It started in a windswept campsite in the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park in the southern Gobi. Turuu and I had been working together for four years as tour leader and driver for a UK based adventure company. And then came the morning when I had to tell Turuu that the job had finished due to the company we were working for being sold and restructured. And that’s when he asked:
‘Boss. Why don’t you start our own company?’
In our special hybrid language we tentatively discussed ideas. We both felt that too many companies were selling stereotype Mongolia and not the reality of the country in the 21st Century. We knew that nomads and wilderness sell and yes, we wanted to earn a living, but we both felt that Mongolia is a diverse and dynamic country that deserved to be explored beyond its cliches. So it began. We launched with a small website, an even smaller fanfare and an even smaller handful of early customers.
With little business history or experience, we have slowly bootstrapped our way up. Making mistakes, being honest about making them and then learning from them. We kept our day jobs. We ate ramen noodles. My base in Ulaanbaatar was a US$ 6 per night dorm bed in a room with five other people. I have learnt how to blog. Turuu has learnt the fine art of small talk and together, we have slowly built Eternal Landscapes.
Since these early days, our EL brand is slowly growing. Yet from our Ulaanbaatar hub, we stay true to our original ethos of responsible and realistic tourism, remaining committed to supporting the local people, communities and environment. We’re a micro business that call ourselves ‘manaikhan – family.’ As well as our immediate team, we also know the faces and names of every Mongolian we work with – whether that be a Kazakh family in far western Mongolia or a philanthropist in Ulaanbaatar.
The ‘eternal landscapes’ of Mongolia and the broader context within which Mongolians live their lives runs deep through everything we do. Eternal Landscapes is about the vastness of the land of Mongolia and the way the local people make their lives within that immensity. It’s about travelling through Mongolia’s landscapes as a visitor and starting to understand how the landscapes have helped to form the Mongolian personality – the sturdy individualism, hardiness, endurance, self-sufficiency, tolerance and the spirit of freedom.
Since day one we have taken a pioneering approach. For some tour operators it is a business decision but we are so much more than just a profit-driven business scared of a negative TripAdvisor review. It’s a long-term love affair. With all the resultant peaks and troughs and challenges. And it’s the ability and willingness to learn from our mistakes that allows us to develop and strengthen.
We’re proud that our genuine love of Mongolia remains through everything that we do.