So it turns out the trek of the lifetime takes a little planning.
Later this month, Tucson horsewoman Michelle Tanaka, 25, will take on the Mongol Derby, a brutal journey that traces the mail route of Genghis Khan. The longest of its kind in the world, the race will take her more than 600 miles over the Mongolian Steppe.
The journey to get there might be even harder.
Early on, Tanaka — new to a job at Summit Hut in Tucson and a little too timid to boast about her ambition — left people in the dark about her plans. She puts it simply: “I didn’t want to be that kid.”
But money needed to be raised, particularly for the Canyon del Oro High grad’s two causes — the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Cool Earth, a UK-based organization for rain forest protection — at least enough to meet the fundraising minimum of $1,560.
Her co-workers and friends set to work.
The hashtag is killer: #TanakaThisOut. Some designed T-shirts — one that reads: “1,000 kilometers, 25 horses, 10 days, 1 girl” — and the drive was on.
Her fundraising push will reach its crescendo Tuesday night at La Cocina, 201 N. Court Ave. The event at the restaurant, which begins at 5 p.m., will feature live music and a silent auction including local artwork. Ten percent of the evening’s receipts will go to the two charities.
“It started coming out that I was doing this, that I needed to raise money, and a lot of my friends and coworkers’ suggestions got me moving,” Tanaka said. “They were the ones who made me realize it was a big deal and that I could be doing more.”
Most people with these grand plans for world travel through athletics – marathoners, triathletes, that maniacal fringe who like to push their bodies far past the state of exhaustion – sometimes struggle to focus on all facets of their preparation.
Tanaka doubled down on training and as a result, she says, got a late start in her fundraising.
It’s understandable if her mind has been all over the place. So has she.
This is a young woman who has traveled the globe; most recently, the New York University equestrian team member was in Ireland training for the event.
She didn’t get what she needed from the experience, so she moved back to Tucson, though she rarely stays in one place.
After visiting her father in Colorado and doing some gym training, she headed to Greer for high elevation training, came back to Tucson for a day, then drove to Moab, Utah, to train with an endurance rider.
Plus, there are the fundraisers and regular work shifts.
“It’s hard to balance the two sides to this,” Tanaka said. “I could’ve done a better job with the fundraising stuff, but I got into it late in the game. I didn’t know I had the resources to pull it off.”