My First Steps Towards GORUCK

To prepare for the GORUCK Heavy in May, I recently completed the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) to get a baseline of my current fitness level. I welcomed 2015 by doing this test at a local high school track in Seattle, alongside Jie’s brother Lex.

The APFT consists of: 1) as many pushups as you can do in 2 minutes 2) as many situps as you can in 2 minutes and 3) a timed 2 mile run. Between each event there is a 2 minute rest.

I must confess that when I first saw this, I thought to myself, this can’t be too hard. Sure that’s a long time to be doing pushups and situps but I frequently run much longer than 2 miles. At most, this would take less than 25 minutes and be a good warmup.

Boy, was I wrong! Read more of this post

GORUCK in May – I Hope I Make It

I know that it has been a few months since my last post. But I hope that a new fitness challenge will get me back to regular updates.

This week, my brother Dan and I signed up for the GORUCK Heavy, a 24 hour, 40+ mile team adventure race that is several notches above the Tough Mudder intensity.

As if the time and distance weren’t difficult enough, you need to carry a 35lb rucksack for the entire race, not too mention enough food, water and extra sets of dry clothing to keep you going. Check out the recommended packing list. Read more of this post

Revisiting My Goals From November 2013

When I re-launched Raw Focus two and a half months ago, I kicked things off with six fun goals to keep me focused in the coming months. I want to revisit these and share how I have progressed. An accomplishment/milestone not on the original list but surely worth mentioning was my recent engagement to Jie. I’m sure there will be more to come on that in this space as we gear up for The Big Day.

Raw Focus Is Back

When I came back to the US over the summer, I decided to put this blog on hold, figuring that my adventure had come to a close. But the adventure never ends. Just because I’m no longer on the road or living outside the US doesn’t mean that I can’t still travel and share my experiences.

So I’m bringing Raw Focus back. You will notice that the blog has been re-organized a bit, effectively segmenting my travels and time in China into new, separate sections. Check out the About section for what I have been up to or just shoot me an email (matt.sussman@gmail.com). Read more of this post

10 Places I Want to Visit

Only a few months off the road and my mind starts thinking about where I would like to head next. So I decided to rack my brain for the top 10 places I want to visit. This isn’t too scientific or detailed, just my gut instincts talking.

1. American South road trip

Believe it or not, if time and money was no issue, I would love nothing more than a road trip through the South, especially during college football season. It’s SEC country after all and it would be a thrill to tailgate in The Grove at Ole Miss, watch Nick Saban ply his trade at Alabama or be on Rocky Top in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Apart from some brief forays into Georgia, North Carolina and Louisiana, I haven’t visited too much of the South. What better way to do it than with a road trip? Read more of this post

Random Travel Advice & Thoughts

I wanted to empty out my traveler’s notebook by offering some helpful travel tips that I have gathered over the years. Some of these may be controversial but on the road you sometimes do what you have.

I’d love to hear what people think so send along any feedback as well your own advice/thoughts.

1. Find the right balance between planned and flexible travel

I skew more towards a flexible travel approach where I figure out many key details (accommodation, travel logistics, activities) once I have arrived in my destination. But the more I travel, the more I realize the need to do as much research as I can ahead of time. Believe it or not, the more you research, the more flexible that you can be.

For instance, whether I was planning to go to a new city or a new country, before I arrived I would always reach out to a few hotels/hostels ahead of time. Rather than necessarily commit to stay in one place, I would have a few options once I arrived. This meant I wouldn’t be homeless but at the same time I had the flexibility to see how my trip evolved before deciding where to stay. Or I could arrive and actually visit a few places before choosing.

Being on the ground gives you access to real-time information and local knowledge that can’t be replicated through the internet. Having flexibility on my trip allowed me to trek through the jungle in Borneo and climb 2 of the 4 highest mountains in the Philippines, two adventures that materialized only after I arrived in each place. At the same time, if you have only a week to spend in Japan or China, it’s foolish to show up without a game plan. Read more of this post

3 Trip Goals

To respond to a frequent question I have gotten about the trip, I am offering up some high level goals that I have pre-departure. I’m sure these will evolve over time and they relate to some of my pre-trip concerns as well.

1. Establish New Routines

The trip is about unplugging from my old daily routine (wake up early, go to the gym, work all day, head home, go to sleep, wash/rinse/repeat) and starting a new one that can change wherever I happen to be.

After several years of being tied to my blackberry, phone and laptop, in an age where up-to-date information is everywhere, I’m looking for something slower and deeper. I want to take advantage of this opportunity to write more extensively, both in journalist my trip but also working on a few creative projects I have always wanted to tackle. This is my chance to hone my voice and try a longer form, more introspective kind of writing.

Read more of this post

Six Things About My Trip That Make Me Nervous

1.  Will I Bring The Right Stuff With Me?

Yes ditching all my stuff and living out of a backpack is liberating. But it’s also kind of confining. What will I do without a full closet of clothes, my blackberry and my laptop?

After all, it’s not like I will have a limitless supply of outfits for every occasion. I am being very careful about the clothes that I’m bringing, making sure they are multi-purpose and quickdry. I will have to frequently wash my clothes by hand and often wear clothes that will be dirtier than I’m used to.

Even more concerning is the genuine possibility of being out of touch for significant periods of time. Sure I’ll have an iPad and a phone that I can use in a pinch. But plenty of areas don’t have WiFi readily available. I hope I can adjust to chunks of time without connectivity and (gasp) sports news.

Traveling without a computer for weeks at a time has never been a problem before but we’re talking about months here. And writing blog posts on the iPad is significantly more challenging than doing so on a computer as I have already learned.

I just need to remind myself that one purpose of this trip is to get away from the non-stop demands of being connected. There are no more work deadlines to stress me out so I should enjoy the fact that connectivity is more of an optional thing.

2. Finances

I have worked hard for the last five years to save for this trip. Will I spend too much, blowing my savings in the process?

Or, will I be so concerned about being frugal that I deprive myself of unique opportunities in this once in a lifetime experience?

This one will take time and will definitely depend on circumstances. But I’m determined to thread the needle, to take advantage of my surroundings without being a spendthrift.

And with Mint serving as my expense tracker, you can be sure I will be eying this carefully. Read more of this post

%d bloggers like this: