|1||Saint Petersburg, Russia||December 31, 2016|
|2||Moscow, Russia||January 3, 2017|
|3||Irkutsk, Russia||January 6, 2017|
|4||Ulan-Ude, Russia||January 7, 2017|
|5||Naushki, Russia||January 7, 2017|
|6||Sukhbaatar, Mongolia||January 7, 2017|
|7||Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, Mongolia||January 8, 2017|
|8||Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia||January 9, 2017|
|9||Zamin Uud, Mongolia||January 10, 2017|
|10||Erlian, China||January 10, 2017|
|11||Hohhot, China||January 10, 2017|
|12||Beijing, China||January 11, 2017|
|13||Xi'an, China||January 12, 2017|
|14||Lhasa, China||January 13, 2017|
|15||Yamdrok Lake, China||January 15, 2017|
|16||Shigatse, China||January 16, 2017|
Monsooners: Melissa “Storytime” Weinmann, Taylan “Plagues of Egypt” Stulting, JC “Closet Premed” Chan, LaiYuen “The Spy From North Korea” Looi, David “Everything Is Awesome!” Ali, Ihita “Secondhand Smoke” Kabir, June “Swedish House Mafia” Kao, Amanda “Puppy Genocide” Knarich, Mihaela “ROFLOLMAO” Kracun, Shanika “Happy Feet” Jayakody
Remarks: “I just want to say that despite all my jabs, Calvin is one of the best people to travel with. I feel our personalities mesh really well in the stress and joy that travel situations can bring, and even if I am in a crappy mood or tired or feeling snippy, he balances it out with shared frustration or humor and lightness. This is one of those moments…(more)” – Melissa Weinmann, And The World Will Be As One
“My feet are tired, my stomach is satisfied, my mind is joyful, my soul is captivated and my heart is heavy as I bid farewell to this incredible journey that, for me, has been about giving myself room to breath and second chances. The places I’ve seen, people I’ve met and conversations I’ve had over the past 3 weeks and 9,000+ miles will forever be engrained in my memory. I’m not yet ready to go back to the familiar, but rather yearning to continue exploring the world, learning about others and growing as a person all while living out of a backpack. But alas, the term beckons so until the next adventure I bid you adieu.” – Taylan Stulting
“As I wait for my last flight, I finally have time to stop and reflect the whole week and a half of DC>AMS>STP>MOS>TLL>HEL>DC. I got to see this part of the world in its wintery snow-filled glory and see how each of them celebrate their holidays around this time of year.
On our travels we often received the question “why here during the cold and winter?” from friends and locals alike. My response: Why not? Why is it absurd to come to these countries during the winter? Sure enough there might not be too much sightseeing or too many things for tourist during this time but I appreciated seeing what each city does for their local or nearby community as well as what they do to drive tourism. Plus I get props for surviving the cold 😀
From the naturally occurring (i.e. snow) to the man made (i.e. beautiful city lights and buildings), the aesthetics of these cities leave me in awe. We didn’t meet too many locals but whenever we do and have a discussion with them, it expanded my understanding of the culture and local experience.
To my #monsooners on the rest of the #monsoondiaries trip (Calvin, Melissa, David, LaiYuen, Juancarlos, Taylan, Shanika), I am bummed I won’t get to experience that leg of the Trans-Siberian journey, but I look forward to the blog posts, pictures, and posts. It doesn’t seem real that we were just in Russia now that I am ending my trip. Miss you guys already! Stay warm 🙂
As for my draft new year’s resolution to travel less, I guess I have to rewrite it to say travel less domestically because I realized I want to keep traveling but more internationally.” – June Kao
“Even as a second-time monsooner, Calvin’s trips still continue to push me past boundaries that I didn’t even know I had! I thought this one to Tibet would not be so hard since I had done pretty well in La Paz, Bolivia during Calvin’s previous trip to South America. I met up with the group after spending a few days in Beijing. We had missed our train to Xi’an but Calvin was already prepared to book flights for the next morning — Calvin’s fostering of comrades/camraderie is very unique to his trips and refused to leave anyone behind.
The trip to Tibet was intense; between the altitude sickness, brutal cold winds in Shigatse, and constant scaling up monasteries, I was ready to fly home by the last day. Despite all of this, the experience allowed me to show a lot of compassion towards myself; during my trip, I was convinced I had to figure out a lot of things on my own since most of the people in the group felt very comfortable with each other. The people I met on this trip were very supportive and luckily, Calvin created flexible itineraries in case we wanted to rest a bit more than the others.
