I’ve put together a few pictures from my first trip to Mongolia, which includes the purchase of the very first yurt that I brought back, and the very first one we sold. I’m having a hard time believing this was 20 years ago.
Groovy Yurts’ history truly begins in 2000. I was drawn to the idea of touring the world in a truck and making a positive difference while doing so. That’s when I created Globetrucker, a completely volunteer-based, not-for-profit organization to provide long-distance humanitarian road transport to remote areas. With Globetrucker, we helped deliver school supplies and used the coverage of this project to send a message about road safety in the media, as well as at events we attended along the way.
In 2003, we received a request from 2 women in the province of Selenge in Mongolia, looking to rebuild their school to prevent rural exodus. Mongolians greatly value education. This was one of the very first trucks (if not the first) to travel from Europe to Mongolia. The 10,000 km, 1-way trip started in my home village of Bougy-Villars, Switzerland (population of 500) and crossed a larger portion of Europe, Russia, and Siberia - sometimes only on dirt tracks.
Getting to Mongolia was an absolute revelation. Instead of being viewed as outsiders, we were treated as equals by very enthusiastic parents, kids, and teachers. They quickly took over once the school was equipped, and turned the tables on us - we became the ones being looked after. Even in areas that we had not brought any supplies to, people on the road would help us in the most unimaginable ways.
Once the truck was empty, I needed to find a load back. I had always dreamt of being able to buy something locally that supported the rural economy. Mongolian gers were ideal and I managed to presell 2, as well as a few carpets, leather boots, and other local products that some of our followers ordered online. The remainder of the truck was filled with a few other yurts headed to Germany, as well as…church ceilings made by a German craftsman in Mongolia.
Back in Switzerland, we installed the first yurt on November 23rd, 2003, in my Swiss village. We opened a bazaar in the back of the truck and presented pictures of the eye-opening trip. The yurts sold quickly, allowing us to gather enough funds to organize another delivery of school materials. And so, it began.
The yurt business had been separated from the not-for-profit organization and became its sponsor. This is when I moved to Canada. Over the years, I’ve made my way from Montreal, QC to Alexandria, ON - where our Groovy Yurts farm currently resides. To date, we’ve sold over 1500 yurts, travelled 600’0000+ km, grown to a team of 13, and among others worked with the same Mongolian manufacturers, Bataa and his family, for 19 years.
I am incredibly grateful to all the people who have (and continue to) helped this project and subsequent business along the way. I certainly have received more from Mongolia than I could have ever expected.
Thank you all for 20+ years of memories, support, and good fortune. Here’s to many more!