In the early to mid 2010s I went to live and work with nomadic Siberian reindeer herders, and later I stayed with nomadic Kazakh goat herders.

It started with me skiing across rolling hills in the direction that I was assured was correct, hoping to find the people who agreed to let me help move their winter camp. Then years later, I found myself again being dropped off in the middle of the wilderness to find people on the move. This time in the Tavan Bogd area after a long off-road Jeep drive, with snow slowly starting to fall while being told in a mix of Kazakh and Mongolian (neither of which I spoke well) to wait for people with horses.

I remember learning to use animal fat to clean my skin in winters where baths are impossible, my first Kazakh sentence, and how to milk a yak. I also remember trying to convince people through a language barrier that down is indeed warm!

I now live in remote Alaska. How I lived then became normal over time and has helped me adjust to how I live now, but I find an onslaught of questions await me when I meet new people or when I travel to cities (a lot of them the same) about my time in the far north. There seems to be either no information or dramatized TV information.

So, AMA!



My instagram: Worldtravelstephanie

My Facebook: is the same name

(Also, I’m not super tech savvy so if someone tells me how to put in links because they can’t be direct and I don’t know what else there is, I will! Any better proof to this post I can add I will if someone lets me know how. I read the rules and etc for this group and it’s not super helpful for those who don’t frequent forums! Don’t know how to navigate this, but I can live below -40F/-40C and navigate through mountain ranges with no GPS or trail).

Comments: 87 • Responses: 36  • Date: 

sleepyhead292919 karma

Can you summarise the spiritual beliefs of the people you were with? Did you witness/partake in any ceremonies? Thanks!

worldtravelstephanie52 karma

Oh wow! That’s a big topic as the two groups of people with whom I stayed were very different. Both were polytheistic and practiced shamanism, though a small subset of Kazakh herders I met in Mongolia were a combination of Muslim/their older beliefs in a very complex blending of the two. I did participate in ceremonies as they are still a part of daily life for both peoples and I was expected to participate (I did, out of respect) and in being there for many changing seasons I was able to witness major ceremonies but had no role in those directly.

A very memorable one amongst the specific group of Kazakh nomads of Mongolia I was with, is was when a visitor (in this case me when I first arrived) comes from afar there is a ritual prayer said for that person and a feast laid out, with horse head and intestines. The visitor (me) sits at the head of the feast. The youngest toddler has their ankles tied with said horse intestines and the people pray and light incense while encouraging the young child to walk to the visitor. The visitor kind of catches/grabs them after a short distance (which I almost didn’t do, and everyone was frantically pantomiming at me). This is considered their first journey and the gods are expected to bless the child with a good nomadic life. I was confused for a long time, until my language skills got better and I eventually asked what that event was.

CandyCaneCrisp1 karma

Was the horse killed especially for the occasion, and if so, was there anything notable about it? I.e. was it chosen for being a particular color, sex, age, etc.

worldtravelstephanie1 karma

No. Horses are important when they are in their “prime” age so they mostly only get slaughtered after they breed and shows signs of slowing down. The meat/head/intestines are then stored for later use.

atreeofnight16 karma

1) How did you decide it was time to leave the nomads and return to Western life? 2) How did you handle the shock of re-entry? 3) Did you document your time with the nomads in writing or photos? (Thank you, this is the most interesting AMA I’ve seen in a while!)

worldtravelstephanie23 karma

  1. I left before winter in both cases, as winter was setting in (I had spent previous winters with them both and knew how it went). I’d have to leave before winter truly set in or I’d have to wait until spring, and better to let them have an extra winter ration. It seemed natural to help with moving to the wintering grounds and as the snow fell, it just felt time to go. It was hard, but I started to ache a little for familiar comforts, had grown up a lot, a didn’t feel the want to settle down with them.
  2. The shock of re-entry was harder than I expected! A big shock was hearing English all around me. I had gotten so accustomed to straining to pick up everything and grasping on to any word I understood and trying to understand that when I got to an English speaking airport my brain kept trying to understand -everything- and it hurt my ears and my head. I almost didn’t make my connection because I had gone somewhere quiet (a prayer room) to give myself a break! The other big shock was air quality. It probably wasn’t that smoky but I was coughing at everything and my nose was totally overwhelmed, I was convinced there must be a factory or fire near by.
  3. I did bring a tiny notepad/jotted stuff down, I’m not a big journal person so I tried to just write unique things I noticed or what I was worried I’d forget. I did take pictures! Lots. I had a point and shoot and a solar battery charger that back then was state-of-the-art. The Kazakhs thought it was fun to dress up and have me take a picture and then show them. I couldn’t print it, had no computer with me, they just looked at it on my camera over and over. So much so I had to over-dramatize the delicacy of the camera so they’d take a break. Even after months they loved it, when we met other nomads they had me show my camera.

