- Travel for Good
How to fall in love with travel again, from the man who's crossed the Gobi Desert, twice.
It may sound like a First World Problem, but it’s a prevalent one for any (jaded) globetrotter. Travel burnout is real, and the accompanying malaise is hard to break out of.
Just ask Scott Tay, founder of boutique travel agency Beyond Expeditions and a seasoned backpacker since the age of 19. After meandering through the usual routes in Europe—Germany, Switzerland, the Nordics—and even diving deep into the inner regions of Mongolia and India, the peripatetic 27-year-old found himself in a bit of a rut.
“Sometimes, travelling too much backfires,” he admits. “Whatever you see out there starts to look the same. A mountain becomes another mountain, a lake, a lake.”
All that changed when Tay set up Beyond Expeditions in 2015. The agency specialises in private and small-group tours of Mongolia and its myriad regions, from the snowy backcountry of Khuvsgul to the great Gobi desert in the south.
For Tay, it gave him an avenue to share with others the joy and beauty that he found in Mongolia. He even began challenging himself in the name of charity: in 2015, Tay soldiered 800km across the Gobi desert to raise funds for the Singapore Cancer Society.
This year, Tay is returning to Mongolia again for charity — this time, to paddle across its largest lake in an inflatable kayak.
It’s one of the ways he’s keeping travel fresh for himself, while doing some good at the same time. Below, Tay offers his best advice on how to inject some life into your own travels.
Recruit Some Good Company
During his mammoth 800km trek across the Gobi Desert, fatigue loomed constantly over Tay. But it wasn’t the sweltering temperature of blisters on his feet that threatened to break him.
“In terms of physical tiredness, that can still be overcome, but when the exhaustion hits your mind, you really need all the moral support you can get,” he says.
Motivational podcasts and ebooks served as his nepenthe during his arduous 800km solo trek, allowing him to complete the journey in three weeks.
But when Tay decided to return to Mongolia for charity in 2018, he thought some company might do him good.
As an SCS Charity Athlete, Tay asked the foundation if there were any survivors interested in accompanying him on his next outing. He got four: three breast cancer survivors and a double-cancer survivor — all above the age of fifty.
He’d been worried, but the concern would be for naught: In all, the group would clock a total of 1000km across the Gobi desert. And not once did any of his guests tap out.
Tay attributes their success to the mutual support that the group had been able to offer one another. In fact, one of his guests — the 60-year-old double cancer survivor — found the journey so enjoyable that he’s going to join Tay again.
Together, they’ll be going to traverse Mongolia’s snowy reindeer regions at the end of the year. It’s a chilly departure from the Gobi desert’s scorching heat, but Tay doesn’t mind — as long as he’s got the right company.
Ditch Your Plans
For Tay, some of the most rewarding moments on his travels were had without a plan in mind.
“The first time I went to Mongolia was overwhelming,” he admits. There was something both paralysing and exciting about the vastness of the country, the endless skies and indomitable mountains that stretched as far as the eye could see.
But ‘fear’ is not a word that registers for Tay (When asked whether he’d be afraid of capsizing during his upcoming circuit of Lake Khövsgöl, Tay shrugs and says: “I have a lifejacket”).
Instead of baulking at those open roads, Tay set off with nothing more than his survival pack and his frank, unguarded smile.
Unwittingly, he would go on to lay the groundwork for his future travel company. But he wasn’t thinking of a business plan — none of that was on Tay’s mind as he lived with nomads in the plains, learned falconry, and frolicked with reindeers in the snowy north.
Do It For A Good Cause
“That’s why I wanted to bring more people out to Mongolia,” he says. “To show them how incredible it can be to go off the beaten track.”
“I thought, why not combine my experience I have in adventure travel to do something good for others?” he says.
Though he enjoyed inviting the group of cancer survivors along with him on his 2018 trek, Tay wanted to do good for those that couldn’t be with him physically.
He wants his outlandish adventures to raise money and awareness for a good cause. The more extreme he gets, the more funds he can raise, Tay reasons.
He says: “I know that happiness must be shared. You can’t just keep it to yourself.”
The effusive Tay isn’t one to keep anything to himself, much less the joy he found in roaming Mongolia.
In July, Tay will paddle 300km across Mongolia’s largest lake in an inflatable kayak to raise money for the SCS, the next extreme venture in his ever-escalating list.
“And when you spread happiness — then it multiplies.”