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Namche Bazaar

the wait, the long wait

a weather-borne tragedy

oh my sweet defeat

 

but then among clouds:

helicoptors are the best

the timer reset

 

through the mist and fog

a clearing among giants

I stand on my feet

 

we begin at last

but, dear air, where did you go?

lethargy, no, no!

 

veggie lasagna

yak cheese, lemon tea, dal bhat

hard-boiled egg, no jam

 

step one, breathe two, puff

first steps are good for the soul

monsoon rain, go ‘way

 

up the mountains go

as the fog clears, higher still

to the atmosphere

 

benign mountain slope

here I am from whence I’ve come

the future is up

 

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Chronology is someone else’s problem.

I’m more a stream of consciousness girl. I’ve already told you about my motivations for going to Everest Base Camp – and then there’s the journey and the preparation for the journey, the gear, the must haves and the never do this.

Let’s talk touchy feely preparation. I knew from the beginning that my trip to Nepal was more than about a destination.  In fact, the place was secondary in many ways.

Trekking is really just, you know, walking. A trek in Nepal is fundamentally the same a trek amywhere. You just have to walk*. One foot in front of the other. (At altitude, one foot will go very slowly in front of the other as you move up the trail at a snail’s pace in order to acclimatize.)

The best physical preparation you can do for any serious trek is walk. As must as you can, as far as you can every chance you get. The best mental preparation you can do is, well, walk.  This is how I prepared anyway.

I love to hike alone. I like being quiet with my thoughts and a sense of peace and relief and freedom come over me. Surrounded by the forest, I feel grateful to be alive. I feel lucky to simply exist.

It was no chore to get outside and walk around for the sake of getting my EBC on. Every weekend for the last 4 or 5 months leading up to my departure for Nepal, I was outside in the horrendous heat and humidity of Arkansas. It’s a brutal time to be training with a heavy pack.**  Despite the sticky weather, I found the quiet time to myself was a great way to center myself and a way to be open to whatever thoughts and experiences came to me.

So often my heart and mind on my walks turns to meaning. The meaning of wamderlust. The meaning of self-actualization. The meaning of existence.
It’s a gift to hear my soul gurgle up its secrets, its purest joys. Somewhere in the foliage and bark, I find something sacred.

Herman Hesse said it better than me:

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves…

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life…

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours….Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”

 

 

Friends, you see now, don’t you? The truth for what it is. 

I walked to Nepal so I could make like a tree and find my true self, to find happiness in being who I am.  I trekked to EBC so I could come back home.

And even after all those miles, I’m still walking.  

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

*So, okay, it’s not as easy as that. For one, you’re going to have to walk forever. Then, with the altitude, a trek in the Himalayas is no walk in any Arkansas state park. And walking forever every day at altitude is plain misery. You should totally do this. Really. This kind of misery will make you happier than you can imagine.

* *Okay, it was only a 20 lb pack but 1) I’ve never done any pack work so that was plenty hard enough for me, and 2) it was in the mid- to -upper 90s with high humidity. Stop being so judgmental!

In the next couple of weeks, the Everest climbing season will culminate in mass summit bids to the top. Climbers and trekkers from around the world have headed to Nepal to make their pipe dreams a reality. Maybe now is the time to start spilling my guts about my own experience to Everest Base Camp (EBC).

Situated alongside the Khumbu Glacier, Everest Base Camp is the staging area for all summit bids on the South side of Everest. It is by far the more popular side to climb as it’s considered easier climbing than the North and less of a hassle than the Tibetan side (at least that’s my impression). I had always wanted to see the tallest mountain on Earth and experience a tiny bit of the journey to the top of the world.

Let’s back up for a minute.

The impetus for my Everest trip came a year before I embarked on the journey. In October of 2015, a friend’s 18-year-old daughter died in a terrible accident and in the face of such a tragedy, I couldn’t help but think about what my hopes and dreams were when I was 18 years old. The first thing that came to my mind was Everest. I’d read Into Thin Air in 1997 and had been fascinated by the pull of Everest. People know they can die trying to climb this mountain, but they do it anyway.

Although the book might have been enough to make most people shake their heads and go about their business, I was enthralled by Nepal and Everest.  What was the allure of Everest? I wanted to find out. My 18-year-old self resolved to go see Everest one day. As I set in the chapel so many years later, I wondered where that “one day” had gone and I decided right there I’d make this trek happen.

In addition to this, I’d also been reading about the devastating effects of the Nepal earthquake in April 2015. Nepal depends on the tourism industry and tourists weren’t flocking to Nepal. The country was hurting. The rebuilding effort was slow or nonexistent. Months after the earthquake, some places looked as though the earthquake had just happened. It was a good time to go to Nepal.

ak

But, really, it’s all about me.

