Life on the road is as demanding as it is rewarding. No country has demonstrated this statement more to me, than Mongolia. It is a wild outback that will inevitably bring out the bushman lying dormant inside anyone who dares to venture into the steppe. It is a humbling experience to fully immerse oneself in the monotonous, unforgiving but beautiful landscape of of the East-Asian country. However, going from the pampered, clean and comfortable lives we lead in our Western cities to the harsh reality of the Mongolian Steppe is not at easy transition. Here are few tips that might help to ease into the bushman life:
1. Keep clean. Okay, yes, it may be impossible, but taking any opportunity you can to have a little scrub-down can really lift your spirits. My go-to is the Tent Shower: fill 400ml of water in your cooking-pot, get yourself a rag, get yourself naked and scrub those grubby pits. And make sure you wash your pot thoroughly before dinner
2. Keep yourself entertained. Instruments are a great tool to keep the mind occupied and a powerful communal activity. Creation in-general is a great way to stay entertained. Get creative with the things around you. Perhaps make yourself a nice chair, a table, or even a temporary furnace out of stones.
3. Remember to laugh. A specific moment in Mongolia that has stuck with me is of our first week cycling off-road.
Pushing through sand all-day and down to our last litres of water, we were making very slow progress. Earlier on, we had scaled a hill to get a better vantage point in the hope of spotting water – and successfully so, we found a small river about three kilometres away. We spent the rest of the day getting there. Drawing closer, things took a turn for the worse... The ground became lumpy with moguls, almost impossible to cycle across. And venturing further into the bog we were hit by the first wave of midges and mosquitos. The ground became very sludgy but we dredged on in the hope of procuring some fresh H2O. As we hit ten metres the final wave of the winged beasts came upon us like a plague, completely covering my legs. The final straw was seeing a dead horse slumped on the banks of the, mostly dried-up, river bed. We ran.
We escaped only to the edge of the mosquito perimeter and set up camp. Sweaty, dirty, hungry and thirsty, and now covered in bites there was silence in the camp. I was at the end of my tether, my shit; lost, my arms; flailing to swat the midges so intent to kamikaze into my mouth or get at my eye liquid. Claudia, possibly our most responsible member who always had her shit together, stared blankly into the distance as she began the first of fifty breaths to inflate her mattress. She burst out laughing. and quickly the laughter spread. My mood lifted as I began to see the situation more objectively. I was not in danger of death and I needn't have been so het-up. Laughter helped me to realise that, if framed in the right way, the situation could have been an enjoyable one, and definitely a story to tell.
Seeking humour, even in the unlikeliest of places, is a muscle that I'm still training. I think it can be the most effective tool for getting yourself out of a funk and back into the groove.