You guys are in for such a treat!! My younger son has been traveling abroad since last November. I had asked him to write a guest post for my blog and now, here it is!! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did…
November 19, 2018
We’ve just arrived at the aptly named “Cozy Inn”. Today marks my sixth day trekking in the Dudh Koshi valley within Sagarmāthā National Park. This area is better known to the world as the Everest region. A place where the scale of things are unlike anything imaginable. A true playground for Titans. I intended to be in and out of this place in seven days. Tomorrow I’m supposed to be hopping on a plane back to Kathmandu. From there, I’m supposed to be catching a six-hour bus ride to Sindhuli to begin volunteering, my sole reason for coming to Nepal. That’s definitely not happening anymore. Not yet, at least.
Plans change. For better or for worse. No way to predict it. It all started by striking up a conversation with two strangers. Next thing I know I’m pushing back my volunteer dates and changing my trekking destination from Tengboche Monastery (3850M) to Gokyo (4950M). This is going to add another week to the trek. One more week without a shower and flushable toilets. One more week where every meal is Dhal Bhat. One more week without YouTube, the news, social media — hang on, this actually isn’t so bad after all.
The air is crisp, the views are splendid, and the company is nothing short of pure pleasure. All of a sudden the idea of ridding myself of all my worldly possessions, shaving my head, and moving into a monastery at 15,000 feet to live out my days in silent meditation in the search of enlightenment doesn’t sound too shabby. Of course, that’s probably just the acute mountain sickness speaking.
(Our faucet after using the squat toilet, note the little bar of hotel soap on the wooden ‘soap dish’)
After settling in, splurging on a bottle of Coke, and chronicling today’s events in my journal I found myself doing something I haven’t done in a long time. Nothing. Just sitting and experiencing this heavenly view in this tiny tea house. No music, no phones, no books, nothing. Just the sound of burning twigs and sun-dried yak shit crackling in the oven behind me — the only source of heat we’ll be getting tonight. When we decide to turn in, it’ll be in a freezing room with plywood walls and a single thick blanket with a sleeping bag that is never quite warm enough. It’s so cold that we have to sleep with our water bottles and keep our batteries in our sleeping bags to prevent them from freezing and dying. I didn’t know it, but it is here that I’m about to experience the most beautiful moment of my life thus far.
(The life-changing view.)
The sun is setting over the pass to the west. We can’t see it but a beam of its fiery light cuts through the clouds and douses the tip of some oft-forgettable peak a vivid almost out-of-place orange.
It was at this moment that I experienced what I could only describe as a fleeting feeling of enlightenment. A moment so pure it nearly brought me to tears. My first impulse is to capture it. Whip my phone out and start snapping away. I hesitate. Capturing this photo won’t capture the moment. A photo can’t capture the aftertaste of Coke on my tongue, the heat from the oven on my back, the slight light-headedness from the lack of oxygen, and the feeling of absolute exhaustion that runs through the rest of my body. Some moments in life are too big to be captured. Too great to be held. This is one of those. A moment so wondrous I couldn’t dream of averting my eyes for even one second to capture it. I had to experience this in its totality. From the birth of this flame to the moment it’s extinguished. Oh how I wish I could slow down time. All of a sudden I’m stricken by a sobering thought. I will never experience this again. Ever. This is something that can never be replicated. Sometimes a perfect storm of events comes together and forms a moment so beautiful you have no idea what to do with yourself but sit and weep.
Moments are like intricately designed sand mandalas made by Tibetan monks. They’re appreciated for what they are: a mandala, not a photo of a mandala. They don’t get captured, they get admired and swept away. Each individual grain doesn’t seem so special, but together they form a brilliant work of art. These mandalas can be brushed away and reformed but the same grains will never fall in the same place. The final product will always be different. It’s a fantastic metaphor for life and that’s the point of this post: every single moment in my life will always be different. The good moments, the bad moments, and everything in between. All different. I can’t replicate what’s happened in my life. Yet for some reason I try to replicate moments in my mind. I constantly ask myself why I said such a thing or did such a thing and I end up living everywhere but the present. I draw comparisons from prior experiences and use them to justify making decisions and judgements about situations and people when I don’t know the full story. I focus on individual grains and forget to look at the bigger mandala. I take a moment and think about the possibility of living life in the moment.
What would it be like to see everything and everyone just like I’m seeing this mountain? Like a baby sees the world for the first time? Once I start to live life lacking judgement and with a constant sense of curiosity, maybe I can experience enlightenment without moving to a Tibeten monastery and shaving my head. At the very least, maybe I will have a purer heart and a fuller feeling of contentment. Bliss.
Snap back to reality. The sun has set and it’s time to go to bed. Tomorrow we reach our destination: Gokyo. Gokyo is a hidden gem that is often overlooked by the bigger groups gunning for the best selfies at Everest Base Camp. The thing with this park is that it can get crowded. Like, really crowded. Sometimes annoyingly so. But in all honesty, I wish everyone could experience this place in person. I’d imagine it’s similar to astronauts who rocket into space, see this little blue and green ball and come back with some new perspective of the world.
To be surrounded by these giant snow covered monoliths stretching through the troposphere is one of the most ethereal feelings I’ve ever experienced. Sometimes it pays to travel a little off the beaten path. Many trekkers hire guides and porters to help them navigate the park and they usually congregate in the same villages. We opted to skip our stay in Machhermo with these groups and hike a further half hour to the smaller settlement of Phang where we found the Cozy Inn. It ended up being one of the few moments where we had a place completely to ourselves and I could not have asked for anything better. For if it wasn’t for expanding my boundaries, I would have never experienced utter euphoria.