Doing Hard Things Is The Cure For What Ails You

I have recently started climbing mountains and through this came to a few life-changing realizations. My successful summit of Mt. Blanc gave me a new perspective on things, which really improved my mindset.

It was a long and dangerous climb, and the hardest thing I have ever done physically. However, after two days of pushing myself, for a brief moment I was the highest located man for thousands of kilometers around me.

I had accomplished something that I had thought was impossible and beyond my limits just a few years ago.

Doing something like this really gives you a great feeling and a boost to your self-confidence. A sense of accomplishment that results from this is priceless and can really help you in other areas of your life.

Cure for what ails you

Unfortunately, in our lives we are often confronted with stupid shit, which we have no control over. Stupid people, stupid rules, and other retarded stuff that just don’t make sense.

You can’t really control it, but it ends up bothering you. You stress over it and it makes you miserable. You need to realize that this stuff doesn’t matter. It is just stupid shit done by stupid people, people who have lost touch with reality.

If you really want to find meaning, happiness and balance in your life, you need to concentrate on doing things that you have control over.

You are the judge of the worth of all things. Only you can determine that you are the man.

And no, you won’t do it by standing in front of the mirror all day and chanting affirmations, but by going out, working hard and challenging yourself.

Mt. Blanc is the perfect test of that. And even if you fail to reach the top the first time, you will feel good about giving it your best. You will then know what to work on and come a second time better prepared.

When you do reach the top, you will have achieved something that the vast majority of people will never achieve in their life. Best of all, you will have done it through your own willpower and perseverance.

You will have tested yourself and you will have succeeded. This will be an enormous boost to your self-esteem.

You can take that back to your little office life and use it to get through all those confrontations that often happen in the modern workplace. When an overweight, sweaty slob starts shouting at you over some minor BS, you can just sit back and smile at him.

He will never accomplish what you have done. This is just his way of compensating for his own failures. Keep that in mind, and you will be able to rise above the BS. You don’t even know what an amazing feeling that is.
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Crazy Shit To Do: Climb Mt. Blanc

Your legs are hurting, you are breathing hard, and your chest feels like it is going to burst out of your body. Yet, you continue putting one foot in front of the other and struggle on.

That’s the basic description of what you will feel like when you go up Mt. Blanc. As one of the characters in the movie “Everest” said, climbing is just pain.

It is the ultimate test of your willpower. It takes an enormous amount of mental strength and perseverance to be able to finally reach the top.

This especially applies for people who spend most of their year sitting in their office being desk jockeys. For them, this can be quite challenging.

It is not an insurmountable task though. Every year, thousands of people manage to climb it. The pain lasts only a short time, but the memories last a lifetime.

Struggle on for a few days, but from then on, you will be a man who climbed the mountain. That is something no one can take away from you.

Contrary to what some people think, Mt. Blanc is not the highest mountain in Europe. That honor belongs to Mt. Elbrus in the Russian Caucasian Mountains. However, it is the highest mountain in Western Europe and stands at 4808 meters high.

The climb is not technically challenging, meaning that you won’t have to do any specialist mountaineering techniques. All you require is a good stamina, and good acclimatization.

You will also need equipment for mountaineering in snowy conditions, such as ropes and crampons. If you are a beginner, don’t go alone, but instead with a guide or at least an experienced mountaineer.

Don’t underestimate the dangers, as every year, a few people die on the mountain and many more need to be rescued.

The hardest thing I have ever done physically

I stood on top of Mt. Blanc last week. For me, it was probably the hardest thing that I have done physically, ever. It really pushed me to what I thought were my limits, but I discovered that my real limits are still way beyond that.

So in that way, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but also one of the most rewarding ones as well. Paradoxically, this pain is the reward of the journey.

By conquering this pain you prove to yourself that you have what it takes and can succeed at even the hardest things. You can succeed at things that the majority of people are too scared to even attempt.

What does a typical desk jockey need in order to be able to climb Mt. Blanc?

Well, besides the equipment and a strong mountaineer with him, the most important thing is a good preparation.

The first part of the preparation involves having good stamina. I really concentrated on getting my cardio up. The journey is long and hard, and you need to be physically prepared for it.

The best way to prepare is to do a lot of progressively longer (and more challenging) hikes in the mountains, but for many city folks, this is something they can’t do too often.

Most of my time training for this was spent in the gym, going up on these stepper machines. I started off going for less time and easier modes, but as I was getting more fit, I kept increasing the times and the challenge.

You can also go on daily runs or maybe even join some of those group fitness classes, if you think that you will get more motivated that way. Anything that improves your stamina is good.

This is the basic prerequisite, however no matter how hard you work in the gym, it does not ensure that you will be prepared to summit.

