Two things about the lovely Gunver: First, we met in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, on a day when the sun deceptively hid winter's sharp bite, two women travelling alone -- one headed east into Tibet, the other, west into Russia. Shortly after meeting, we devised a plan to hire a guide and rent a Russian jeep to explore the Gobi Desert. But before that, we agreed, additional travel friends were needed to defray costs.
After posting signs at expat cafes boasting of good coffee (i.e., tourist coffee, non-NesCafe coffee), we found others to join: Damian, a chap from Manchester, who biked from his home to Moscow, over the course of 79 days, to catch the Trans-Siberian Railway and who, given the opportunity, can move you with his stories of espresso-croissant mornings spent biking through the French countryside; and Anette and Gerald, a couple from Amsterdam, who saved, saved, saved, then quit their jobs and rented out their home for a year while they wandered the world. We found a guide and a driver, too. Off we went. (More on that someday.)
Second, though very sweet, Gunver is intimidating, with a logical Dane sensibility, unapologetically grounded in ration, strong, prepared. She is also an adept traveller, physically able-bodied. She runs marathons, plays football (i.e., soccer), has trekked through Nepal and navigated the Uyuni Desert, alone. In contrast, I prefer sipping on cappuccinos, making my way through the jungle of racks at Barneys or at Rosebowl Flea Market, and engaging in activities best enjoyed in pretty dresses (preferably Mayle). Needless to say, as I was savoring unintended falls into Siberian lakes and streams, she was racing the descending sun, up the sand dunes -- believe me, no easy feat under the ever-shifting ground.
I just am not, nor have I ever been, an über-adventurous, outdoorsy type of gal.
As a travel friend, then, she is a strong counterpoint to my haphazard travel ways, of which I've grown rather fond and reliant. And, she inspires me to leave behind some of the fear--manufactured or homegrown, supported or not, of the unknown or known--that often hinders.