Kyrgyzstan: A few weeks ago I could barely pronounce it and certainly wasn’t able to accurately place it on a map. My knowledge of this Central Asian national was probably similar to your own, little to none. That’s all about to change though because starting this weekend I’ll be spending some time exploring this off-the-beaten path destination.
What’s going on
A few weeks ago I was asked to participate in a slightly unusual project, to be one of several writers, photographers and videographers invited to explore Kyrgyzstan as part of a larger effort sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Thanks to my own international relations experience, I was certainly familiar with the agency, but had no idea they were so heavily involved in Kyrgyzstan.
My trip is a very small aspect of a much larger program, the Business Growth Initiative Project. This 4-year project seeks to enhance the competitiveness of Kyrgyz businesses by strengthening their business practices, infrastructure and providing technical assistance. A key focus area is tourism, since by boosting tourism throughout the country many other sectors also benefit. One of the many challenges is that there isn’t much information out there about traveling to and around Kyrgyzstan, which is where I come in.
What you can expect
For the next 10-days, I will be traveling around Kyrgyzstan experiencing a wide array of activities, from cultural immersion, to sampling new foods and even mountain treks. If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know that this is somewhat outside of my comfort zone, but that’s what has me perhaps the most excited.
During this time I won’t be online everyday; it will depend on where in the country I am and what I’m doing. As I have connectivity though I’ll be sharing the experience via the usual social media channels, hopefully giving you all a better sense of what it’s really like to travel around this Central Asian country. I’ve also decided to do something I’ve only done once before, slightly alter my publication schedule here on LandLopers. Since I know I won’t have access to the Internet every day, it doesn’t make sense to therefore publish everyday. While I’m on my trip I will publish 3-times a week and my daily Travel News column will take a brief hiatus during this time. I will resume my normal blog post publication schedule upon my return, as well as my normal robust social media presence.
What I’m hoping to achieve
I am invited to join many trips in just about every corner of the world, so why did I decide to join this unique initiative? Well, for the very reason that it is so very unique. In recent years my travel has become slightly predictable and some of my trips have even felt mechanical to me. I need to reconnect with my traveler’s soul and to remind myself why I love exploring the world in the first place. I need to be thrown out of my comfort zone into the great unknown to find out what I’m really made of. I will be challenged in ways I’ve never been challenged before, but, I know that the rewards will be significant. I’ll be traveling to a country that is currently not on the radar for most tourists and in the process I’ll be connecting with a people on a level I can’t achieve in most other corners of the world. I’m also looking forward to those few days off the grid, alone with my thoughts instead of worrying about the next Instagram post. I’m looking forward to getting to know myself again and to hopefully learn a few new things in the process.
Am I nervous? You bet. But I’m also incredibly excited. I’m excited to get off the normal travel trails and to be thrust into a country and culture that is totally unknown to me. I’m excited to learn by doing and experiencing and, perhaps most of all, I’m excited to learn more about myself. It’s only through pushing ourselves outside of what makes us comfortable that we grow and mature as people and that, maybe more than anything else, is what I’m hoping to achieve on this great adventure.
Along the way please follow me as I share whenever I can and as always, let me know if you have any questions!
This trip was made possible by the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.Add to Flipboard Magazine.