April 11, 2013
So. Everest kicked my ass. I didn’t get there, didn’t even get to try. The closest I got to that mountain was a fly-by on my way to Bhutan. Two months later I came home from Nepal and faced an even higher mountain: a career in shambles. An important client – THE important client – gone. Poof. Like that. Rebuilding my business has been slow and challenging, and may ultimately be impossible. I’m in my office, yet part of me is still sitting in Kathmandu, nowhere near the summit with supplies dwindling fast.
Everest and the Real Girl took a back seat for a while, but I still have a lot to share. After all, we made it to Annapurna Base Camp – not Everest, but not too shabby either! Today, though, I’m not going to tell you what we did on the way up that mountain because that’s not where my mind goes first. I’m going to tell you about Team Annapurna – the best team that I have ever had the honor to travel with, hands down!
My disappointment in being “strongly encouraged” to join the Annapurna team rather than the Everest team, due to the mysterious high pressure in the right side of my heart, began to ease at our welcome dinner in Kathmandu when I first met our Active Himalayas guide, our local guide, and my 15 fellow trekkers. We would meet our fantastic team of super-strong porters later. These guys were always a high point of our day, hauling our gear up the mountain then running back to guide us into the next teahouse, high-fiving us as we crawled up the inevitable last flight of stone steps before collapsing in a heap somewhere near the lemon-ginger tea.
But that first night, it was all shiny and new as we ate dinner on a rooftop in Kathmandu, eyeing each other warily and wondering who we would be tempted to throw off a cliff by the end of the journey. Five minutes in, we knew. Nobody was going off a cliff without the rest of us diving to save them. We clicked. Like Fred and Ginger. Like Gilligan and the Skipper. Like Barry and his Fanta. We were all seasoned travelers, most of us on a repeat trip with Active Adventures. We shared stories about our favorite places on the planet. Jake worried us a bit when he said Disneyland, but when the table went silent and all heads turned, he changed his answer to Switzerland. I’m still not sure if he was really joking. 😉
Then we were off.
Even though it wasn’t Everest Base Camp, this trek wasn’t easy. In fact, it was quite a challenge. We lived in close quarters in uncomfortable and unfamiliar conditions for days on end. As Lisa noted, we knew each other by smell after a while. Things went wrong: the hot shower we’d been looking forward to for a couple of days was glacier cold, the teahouse gave away our rooms, hiking poles broke, our water froze. We were tired, sore, and at times frustrated. Yet we laughed about it all, supported one another through the rough spots, and lifted our collective spirits by building human pyramids, doing jumping jacks to burn just four more calories to make an even 1000, counting the Chomrong Steps (Tamy says 2037), or dancing around a fire making total fools of ourselves and loving every second. We shared our precious toilet paper and gave up our hand warmers. We drank with Trev, who let Kiwi Steve drag him all the way from New Zealand to be our unofficial mascot. We were blissfully free of negativity. I love these people.
I give credit to each and every one of us for the success of this trek. We were all very different people but it was the perfect mix of personalities. I also give credit to Active Adventures, our guides D.K. and Gokul, and to our team of porters who made it easy to laugh and enjoy the ride. Active Adventures attracts a certain type of traveler, those who want to walk to dinner and become part of the chaos of the streets rather than pile into a van to watch life pass us by. Travelers who don’t want our gear to just magically appear in our teahouse rooms delivered by unseen hands, but who want to have some fun with the people who work so hard to make sure we’re safe, healthy, and as comfortable as possible. We want to be in touch with our experience, to be fully alive in each moment along the way, even when we have to put hot hard-boiled eggs down our shirts to stay warm.
Ultimately, this was the best trip of my life because of Team Annapurna! The Annapurna Range was a breathtaking backdrop, but the real beauty was found in the people I met along the way. To all of you – thank you! I would travel with any of you again, any time. You made the Post-Traumatic Step Disorder worthwhile.
This isn’t the end though, it’s just the beginning of the next adventure. I have a new Everest to climb, one even more challenging than the mountain in Nepal. I’ve always had a strange career – one that made a list of the 20 oddest jobs on the planet a few years back. Now the industry is changing, shifting, adapting, morphing into a patchwork of skills that are barely recognizable as the career path that I chose. I have the opportunity to redefine myself, or to redefine the field in which I work. I’m not entirely certain which path I’ll choose to take.
I am sure of one thing though: The lessons Everest taught me will guide me into the future. Initial disappointment turned into absolute joy. Redefining my goal led to a more rewarding outcome. The relationships I built along the trail lasted much longer than the view from our summit. And the journey…the journey is what still makes me smile. Every day.
I’m going to keep trekking.