Kyrgyzstan. A country that, when Zach Elwart first heard about the opportunity to visit, he couldn’t even spell correctly. He probably couldn’t have placed it on a map.

Zach traveled through Kyrgyzstan for a month-long business internship. He and his colleagues were tasked with making new connections and finding destinations around the country that would interest tourists.

It just so happened that this meant Zach got to explore nearly the entire country.

Moving from village to village, Zach became a bit nomadic — never really knowing where, or when, they were going to stop. But, without doubt, when they did stop for the night, someone would welcome them in with open arms. They always found a place to sleep, an abundance of food, and caring hosts. They were always treated like family.

Along the way, Zach saw mountains that touched the sky, tried kumis (fermented horse milk), visited the capital, Bishkek, decided he didn’t like kumis, and found himself considering the country in a way he never expected.

The land was so open. Miles and miles of expansive, unused space. While Kyrgyzstan is full of mountains, much of it is still empty. Zach saw the potential for growth and development, but couldn’t help hoping that it would remain wild and expansive instead.

The people were so friendly. Though Zach was a complete stranger, and didn’t speak their language, the Kyrg people he met welcomed him in as an old friend. It made him think that, back home in the U.S., no one really knew anything about hospitality.

The country he experienced was different than the opinions he’d heard of it his whole life. It wasn’t scary, or like a war zone, or full of closed-off citizens.

Kyrgyzstan shocked Zach, for the better.

And he can’t wait to go back. He’s just waiting for the day he’s driving through the remote countryside again, head out the window, staring at the mountains, valleys, and cliffs of Kyrgyzstan.

See more of Zach’s photos on Instagram.