The name Siberia has had a sinister connotation for many years. What comes to your mind when you hear the word Siberia? Perhaps exile – prison – cold – long winter – trees. I’m pretty sure that no positive words came to your mind.
Maybe Siberia Is Not So Bad
Have you read any great Russian literature by Dostoyevsky? Did you know that he was exiled to hard labor in Siberia for 8 years? Some experts say that those years in Siberia helped him transform from a vain young man who had gained fast literary success into a real artist who was then able to write about the tragic nature of man.
Having read Dostoyevsky when I was still young and impressionable, I became fascinated by Russia and its literature and by Siberia. As a result, I read a lot of Russian authors, but even more importannt, I wanted to see that place of exile – that place that was used by tsars and Stalin throughout Russian history to banish complainers, in other words, people who disagreed with whatever dictator was in power.
Siberia is so vast that it made Russia the largest country in the world and covered 11 time zones although the Kremlin deleted 2 of those time zones in 2010. I wanted to see firsthand what that huge, cold, tree-filled area was like. And the best way to do that would be to travel across Siberia on the Trans-Siberian Express train.
I had that dream for many years, but it was so far off the beaten path that I kept putting it on the back burner. Don’t misunderstand – I love off-the-beaten-path destinations, but I didn’t think any of my traveling partners would feel the same way.
Fate Steps In
I’d been working as a tour director in the U.S. and Europe for several years when my employer decided to open a tour in Russia & the Baltics. I managed to get myself assigned to that tour even though my boss wanted me to go to Italy. I suppose she wondered what kind of crazy person would choose Russia & the Baltics over Italy, but the important thing is that after many conversations and much cajoling, she finally agreed to give me what I wanted.
And then, as Fate would have it, I got a phone call from my main traveling partner Kay saying that she was desperate for a trip and wondering if I had any free time. We both do a lot of traveling separately, but the trips we take together are far more adventurous than anything either one of us does on our own.
Over the years, I’d been able to convince her to accompany me to some very out of the way places, but I could hear her jaw hit the floor when I suggested Siberia. After she picked her jaw up, she asked me to repeat myself. So I began explaining just exactly why a trip to Siberia in July would be perfect.
In all fairness, it has never taken much convincing for Kay to agree to some of my hairbrained schemes. And this case was no different. She’s definitely the adventurous sort.
CNN mentioned the Trans-Siberian Express trip and one of 7 train trips of a lifetime. Of course, they’re talking about doing it luxury style, but Kay and I were not the luxury travel types. In our minds, luxury took the adventure out of travel, and we were definitely in it for the adventure.
So we started planning and communicating long distance. At first, I was home in Indonesia, but soon left to start training on tour in Russia & the Baltics. Kay was home in Colorado Springs. Luckily, I had already investigated a little about doing the Trans-Siberian Express and had two guidebooks. Both recommended a tour company based in Hong Kong and Beijing. Despite its strange name, that company called Monkey Business was a real treasure for us.
Watch for the next post which will give you more details about the adventure that Kay and I were about to embark on.