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What do you hope to accomplish?

Mongolia is a country rich in culture and tradition, but it is sadly often overlooked and under-appreciated.  Once the center of the largest empire the world has ever seen, the transition to capitalism after centuries of a more community-based society has not been easy on Mongolia.  The country is now plagued by many problems resulting from unchecked overgrazing, climate change, crumbling former Soviet infrastructure, and the relocation of its population to urban centers that are already over capacity.  The goal of The Mongolian Experiment is to raise awareness of Mongolia’s vibrant and multifaceted culture as well as bring attention to the problems and issues it is currently facing in the hope of garnering more international support for the country.

Is anyone else involved in this project?

You all are!  Once in Mongolia, I will be completing this project entirely on my own, with the help of a local guide, but until I step off that plane, anyone who reads or contributes to this blog is, in effect, involved in the project.  This project is ultimately for the public, and I feel that getting as much public input as possible shifts their role from purely consumers to participants as well.  I couldn’t do it without you all, so you’re just as much a part of the project as I am.

How will you be getting around?

This is one of the aspects I hope to get some input on, but for right now, I plan on attempting to accomplish as much of the trip as possible via horseback.  There are several reasons for this, but my two biggest concerns with transportation were reliability/continuity and approachability.  A breakdown of a car or motorcycle could leave me stranded for weeks while I await the proper replacement parts, but injury of a horse can be remedied fairly easily via purchase of a new horse.  As for approachability, I want to make sure that the people I come across in the course of my expedition view me as an outsider as little as possible.  By approaching them on horseback, I am, in effect, approaching them on a level that they can understand, and thus they will (hopefully) be more likely to open up to me than if I arrived in a jeep they couldn’t afford with ten years of income.

What do you hope to gain or learn in the course of this project?

Ah, the questions about motives!  I have always had a compulsion to document the world around me, which is what first attracted me to journalism.  Through TME, I hope to gain more experience in the various facets of journalism and documentary work.  After the project is completed, I am planning on parlaying my experiences with TME into a more full-time job in the fields of journalism or documentary work.

Why Mongolia?

I have always had a fascination with wide open spaces, and Mongolia has one of the largest expanses of grassland on the planet.  I used to be an East Asian Studies major and feel that Mongolia and much of Central Asia are under-studied and their cultures are largely unknown by most of the world.  I also love adventure and to me, Mongolia is one of the last great frontiers on earth.

How much will this cost?

An undertaking as significant as The Mongolian Experiment predictably requires some pretty substantial funding.  Until the project is more solidified, I will not have a hard and fast budget, but for now, my estimate for total expenses is somewhere between $10-$17,000 USD.  That estimate includes airfare, the purchasing of necessary equipment, hiring of a guide, and other various expenses.  If gear is loaned to me or provided by sponsors, the cost will go down respectively.  I am assuming that I will be able to find sponsorship for at least some of the necessary gear, but for the purposes of transparency, my current funding estimate accounts for personal purchase of all necessary equipment.

How can I help?

There are a number of ways you can help out The Mongolian Experiment.  You can give advice, give me equipment, donate to the project, or even just help spread the word.  To find out more details on all the different ways you can help TME, please see the How can I Help? page.