Not so long ago in a desert not so far, far away… (cue Star Wars opening music). Sorry, I couldn’t help myself with that opening sentence, but for many of my generation (I was born in 1977), the original Star Wars trilogy was a big part of my childhood. Speaking of which, this post is all about rediscovering memories, memories that may have subtly inspired adventure at a young age.

I decided to share my thoughts on this after visiting the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, somewhere I had wanted to go for a long time.

The Gobi Desert.

First of all a disclaimer, so some of you don’t read this whole post and say; “What the fuck for wasting my time asshole!”, I did not really meet Luke Skywalker or Mark Hamill in the desert. But for those curious as to what I am going on about, read on.

I am sure I am not alone in this, but some places just inspire the imagination and take you into a fantasy land. Let me take you onto a journey deep into the Gobi Desert, where getting there involved passing through endless Mongolian steppe (grassland plains), punctuated now and then by some odd rock formations and hidden monasteries.

Hidden monastery in Mongolia.

The terrain slowly became more mountainous until, breaking through an ice filled canyon, the great desert that the mind imagines revealed itself. A vast nothingness of rocky terrain and huge dunes.

Staying with families living in traditional ger camps that are scattered around the area ( a ger is a round tent like structure), was an opportunity to discover what local life is like. And as in many parts of the world, the people in rural places are very friendly and curious.

Along the way, deep into the Gobi proper, huge sand-dunes were waiting too be climbed. The views on top blew my mind, but that was before the climb up blew my body. Scrambling up a large dune is hard work, just like my experience climbing a volcano in New Zealand. For every step forward, you slide halfway back. On the top it took me a while to catch my breath before I could admire the views.

Climbing sand-dunes in the Gobi Desert.

Far into the desert, I reached the furthest camp of the trip. Spending a few days there involved helping the camel herder with his camels, while riding one myself, chatting with the family while gorging on heaps of food (mutton dumplings being a favourite), and getting stuck in a sandstorm for a whole day.

I have to say that taking a shit in a sandstorm is somewhat precarious for your ass!

Sandstorm in the Gobi Desert.

Anyway, now that I have given you a rough idea about that trip, let me explain what I am talking about with regards to this post.

Visiting many places in the world you can find certain environments  that bring back memories of movies watched and books read, many from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far…. ok I will shut up about that now!

Instead of just writing a long post about the Gobi (the desert has been written about many times before ), I wanted to talk about what one feels sometimes when on an adventure. Well at least what I feel. Am I alone in this? I doubt it very much.

Going through the ice canyon reminded me of the scene in Star Wars with R2-D2 being ambushed by the Jawas’. High up on the sand-dunes, and deep into the desert, it was all about the planet Tatooine, also from Star Wars.

Sunset in the Gobi Desert.

Now you could have these thoughts in many deserts in the world, but the sunset scene with the ger tent, as shown in the featured image at the start of this post, really reminded me of Luke Skywalker watching the sun go down from his home planet.

So when I saw Luke Skywalker in the desert, it was in my mind. It was me going back in time to when I was 7 thinking about the future and what adventures I could have like Luke.

When hiking deep into the jungle of Borneo, or visiting skull caves in Sulawesi, I can easily think about Indiana Jones movies and the like.

My first time in Thailand in 1998 I read the book The Beach by Alex Garland (the movie is shit)! That put me in the mood to find a peaceful island somewhere, which lead me out of Thailand and into Indonesia, where I’m happy to say I found a slice of quiet paradise with several other backpackers. Btw forget about Thailand beaches for that kind of trip, head too Indonesia with 17,000 islands to explore.

Part of the reason I enjoy blogging on Backpackingman is maybe I can get people interested in places to visit. Of course I can’t compete with Han Solo or Indiana Jones! But maybe I can inspire a little.

Buddhist stupa in Mongolia.

Through movies and books we can open our imagination to adventure and new experiences. Although we won’t be bombing about in an X-Wing and the like, maybe flying a microlight could suffice?

Walking along a moody coastline you could think of The Goonies movie. You wouldn’t be sliding down some kind of death slide and avoiding booby traps (if you do find a place like that let me know), but it can still be fun to think about!

When I read the book; On Foot Through Africa, by Ffyona Campbell (the first woman to walk around the world) back in the mid-nineties, made me want too explore Africa, which I have happily done a few times now.

I could go on and on about all the movies and books out there.

So that’s what I wanted too talk about. How things watched and read as a child/teenager implanted an idea to search for adventure.

Just for fucks sake don’t be inspired too play poker like they do in the stupid movie Rounders. You will go broke! Although I could certainly tell a tale or two about some seedy poker games I have played. Maybe in a future post.

What movies and books have inspired you? Let us know in the comments.





Jonny Duncan is a travel blogger and freelance photographer. He specialises in adventure and budget travel with over 20 years of experience. He started blogging in 2013 to give advice for other travellers. He has lived in Japan, Amsterdam, Kiev, and more.

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