And wow! Glad you find it interesting and I could answer questions you had!

atreeofnight7 karma

I hope you write a book. I was in the Peace Corps in Africa but nowhere near as integrated with the local people as you were. I remember being absolutely blown away by our supermarkets when I returned. I'm very impressed by your stamina and courage!

worldtravelstephanie2 karma

I actually always thought about being in the Peace Corp! Good on you! Much more altruistic. I too remember supermarkets when I got back- they seemed so much bigger with so much more than I had remembered, I made myself sick on fruit!

lelenollie14 karma

Did you find love?

worldtravelstephanie30 karma

Love of a place, a way of life, and of a community and peoples, yes. I will always hold those experiences in my heart, I truly love that land. But I was not there for romantic love, and did not go in that direct if that is what you are asking.

slohcinbeards13 karma

When you first arrived how did you communicate your intentions or ask for shelter? Did you have some phrases written down or memorized?

worldtravelstephanie19 karma

So I first stayed with the Siberian nomads. Each herding region has its own language (most almost completely undocumented) but many of them also speak Russian. I had a Russian speaker (who was in light contact with them for trading) confirm earlier that year I could help with the big autumn reindeer migration so they knew I was coming and would need shelter (though they nor I really knew exactly when we would meet, I still had to find them). I had some phrases written in Russian (didn’t help as they were either not relevant or the person couldn’t read) and some basic Russian speaking skills but it too was almost completely unhelpful. That way of life and their accents too different from what I studied. Plus they prefer their native language. Lots of pantomime, laughing it off, and kindness from them. I learned nouns first, I practiced throughout my day (usually with the little kids as they are kind and my struggles kept them entertained) and eventually strung sentences and conversations together.

I should have known the Kazakh people had their own language but I just assumed they spoke Mongolian (some do, and some speak some Russian or Chinese as their herding takes them in all those regions) and so tried to learn that before hand. I learned Kazakh pretty quickly, but got along with my terrible Mongolian and rough Russian at first, with pantomime. You can express a surprising amount through body language and expressions and pointing. I even had a conversation with some older ladies that while I may not have a big chest (they were teasing that I’d not find a man because I’m so skinny) I do have a big hips! That was almost entirely through pantomime and we were all in tears laughing.

But either way, there were lots of moments I just had to trust, not knowing what I was doing or why, and many times I just had to keep my thoughts and intentions to myself.

sxc492811 karma

What inspired you? And inspires you still?

worldtravelstephanie11 karma

I’m sorry, you’re going to have to be more specific, that’s a big question! What kind of inspiration are you talking about? Are you asking what inspired me to go live with nomadic peoples? Or with different cultures? Live in remote places in general? Inspires me to travel? To love nature?

sxc49287 karma

If I say all of the above is it too much to ask? Else, whichever you think matters to you most?

worldtravelstephanie15 karma

Haha! I’ll try to answer, but some thoughts are too abstract for words, and probably just sound chiche.

-why I visit different cultures: humans are really not so different from each other, at the end of the day we all laugh and cry and have drama and friends and to-do lists. We are all just trying to live. I don’t travel for the differences, though those are interesting and unique and fun. I find inspiration and beauty in the commonality of humanity.

-to live in remote places: I love nature. It makes me happy. So why not? When you are happy what could be considered a sacrifice seems more like a good trade.

-inspired me to be with nomadic peoples: I spent time skipping school at an early age and going to the library to look at maps and encyclopedias and old National Geographic magazines. I would look at mountains in the distance and wonder what living in them was like. I always had a love for the arctic and wild spaces. I felt trapped where I was and escaped by dreaming. When I finally had a chance to experience such a life, I just jumped in a little blindly, and found such a big world. I found it was even more amazing and breathtaking and real than my dreams. So the real moments replaced my dreams, and the big feelings that have heart-wrenching depth and no words took over and keep me going.

