The MIR Story

The MIR Story

Photo credit: Jonathan Irish

To Russia with Love

It was the mid-eighties, just before the time of glasnost and perestroika, and soon Gorbachev would open the windows and begin to air out the old Soviet Union.

A fateful move for Gorbachev, and also for MIR founder Douglas Grimes. 

A young man with a passion for volleyball, Doug had dreamed of playing the Soviet team, which had long dominated his favorite sport. His enthusiasm led to a behind-the-scenes meeting with the Soviet Olympic team at an exhibition game in Seattle, after which Doug became instrumental in organizing a goodwill volleyball tour of what was then the U.S.S.R. 

Douglas Grimes' (second from right) childhood dream came true, playing Soviet volleyball champs throughout the U.S.S.R. in 1987 (Douglas' dad is in the center near the window, wearing glasses). Photo credit: Douglas Grimes
Douglas Grimes’ (second from right) childhood dream came true, playing Soviet volleyball champs throughout the U.S.S.R. in 1987 (Douglas’ dad is in the center near the window, wearing glasses).

In a time and a place where speaking to Americans was a calculated risk, Doug excelled at making friends and soon immersed himself in the daily lives of his Russian hosts and their families. He connected with the people through spirited and intimate discussions in Russian kitchens, and was delighted by a common understanding. 

By the end of the volleyball tour, Doug was hopelessly in love with Russia. 

Seattle’s 1985 U.S.-Soviet volleyball match-up drew record crowds at the Kingdome. Photo credit: Steve Richmond
In some 1987 matches, Douglas Grimes played against Soviet Olympians, with their deep legacy of medaling in 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1980. Photo credit: Douglas Grimes
Douglas Grimes at the net of a 1987 volleyball match in the U.S.S.R. Photo credit: Douglas Grimes
It’s a fierce battle in this 1980s U.S.-Soviet volleyball match. Photo credit: Steve Richmond
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'Volleyball for Peace’ brochure cover – Douglas Grimes’ pioneering first tour to the U.S.S.R. Photo credit: Douglas Grimes
  • Seattle’s 1985 U.S.-Soviet volleyball match-up drew record crowds at the Kingdome. Photo credit: Steve Richmond Seattle’s 1985 U.S.-Soviet volleyball match-up drew record crowds at the Kingdome. Steve Richmond
  • In some 1987 matches, Douglas Grimes played against Soviet Olympians, with their deep legacy of medaling in 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1980. Photo credit: Douglas Grimes In some 1987 matches, Douglas Grimes played against Soviet Olympians, with their deep legacy of medaling in 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1980. Douglas Grimes
  • Douglas Grimes at the net of a 1987 volleyball match in the U.S.S.R. Photo credit: Douglas Grimes Douglas Grimes at the net of a 1987 volleyball match in the U.S.S.R. Douglas Grimes
  • It’s a fierce battle in this 1980s U.S.-Soviet volleyball match. Photo credit: Steve Richmond It’s a fierce battle in this 1980s U.S.-Soviet volleyball match. Steve Richmond
  • 'Volleyball for Peace’ brochure cover – Douglas Grimes’ pioneering first tour to the U.S.S.R. Photo credit: Douglas Grimes ‘Volleyball for Peace’ brochure cover – Douglas Grimes’ pioneering first tour to the U.S.S.R. Douglas Grimes
  • An article about 'Volleyball for Peace’ – Douglas Grimes’ pioneering first tour to the U.S.S.R. Photo credit: Douglas Grimes An article about ‘Volleyball for Peace’ – Douglas Grimes’ pioneering first tour to the U.S.S.R.

His personal journey inspired him and his small crew to begin bringing other special-interest groups to the U.S.S.R. As their experience grew, a decision was made to found a company that would enable them to continue sharing what they knew about Russia with others. In 1986 MIR was born, taking the Russian word that means both “peace” and “world” for its name. 

A few years later, fresh out of university and armed with an obscure degree in Russian Studies, Annie Lucas, MIR’s future Vice President, joined up with Doug and his growing team. One of her first undertakings was a month-long foray into the Soviet Union that changed the course of her life. She was hooked. 

Annie Lucas with MIR President and Founder Douglas Grimes in one of Annie's favorite places, Georgia. Photo credit: Douglas Grimes
MIR Vice President Annie Lucas with MIR President and Founder Douglas Grimes in one of Annie’s favorite places, Georgia.

Our deep connections to the stalwart people of the region carried us through the momentous transitions of the 20th century:

  • The fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union plunged an entire region into turmoil.
  • Yugoslavia splintered into its Balkan components.
  • The Velvet Revolution saw the Czechs and the Slovaks parting company.
  • In the 21st century, the “color revolutions” swept across Georgia (Rose), Ukraine (Orange), and Kyrgyzstan (Tulip).

We followed each story closely, in continuous contact with our offices and partners on the ground. We do the same today when parts of our region experience unrest or political upheaval – inevitable in an area that is so incredibly dynamic and fluid.

As these countries make their ways toward more just and peaceful systems, MIR is there to applaud their progress. Through it all, we remain convinced that there is a charmed circle of curious and pioneering travelers out there who share our abiding interest in experiencing this region before change completely overtakes it.

Overview of Specialties

MIR takes you far from the familiar. 

