“An Expert Source”: Matt Gessel

“An Expert Source” by Matt Gessel


“Live for the moments you can’t put into words.” As Sarah Palmer shared that quote I realized that those moments have occurred endlessly in the eleven rotations of the Earth’s axis which have occurred since Operation Ashabadi departed a snowy Salt Lake City. The world has carried on, and so have our young lives. But what we have seen and felt is not easily described. So instead of sharing my encounters with herds of goats and buzzing marketplaces, I would like to share some insights that I believe qualify me as an expert source on life—and on India. Let me share my newfound tips.

Drink lots of water. Water is the essence of life, and in my opinion, the essence of good health. My trusty Nalgene has rarely left my side on this expedition, and I credit it for a lucky avoidance of sickness. However, make sure that you have a bathroom nearby. Even if it’s just a hole, like it sometimes is here.

Learn to say no. The marketplaces here, in the village of Chamba, are full of humble Indians who are earning an honest living. They will try to sell you anything, and are much bolder than American shopkeepers. A simple “no” can be infinitely useful. And this extends to life. Saying “no” to a request, or extra burden, while sometimes hard, can be what is best for you.

Prioritize people. The realness of the expedition and distance from meaningless technology and possessions has brought each member of this team amazingly close. Daily, we prioritize each other, and fantastic conversations have occurred. And a roaring fire can work like magic; people will talk about anything. (Naomi and I talked in detail about a certain pair of family members, and some bets may have been placed).

Decide on your situation. We have the capacity to determine our attitudes and reactions. My best day at the school of Koh came when I determined that I was going to have a good day. If you need to, say it out loud. “Today is going to be great.” “I can do this.” “This is out of my control, and I can live with that.”

Cut out noise. India is host to lots of noises. Some that I have heard include vomiting, an endless collection of truck horns, and rhymic chanting at the Golden Temple. Some noises are pleasant, and some are best to be avoided. It is within our power to avoid, or drown out, noises that aren’t best for us.

Those are my tips, and I have many others that this trip has taught me. I really do believe in this program and its endless capacity to change lives. It has changed mine.