There’s more to life than the American Dream we’ve been sold. In this series I present an alternative way to view the world and your surroundings. There is so much out there to experience, enjoy, and incorporate into our lives. It’s all there for the taking, but getting there is the hard part. In this series I show how to to change your paradigm to give yourself a fighting chance of taking the path less less traveled to live up to your potential. How you act on what you discover is up to you, but I hope you take your own plunge into a happier and healthier life.
As I caught a taxi in Erbil, Iraq and told the driver to go to “Suli karaj” (Suli garage, or the garage for shared taxis going to Sulaymaniyah) I realized how much acceptance plays a role in my life, in independent travel, and in life in general for everyone.
In normal life people have the impression that they have things under control. Life follows a relatively predictable pattern. Surprises come, but they are few and far between unless you challenge the status quo. Life feels controllable.
Going back to Iraq, I caught this taxi not knowing where this garage was. I had read online that the only way to get to other cities using public transportation is via shared taxi. The taxi driver took me all the way to the other side of the city and dropped me off at the Sulaymaniyah garage.
I saw people standing under an overhang with taxis strewn about everywhere. I figured they were waiting to go to Sulaymaniyah. I approached a complete stranger in need of help. This happens every day on The Happy Nomad Tour, but in my normal American life so many years ago I would have gone into over-analysis mode and tried to think my way out of a situation and/or do anything to avoid speaking to someone I didn’t know.
There was a young couple standing there. I figured they were my best hope of finding English-speakers and for understanding my heavy accent when I said the word “Sulaymaniyah.” They didn’t speak English, but upon hearing the city they pointed me in the right direction. I guess the taxis I saw before me were going to another destination.
As I walked 100m farther I heard guys yelling “Suli, Suli, Suli.” I was used to such a relatively chaotic scene, guys shouting, people standing around, not being able to communicate with anyone, relying on my intuition to figure out what to do.
I was lucky. The taxi already had three passengers in the back seat. They were just waiting for one person to come and sit up front. For the extra comfort of sitting up front the price was 20,000 Iraqi Dinars ($17) instead of the normal 15,000 Iraqi Dinars ($13). I tried to negotiate downward hoping they would be happy to leave now and just charge me the normal price. No luck. It’s ok. I wanted a window seat so I could take pictures of the landscape. That plus not having to wait at all to go was worth the extra $4.
I don’t know why this situation made me think about control. I guess as I navigated that chaotic situation the way I have so many other times on this journey, with no common language, I realized how little control I had over the situation. I had to trust that I was going to the right place, that the driver would drive well, that in passing through the Kurdish part of Kirkuk that touches the border with the rest of Iraq we’d be safe, that I wasn’t being ripped off financially, that I wasn’t going to be kidnapped, etc.
But no, there was nothing I could do. Just trust in my intuition, in humanity, in the universe. It’s humbling to realize how little we control. In recognizing this simple fact, it frees you of much of the worry you unnecessarily burden yourself with. Try and think about the things that you worry about. How much of it do you really have control over? The things you don’t control, let the worry go. It’s just unnecessary friction on your pursuit of happiness.