“No, I’m actually going on a trek in the Everest region!”
“WOW! How luxurious!”
“No actually, it’s not… I will be walking the whole time!”
“You have to fly all the way to Kathmandu just to go for a walk? That’s luxurious in my book!”
It took me a few minutes to realize what just happened. I think I was in a state of shock after I finished talking to the airline agent. I can’t believe I finally had the courage to book my flight to Nepal.
The first time I heard about the (former) Kingdom of Nepal was when I was about 12 years old from my great aunt who claimed she met a prince from Kathmandu and apparently had a crush on her. He invited her to visit Nepal but she didn’t go because she was married at the time. Of course no one knew if she was telling the truth but it sure made a heck of a story!
The second time I became aware of Nepal was when I was reading a travel magazine and saw a picture of an elephant amidst the exotic backdrop. I was fascinated and remember thinking how cool it would be to go there someday. But it wasn’t until I read a blog two years ago that I became seriously interested in going. I would daydream about trekking up in the mountains (despite my aversion to the outdoors back then). Seeing the snow-capped mountains in the Himalayas became an obsession.
Unfortunately on April 10, 2015, my son’s cancer came back and life was on hold for a while. Two weeks later, on April 25, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 devastated Nepal making it the deadliest disaster to hit a Himalayan country. Over 8000 people perished and many were left homeless. It was heartbreaking to see and hear about it. Nepal and I now shared one commonality: suffering.
During our stay at the hospital and when life was filled with uncertainties, I compared our journey to summiting Everest–a very daunting feat but if combined with strong faith it can be achieved with great success. Our “Everest” was looking for a perfect bone marrow match for my son. However, there are only about 4% (multiracial ethnicity) registered as potential donors worldwide. It was going to take a miracle for us to find one. But we did! Out of the seven billion people in the universe, one woman with a generous heart from Germany became my son’s angel. She helped us summit Everest. After his bone marrow transplant, we now had one goal: to return to base camp safely.
Today, Nepal and I are still healing and as life goes on, we move on. I am getting my life back by doing what I love to do–travel. And Nepal is definitely where I would start (plus they need tourism to help rebuild the nation). Nine months from now, I will finally come face to face with the country I’ve identified with during my darkest hours. I will be trekking in the Khumbu region (northeastern Nepal on the Nepalese side of Mount Everest). Because it is going to be my first time, I chose to do the ‘easy’ Everest trek (which covers only half of the route towards base camp). This has given me so much motivation to go on my two hour walks and soon increase it to 3, then 4 and hopefully I can walk for hours without a problem.
One day I was at REI looking at backpacks and the salesperson happened to be someone who has gone to the Everest base camp. He told me stories about that trek (which he did in 2008). I mentioned to him I’m a bit petrified of the suspension bridges.
“Are you scared of heights?” he asked.
“Yes very much so!” I answered.
“Well one of the bridges is quite high! You’ll have to cross many of them before you reach Namche Bazaar!” He also casually said they swayed up and down not side to side. “You can fall if you don’t hold on with both hands,” he added.
“Are you serious? Hmm…I think I want to cancel my trip now!”
We both laughed. I told him I was going there to overcome my fears– of being alone, of heights, of inconveniences in life and oh…pretty much everything! He looked at me with a grin on his face, tinted with skepticism. It may have been a look of pity thinking to himself, “this poor thing thinks she will survive it there!” Yeah dude it was that obvious, no need to say it out loud!
“Where do you stop if you’re not going all the way to Base Camp?” he asked.
“I’m going up to Tengboche. Then I retrace my steps back to Lukla,” I said.
“Tengboche is not that far from the base camp. You shoud just keep going! You will regret it if you don’t!”
Maybe or maybe not. Honestly, I have no desire to go all the way to base camp. From the many blogs I’ve read, altitude sickness seems to start kicking in after Tengboche. Most experience constant migraine, loss of appetite, and fatigue. One of the bloggers wrote that the best part of the whole trek was the route to Tengboche. I decided since I’ve already had my share of mental and emotional strain lately, I wasn’t going to welcome the physical strain on my vacation. A trek is meant to enjoy not endure. My conversation with the REI sales guy may have left me wondering– will I regret it even if I don’t make it all the way to base camp? Uh, unlikely!
I decided not to go with anyone on this trip. I haven’t gone on solo travels since I got married but I really need this time to be alone. They say to never use travel as a crutch to find yourself. I wasn’t planning to do a soul search in this trip. It is more like a pilgrimage, a spiritual quest. And sometimes I find it hard to disconnect from my stressful life thus the solitude will give me the freedom to think and clearly hear my thoughts.
“Alone time is when I distance myself from the voices of the world so I can hear my own” ~Oprah Winfrey
*all images borrowed from the Internet