The key here is a good acclimatization. The most challenging part of hiking in mountains is that the higher you go up, the more challenging it gets. The reason for this is the lower amount of oxygen in higher altitudes.

This means that all the stuff that is easy at sea level, becomes quite hard in the mountains. You need to get your body ready for this, and this means that you need to spend a lot of time at higher altitudes as close as possible to the time before your ascent of Mt. Blanc.

The best way to do this is by scheduling a few hikes in the mountains a few days or the weekend before you go to Mt. Blanc. This way your body gets used to the altitude and you lower your chances of getting headaches or worse when you are there.

A bonus with this is the fact that you will also train some of the muscles that you don’t use in your desk jockey life, but which are crucial for mountaineering.

Doing these mountain hikes, really exposed how far we are removed from nature and “real life” in our modern lives. I discovered muscles I never knew I had and they all hurt! 🙂
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Going To Thailand To Train Muay Thai For A Month

Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of becoming a karate master. One of my favorite movies growing up was the “Karate Kid” and I used to watch that film over and over and over again.

Unfortunately I grew up and no part of that dream came true. No karate tournaments, no wild motorbike chases, no awesome death touch. Well, now I will make at least a small part of that dream a reality.

Yes, at times I did train and tae kwon do and did get some colored belts, but at no time was I serious. Now I will change that.

I booked a flight to Thailand for a month and will do intensive training at one of the muay thai camps in the country. I am a complete beginner in the fighting art, but hopefully after a month of intense effort, I will learn at least the basics.

I was planning to do this for a long time now, but kept postponing it. I am not getting younger though and so finally I said “fuck it” and booked the trip.
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The Normal Person Guide To Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

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As I have written previously, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is one of the most rewarding experiences us average city slickers can do. However how do you go about it? What types of things do you need to do in order to make your expedition a success?

Luckily for the normal guys out there, this adventure is not out of reach of almost anyone. Unlike Mt. Everest or countless other mountains, you don’t have to be an advanced mountaineer to climb it.

In fact, Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in the world that you can reach without the need of any climbing equipment. Basically it’s one long hike, with only a few rocky patches that you have to climb over.

How should I prepare?

While going up Mt. Kilimanjaro is not something super, super hard, you do need to be fit in order to do it. There are two important things that you need to get ready for.

1) You need to be prepared for long hikes in challenging terrain

If you do a lot of hiking on your free time, then you are set to go. However if you are a sit-on-your ass desk jockey, then you will need to spend some time to get your ass up to speed.

The first thing you need to do is to work on your stamina. Get your ass to the gym and start doing some cardio, whether on the treadmill, on a stepper, or on one of those static ski machine thingies. Or better yet alternate all of them!

You can also join some group classes where they do endurance work. One of the things I did to prepare was join a group of people who were doing cardio circuits. It’s a fun way to get in shape, but also meet some new people in the process.

The best way to prepare is to start going on actual hikes though. Start off slow and then gradually keep on building up, increasing the distance, varying the terrain and going higher and higher in altitude.

2) You need to be prepared for the altitude

And this is the key part of the preparation. No matter how fit you are, the altitude can get you. That’s why you need special preparation to address this issue.

If you are like most people, then you probably live at lower altitudes. In higher altitudes, there is lower pressure and less oxygen, which could create adverse effects in people who are not used to this. In extreme cases, this can even result in death.

The good news is that your body gradually adapts to higher altitudes. That’s why during the trip to Kilimanjaro, you spend several days hiking around the mountain, hiking high and then sleeping in lower altitudes. This gives your body time to adapt.

However, if you want to significantly lower your chance of your body breaking down while at Kilimanjaro, you should spend some time in higher altitudes before going there. That way, your body is already prepared.
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Crazy Shit To Do: Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro

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If you have been reading my blog, you might have caught the fact that last summer (August 2015), I went on a crazy adventure to Tanzania. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, camping out in the Serengeti and relaxing on the island paradise of Zanzibar are a combination that can create memories to last a lifetime.

I am not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the ultimate adventures that you can do. In two weeks, my entire worldview and beliefs about myself changed. I pushed myself to the limits and discovered what I am capable of, connected with nature and explored a set of whole new cultures up close and personal.

The most incredible part of this whole trip is that this is something that just a year before I would never have considered doing. I would never even have imagined myself being capable of doing this. Climbing a mountain was never something that I thought I would ever do, especially not one so tall.

On the surface, it seems like a daunting task. Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and rises up to 5,895 meters above sea level. It is located close to the equator, but due to its height, its top is constantly bathed in snow.

The peak of the mountain is covered by glaciers, although ones that are shrinking fast due to global warming. They have shrunk by 85% in the past 100 years and unfortunately most predictions say that they might disappear completely in a very short while.

