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Into the Wild Open Scrub

Getting away by going outdoors is hardly a novel idea, but I’m still always amazed how therapeutic it is.

The view through my tent. Lost in the middle is the Big Dipper.

It’s hard for me to complain these days. I’m willfully unemployed and wandering the globe aimlessly, in theory. And I’m enjoying it thoroughly.

But there’s always that voice insisting that life should be spent doing something. And I worry sometimes that I will use this time unwisely. That this is a great opportunity that should not be squandered.

It’s not an obligation to a community or purpose (or porpoise), but instead it’s that innate, selfish need to feel like your life has substance. And when you’ve got nothing solid or consistent around you, you move in a quiet vacuum, and you need to find more independent ways of viewing your life.

I regularly confront the fact that Implementing daydreams only remotely relates to manufacturing them.

I seem to have taken some variant of this photo many, many times this weekend.

I arrived in Bishkek more than 10 days ago and in that time I’ve primarily been meeting people and getting the lay of the land, enjoying Baltika beer and frozen pelmeni over conversations with friends. And I’ve also spent significant time inside, alone, online, researching where to go, reaching out to people in the region. And even here, sometimes I get distracted by bright, shiny, websites as I would at a slow job under bad lighting in an indistinguishable location.

So I sometimes condemn my time management as unproductive.

And then I got away for four days into Konorchak Canyon with 10 Russians I did not know. After three hours on the highway and one along a crumbling precipice, we arrived at some small Kyrgyz shepherd house, from which we descended. The moment we got out of the vehicle and divvied up supplies, I was giddy.

As we meandered down the sloping green tabletop, spaced out along a scrubby ridge amid a vast, muted panorama, the need to be productive melted away. It’s not like there’s meaning in the mountains; it’s just the kind of place where you realize you don’t need it.

I have to admit that as much fun as the long weekend was, the geographic highlights were the beginning and end, coming into and out of the glacial gutter. Once you’re long wandering the clay concrete and not-quite-cramped corridors, strolling the parched, snaking streambeds feels almost silly in its sun-bleached repetition.

But you can’t beat sleeping in a tent by the river, with a clear, silent, starry sky. And it was an engaging group of Russians, who provided practice for my often useless and always rusty language skills. A little cognac, vodka, absinthe, and/or curiously strong clear liquid strengthened my linguistic confidence. And the lamb shashlik and sala hit the spot.

So, human interaction and the great outdoors are more rewarding than the solo web surfing it took to get there. Go figure.

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