Authentic connections, rhubarb moments…

…and lots and lots of cheese perfectly describe our time together in Mongoliaaaa. If we bonded over anything, it was the inconsistent bowel movements and our unwavering gratitude for the experiences we had (including those moments in two tents with a roll of toilet paper and the steppe, which was much better than any magazine). To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to be swept off my feet by the beautiful landscapes, hospitable locals, and genuine connections made with my traveling companions. In the only way I could describe it, Mongolia had some big shoes to fill after my experiences and memories from Baja + Guyana, and it did just that. As comfort levels between individuals rose and the cheese kept coming, I realized how important this place and the people were going to be (and still are today).


Connection is something that I cherish deeply and have found myself seeking on each EE over the years. I have learned from my traveling experiences that the people you meet can enhance the memories and enrich your life in ways you never thought possible. Mongolia provided us with an incredible group of caring, memory-making, adventure-seeking people who are easily considered my second family. I was genuinely surprised by how bonded we became within the first few hours of meeting each other, which was a beautiful feeling. Our in-country hosts were some of the most kind and welcoming individuals I have met, and opened our eyes to their world of music, nature, and culture. They were more than willing to answer our questions and were similarly curious about our lifestyles at home (as well as the ladies’ relationship statuses).
With the cohesion of a familial unit came an abundance of “rhubarb moments”, happy tears, and open hearts. I tend to consider myself an “extroverted introvert”, keeping to myself initially and warming up to others over time, and find more enjoyment in listening than sharing. As challenging as I sometimes found it to open up and express my thoughts with others, there was something about the friendships we cultivated that kept pushing me to trust and open up. They were authentic, true, and special connections. While everyone shared their stories and emotions in different ways, we supported each other just the same, and found happiness and laughter with each other.
Even though we didn’t act on our tattoo plans in that beautiful country, the connections and moments we made together are permanently engrained in my memory and close to my heart. We may physically be apart, but remain together, bound by our love for the steppe and each other.
Amy Geibel
Started off as a group of icons in Project Dragonfly Workshops, brought together in one beautiful place.
Assembling a ger literally brought us together (and we quickly realized how difficult this can be without all the extra hands).
Acro-yoga on the steppe with new friends.
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After several days of experiencing Mongolian culture, completing inquiry-based activities, being part of a “C” or “D” team for days on end, sharing rhubarb moments, ingesting copious amounts of dairy, and exploring the beauty of the surrounding landscape, we were able to relish the memories and relationships built in the steppe.
A brief moment of connection captured by Randy. 🙂

Look up, look down, avoid running into trees…

…and tripping over roots. Life is all around us, constantly filling any silence with diverse sounds and displaying vivid colors to catch our eye. The plants and animals that make up this world can be breathed in, seen, felt, and heard when one knows where and how to do so. Guyana’s biodiversity is overwhelming, it is beautiful, and it is also a challenge. When I first experienced this country’s incredible ecosystem, my senses were overflowing and there was so much to take in.

The rare sightings and frequent sounds of birds always seemed to take priority during our time in Guyana. The country’s nearly-pristine rainforest is the perfect place to take in the surroundings and listen to various tropical bird species. The dense foliage provided difficult opportunities to find birds through my binoculars, yet their songs and calls seemingly begged for my eyes to remain searching upward towards the canopy. And that’s where they remained, until we went on transect lines to search for mammal tracks in the soft earth — this is where the challenge was for me! As we walked through the forest, I felt like a bobble-head, looking up to follow birds and glancing down to prevent myself from tripping over tree roots. Each time we spotted new and captivating tracks, I had to consciously keep my eyes down and prevent my ears from drifting back to the ongoing sounds of avian life (sorry, Matt).

Learning to explore wildlife and the world from every angle was a core theme — and apparently, challenge — that stuck with me throughout this Earth Expedition, and it is something I still think about to this day (when my attention is not focused on birds). While I would consider myself an observant person with solid awareness, there is always room for growth when exploring the unknown areas of the world.

Amy Geibel

Flying over the rainforest canopy to Iwokrama, not knowing just how much life dwells within.
Evidence of elusive life on the ground.
One of the coolest sights during my Guyana experience — Scarlet Ibis flying overhead! Photo cred: Becca Weaver. 🙂

In the outskirts of your comfort zone, find your moment…

…and be in it, live in it fully, cherish it, drink it in. Being able to take a step back from the “norms” of work, technology, priorities, to-do lists, and social lives takes practice and mental strength; Baja, Mexico provided many amazing opportunities for us to try and let go, relax, and be in the “now”. From starry night skies we experienced from the comfort of canvas cots, to the playful sea life that raced our boats and brought us to joyful tears, it was very difficult to not be in the moment.

One impactful moment for me was when we sat in a circle on the final day and shared terms, thoughts, quotes, stories, and memories of our experiences with the natural world. Even after knowing each other for eight or nine long days in the Baja peninsula, I had never felt more connected to each of my peers and instructors, not just as friends, but as a cohesive, familial unit.

Learning how to appreciate the moments and live in them fully is oftentimes accompanied by one’s ability to exceed beyond the limits of their comfort zone. During our first group discussion, we talked about the three zones embedded in our personal experiences: the comfort zone (eating a grilled cheese in your home), the risk zone (eating foreign foods of a different culture), and the danger zone (eating sharp, inedible objects). We were each encouraged to take advantage of our time in Baja and wander to the risk area of our comfort zones. For me, the risk zone was experienced throughout the trip: surrendering the use of our phones while in Baja, opening up to my peers, giving presentations to the rest of the group, and swimming with whale sharks (I have yet to encounter a greater, more thrilling moment…).

Overall, this first Earth Expedition trip to Baja was extremely rewarding, challenging, and full of memorable experiences. I have been able to apply some of the life lessons gained from Baja in my daily life at home, and hope to continue embracing the “now” and stretching the limits of my own comfort zone.

“Tienes que estar donde tus pies están.”

Amy Geibel

Pre-Baja: head down, phone on, mostly oblivious to surroundings.
Pre-Baja: head down, phone on, mostly oblivious to surroundings.
Experiencing the excitement from the travel-bug, with fewer distractions on the mind.
Experiencing the excitement from the travel-bug, with fewer distractions on the mind.
After days of inquiry-based learning, bumpy van rides, amazing Mexican food, "sunscreen, water, journal, hat!", bucket showers, desert and sea creatures, rewarding hikes, and many incredible memories, we were able to share and live in the moment(s) together as a Baja family.
After days of inquiry-based learning, bumpy van rides, amazing Mexican food, “sunscreen, water, journal, hat!”, bucket showers, desert and sea creatures, rewarding hikes, and many contagious laughs, we were able to share and live in the moment(s) together as a Baja family.