It’s ticked down to less than a month until the Everest Trek 2010 gets underway. While I won’t be participating in this year’s trek, I did at least want to offer a bit of advice to the next batch of trekkers based off of my experiences last year. I certainly can’t claim to be an expert at Himalayan trekking, but there are things I learned that I consider valuable.
First and foremost: Leave your life back home where it belongs: back home. If you’re having problems back home, don’t spend your time fretting and worrying about them. There’s nothing you can do about it from there, and it’ll only get in the way of enjoying the experience. If you’re not having problems back home and it’s all rainbows and bunny rabbits, then by the same token don’t spend your time missing home. You’ll be back there soon enough, and that longing will only distract you from the amazing experience you’ll be having. Most likely, you–as was the case with me– will lie somewhere in the middle. The advice still applies: Don’t spend any of your time fretting about your problems or longing for your home. The whole thing will be over before you even realize it, so treasure every single moment of it. Everything else can wait until after you’ve returned.
Which ties into my next big point, and it’s pulled from my experiences as a so-called Buddhist: Live in the moment. Whatever happened yesterday can’t be changed. Whatever will happen tomorrow can’t be dealt with until it happens. You can only control today, right now. This very moment. That huge line of steps leading off into seemingly infinity can’t be taken all at once, you can only take each step as it comes. Focus on the step you’re on now, and getting to the next step on the trail. And that’s both literal and metaphorical. Every obstacle can be overcome if you take it one tiny step at a time, and every wonderful moment can be enjoyed all the more by embracing it and reveling in that moment.
You also need to accept that the only thing you really have control over is yourself. If this year’s trek is anything like last year’s, it will be a roller coaster of ups and downs. You will have amazing days, perhaps among the best of your life, and you will have really terrible days. You can allow the bad days to drag you down, or you can work your way through them. We got snowed in for three days in one place. Some of us allowed that to get themselves down, I chose to roll with that punch and make the best of it. I can’t stop the snow, but I can stop it from affecting me in a negative way. I looked at where I was. Looked at what I was doing. Why am I letting this get to me? I’ll take a bad day in the Himalayas over a bad day in Cleveland any day.
The next bit of advice can be summed up in three simple words: Listen. To. Jon. The guy knows what he’s talking about, he’s been there and done that. Learn from his misery. If he gives advice, heed it! Further, always be very open and forthcoming about any and every issue you may be having. I touched on this in an earlier blog post, our constant verbalizing of our individual miseries wasn’t whining, but an ongoing self-assessment that was shared with the group. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it, and accept it when it’s offered. I may have been the first one to have one of the staff carry my pack for a while, but I was most certainly not the last. You are about to do a very challenging thing, you’re going to a place that our tourist bodies are just not built for. Any advantage you can take to ease the struggle, take it! You’ll have so much more of an enjoyable trek as a result.
Now, I’m going to drop a bit of a cliché on you: This too shall pass. There will be some rough times. I’ll lay it all right out there for you, there will be occasions where it just sucks. Hard. You will be miserable and wish you were back home. Or anywhere but there. But it will pass, things will get better. You will be tested to your absolute limits again and again, and each time you will surprise yourself by pushing your way past it and coming out the other side stronger and prouder. You are capable of so much more than you think, and I can’t wait for each of you to have that realization and share that same feeling that we all did. It’s an amazing thing, something that everyone should have the chance to discover.
Beyond everything else, remember another old cliché… it’s a journey, not a destination. Although the ultimate “destination” for our trek was either Base Camp or Kala Pattar, the value in the experience came not from arriving at said destination, but from every step we took getting there and getting back. In our case, I think we had even more fun on the way back down that we did on the way up, which I think you’ll see in future episodes of the podcast. Jon says he has as much footage from the descent as he does the ascent, and it took half the time to get back as it did to get there.
I can promise you one thing: you are in for one hell of an experience. For you, it may or may not be a profound, life-changing experience, but it will be an amazing one. Some on the team came back not all that different from how they left, just with some great memories under their belt. For me, the person that got on that plane back on May 2, 2009 is a complete stranger. He got lost somewhere up in the Himalayas, never to be seen again. The person that came back a scant three weeks later was a different person. It changed me and my life in ways I’m still just discovering. Regardless of where you end up in that spectrum, I promise this is a trip you’ll never forget.
Finally, I would close with a small reminder. There is much more to this experience than just the trek itself. The experience is made all the more wonderful by having an exhaustively filmed video record of it, and by being able to relive it down the road as episodes of both podcasts begin coming out. Being able to talk to the friends you’ve made every other week for months and months after the trek is a real gift. There may be time it feels a bit like work having to carve a couple hours out of your weekend over and over, but put that out of your head. Embrace that special opportunity to talk to those new friends so regularly, and share that reliving of the experience with them. Carve out the time necessary for recording the commentary, it’ll be over before you realize and you’ll be watching the next gang of trekkers go off on their adventure.