_The hottest new thing,
Meta-Travel. Always slightly
Above, floating feet
Not quite touching the dusty ground._

Flip through the study-abroad brochures advertising semesters in Prague, Vienna, Amsterdam. Flip to the next page.

Now you are in the Exotic section. Beijing, Hangzhou, Dakar, Yaoundé. Wish you hadn’t dropped Chinese. It couldn’t have been _that_ bad.

The Dark Continent and the Exotic East, like two stepchildren. Appreciated intellectually, but when it comes down to the wire, people’s loyalties reveal themselves, and align conveniently with the flows of capital and genealogy.

You have narrowed your selection to two choices: Vietnam or Mongolia. Or Nepal. But you eliminate that because you’ve been, if only briefly. Feel bad for not wanting more to go to Africa. You must be an Orientalist asshole, or something. Make a note to work on that.

Vietnam, home of rice paddies and shards of American shrapnel embedded in jungle soil.

Mongolia is nowhere, nothing. Marco Polo and Genghis Khan. He is still Genghis to you.

Mongolia gives new weight to the phrase “Golden Years”. Nostalgia on a new plane.

But _now’s your chance_ to see Vietnam. _Before it develops_ they say.

Realize there is something morbidly fascinating about (post)-communism.

Choose Mongolia because you get to spend two weeks herding sheep and goats, and living in a yurt in the countryside. This appeals to you, but seems to be lost on others.

Develop some stock answers to the question, _Why Mongolia?_ Your favorites are: _Why not?_ or even better, _Because it’s fucking awesome, that’s why._ Deliver these with an air of definite confidence, as if the subject should require no further exploration.

you become a minor celebrity in certain circles. Your mom’s email list. Your sister’s friends. Relatives. No-one at your school cares, or they hide it well. It is likely they resent you for out-exoticizing-internationalizing them. This makes you happy.

Go away–far, far away. You are tired of living comfortable. Which is ironic, since for a rich white male, you’ve had it less than _easy_. Then again, that’s not saying much. You long for culture shock. To be hung by your feet and shaken until everything falls from your pockets.

_You are going to Mongolia_. Repeat 3 times. The words fail to become any less surreal. Two months later, you will echo this experience in downtown Ulaanbaatar, _You are in Mongolia_. Repeat 3 times.

All illusions are dashed,
Upon that first encounter with the infamous phantom
That is Montezuma’s Revenge.

Or the sting of your hands,
As they freeze one morning
In October.