Standing at the top is an amazing experience. Looking around, you see a desolate landscape and huge swathes of snow and ice. You are in Africa, but there is snow!

The rugged beauty that is in front of you has a special effect on all that experience it. It is as if you were suddenly transported to another world.

You are overwhelmed by the entire magic of it all. You have spent days circling this monster, getting closer and closer to its peak, to be foiled day after day. However on this final day, you have made it.

By standing on the top, you get a sense of something more powerful than yourself. It makes you reflect on the world and your place in it. What you are experiencing is awe and it can really change your entire world view, not only of yourself, but others. This has actually been proven by scientific studies:

New research from UC Berkeley and UC Irvine suggests that experiencing awe can actually prompt us to act more benevolently toward others. In other words, awe can help make the world a better place.

You literally come back a changed person. The top of Mt. Kilimanjaro is something only a select few get to experience and you are lucky to be one of them.
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Adventures in Post-Soviet Georgia: Tbilisi And Batumi

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This summer I spent some time in Georgia. However this wasn’t your momma’s Georgia. They don’t speak with a southern drawl there. In fact their language is unrelated to any other language that is spoken by any people outside the Caucasus. I did not go to the American Georgia, but instead to the Georgia that used to be part of the USSR.

It’s a country in the Caucasus region. In the north, you can find the Caucasus mountains, while the west of the country is located on the Black Sea.

I got to Tbilisi, the capital, at midnight and while being driven into town, the first thing I noticed was the quaint charm of the old town, or the historical center. There was an old fortress perched high up on a rock and a bunch of old churches all around. All these were illuminated by lights of different colors and this gave the entire scene a certain glow which uplifted the senses.

What was surprising was that even though it was after midnight and in the middle of the week, the center was full of people, walking around or just hanging out, which gave the town a dynamic atmosphere. There were groups of young people chatting, girls in mini-skirts on their way to party and families with little kids enjoying a nice after midnight stroll. If you have been to any cities around the Mediterranean, then you know what I am talking about.

What to do in Tbilisi
The city of Tbilisi itself looks quite modern, with many of the old buildings being reconstructed and clean. The highlight of the visit will be the old town. The old town lies right on the river and there are several churches there which are more than a thousand years old.

High above the old town there are the ruins of an old fortress, which are definitely worth a visit. Once up at the fortress, you get a great view of the entire city.

You can also walk along Rustaveli Street and explore all the shops or go to the amusement park above the city. Once at the amusement park, don’t forget to go to the restaurant there, as you get a great view of the entire city while eating there.
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Why Are Dutch People So Tall?

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I spent a year living in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The first day when I arrived I had to go the bathroom. I went in, found the urinals and unzipped. Then I noticed a very unusual thing. The urinals seemed to be a lot higher than what I am used to.

I am above average height for most countries (6’1 or 184cm), however in the Netherlands I was just average (sometimes I felt even below average). I am used to urinals being way below my crotch level, however here it felt like I almost had piss up instead of down. 🙂

This is one of the first things that you notice when you arrive in the Netherlands (besides the fact that everything is flat and there are bikes everywhere), the people are much taller than in other places.

They seem to tower above you. They are quite lanky and not too built, but they are tall. I remember my first day at school, sitting down at a table next to one Dutch guy. He seemed pretty thin and not very big, so I did not pay particular attention. Then he stood up from his chair and was almost a full head taller than me! While sitting down he seemed small, but when standing up you had a completely different image of him.

It wasn’t always so. In fact a few generations ago, the Dutch were one of the shortest people in Europe. Almost all the other countries had on average taller people. This changed rapidly, especially after World War 2.
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Homeless in Copenhagen

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We don’t have a room for you and the entire city is booked out,” said the hotel manager as I stood across from him, clutching papers in my right hand and looking around nervously.

I grew angry and worried: “But I made a reservation. Here is the proof.” I showed him a paper with proof of my reservation. He looked at it, but came back with some sort of stupid reply, absolving himself of any blame and pushing the fault at me.

I wanted to yell at him, make a scene, but it would have been of no use. It wouldn’t change the fact that I was now stuck in Copenhagen for three days without lodging and needed to make a presentation at a huge conference the next day. The most important thing is to try to find a place to stay the night.

All the hotels in the city were booked out. ALL OF THEM! There were most likely several big conferences happening at the same time, therefore pushing up the prices for the hotels and bringing down the availability of rooms to zero.

