Travel lessons learned: Embrace the Suck and feel alive

Markus Ruzicka Random bits and bobs of life Leave a Comment

Are you stuck in a job you hate, your love life sucks, or are in any other unpleasant situation you can’t possibly change at the moment?

Well, there is a military saying you might want to adapt to your personal life: embrace the suck.

By embracing our lives (and not only the suck), we are not only living a more meaningful life, but also learn to cope with bothersome situations, rather than dodging them. The Armed Forces have no other choice. No matter if they’re at basic training crawling through mud, carrying heavy backpacks day in and day out, or are in the middle of a fire fight somewhere in the desert, the only way they make it through these challenges, is by embracing them. (Well, you can’t just ignore that bulky pack on your back, or deny bullets flying at you.)

One of the biggest advantages of living in a civilized country in terms of dealing with unpleasant situations, also is one of the biggest drawbacks. We rarely are forced to immediately deal with a situation. We get “the chance” to postpone, procrastinate, deny, and ignore things, as there are enough other ways to numb or distract ourselves.

Job sucks? Well, at least the payment is okay, I guess. Hadn’t had sex for over a year? Well, I’m focusing on my career, I guess. Terribly overweight? Well, I don’t have enough time for working out and eating healthy, I guess.

Denial extends the presence of suck

We just love rationalizing why things sucks. Thereby, we don’t accept the suck (first step in order to embrace it), and prolong it. Not doing anything about the sucking job makes it suckier as you stick to it for a longer time. Not doing anything about the sucking love life makes it suckier (or well, remains suck-less if you are a single guy), as you stick to it for a longer time. You get it.

We’re not living a self determined life any more, but rather switch to autopilot mode, evading the peaks and thrills of life. But heck, that is what life is meant to be.

The one time we drove a tiny shitty car to Mongolia

Driving a tiny shitty car to Mongolia certainly isn’t the same as being in a fire fight in Afghanistan, though there were moments we couldn’t just dodge. A ripped fuel tank in the Gobi desert 200km away from the next settlement, no spare parts for 1992 Fiat Unos, terrible roads, corrupt police, and me suffering from severe diarrhoea which even let me hallucinate.

We hadn’t eaten properly for about 3 days, as we needed to hurry because our visas for the following countries soon would expire. We just entered Uzbekistan, and were in need for some fuel. Luckily, we got invited to join a wedding feast. Before we were evaluated worthy to buy their gasoline, we had to do some drinking. With “some” being terrible low balling. At least we finally got to eat something, and there really are worse things than getting hammered at noon. As my friend was the driver at that time, I of course had to take care of his share of vodka. Sa Sdorowje!

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Uzbek wedding. If travelling to Uzbekistan with your car, keep in mind that there are a bazillion gas stations, but all of them are empty (or only have liquid gas). In order to get some fuel, you have to get it on the black market.

We soon would challenge the Pamir Highway, the 2nd highest paved road in the world with the peak pass being at 4655 meters, starting in Tajikistan. This “highway” is in a terrible condition, very narrow, next to a steep cliff, a rapid flowing border river with Afghanistan on the other side, and I started to get sick.

I never encountered something similar. I already was used to travel diarrhoea, got infected with the Noro virus while visiting my Dad in hospital, and came home from Africa with 41°C of fever (luckily not Malaria induced). Imodium and antibiotics didn’t help, even though I popped them like smarties. Though we had water with us, my body just couldn’t absorb it. I tried adding salt, rehydration solution, and gatorade powder. Njet. Nothing helped, I continued to dehydrate and slowly started to even hallucinate.

Morphys law struck us. Our front bumper broke, which resulted in a reduced steering ability. Not the best thing to happen on such a narrow road.

How would we possibly make it to the next town?

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Severe diarrhoea some time later in Tajikistan. My face says it all. Our front bumper broke, we’re on the Pamir Highway, it’s getting dark, our lights aren’t working properly, the next town still is 175km away, the eighteen wheeler in the background popped two tires while trying to make it through this bottle neck (and now perfectly well blocks the whole road), my pants are shat, and I again need to relieve myself. It’s time to embrace the suck. But first, let me take a selfie!

On tops, some Tajik guy didn’t want to let us pass, as he wanted us to attend his wedding. Yea. They do marry a lot in the -stans. Only me falling out of the car, and not being able to stand on my own persuaded him to let us go.

This was the moment, were I stopped pitying myself. There was absolute nothing I could do to further improve the situation, than to accept it as it was. My pants were completely shat, I felt terrible, our car didn’t car as much as it was supposed to, but somehow we actually made it to Khorog.

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Igor says: Bumper? Njet!

I embraced the suck. I felt alive. Nothing else mattered. A feeling of totally seeing clear. A feeling we only encounter on rare occasions in our everyday lives.

I’m absolutely not saying that you should actively endanger your life, to risk your health, or manoeuvre yourself into situations where you can’t get out, but to stop denying your problems, and tackle them. Job sucks? Accept it, embrace it, and look for something else. No girlfriend? Accept it, embrace it, and work on yourself. Overweight? Accept it, embrace it, and get on that treadmill already.

Yes, it will be tough, yes there will be distractions, yes you might not immediately be able to change something, and yes the distractions will try and lure you into quitting, but by just pitying yourself, you certainly will extend the presence of suck, and not feel alive at all.

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