-to love nature: hmmm, no direct words. Perhaps because nature is bigger than the boundaries of language, bigger than me and my little feelings, it feels calm and pure. Harsh too, for sure. Anyone can loose a battle against nature, and I’ve got frostbite, scars, and known people who have died trying to make it in the elements. So that isn’t meant to be waxing poetic, I just can’t describe the calm, and it really puts life into perspective so one doesn’t fuss over the small stuff. Plus we wouldn’t exist without it, so I figure it deserves a certain amount of reverence.

HairyStMary11 karma

What was the purpose of your visit, was it research, tourism, journalism? And did the people accept that purpose and welcome you?

worldtravelstephanie29 karma

No official reason, and entirely personal actually. I just wanted to escape my life at the time, and always dreamed of what life was like in the remote and wild places of the world as a nomadic people- especially as their way of life was starting to disappear. An old friend had told me of his experiences living with nomads in the Peace Corps. When I bugged him enough, he (probably more for fun not thinking I’d ever do it) told me how to find the Kazakhs. I didn’t want to go to change people or follow them around and document them, I just wanted to live. The Siberian reindeer herders were much more cautious of outsiders, and when it eventually became clear I didn’t want to give them anything (medicine, language, religion) I was just folded into the family as an aunt. That took months and there was ceremony about it. The Kazakh of Tavan Bogd are more accustomed to outsiders, and for a long time I had an issue with them assuming I had doctoring abilities. Eventually they just let me be a part of their group without expectations of medicine. People come and go more frequently amongst the Kazakh and some leave to the city or come back, so that was more easy.

Zippudus9 karma

How does cleaning your skin with animal fat work?

worldtravelstephanie15 karma

So chemically I have no idea! But how you do it: when you slick your skin with the oil you use a special curved bone tool to massage it into your skin. Each person has their own. It seems to do two things, and you apply it twice in one ‘bath’. The first time it does pick up some dirt and sweat (not much sweat in those temperatures to be honest) and you kinda flick that oil off, not rub it in. Then, the next round you rub the oil in. It protects from wind and frost, and keeps your skin from drying out. It is very dry in winter in the arctic. There is almost no humidity and the snow is so dry you can’t make a snowball and when you come inside the snow on your clothes just evaporates, doesn’t even leave a puddle. I had a terrible time with my skin cracking and bleeding the first winter. My hands especially. The older women gave me a special fat that is mixed with some herbs to make more of a slave to help with that.

Purple-Custard-35658 karma

Did you get sick? How did you handle that?

worldtravelstephanie16 karma

I did! Luckily just twice, but not fun. I got a flu of some sort when I was with the arctic nomads, and the women took care of me by burning incense and making me drink a lot of a very bitter herb water mixture. I also had ibuprofen and antibiotic cream and I brought a Garmen inReach in case I needed to reach the outside world. I took the ibuprofen but had a fever, violent sweating and body aches, for about five days. In Mongolia I had the stomach flu and unfortunately it started when we were hours from the yurts (gers) so I had to hop off my horse and moan every time it hit me, hiding behind the horse for privacy because there is not a lot of plant coverage in the steppe. It was a very public spectacle and they segregated me from everyone else by setting up a blanket divider in the yurt and I just ran outside to my own special pit toilet that they dug for me because they didn’t want me using the regular outdoor toilet when I was so sick.

HairyStMary8 karma

How do the different groups meet potential partners to marry? Presumably they marry outside of their own group to prevent inbreeding, so how do they go about meeting others?

worldtravelstephanie19 karma

Siberian nomads have (to an outsider) very complex tribal systems of ‘what’ your spiritual body is (your spirit has an earthly embodiment like a reindeer, or fox, or river), and therefore who you can and cannot marry. It is patriarchal so the woman joins the man’s tribe. They move frequently even in winter, so you come across other families a lot, and there are times where you camp with other families, or have festivals where the entire region shows up. Lots of matchmaking at those events.

