You are what you drive…… A lesson learned in Mongolia

It has been said that you are what you eat.  It has also been said that a dog is often a reflection of it’s owner.  In Mongolia, if you are what you drive, then your toughness would be described as a Soviet made Russian van with cold war features. Of the short time that I have spent in Mongolia I have met some of the toughest men I have ever encountered in my travels.  They seem to carry with them a sense of toughness that has been passed down to them from generation to generation, as most would say from Chenggis Kahn himself. One of the most captivating people that I have met has been the driver that I have used to see most of the central countryside and desert here in Mongolia- a total of about 30 days.  I think that his smile from the above photo is a good indication of the guy he is.  It literally took nine days to even get this guy to laugh.  Which could be quite understandable from a guy whose diet consists of sheep guts, pickle juice, goat milk tea, cigarettes, and beer. One time we stopped over for the night at a ger/yurt camp and went into the host families ger  where they were preparing us some customary hot milk tea.  On the floor by the fire, there was  a bowl of boiled sheep guts.  This guy proceeded to take some guts out, hold them over the flame for a few minutes to give them a nice little singe, then started to munch away.  All while cracking  a smile that was meant to show how delicious they actually were, or a smile that was rubbing it in what a bunch of wusses we were munching on dried apples. I shared many stories and many beers with him and have been humbled in a ways that I can’t explain.  A way that dates back to maybe the way that all of our ancestors used to live-simple hard lives, never wanting really more than they needed.  Finding ways to be happy with what they had in front of them. One time, while sharing some vodka, I asked him what he hoped to be doing when he was eighty years old.  The question made him chuckle a little bit, and then he responded with a smile and said  “driving my machina”.  If he could be behind the wheel still driving his van, than that was the happiest he could ever want to be thirty years from now. Often times I look at my life and I can’t honestly answer what would make me happy by the time I am eighty years old or even what I would want to be doing.  I envy “Chenggis” in the way that he has found his happiness, in a weird way, and is willing to hold onto it.  I can honestly say that I don’t think he could ever want to be doing something else.  Everyday that I wake up I am faced with decisions.  Most of my decisions people can’t understand, and I don’t expect them to.  When you have the luxury to plan your existence, I often think it is the sharpest double edged sword in the world.   The hardest part of my day is knowing that the grass will always bee greener on the other side of the fence, and it is a struggle to really find happiness with what is in front of me.  There will always be a better option, and it is a constant struggle to leave it up to fate or free will. I have more money to travel with, than what Chenggis probably makes in a year, yet at the end of the day he has found something that I have spent 31 years and travelling to over 20 countries searching for.   It’s been said that a man needs a purpose.  And fulfilling that purpose of driving me around, is the same as fulfilling the purpose of wanting to be the President of a country someday.   Everything is relative, and the world needs all types. Sometimes I would love to experience just how hard a life it really is to work and live simply here in Mongolia; then I think about my hot showers back home, grilled cheese,  and slowly forget it all the same.  To be so accustomed of the security that I have been raised in, and to consider sacrificing all of that, forces an overwhelming sense of fear that inevitably finds it’s way into my conscience self being. The famous author, Eric Hoffer who wrote The True Believer and won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, once described his life as thirty years spent in the cradle, thirty years spent in the ditch, and thirty years spent as a long shore man.  Sometimes I joke around saying that if I could sum up my time on this planet, it will probably be thirty years spent in the cradle, thirty years lost, and thirty years trying to be found. Either way, I am greatly thankful for the life that I have been given and the opportunities that I have had the luxury to experience, and most importantly for all the people that I have met along the way. To who much is given, much is expected and Mongolia has surely taught me the truth behind this.   Everyday is an education if we can open ourselves up to it and I guess the greatest lesson is that no matter how much success we obtain, never loose sight of the simplicity that really makes life special and defines who we truly are, whichever path “we choose” or whatever path “chooses us”.

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