In front of me is an aluminium rectangle filled with more knowledge, wisdom and cat pictures than I could absorb in just one lifetime. It's a wonderful time to be alive when you can find out how many calories are in a pineapple with just a quick Google search, but it's just such a dull and meaningless existence.
We know too much these days. Or rather we know nothing but it's easy to find something out. Why do you even care who that guy who plays one of Thor's mates is (Chuck)? It's all unnecessary, superfluous and pointless information. But it's there to cure our fear of the unknown.
So why am I writing this? Because the unknown is fun! As technology people (and if you're on this site you are a technology person) we strive to have the latest shiny things to make our lives easier. I'm done. I've had it. I'm going to put technology to the back of my mind and make life exciting again.
In July I'll taking part in an unsupported drive from the UK to Mongolia in a cheap hatchback. I have no idea about mechanics, I have no idea about the Middle East and I, currently, have no real idea where Ulaanbaatar is.
I'm travelling with a school friend of mine, Henry, and his friend from university, Ash. We make up 5 Camels, 1 Chameleon -- y'know, like the Culture Club song. We'll travel 10,000 miles through deserts, mountain ranges and open plains for no particular reason other than because we can.
Ok, that's a bit self-indulgent. But you can give us a reason! We're raising money for an amazing charity, Chance UK. They're based just around the corner from us in Finsbury Park, North London and do fantastic work to improve the lives of primary school children with behavioural difficulties by offering mentorship. Go on, help us persuade our bosses this isn't just a fool's errand and chuck them a few quid by going here. It really is a worthy cause.
We've not actually bought a car yet (most of our money has gone on visas) but it'll most likely be a shitbox like the mighty Suzuki Wagon R. There won't be any support from any rectangles either; I mean the data roaming in Iran is extortionate, and there aren't many plugs in the desert. So I will be unable to find out how many calories are in a pineapple, or who played Watson in the latest Sherlock series... or more importantly, how to repair an axle.
GPS? Pfft who needs it -- a compass will work even where there aren't any roads! Most of Mongolia is plains, so you just keep heading east. There are also the stars -- oK, we probably won't use them if I'm honest, but I'm sure one of us will break the compass at some point and it's a nice idea to be totally reliant on stars.
The route itself is really vague, we have a start and an end point and we know roughly which countries we need to go through. Memorising which order the Stans come in is a challenge though. Was it Turkmenistan or Tajikistan first? But we'll be deciding where to stay and what to do as we go along. We're pretty much going to travel that distance with paper maps, the kind you can't easily fold in a very small car.
The route itself takes us through 24 countries, and it's pretty much guaranteed you won't recognise all of the flags...
There are some amazing things on the way too, like the Door to Hell in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan's desert-ified Aral Sea and the infamous Pamir Highway, the second highest road in the world. The full route is a third of the planet; the map below should give you an idea of how far it is:
We're packing light but will have a luxurious three-man tent with us for those cosy nights in the mountains. Or we may just be sleeping in the car -- not a comfortable option. A friend of mine who did this in 2011 told me that Tehran in particular is swarming with police who don't take kindly to people kipping in cars, so that bit we'll have to make up.
Did I mention none of us have any mechanical skills whatsoever? Oh, and that we're in a bit of a rush to complete our mission? I've very generously been offered five weeks off work. There's a high chance it'll take quite a bit longer than that if I'm taken prisoner in Russia, in which case I won't be back. Ever. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
So, here's to the unknown! We are, as a society, hugely reliant on technology... even my mum. What I hope is that I'll come back from this trip and look at technology in a different way. Not as something to rely upon, but as something to give me a helping hand when I need it. That's probably the way it should be -- my servant, and not my master.
I'll badger you all one more time, if you don't mind. Be nice and donate something to the kids of Finsbury Park and I will be immensely grateful.
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