In 2001, a British man named Tom Morgan decided to host an extreme car race. It would start in Britain and end in what he thought was the world’s most difficult destination for most people to reach: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, more than 5,500 miles away.
He called it the Mongol Rally. Participants had to drive the worst car they could find, avoid any planning and have as much fun as possible. Only six cars raced the first year. But interest grew as people began to talk about the rally online.
“It’s gone ballistic,” Morgan said. More than 2,000 teams are on the wait-list to join the next Mongol Rally.
The growing popularity of the race is one example of interest in trips to remote destinations. Adventure travel companies and insurance providers are reporting record sales this year. “We’ve never been busier,” said Michael Pullman, head of marketing for Wild Frontiers, an adventure travel company. Global Rescue, a company that offers emergency rescues to clients anywhere in the world, said consumer sales were 36 percent higher last year than in 2019 (the last year before the pandemic).
The companies say their clients are skipping Bali or Santorini in favor of destinations with less tourism infrastructure. The number of visitors to Antarctica has more than tripled in the last decade. Nepal granted a record number of permits to climb Mount Everest this year. And car rental companies in Mongolia sold out of S.U.V.s this summer, as I discovered during a road trip across the country.
Experts attribute the surging interest, in part, to pandemic restrictions and precautions that kept people at home. After Covid lockdowns, people have been eager to travel far. “People want to feel a sense of freedom again,” Max Muench, a co-founder of the travel company Follow the Tracks, said.
They also have a sense that time is precious and they should cross off bucket-list items, Pullman said. Wild Frontiers has seen more interest in places like Mongolia, Namibia and Uzbekistan, where bookings are up 150 percent compared with 2019.
Social media is also responsible, experts say. Instagram is filled with posts advertising foreign destinations. The posts are social currency, conferring status on users who share images from remote places.
“People know their posts will be the envy of the neighborhood,” Dan Richards, Global Rescue’s chief executive, said. “So they’re going to Bhutan instead of buying a BMW.”
Some governments see the surging interest in adventure tourism as an economic opportunity for their countries. They have invested in social media marketing campaigns to bring in even more visitors. The Mongolian government has invited influencers to come and post videos of the country’s verdant valleys, Caribbean-blue lakes and orange sand dunes.
But by bringing in more tourists, the governments endanger their countries’ reputations as remote destinations. While tourists bring their wallets, spurring economic development, they can also bring pollution and destruction to environments and social changes to communities.
“The country is changing very rapidly,” said Breanna Wilson, a travel expert in Mongolia. “It’s not going to be this Wild West for much longer.”
Read more about the rise of adventure tourism in Mongolia here.
More on travel
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The trees that logging companies planted to make up for cutting down forests have become the kindling for Canadian wildfires, Claire Cameron writes.
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The Sunday question: Does Biden’s conduct deserve a House impeachment inquiry?
Biden’s involvement with his son Hunter’s business dealings hardly meets the bar for an ordinary crime, much less a high crime or misdemeanor, and the investigation is “a revenge mission and nothing more,” Norman Eisen writes for CNN. But having seen how Democrats undermined the criminal investigation into Hunter Biden, Republicans had no choice but “to get to the bottom of the Biden family’s alleged corruption,” The Washington Post’s Marc A. Thiessen writes.
Earlier this year, I spoke with Jenny Odell, the author of “Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock,” about the perils of time management.
You’re skeptical about whether any time-management mind-set can lead to a more substantive relationship with time. But who’s to say that someone can’t find fulfillment by treating time as something he or she can get better returns on?
My skepticism is about that way of thinking of time as being offered as a solution to someone who doesn’t have control of their time — that if they controlled their time in this grid-like way, they could succeed in life. I think that person has the potential to use that way of thinking very self-punitively.
You’ve said that the return-on-investment view of time goes in the direction of meaninglessness. I want to know more about why you think that.
There’s the question of why you do anything. There’s something about that culture of making everything more efficient that risks avoiding that question of why. A life of total efficiency and convenience? Well, why?
Do you have advice for how people might answer that question for themselves?
Like, what is the meaning of life?
Someone who’s completely habitual is liable to see days as being pieces of material that you use to achieve your goals. There’s degrees between that and someone who’s so open to every moment that they’re dysfunctional, but I want to live closer to that second pole. Things that are enlivening to me tend to be encounters where you are changed by the end. To me those are the reminders that, yeah, I will be different in the future, therefore I have a reason to live, which is to find out what that change is going to be.
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Make a chocolate cake in one bowl.
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THE WEEK AHEAD
What to Watch For
The Senate is set to reconvene tomorrow and will discuss a bipartisan spending package that a lone Republican senator, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, held up.
Biden and other world leaders will begin meeting in New York on Tuesday for the U.N.’s annual gathering.
Milan Fashion Week begins on Tuesday.
The Federal Reserve will release its next interest rate decision on Wednesday.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine is expected to visit Washington on Thursday, as Congress debates whether to send his country a multibillion-dollar aid package.
Saturday is the first day of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.