For the Kazakh people it similar but without the spirit world involvement and it is usually the man who moves to the woman’s family.

DolceFulmine8 karma

What did your daily life look like when you lived with the herders. How connected were the herders with those living in cities/towns/villages? What is the most valueable lesson you learnt while living so far away from home?

worldtravelstephanie16 karma

Valuable thing I learned far from home? It is hard to pinpoint the most valuable, but as corny as it sounds, I learned a sense of self worth and self value that was not externally built. That one I didn’t realize until looking back, but another I realized in the moment was that stubbornness and flexibility have to be balanced. At first I was given way more to do and I thought I was just proving myself or something, but then I realized in was because I just didn’t say no or delegate to others. I was too flexible. But being stubborn and pushing back too hard just resulted in vital relationships becoming strained in a place where I couldn’t afford that. So learning what was actually important, and how to give and take in real life, in real time.

worldtravelstephanie12 karma

Daily life: almost forgot to answer that one! So, it’s very very seasonal for both peoples I was with.

In Siberia it was more gender segregated with very specific roles and taboos. I wake up very early and gather wood and brush for fires, I then usually cooked, put the bedding away, watching kids is communal so I was always had someone’s child in tow, then helped sew clothes and gather food. The key was to always have a fire, and always have tea on! Evenings was more cooking, cleaning, and making beds. Plus seasonal activities regarding reindeer breeding and health. Other duties were moving camp every few weeks, tanning hides, preserving meat, etc.

In Mongolia in was less gender segregated and my daily schedule varied substantially more. Always when I woke up, I kindled the fire and milked the animals. Then made cheese, milk, or something else. In winter you don’t move camp, so you are settled down and have more consistent duties. Animal care, fire making, cooking, cleaning, mending, etc. Lots of entertaining other nomads who come to visit. In summer you move a lot, so it’s animal care, putting up and taking down camp, herding, cooking, collecting animal poop for kindling as there aren’t many trees, and hunting. I was with eagle hunters (using eagles for hunting) and so I was given a juvenile eagle to train, that takes up a lot of the day!

Dogsaregoodfolks3 karma

Can you talk more about the cheese making process? What type of cheese was made?

worldtravelstephanie5 karma

For sure, I don’t think cheese is the best translation, it is more curd like and either fresh or dried (rock hard) and saved throughout the year and eaten by dipping in tea or other liquids to soften. It is called ‘aaruul’ in Mongolian. When you milk the goats you lightly heat the fresh milk and a film on top is created, you strain the liquid from that thick film(not sure the real English term?) and then place the film (usually a few inches thick) on a flat piece of tin or wood and place it on the roof of the yurt (ger/tent) and let it dry. Depending on when you want to use it that varies the drying time. It is so dry there (landlocked country with almost no humidity) it basically dehydrates. When we moved about in early summer near melt rivers we could not make it dry enough for long term storage due to humidity. It is a pretty simple process and sometimes the dried pieces grow a thin layer of mold and those pieces are considered extra tasty.

archlea3 karma

How did you find the food? Was there anything you didn’t like initially, or anything that you didn’t grow to like? Did you partake of everything, and was this hard or easy?

worldtravelstephanie3 karma

Both peoples have very different food than I was accustomed to, for sure. Not a lot of vegetables. In Siberia they eat a lot of raw meat, in Tavan Bogd they drink so much of this lard+milk+tea drink (it’s very thick and rich). I did partake of everything, as both groups are very pushy about eating. Sometimes it was hard, especially at first as my stomach took a while to adjust and my bathroom breaks were not fun. To this day there are certain foods that just the thought of makes me have a sour taste in my mouth (preserved/pickled duck) and my stomach never grew to like par boiled animal intestines. Both groups like them. But, I loved the dried bread of the Kazakh nomads, and they have certain animal meat that I ended up really loving and sometimes still crave.

worldtravelstephanie10 karma

How connected: in Siberia, very little connection. Maybe once a year the patriarch goes in to a village and trades for goods which then get traded amongst the different families/reindeer herds. Some families have never gone to a village, and others (the minority) go in every season except summer. In the Tavan Bogd (western Mongolia), I would say moderately connected as now almost all the routes of their goat/yak/camel herds cross a small village or at least a trading outpost. So at minimum two times a year the whole family is going to cross paths with a village when the animals and supplies are driven between the summer and winter grounds. Those towns are not big or developed much. They don’t have plumbing, or stores. A few have portable generators for electricity.

epheremes6 karma

This is one of the most interesting AMAs I’ve ever read! How did you get on training that eagle? What became of it once you left?

