When I decided to sign up for the Everest Base Camp trek, I had no idea what I was getting into. I loved hiking, backpacking, being out in the woods for days, and this had it all, including the elusive visit to base camp. I had actually been dreaming about doing this since I was fifteen. I don’t know why I wanted to go to Everest at fifteen. I just did. I even contemplated the idea of climbing Everest in my teens, but that quickly faded when I decided the summit wasn’t worth the risk. I let go of the idea of climbing Everest.
It wasn’t for another half of my life, putting me at the ripe old age of thirty, that I had the opportunity to head to the Everest Base Camp.
Living and mostly growing up in the northeast, I did a lot of hiking, but never in altitude. I had never been hiking out west in the bigger mountains. I had no idea what it felt like, or how my body would handle the high altitude. To top it off, it turns out that I am highly allergic to all high altitude medication, which all includes some form of Sulfa. I was certainly concerned about this, but wasn’t going to let a little altitude stop me! So, on I went to Nepal. It wasn’t until I was on the descent to Kathmandu that I realized what I had done.
What made me think that traveling as a single female, across the world, sleeping in the Mumbai airport, then meeting up with a travel company and a bunch of strangers to trek to the Everest Base Camp was a good idea.
Why didn’t someone try to talk me out of this? What were THEY thinking letting me go? Evidently, my whole support system, including my family, friends and boyfriend were all crazy too. The only one to try to talk me out of it was my mom. She clearly was the only rational person in this situation. But, regardless of how I felt about the situation on my descent, I was still pulling into Kathmandu with a return ticket three weeks later. The trek was happening.
The low-lying, tropical area that Kathmandu sits, was a complete facade to what I was to expect in the Himalayas.
By the looks of Kathmandu, I was thinking, “Hey, this isn’t looking bad from here.” It wasn’t until we were up in the air on our way to Lukla, did I realize what I had actually gotten myself into when I realized the mountains were higher than what we were flying, and we would be trekking higher than the plane was flying. Onwards and upwards we went. The view was like nothing I had ever experienced. The low-flying plane gave us the best views of the mountains, small villages on the hillsides, flying past areas of the Himalayas that we would never get to see otherwise. I was in true awe.
This was the moment when I knew this was the trip for me, and no I wasn’t crazy, nor was anyone else that didn’t stop me from pursuing this dream.
The trek started casual, with the obligatory stop at a tea house before actually getting on the trail, going over the day, and making sure that our packs were stocked with all the necessary items.
As we started to hike, nerves and trepidation started to take over. I was scared. I didn’t know if I could actually do this. The modest mountains of the northeast couldn’t even come close to the height we were trekking. I thought I prepared physically, but I then thought, maybe I should have prepared more. Our group joked that there is no such thing as downhill in Nepal. I think this must be true!
As we got going, there was a lot of the usual huffing and puffing up steep trails, and then stops to admire the amazing views all around us, then more huffing and puffing. This ritual continued for a couple days.
At the point where we entered into true high altitude, high altitude pills were taken and confidence boosted. I wasn’t sure what this part of the trek meant for me.
Trekking in the higher altitude came with less oxygen, slower pace, and more frequent stops. Each stopping point gave us a greater view of how low we actually were and how much higher we had to go.
As the air became thinner, our walking (and talking of course!) became slower. Our pace slowed to what seemed a crawl. I had no idea I could actually walk this slow. On one of our many rest breaks, our guide had pointed upwards to where we were going to stop for lunch. It was about three hill traverses upward. The distance seemed like it would take us all day at best.
As we started up the trail, the slow pace rhythmic pace, combined with my breathing created a quiet within me, one I had not known before.
There were no more hills to traverse. It was only my body, legs and breath all working as one. I was able to quiet my mind and relax into the rhythm. Each step and breath turned into an invitation to go deeper within myself. The hills and the walking meditation turned into a parable for a new way of living my life. A new way of seeing myself and a new way of listening to myself.
The “backpack” I had been carrying through my life of expectations of being the first, best, fastest, had been let go of on the trail. I realized that I didn’t need to be any of these things to just be me, and being me was perfect.
There was nothing that I need to be or prove to myself or to anyone else to feel free and happy. My view shifted inwards to wanting to experience more joy for myself. I realized life isn’t all about the hard run to the top, and I was actually loving my slow rhythmic pace. I laughed more, I saw more, I listened more, I was more me by going slower. My biggest mountain, bigger than the trek was realizing that the “mountains” in life are just a walk to deepen ourselves into the person we truly are.
Kristin Bornstein is an adventurer at heart. She loves sunny mornings on the trail, anything involving marshmallows and chocolate and a good book. Kristin is at the helm of The Brazen Adventuress, a place that helps women reclaim themselves through the outdoors. You can come adventure with her on Facebook or Instagram.