Mantas Zalkauskas / Man Orchestra Playing the Meaning of Life
The quiet, the busy, the Übermensch Mantas naturally evoked for the very first question once we landed on two sweet armchairs in the ice cream place: what’s actually what you are doing in life?
I googled, I watched him on YouTube, I listened to his TED speech, finally, I’ve read articles about him. It turns out that besides being a facilitator, a videographer, a businessman on Amazon.com, Mantas received media’s attention after his 900km walk around Lithuania in winter. Alone. Followed by a wolf. Sleeping in the forests. I repeat here once again – in Lithuanian winter.
by IEVA JUODELE
photographer DARIUS MARKUNAS
How come could you simply sleep at the border guards’ offices?
My short stays at the border points had been agreed with the staff before my trip, so officers knew I was coming from time to time to sleep at their headquarters. In some villages people welcomed me with homemade food, they were interested in my challenge. At some places they were rather critical, thinking I am too unoccupied in life and that’s why I chose to spend my time walking alone in the wild.
So, the core question – why did you decide to walk 900km in winter, alone?
I was longing for a personal challenge for a while. I knew it had to be related to walking and to nature. The decision to combine these two into one bundle was purely a feeling rather than an outcome of slow and long thinking.
During my journey, which lasted for 38 days, I was interrupted only twice a week by my close friends, so I ended up in a crystal clear state of being. This condition naturally gets disturbed while living in a city, so I need to leave for a long walk from time to time to refresh this state of being again.
How to take care of yourself while staying alone in the forest?
Firstly, take care of water: I was melting down the snow and boiling it for the food. Then, while water was still hot, I poured it to the plastic bottle and used to warm myself up during the night. Once the snow was gone, the water was gone, too.
The second thing, learn how to build a tent in the dark quickly and effectively.
Thirdly, it’s important to know of how to pack all the unpacked stuff back to the backpack once it was all over the campsite.
Then, the map: it rarely matches the reality when being in the wild, so eventually try to trust your guts.
Tip no. 5: bare without a shower for 3 or 4 days. Oppositely than in urban environment, here no one cares.
Now, food: from my own experience, I was dragging the food on the sledge all the way until it got really hard, so often I was sending more and more things back home. UPS was delivering me food to the point I was at that time, however, it was hard to make myself eat, even though I needed energy. A lesson here – make yourself eat and try to estimate food quantity you will need in advance and more accurately.
Also, one of the main discomforts you have to tolerate in nature is unpredictability.
What benefits, in general, does unpredictability bring to one‘s life?
Unpredicted things crack the thick wall of one‘s routine. As a consequence, a man learns not to be afraid of the ever-changing environment, learns to feel free.
I can surely place an equality sign between unpredictability and personal freedom.
Comfort and improvement. Do they contradict or complement each other?
Nowadays it‘s super easy to create. Everything is so easy to learn, to use for your own needs.
On the other hand, while living in this comfort, very simple things might turn into a big adventure. Getting cold during the long walk, forget your umbrella and getting wet in the rain – sounds much wow, looks like a shareable story on social media.
Everything is so fast, and that speed makes things superficial.
I think a person shall constantly widen his or her consciousness, to make the resources he/she has today experimenting with the new ‘inconveniences’. As I said before, it leads to freedom.
Freedom and personal goals. Is your role as a facilitator to ease people’s lives?
Partially, yes. While working with business or individuals, I try to make them see the main obstacles in their personal or work environment, to be the unprejudiced voice leading to the solution. During the workshops, I apply different types of methods of how to approach the problem and solve it, how to make people listen, not only talk.
I think we are too much of the talkers. If we only learnt to listen more, we would not only hear others but also ourselves. Shouting doesn’t make you bigger, nor does it make you more important. It declares that you are experiencing a sort of lack of attention.
What do you think are the main obstacles in our society to live our dreams?
I believe these are embedded within our environment and our choice to listen to it.
Do you think people change?
If you are in your 20s and leaving to India or Thailand in search of the meaning of life, I‘m sure there‘s nothing there to find. How can you find something, you haven‘t earned yet. Everything is yet to come.
I see young people as an ultimately nimble material to be moulded, where a glimpse of a new attitude can turn you into an entirely new person.
However, if you are in your 50s, 60s or 70s, you need for a really strong impulse to beat your convictions, to make you seek for the change.