Did you experience any pushback from anyone in the groups? Were there those that seemed confused by your presence or annoyed?

worldtravelstephanie5 karma

Wow! Thanks, it was an experience for sure!

I still have a scar from the first time I held an eagle! So it was a rough start. My arms were also sore because they are heavy and move around a lot. When I finally got a juvenile to work with on my own, it starts with holding and feeding and getting the eagle used to humans and noises/other animals. In eagle training, while each person of age is chosen to take on the primary training, the eagle is expected to be able to hunt and follow the commands of whoever is working with it. So, when I left if had already been hunting with other people, and therefore while I certainly missed him, he was probably just fine. As majestic and epic as we find it, it is still a working animal to them. He went into the care of the other family members (the father took him) and they keep the eagle for hunting.

For more details you can read some of my other responses regarding how I got to find them in the first place, but as a whole I’ve found the nomadic groups I was with are very open people. Strangers are welcome and often seen as a blessing. Anyone who comes by is offered a place to stay and sleep and food to eat. That’s usually other nomadic people of course, but in a harsh environment where you wander, I think humanity wins most of the time and you just lend a helping hand and open your doors- “who knows when it will be you needing shelter/the work just needs to be done” kind of mentality. There was only one older uncle who never really appreciated me being there (in Mongolia) but we just got on with our days because the work still had to be completed.

jwilkes30005 karma

Were you living with the Tsaatan peoples in Mongolia?

worldtravelstephanie9 karma

The Dukha? No, I was with a different nomadic peoples in Mongolia, the Kazakhs. We did cross paths at the end of summer though, they are similar in dress and customs from what I could tell, but with different animals and consequently different herding areas.

_birchplease4 karma

What was the most beautiful thing you saw them make by hand? Or learned to make by hand from them?

worldtravelstephanie8 karma

Oh, that’s a tough question! Both cultures have amazing weavers. The Reindeer herders were very good at carving tiny pieces of ivory into spiritually important figures like foxes, wolves, and the polar bear. So detailed and maybe the size of my pinky (easy to carry on your person in honor of that spirit). The goat herders have huge weavings of complex spirals and curves in many many colors all made of yak hair that they line their beds and walls with to stay warm. But they are so detailed and tightly woven, and their fingers move so fast when they work.

Entropy-3 karma

Can you tell me about any archery they do, if you’ve seen it?

worldtravelstephanie6 karma

The Kazakhs are amazing archers! I was severely teased at my lack of skill. It is done from horseback often, the horses are still considered wild even though the nomads wrangle them, and as such they have a lot of free will and almost completely control your direction while you are shooting. You control the speed. I did get to practice (with kids only 10 or 12) but it is a skill mostly used for hunting in autumn, or ceremonially in summer at festivals. That’s when you see the tricks. Those are practiced when you have long days on horseback just herding the goats around. Groups of three or four herders will spend afternoons teasing, competing, and practicing while watching the goats. The most amazing trick I saw was when some young girls got really good at leaning back and spinning upside down, kinda leaning backward off the horse just being hooked on with one leg and shooting completely up-side-down. I did not try that, hah!

Entropy-3 karma

Thank you very much for this summary! 😊🙏🏻 I do horse archery too, was really curious lol.

worldtravelstephanie6 karma

Wow! How cool, hope you were able to understand my descriptions then! Maybe I’ll see you on the steppe on a Kazakh horse one day ;)

Robaru3 karma

Your Instagram is great!

How did you get in touch with these nomads and manage to fund it? Did you just save up and leave? Did they pay you? Did you google them?

worldtravelstephanie4 karma

Wow, thank you!

I knew Siberian reindeer herders existed, and I knew Mongolia had nomads. I had read about them in National Geographic magazines and in a few atlas references. I started from there, and researched. Not google so much, this was around 2010 and books were still more prevalent 😆 I just worked a lot and saved a little, and never took PTO. Cashed it out when I left- they had to give me all the PTO hours earned at whatever my current pay rate was. Then put my stuff in a little storage unit (outside the city to get a better deal) and got a one way ticket.