The people you meet in the Tibetan cities had a welcoming curiosity about people who were not from Tibet. Even if you could not speak Mandarin, a smile and a wave of your hand was worth more than any RMB you could offer to the “Future Buddhas” in Tibet. Even if I was not fluent in Mandarin, I was grateful for Calvin encouraging me to use what I remembered in the Bazaars in Lhasa. That was a big step for me, in terms of guiding other members of the group on how they should approach bargaining with locals. It’s been 6+ years since I’ve used Mandarin but it was one of the best moments of the trip for me.
Also, most people think Calvin’s trips are not complete without a hookah session; however, the real truth of it is that his trips are not complete until you have delved into the deepest parts of yourself during the group conversations and realizing you are already more than you thought you were (from the beginning of the trip).
As for Beijing, it will always be one of my favorite cities (Xi’an is a close second!). People are a lot more helpful and friendly than you would expect. It’s even better to see people’s faces light up when you geive them RMB with two hands or even say ‘ni hao’ or ‘zaijian.’ If you know a few words in Mandarin, Beijing will reward you with a lot of unexpected happy memories. I’m in Beijing for a couple more days but I will really miss it when I go back to the USA. No doubt, I will miss the food, company, and irreplaceable scenery of Tibet as well.
It was quite the adventure, all thanks to Calvin and The Monsoon Diaries.
Thanks again for everything! Can’t wait till the next adventure!” – Shanika Jayakody
“❤ The most hardcore and well-traveled world backpackers on the planet.” – JC Chan
“I survived a winter in Russia. BRING IT ON 2017!” – June Kao
“I can’t believe it’s the last day of an amazing journey with these goof balls (and of course everyone else who isn’t pictured). Tonight we say our goodbyes as they fly home tomorrow while I board a 40 hour train back to Beijing where I’ll then spend 2 more days exploring and hiking the Great Wall. Thanks for an amazing 3 weeks. ” – Taylan Stulting
“Go on his f*cking trips!” – JC Chan
“Nope, not crying. I’m just allergic to clean air after Ulaanbaatar and Beijing: You’re Gonna Miss…The Trans-Mongolian & Tibet.” – Taylan Stulting
“After 3 weeks and backpacking 5000 miles through Russia, the trans-Siberian RR, Mongolia, China, and Tibet, I find it weird to be touching land in a Trumpian USA.
I made many friends along the way. Sometimes I communicated with broken Russian or Chinese. But despite wherever I go, I generally find people courteous and good natured. They bare little resemblance to their nation’s leaders or politics. We all share the universal love of good food, laughs, a decent job, and a life of meaning.
In Chengdu, after missing my connecting fight and running back and forth between the equivalent of 4 miles between two terminals, a young Chinese Etihad airlines representative, went as far to stay two hours past her shift and ensure the airport hotel calls her to ensure my safety. She let me sit in her office as I was soaked in sweat and panic she passed a water to me. I haven’t eaten in 16 hours. When I ‘thanked her so much’, she said, ‘don’t worry, I’m a good person.’
I have a lot of street photography I did in the streets of China and Tibet. The goal of my photographs was not to simply capture the touristy buildings but a candid portrait of what life is like in developing Asia. I will share those when I get back.
Now I will hang back, enjoy my last bowl of Niu Rou Mien, dream of the wonderful Korean lunch I had in St. Petersburg and dwell on the conversations that I had with my fellow backpackers, Calvin, Melissa, Taylan, LaiYuen, David, Mihaela, Ihita, Amanda, June, Shanika.” – JC Chan
“When I first looked into spending three weeks with The Monsoon Diaries backpacking through Russia, Mongolia, China and Tibet, I couldn’t be more excited at the possibility. But I was also terrified. It’s not like those are places that are known for being LGBT-friendly but rather the exact opposite. I mean who doesn’t remember the controversy from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi? I kept questioning whether or not the experience would be worth the fear, discomfort and risk.
Let me go ahead and say it was absolutely worth it. . . .
I found that, for me, merging my trans identity with travel can be a radical act of self-love by saying “fuck you” to the system that is designed to hold us down and doing something for me simply because I deserve it even though we live in a world that teaches trans people that we aren’t worthy. Traveling while trans has taught me that I am worthy and has inspired me to take on the world as an out trans person, carving out a space for my existence to be seen and validated. . . . (more)” – Taylan Stulting, Traveling While Trans on the Trans-Siberian/Mongolian