When I returned from the race back to my normal life in Brooklyn, I stumbled upon a Bloomberg article about the Tsaatan — a nomadic tribe of northern Mongolia known as the "reindeer people."
The Tsaatan are a small, indigenous tribe who are trying to maintain their ancient cultural traditions in a quickly modernizing Mongolia. They're also the only people on the planet who actually ride reindeer.
The Tsaatan rely on these reindeer for survival in the harsh environment they live in. They utilize the reindeer for food, use their fur for warmth (winter can reach -50 degrees Celsius), and ride them as their primary form of transportation.
The tribe lives in the marshy valleys of West Taiga, close to the Russian border. Here reindeer — not horses — are the best suited for traversing this type of rugged, barren terrain and Siberian climate conditions.
The story I read stated that this way of life for the Tsaatan might not last much longer. So it was in that moment I decided to get back to the wilds of Mongolia and discover this tribe for myself. I was determined to live amongst them and experience their way of life while I still could.
I returned to Mongolia this past summer, and led an expedition to the remote valley where I'd find the Tsaatan.
Here I was, just a regular guy from New York City, completely stripped down to only absolute necessities and immersed in this ancient culture.
For a brief moment in time, I was a nomadic reindeer herder.
Here are five important lessons about life and survival I learned from the Tsaatan:
1. Living in the moment is a way of life.
The Tsaatan don't have phones or wear watches, and are not run by a strict schedule like those of us in the modern world. They live simply to enjoy the moment — for them, life isn't about climbing a social ladder, obtaining that new car or making lots of money. They live their lives solely to keep up their cultural traditions. The only thing that dictates time are the changes of seasons and their dependency on reindeer for survival.
At one point, we were all out riding and I had asked (through our translator), "How long will it take us to ride to that mountain pass?" Their answer, "We will get there when we get there. Let's just enjoy the ride along the way."