06/19/2013 10:43 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A 20-Something's Reactions: Why I'm Mongolia-Bound

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Thus ends a haunting poem by Pulitzer Prize winner Mary Oliver, and so begins an illuminating conversation. Harvard Business School asks its students this probing and quietly insistent question every year in its Portrait Project. Likely, the purpose is multifold. A potential goal is to preserve students' candid responses for the Internet's version of antiquity, both as a consecration of its participants and as an inspiration for those that follow.

Alternatively, the movement can be seen as another call-to-arms of the young, of the 20-somethings in the modern age to live fully and act consciously. There has been an outpouring of messages and memes regarding the need to travel while young and that 30 is not, in fact, the new 20, among other similar messages. They certainly have a more positive and forceful tone than the earlier spate of articles warning of Millennials being stuck in a proverbial rut of extended adolescence. I would much rather lap up that sort of motivational speech than read about my supposed struggle to reach emerging adulthood.

In that vein, in the spirit of seizing my own travel-happy and discovering my own opportunities, I've signed up this summer for a special rendition of the "Mongol Rally." The Mongol Rally consists of a road trip across the Eurasian continent, starting from London and ending in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. We've plotted out our pit stops across a dozen or so countries, coming out at just over 10,000 miles. Granted, we may be taking a more circuitous route than necessary, but the objective was never to hightail it to Ulaanbaatar at breakneck speed.

I use the name "Mongol Rally" loosely, as it has a couple of actual official renditions. As I am embarking on this journey with fellow incoming classmates, we would be unable to follow the set times of those races. As Mongol Rally has always been termed an unsupported adventure, we are taking that notion to the extreme and doing the Mongol Rally entirely of our own initiative.

Here, I won't risk rehashing what will probably sound like trite reasons to travel young -- to expand our worldviews, to learn to become more compassionate, to be driven to action, and to fulfill our mandates as socially conscious and responsible youth. Though such a litany may provoke some eye-rolls, much as one's life-changing study abroad experience might elicit some sarcasm, I can't say that I am above such sentimentality. Living and working abroad did transform me. It created this upwelling of desire to continue moving, doing, giving, learning, loving.

I am excited for this summer because it will truly be nothing like I have ever encountered before. Our ambitious and overeager itinerary trawls across Germany, Poland, the Baltic countries, Russia, Central Asia, and finally, Mongolia. Some of these countries are names that I have seen in print, but am probably mispronouncing. Other countries are only caricatures that I have seen in films, most notably Borat in all its infamy.


We kind of have a plan and just enough time -- a hard stop after a little more than six weeks on the road, given the start of a new school semester. I don't dare speak for the rest of my convoy as to their motivations, just as characterizing the whole of the Millennial generation is a tricky proposition, but at least personally, I can point to that question. That edged question that cautions us against throwing away our wild and precious lives, though seemingly straightforward, thrums with the possibilities. There are multitudes upon multitudes of responses. As many as there are definitions for happiness.

The adventure begins July.