I was in crisis mode and quickly needed to do something. There must be some hostels nearby that I can stay in. Those always have rooms. Resigned to my fate, I calmly asked where the nearest hostel was. Apparently there was one just up on the next streets. I took my bags and started walking to where the hostel was supposed to be. On the way, I passed another hotel and stopped in to ask for availability of rooms. As expected, they were all booked out.
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The Epic Quest For Beer In Marrakesh

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Marrakesh is a city of contrasts, located right in the center of Morocco. When you get off at the city’s central square, the Jemaa el Fna, it is like stepping back in time, a time when ancient traders used to roam the Sahara and the preferred mode of transportation was the camel. Immediately, you get the feeling of being in one of the stories of a “Thousand and One Nights”.

There are snake charmers playing their instruments with a very distinct high-pitched almost hypnotic sound, women covered up head to toe offering to give out henna tatoos and a variety of different scammers trying to sell you anything from spices to little trinkets. The square then leads into the souks and a variety of winding side streets, in which you can get lost very easily and wander around for hours.

Yet Marrakesh also has its modern side. If you walk up the Mohammed V. road away from the Medina and the souks, you arrive in the new part of town, the Gueliz, which has a totally different feel. It is as if you have arrived in a typical city in southern Spain. The Gueliz is filled with bars, shopping malls and also fast food restaurants and does not differ from anything that you would find in southern Europe.

My Trip
I have been planning to go to Morocco for a while now, but finally decided to go for it and booked a ticket to Morocco. The good thing is that several of the cities in Morocco now get regular low-cost carrier flights, such as with Ryanair or EasyJet. Unfortunately I booked a rather late, so my Ryanair ticket was rather pricy, but still doable.

I went from Thursday to Monday, so basically 4 nights, including the weekend. I wanted to use my overtime for that, however my boss rejected that (so unfortunately all my overtime went to waste) and instead I had to take some vacation days to cover that. 🙁

The Marrakesh airport is pretty small, but it takes a long time to get through immigration. So when flying there, take into account that getting through immigration could take up to an hour or even more at busy peaks.

After getting through immigration, you have either of two choices to get to town, taxi or bus. There is a bus (bus number 19), which goes from the airport to different parts of the center (with the main fixed stop being at the Jemaa el Fna). The bus has very few set stops, so if you tell the driver what hotel you are staying in, he will most likely take you there. The trip one way costs 30 dirhams (the exchange rate is around 11 dirhams for 1 EUR). The problem is that the bus has no fixed schedule, but comes approximately every 30 minutes, so you might end up standing at the bus stop wondering whether the bus will come at all.

While standing at the bus stop (which you get to by turning left when exiting the terminal building and walking towards the big sign with “Bus” on it), you will most likely get hassled by taxi drivers trying to get you into their taxi. This is the first sign of what you will most likely be encountering very frequently throughout your stay in Marrakesh (especially in the old part of town, the Medina).

At first they will be quoting you outrageous prices. However you can bargain with them. To get more reasonable prices, the tip from the internet is to go away from the rows of taxis standing in front of the terminal, and instead go to the round about and catch a taxi there. There you should get a more reasonable price.

The guys will start quoting you prices from like 200 dirhams, but the usual price should be around 40 dirhams from the airport to the Jemaa el Fna (the locals probably pay less than that even).

Initially when I got out of the terminal, I wanted to take the bus. I went to the sign saying “Bus” and waited. The bus wasn’t coming for a while. At first I was standing alone, but soon was joined by other tourists.

I am a pretty gullible person, but from these other tourists I got to see how easy it is for the local scammers to scam the clueless tourists.

Keep in mind that the already inflated average tourist price for getting to the Jemaa el Fna should be around 40 dirhams (it’s just a short 10 or 15 minute ride from the airport) and the bus to the center costs 30 dirhams. The other tourists standing at the bus stop were two couples. A taxi driver approached them and said that he could give them a “special deal” and take everyone into town for the “low” price of 30 dirhams EACH.

The other guys enthusiastically agreed. Since it was my first time in Morocco and I didn’t want to stand alone at the bus stop (at that time I didn’t even know whether that was in fact the stop), I decided to go along. The taxi driver squeezed 5 people into his taxi (the legal maximum is 3 passengers) and off we went. He did get us to the center, but he made a killing for the ride. That’s 5×30, which equals 150 dirhams, when the already inflated taxi price should be 40! I am usually pretty clueless, but the cluelessness of the other tourists in Marrakesh borders with retardedness sometimes.

This keeps the level of scaminess at extremelly high levels. It seems like almost everyone is out to scam you. This then ends up with you getting paranoid sometimes. The thing is that the Moroccans are pretty friendly people, however in Marrakesh, you don’t know whether they are being friendly because they are genuinely friendly, or they are trying to scam you. In the center of Marrakesh it’s most likely the latter, so be careful and err on the side of caution.
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