I think everyone on the trip had their own personal “OMG!” moment at some point. Some of us even had several of them. The arrival at Tengboche and subsequent time spent there was most certainly one of my two big emotional goosebump days. Sadly, I did a pretty poor job of enunciating how I was feeling in the commentary for this episode, but hopefully I’ll do a better job here. This was the day that what I was doing really sunk in, the day I really let it sink in.
Everyone has some natural fears or nervousness before a major event like this. Having had some major travel drama in the previous trip I took, I was extra paranoid about what might go wrong. This was the single biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life, perhaps the biggest thing I’ll ever do, and I was absolutely terrified something would come along to screw it up. Paranoid? Me? Nah…
In my case, it did come very close to not happening. When I lost my job back in February, I was suddenly staring at a frighteningly low bank account balance and not much hope of finding a new job any time soon. Given that I was two-and-a-half months away from needing a month-long vacation, the likelihood of there being anyone willing to accommodate that schedule was pretty slim. Extra poor chance given the state of the economy and weakness of the local job market.
So I thought long and hard about things, and sat down and wrote up an email to Jon Miller to tell him that I would not be making the trip, and hoping he’d be able to find a last minute substitute so that I might be able to get at least some of my money back. If nothing else, even if I ate the trek registration I’d be able to get the price of the plane tickets back. Not to mention saving the roughly $2,000 in gear and supplies I had yet to buy.
Obviously, that email was never sent. It sat in my Drafts folder for days while I went back and forth on the decision. Ultimately, I knew backing out and missing this trip would be a decision I’d regret for the rest of my life. Who knew if there would ever be another opportunity like this, and if I’d even be in a position to take it again? For me, when all is said and done, I’d rather look back on my life and regret the things I did, rather than the things I didn’t.. So off I went!
Back to fear of the worst… In the case of one participant the worst did happen, so those fears are not always unjustified. We ended up short one person (Catherine) when she fell and broke her ankle right before the start of the trek. The morning of her flight out, if I recall correctly. Man, talk about a heartbreak. See, this is the very kind of thing I was so paranoid about!
Even after arriving in Kathmandu, there were still those lingering fears and doubts. Part of me was still waiting for something to go wrong and screw the whole thing up. (And, as you’ll get a hint at in the next episode, something almost did end up ending the trek for us!) It wasn’t until I arrived that night in Tengboche that I finally let go of all that anxiety, and just swam in the reality of it all.
I sat down on a little wall near where we entered the grounds of the monastery and just took it all in. The stupa next to me, the monastery itself on the other side. Some monks playing ball off in a field nearby, Everest off in the distance. The sounds of prayer flags flapping in the wind and the familiar jangling of yak bells. This was that magical moment. I was really here. I made it. I’m doing this! Oh. Em. Gee.
I couldn’t think of a single moment in my entire life up to that point where I felt as happy and filled with sheer joy as I was at that exact moment. So I sat. And I cried a bit. Happy tears, overwhelmed by what I was surrounded with. I did it. I made one of my dreams come true.
I took some time later that night to break away from the group and just wander the grounds by myself. No other trekkers, no cameras, just me. I took the time to have my own little moment there in the Himalayas, that bit was just for me. From then on, it didn’t matter what happened. My experience could have ended that night and it would have been complete. Now, the trek could truly begin.
(Images from The Rest Of Everest podcast are © 2003-2010 TreeLine Productions.)