It was the 17th of May when a motely bunch of 11 of us between the age of 15-47 years embarked on a trek to the base camp of the world’s highest mountain peak. The journey lasted for 13 days, across 130 kms and we climbed up from around 9000 feet to nearly 18,000 feet and then back. While the objective of the trek was to reach EBC, we barely spent 20 minutes there. To me, the real objective was to experience the journey, to get out of my comfort zone and get to know myself a little better.
As I took one step after the other in my journey, I realized that there are many life learnings from the various aspects of the trek. I have tried to capture them below:
- Slow down. Soak in. As I was walking along on the first day of the trek, my Nepalese guide Damber came up to me and said, “take it slow and easy, one small step at a time”. And that advice really helped. Every once in a while, it is good to slow down and connect within and also soak in what is happening around us. I carried my music and my earphones with me, but didn’t end up using them at all. Instead I listened to the sounds of nature – the river rushing by, the birds chirping, the occasional dog barking. Actually slowing down isn’t easy, it requires a lot of effort. But if we do that, we are then in the moment, savoring the journey rather than being obsessed with the destination. I realized that being at the Base camp for 20 minutes was a very small part of the entire experience – the real lessons were in the 13 day journey.
- Adversity brings out true character. One of the high points of the trek was meeting Leslie Binns. The British ex-serviceman was just about 450 m from the Summit, when he saw an injured Summiteer and he abandoned his own attempt to save the lady’s life. As he was dragging the lady down to safety, he saw another Summiteer who was also in distress and he tied him to himself as well and dragged both of them down to safety. By this compassionate and humane act, Les scaled a peak far higher than Mt. Everest. He showed true grit of character in the face of adversity. It was an honor meeting him. On the other hand, we had a situation where we were stuck in Lukla for 2 days due to bad weather and had to eventually be evacuated by choppers. There were a couple of members of the group, who put their own interests above that of the team. Difficult situations indeed bring out the best and worst in people.
- Get out of your comfort zone. Every once in a while, do things that you have never done before, go through new experiences. This trek enabled me to step out of my comfort zone in many ways – flying in small planes/choppers, walking across swinging suspension bridges that are high above the river, not knowing where I am going to spend the next night, going on a demanding trek when I have barely done 1 or 2 treks before, and so on. You will surprise yourself by what you are capable of doing, and you will discover new facets of yourself. Also get off the grid for a while, every once in a while – it is not easy, it again takes you out of your comfort zone, but it helps you connect with yourself, with nature and can be very therapeutic.
- Treat everyone with Respect. As you trek along, you come across a lot of stones. These stones are like people that you come across in life. Some stones act as stepping stones and help you move forward, while some of them make you slip and get hurt. So is it in life, where you come across some people who support you and help you to move forward, while there are some who try to pull you down. But we need to treat everyone with the same amount of respect. Also spare a thought and treat with respect all the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make our lives comfortable. During the trek it was our porters, our guides, the staff at the tea-houses. In life it is those various faceless, nameless people who do things to make our lives comfortable, that we so often take for granted.
- Learn to let go. As I went along my journey, one thing that struck me was about letting go of things – at various levels. Many of the problems that we make such a big deal about are actually insignificant in the larger scheme of things – let go of them and you will feel lighter. On the first day, I was grumbling about the 2 litres of water I had to carry apart from the other essentials in the day pack. But when I saw my porters carrying their massive load, and yet always ready with a smile, I realized that what I was carrying was nothing and I stopped complaining. Also in the presence of the mighty mountains, we are but a mere speck – we need to let go of our ego and not give ourselves so much importance. At another level, we end up accumulating so many things as we go by in life – material things and emotional baggage. We need to shed the baggage as much as possible. You will be surprised by how little we really need to get by, and how most of what we accumulate isn’t really required. And lastly every day is a new beginning. Leave behind the baggage from yesterday, learn from the mistakes, start afresh and move on. There is a new mountain to climb today…
Now that I am safely back to reality, I have started practicing these in a more consistent and disciplined manner. I hope that we can all learn from the lessons that the mountains have to offer to make our life more meaningful.