Lets get this straight.
My previous post about my twelve-hour bus ride to Choibalsan was not meant to scare or deter any woman from traveling. Women, get out there- travel, explore and learn through experience… just don’t be ignorant to potential risks.
I have been living this nomadic life for a little over a month, and while I’ve experienced some interesting exchanges with strangers, that bus ride was the only negative one so far.
Traveling alone is magical. Truly. It puts you in a vulnerable position that inherently opens you to others. Think about it. If you were looking for someone to talk to in a restaurant/ café/ bar; whom will you approach? A group of people who seem to all be friends or someone who is standing/sitting/dancing by themselves? Probably the latter, right? Additionally, and especially when you’re in the company of locals, people are likely to help and look after you.
On the 12-hour bus ride back to Ulaanbaatar from Choibalsan, I was the only foreigner- again. This was a night bus, so we left Choibalsan around 8pm and we were to arrive in Ulaanbaatar at 6am. Still without a phone, I told Ryan via Bea prior to leaving not to worry and that I’d wing it to get from the bus station to his apartment. I did come here for an adventure, right? I sat on the bus, seat 14, next to the window, but this time, it was an older woman who sat next to me. Despite her hacking up a lung and her little interest in who I was, I felt comfortable falling asleep next to her. The bus stopped about an hour and a half in and some people got off the bus. I wasn’t sure if this was a food stop or a bathroom break so I remained in my seat. About 5 minutes later I decided, either way, it’d be good to stretch my legs so I got off the bus and walked aimlessly in the dark with my head up: stargazing. I returned to the bus and wrapped my scarf around my face to warm up a bit. A woman a little older than myself ran onto the bus and walked to my seat. “Have you eaten?” she said in perfect English. With a smile, I nodded, still full from the PB&J I scarfed down before leaving Bea’s only a couple hours before. She smiled and retreated off the bus again. It was with that quick exchange that I knew I had a friend on the bus and all my built up anxieties melted away.
Many hours later we arrived at the bus station in Ulaanbaatar at 5am: an hour early. My plan to walk off the bus and down the street to catch a cab that would be cheaper than any of the ones waiting to rip off foreigners at the bus station was immediately ruined when I fell victim to the first taxi driver I made eye contact with. I was tired, I guess, and all I wanted to do was get to Ryan’s and sleep. In a bed. The taxi driver led me to his car and I got in the back seat. With the map out on my phone and the little Mongolian I learned from riding around the city with Ryan, I tried to explain where I needed to go. It wasn’t working. At that point, a man had ran after me and opened up the cab door. “Where are you going?” He asked. I tried to give him the same explanation as I did to the taxi driver, but he too did not know where I was going. “Let me get my bags, we’ll ride together,” he said. While waiting for this man to get his stuff from under the bus, the taxi driver pulled out his phone and began showing me pictures of his family. His son-in-law too, was a foreigner.
The man returned with his stuff and got into the taxi. As I directed the cab towards Ryan’s, the man sitting next to me asked me about my travels and learned that I was headed to Vietnam to find a job. “Vietnam? I can give you a job in Choibalsan!”… I didn’t take him up on his offer, but I thanked him for catching a ride with me, even though it was in the opposite direction from where he was going. With the help of this man, and my new friendship with the taxi driver, I didn’t get overcharged. Helping me with my bags, the taxi driver gave me a hug and we parted ways.
I’ll continue to repeat this again and again: People are good.