Russia: I found vague hints at the reindeer herders and learned there were many regions and subgroups of them. I visited Russia once, made connections with traders (this was a very long process and I got scammed a few times), then came back when the season was better to meet up with them. Luckily one of the girls I met in a hostel helped me make sure it was all real. I was to help them with their big autumn migration in exchange for staying with them. I would also bring out supplies they wanted from the trader. It was meant to be just for the season, but the women agreed to let me stay after that. (Gender segregation, so mostly what happened to me was decided by the grandmothers)

Mongolia: I actually had a Mongolian woman in my university who became a good friend. Her brother-in-law was from a Kazakh goat herding family, and he left their nomadic family to move to the city. So she put me in touch with him. I stayed with his very distantly related cousins, his family didn’t need/want help but his cousins had just acquired another set of yaks and goats and wanted help. I could already horseback ride, and had herding experience, so they agreed I would help in exchange for room/board. No timeline was set, it was just more like ‘for a long time’.


When you were with the reindeer, did they let you join in any reindeer games?

worldtravelstephanie4 karma

Only when I had to guide the sleigh that night.

HaekelHex2 karma

How did you get to stay with them? What was the process you took to get permission to live with the nomads?

worldtravelstephanie2 karma

Wow- that’s a popular question! So I don’t have to keep rewriting it, feel free to look at the answer I just made above your post. It was a lot of taking chances.

HaekelHex1 karma

Oh, sorry I didn't see the original answer. Thanks for pointing it out.

worldtravelstephanie2 karma

No problem. Lots of comments and many questions to read through to find it! Thanks for asking!

Tornagh2 karma

How do they pay tax?

worldtravelstephanie5 karma

They don’t. Most of them don’t become involved with any official government. Many don’t read, or have paperwork regarding their existence. There are no roads or services in that part of the world.

Maksitaxi2 karma

What have you noticed about the changing climate?

worldtravelstephanie5 karma

So, my findings are only speculation in Siberia because being in a place for a couple years doesn’t really give me a long term trend, but a lot of the reindeer herders were telling me they have had to change their routes, and more animals die in summer now. The bugs are so terrible, worse and worse every year, because the winters are not long or harsh enough to kill them off. We sometimes would have to go very far out of the way to find water, because snowmelt wouldn’t last as long as it used to. But in living where I do and spending over 10 years in the far north now, I’d say this is consistent with my overall experiences. The permafrost is melting which causes all sorts of problems, seasides collapse so the birds don’t nest, the ground is too soft and muddy so animals and trees are sinking. The insects don’t die off and cause real issues.

vdazzle11 karma

Any interesting food that you ate? Or had a hard time getting used to?

worldtravelstephanie2 karma

Hah! Someone else just asked that, under another question! So I don’t have to write it out twice, you can find it on a sub-response (probably wrong term) where I titled a response, ‘daily life:’

Top_Novel36821 karma

What was their physical condition like? Did they, on average seem healthy, happy, and content? What was the hygiene and medical practice like?

worldtravelstephanie2 karma

Note, I’m not a doctor! Both peoples seemed healthy. They were certainly active, even the elders. Both seemed happy, overall. There seemed to be more discontent amongst the younger Kazakh goat herders, but they also have more interaction with the outside world than those in Siberia. So perhaps it is just seeing that other options are out there. The Siberian nomads have lots of rules on cleanliness and washing and what touches what which has probably helped with managing germs or diseases. The Tavan Bogd nomads to a lesser extent. The only thing I was truly surprised about health wise was the state of their teeth. Not a lot of dental hygiene in either group and even young teens had rotten teeth (not a lot, but some). For not having sugar, this surprised me.

