelet and said, “I want to make you a gift” and gave me the bracelet. It was such a fabulous moment of friendship across the world and one that I shall never forget. I had a friend take my camera and capture us knitting. As I told the story at home, I often explained that I felt bad as I had nothing to give her, but everyone always says the same thing: “You taught her something valuable and she appreciated it.”
Expect the unexpected on OAT’s Mongolia & the Gobi Desert adventure.