A Travel Story: What Breakdowns and Broken Spirits Reveal About Mankind

Last Updated on December 9, 2021 by Chris and Lindsay

What most people miss in the process of giving is the receiving. And I have to say, what we’ve learned so far is that pride is the single factor that ruins the beautiful human interaction that takes place between the giver and receiver.

So, before you can even try to understand what it means to give or to receive you have to be willing to strip back pride. You have to find yourself in a state of true humility.

And that’s not easy.

Unless your truck breaks in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness, or the Arizona desert.

Every breakdown is an opportunity to learn to give, or to receive, assistance. It’s a chance to connect with people who you would otherwise never meet.

Needy Eyes Meet Kind Eyes

We’ve found ourselves stranded, or almost stranded, so many times that our pride is all but stripped away. When I can quickly realize that there is nothing I can do, I am able to more quickly reach a point where I seek alternatives that involve other people. This breaking, literally and metaphorically, is the foundation for receiving.

It’s when you find yourself well beyond your comfort zone, in that place where the sign says “violators will be shot for trespassing,” when you either buck up and get furious or you sink to your knees and become humble.

When you can reach a point of humility in a situation – any situation – I have come to learn that solutions are much more accessible. I used to have a travel philosophy that “needy eyes find kind eyes.”

In other words, when you accept that you need help, you start searching for other people who you believe might be able to assist. And even in a crowd of people, when your needy eyes finally make contact with kind eyes, a human connection forms in which the giver-receiver relationship can take place.

Needy Eyes

One morning our truck wouldn’t start. We camped on a river of a side road off one of the main roads in the Kanai Peninsula. Our whole goal in camping that evening was to avoid people. Yet the best spot we found was between an RV and a family with a small parking lot full of vehicles. It wasn’t quiet. But it was fortunate.

Some things we can fix ourselves. Other things we cannot. We are always grateful for the assistance from others.

At this point in the trip I have learned not to panic when things don’t go as planned. I’ve developed a phrase, “It’s only…” to respond to unfavorable situations that arise. There are only so many things it could be in any situation. So why panic? Just start eliminating the possibilities.

In this case, it’s only… a battery that needs jumping or replacing, a starter that needs replacing or a handful of things I’m not mechanically smart enough to know. So despite the fact we were miles from any town I knew we’d figure it out, somehow.

But I couldn’t.

Meet Kind Eyes

I could charge the batteries. I cranked on the generator and plugged in my battery charger and waited half an hour. Still the truck wouldn’t turn over.

I could tap on the top of the starter a few times to try and loosen a solenoid (I know, mechanic talk!). But I couldn’t find the starter, or the solenoid.

Fortunately the owner of the RV next to us came up and asked what our problem was. I explained what I thought it was and what I had done and then he asked if it was OK to assist.

Imagine that, asking someone who is stranded if they would like assistance! (Note: We do that ALL of the time in our travels!)

Within ten minutes he had us back on the road. It was only some corrosion on the battery terminals that needed to be cleaned up.

Another time

Another time we blew a tire on the infamous Dalton Highway. This road to the top of the world, made famous as the “Ice Road Truckers” highway, was atrocious. It was 415 miles each way from Fairbanks to Deadhorse, Alaska ten miles from the Arctic Ocean. Small portions of the road were paved (complete with potholes and frost heaves). But most of the road was a mixture of dirt, gravel and old cement pavement worn from years of use.

Lindsay standing next to our flat tire.

Frustration. Anxiety. Exhaustion. Every negative emotion can combine and be amplified in a breakdown situation. This is why connecting with others is so important in these times.

We made it safely to Deadhorse with no incident. However 50 miles outside of town on our return trip I noticed the steering wheel was too loose. I swerved a little and could hear a dragging sound. The dragging turned out to be our mud flaps hanging on the ground because our rear tire had blown out.

We pulled over to a safe place and jumped into action. Within five minutes I have barely cranked our bottle jack enough to alleviate the pressure on the rim and rear axle. But I was having a hard time raising the axle enough to be able to replace the bad tire with the spare.

Perfect Timing

When I was at a frustration point Lindsay yelled out, “There’s someone pulling over. Do you want help?”

In my younger years my pride would have said “No!” and I would have waved them by. But in this instance my pride was miles behind us. I wanted all of the help that I could get. We took it, with humble hearts, and two hours later we were on the road again.

It seems these extenuating circumstances that took us so far out of our comfort zone were exactly what it took to prepare us to be ready to receive.

Intentional Actions: Giving

Giving happens because we, as human beings, are created to be in relationship with other human beings. We are empathetic creatures capable of relating to others who are in a place of need. We still have to choose to give. And, equally difficult, we also have to choose to receive.

We received help from a stranger on the Dalton Highway

Friends can easily be forged in the fires of trying times.

But a beautiful relationship is formed in the tension that exists between the giver and the receiver. In this moment where the hands of the giver meet the hands of the receiver you see purpose for humankind. There is hope and healing and joy for all mankind in this one simple moment.

If you don’t pay close enough attention you miss it. And we miss it all the time.

Become Intentional

Our goal in traveling from Alaska to Argentina is to become more intentional in seeking out these special moments to connect with other human beings. We hope we impact them in a time of need in such a way as we have been blessed in our need. We love relationship. And we love when our story collides with the stories of others in one beautiful story of life.

We’re not alone in the world. And we’re not against each other. In fact, its quite the opposite. And the sooner we join in helping each other, the more beautiful our story will be…

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