CandyCaneCrisp1 karma

Do they drink milk from the goats or reindeer? If so, there is the source of sugar. Lactose present in milk breaks down into acid which harms teeth.

worldtravelstephanie1 karma

That’s really interesting! Lots of milk drank by both groups, yak/goat(Mongolia), and reindeer(Siberia).

f1reL10n1 karma

How far from civilization is each group? You mentioned skiing, as well as an off road Jeep ride followed by horses, but was just curious how difficult each group was to find, and how far the journey was. Also, if you had any obstacles or challenges on your journey to them

worldtravelstephanie1 karma

So, that depends on your definition of “civilization” because there are little trading outposts and even villages that don’t have roads but you can get to by off road/4x4 vehicles and snow mobile, those are obviously closer than cities with “modern services”. I’ll try to summarize and hope it answers your question!

-In Russia, essentially, Irkutsk (pop 600,000ish?) is the closest “city/modern services” (even though Irkutsk is not in Siberia I had to go through there due to weird visa/permit reasons, though there are a few cities of this size all about the same distance away). As the crow flies that’s about 1,100mi/1,770km away from where the nomadic tribes are. After Irkutsk it’s only small villages without paved access or even smaller outposts. I went at the time of the migration to the winter grounds, which puts the herders going within roughly 100mi/160km of a trading outpost. That’s pretty much the closest they go. I got a snow mobile ride just over half that distance, and then had to ski the rest. That ski took 3 days, and on the 4th day I found them. On day 3 I knew I was close because I found sledge prints with reindeer prints in the snow.

-In Mongolia, from Ulaanbaatar I went to Olgii (pop 20-30,000?) which is arguably the closest “city/modern serve center” to the nomads I stayed with. As soon as we left the city center of UB we were off-roading. On maps there are roads, but they are not paved and not even grated (as of 2015). I got a smaller Jeep in Olgii toward the hillsides where I waited. The jeep ride was probably 80mi/130km as the crow flies, to where I was picked up via horse. I was picked up by the dad and his son-in-law, they had diverted probably 10mi/16km from where they were on their big seasonal migration route. That was easier than Siberia! I only waited for about 4hrs.

There were no real issues either time. Siberia was more worrisome for me. I didn’t know exactly my “goal” other than a very broad area (basically I was aiming for a lake they often travel by +/- 100km) and we were guessing based on the weather the prior month. So I was incredibly lucky, and had very good guidance from a local hunter/trader. By the time I got to Mongolia, I was like, ‘just wait on a hill and they find me?! Awesome!’

tflight1 karma

What message do you think the people you lived would want you to share with us?

worldtravelstephanie3 karma

That’s an intense question! Hope you don’t ever interview me for a job ;) I truly don’t believe there would be a consistent message. I think if I went back and asked, I’d get a different answer to give you from every person. The elders and those in Siberia have such a deep nature-shamanism connection that it would probably be something akin to honoring the earth and the spirit world. But, for many, I was just from ‘afar’. They asked about my family life, or how our house was, what animals I had. I think they imagined other people lived similarly to them, or in tiny villages they had seen, just in a different place. So the messages would all be probably related to that culture and their experiences.

truthinlies1 karma

Why do you return to "civilization"?

worldtravelstephanie5 karma

Thank you for the “ “! It is tricky finding the wording to describe that way of life versus others! I knew I wasn’t going to stay forever, just to learn and help. For both people it just kinda came to a natural point where I’d either need to move on or become a full member of their society and stay. I was also a woman of a marriageable age, and didn’t want to go down that road because I didn’t want to stay forever. It was lovely but didn’t feel like home.

cubreturno1 karma

How yo do #1 and #2? And there is drainage over there? Or where do you store the #1 and #2?

worldtravelstephanie3 karma

I’m not sure what you mean by drainage. Plumbing? No. Human waste goes in a hole dug in the ground for “number two”. “Number one” anywhere not near camp or the water. With the reindeer in winter you have to scare them off while you go, or they will try to lick up the salt.

latecomer110 karma

Kazakhs' main animals are horse and sheep, why do you call them goat herders?

worldtravelstephanie3 karma

Kazakh is a whole ethnic group of peoples, like ‘Mongolians’ or ‘Sami’ people. Some or nomadic, some are not. Some live in Kazakhstan, some in Russian or Mongolia, some in China, etc. Some have never herded at all and live in a city. Every person in an ethnic group does not do the same thing, or herd the same animals. I saw some that owned a lot of camels though I never stayed or interacted with those Kazakhs. I call them goat herders because the Kazakh group I stayed with had a few horses, but mostly yaks and goats.