For all of that, there’s no denying I went to Nepal for selfish reasons. EBC for me was about setting my sights on attempting a goal that seemed unattainable in so many ways because it’s the right thing to do for my explorer spirit. I long to be challenged in ways I simply can’t be while at home in my own little world. I feel such an immense sense of freedom outdoors when I’m hiking and exploring and I wanted to take that to the nth degree…no matter the result. I was going to go as high as I could go. If that meant I didn’t make it to EBC, so be it. I was at least going to give it my all and try.

And try, I did.

[More to come, y’all.]

It is hard facing the dark after a beautiful light is so suddenly extinguished and yet Stevie Nicks’ haunting voice rises up to remind me, “there’s a heartbeat and it never really dies.” This, I remind myself as I sit at a funeral of an 18-year-old who’d died so tragically in a car accident a few days before. I can’t help but try to remember what it was like to be that age, when everything is a promise and before we find out there really are monsters hiding in the dark.

So, why Nepal and why now? I’m going to Nepal to trek to Everest Base Camp and yet that isn’t what I’m doing at all. I’m going to Nepal to listen.

Of all the things that could have come to mind at this funeral, of all the things that seemed to mean so much when i was a just a kid myself, it was Nepal that floated to the surface. After reading Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air” for an English Comp class, my 18-year-old self vowed to visit Nepal one day and see the mountain that seems to enthrall people to death. So, all these years later, I wondered whatever happened to the old promises to myself. Of course, life happened. There are so many things to figure out when you’re in college and then later when you’re establishing your career and yourself. You have to pick your battles and the promises you keep.

Sitting in the church and seeing photos of this beautiful girl drift across the projector screen, I suddenly felt ready. Ready to make some of those old dreams happen. Later that day, I Google the heck out of Nepal and then came across several articles that solidified my resolve. After the earthquake in Nepal, the Nepalese people are struggling to rebuild. So many Nepalese have lost loved ones, their homes, their livelihoods, their roads, everything.   While one can argue tourism is a blessing and a curse in many ways for this country, but it ultimately will feed more money into the economy quicker than any other sources of revenue. Stimulating the economy promotes rebuilding efforts and securing infrastructure that is still in shambles in many communities.

No one questions the resolve of these people and despite the need for serious, conscientious reform of financial resources and management, the most compassionate thing we as Westerners can do is visit the country. Westerners have an opportunity to promote compassionate travel and a considered approach to tourism that respects the Nepalese culture and environment rather than contribute to erosion of it.

So, why not go now? It’s mutually beneficial for both Nepal and us bucketlisters abroad to go for it. Besides, Everest is only the surface; I can’t help but think our Western compatriots who were lost in the avalanche on Everest or elsewhere when the earthquake struck knew that, too. When it cones down to it, I really want to go to Nepal to soak up the miraculousness of the indefatigable human spirit in the faces of those who have lost so much but endure nonetheless.  

So, Stevie has it right. In the rubble, you can hear it if you listen. There is a heartbeat and it never really dies. Neither does the human spirit or the  promises we once made to ourselves before life happened.

Let’s forgo the easy way.

In October, I found myself at a funeral for a friend’s daughter, who was just shy of her 19th birthday. She’s just a kid. It’s the phrase that played on repeat the whole day. At the service, two things were emphasized that struck a deep, reverberating chord in me:

— Finish your unfinished business

— Learn as much about life as you can while you have the good fortune to have breath in your lungs

It made me think about what it meant to be an 18-year-old girl again. I can’t quite fit into the shoes of that girl anymore, but I remember the world had endless potential then. There was a promise of things to come. I still think there’s my whole life to do all the things I wanted to do when I was just a kid.

I’m not just a kid anymore–even though I don’t feel like an adult, either. I’ve had 18 more years on the planet than this girl did, and I can’t help feeling as though I have unfinished business.  For all the hard (and necessary) lessons I’ve learned in my life, I’ve not learned enough. I’ve not done my part.

I’ve spent a good deal of my adult life sorting myself out. It’s been necessary. I believe in the power of self-reflection and brutally assessing oneself. I’m self-aware, sometimes to a fault, and I believe in the power of self-reflection and internal struggle. While suffering matters – it means something – I’ve nearly out-suffered myself.

But I’m not a kid anymore. The thought is as sobering and final as the closing of a coffin.

And so when I started thinking about how to enrich my life, the one thing that kept coming up was travel. With the exception of a “go me” solo excursion to Alaska and some side trips here and there, travel has been on the backburner for quite some time. It’s too bad, because I feel a sense of freedom and euphoria when I experience a whole new world.

And oh, where to go. There’s so much ground to cover (literally). The immediate bucket list is chock full of mountains and/or glaciers and/or snow…the very things I do not have in my corner of the world. Nepal and Iceland are the top two international contenders while the national parks in Alaska, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming are calling my name stateside.

The details will come. It feels good to make an 18-year-old promise to myself to continue to learn what I can about universe. After all, I’m not a kid anymore.

SOB with me

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