As the recognized expert in travel to Russia, Central Asia, the South Caucasus, and Ukraine, MIR has spent more than 30 years providing flexible and customized itinerary design to solo travelers, families, couples, corporations, nonprofits, educational institutions, and private clubs.

MIR handles planning for intrepid travelers who crave adventure in under-explored places and areas some consider obscure, remote, difficult, or even controversial.

We’re known for rising to the challenge of one-of-a-kind requests from travelers including those who have wanted to:

  • Visit all 15 former Soviet Republics in a single journey.
  • Go far beyond Red Square into the vast heartland of Siberia and traverse the length of Russia by train.
  • Trace the Silk Road across China and through the “Five ‘Stans,” entirely overland.
  • Drive themselves through the crossroads of Europe and Asia – from Beijing to Baku, and every place in between.

Our destinations are still vastly under-explored, yet they offer an abundance of enticements, including:

  • Lake Baikal, the earth’s deepest and oldest freshwater lake, teeming with wildlife found nowhere else.
  • The bazaars of Bukhara, piled with pomegranates and silvery grapes and stacked with handwoven carpets looking as if they had just arrived on the backs of Silk Road camels
  • The sharp mountainsides of the Caucasus, where a small valley can be a whole world to its people.

Expertise

Every MIR itinerary is handcrafted and fully supported by an unrivaled network of expert guides, ground staff, and local connections, offering the most enjoyable and rewarding way to experience these destinations.

Our network of key field affiliates is strategically positioned from Tbilisi to Tallinn to Tashkent, and is responsive in real time.

There’s no other American tour outfitter that deals exclusively with this slice of the globe, and none with more firsthand experience, stronger on-the-ground contacts, or more affection for the region.

These are the reasons savvy travelers choose MIR:

Passion
Exploring the countries at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, and guiding fellow travelers here, has been our overriding passion since 1986. It’s all we do.

People
Our Seattle-based travel specialists, overseas affiliated team, international crew of tour managers, and expert local guides are hand-picked professionals who share an unbridled enthusiasm for the destinations and a deep dedication to serving our travelers.

Personalization
Our travelers don’t just pass through; they tap into the culture through uncommon and inspired experiences. It is our greatest pleasure to personalize the journey – a pursuit of ours for the last three decades.

Peace – and Peace of Mind
MIR means “peace” and “world” in Russian; to travelers it means “peace of mind.” Some travelers have told us MIR also means “Make It Remarkable.”

Reliability
As travelers ourselves, we share your urge to discover, connect with, and understand the world through travel, and we endeavor to produce extraordinary travel experiences for you.

Reputation
A company doesn’t last 30 years in the travel business without a solid track record. Prestigious university alumni associations travel with us, well-respected travel magazines have acclaimed us, and our trips and catalogs win awards.

Relationships
Over the last three decades we have cultivated relationships with affiliate field offices on the ground in Western Russia, Siberia, Ukraine, Georgia, and Uzbekistan, and partnerships that stretch far beyond.

Resourcefulness
We offer inventive itineraries designed by people who’ve been there, backed up by the dedication and determination to take on virtually any travel challenge.

Whether you’ve traveled with MIR before or are considering traveling with us for the first time, we hope you’ll let us take you far from the familiar on a memorable journey to the crossroads of Europe and Asia.

Performance of pakapak dance in Khiva, Uzbekistan. Photo credit: Michel Behar
St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery in Kiev, Ukraine. Photo credit: Douglas Grimes
Gallery of military portraits in the Hermitage (St. Petersburg, Russia). Photo credit: Jonathan Irish
Setting up for a Georgian dinner table, known for dozens of delicious dishes, countless toasts and a festive atmosphere. Photo credit: Douglas Grimes
  • Performance of pakapak dance in Khiva, Uzbekistan. Photo credit: Michel Behar Performance of pakapak dance in Khiva, Uzbekistan. Photo credit: Michel Behar
  • St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery in Kiev, Ukraine. Photo credit: Douglas Grimes St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery in Kiev, Ukraine. Douglas Grimes
  • Gallery of military portraits in the Hermitage (St. Petersburg, Russia). Photo credit: Jonathan Irish Gallery of military portraits in the Hermitage (St. Petersburg, Russia). Jonathan Irish
  • Setting up for a Georgian dinner table, known for dozens of delicious dishes, countless toasts and a festive atmosphere. Photo credit: Douglas Grimes Setting up for a Georgian dinner table, known for dozens of delicious dishes, countless toasts and a festive atmosphere Douglas Grimes

Traveler Reviews

  • "I think we were all in agreement that this was one of the best adventures we had ever encountered. MIR is to be lauded for their expertise in putting together such an extensive and well-planned itinerary."

    J. Smith

    Saylorsburg, PA

  • "I enjoyed everything about this trip. Everyone at MIR was great. The other travelers were great. The service was first rate. The accommodations were first class. A fantastic tour. I will be traveling again with MIR in the future."

    R. Barkley

    Morgan Hill, CA

  • "We have traveled to over 40 countries. Our experience with MIR was unique; this trip was the most enjoyable and stress-free traveling we have ever had. In 23 days of traveling, there was not a single misstep – something we have never experienced before. Traveling with MIR is very seductive and addictive."

    W. & A. Loopesko

    Denver, CO

  • "I would wholeheartedly recommend MIR based on their knowledge of the destinations, the quality of the guides, the thoroughness of their planning, and the overall experience."

    V. Sharp

    Houston, TX

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