For the first time in my life, I have accomplished something that is bigger than myself, much bigger. I’ve trekked the Himalayan mountains (Annapurna Base Camp) all by myself without any guide or porter. You can see the visual tour of the trek here.
Seven days of walking up/down mountains, 8 hours a day, it brought out the best and worst in me. Day after day, I pushed my limits, both physically and mentally and because of this I had an epiphany. This is what life is all about. Here are 7 life lessons I learned along the way:
1. Moving forward is the only logical choice.
Trekking the Himalayas is not like walking up mountains gradually. The landscape consisted of many steep ups and downs. Going down is as demanding as going up to the base camp, so no matter how tired you are, when you are in the middle of the trek about to give up, you realized that you will have to go through the ups and downs again on your way down. In the end, moving forward is your only logical choice.
In order to grow as a person, you have to move forward regardless of the speed. Going backward is impossible in life and staying still means you are spending your life doing nothing. While trekking, you can’t just stay still unless you want wild animals to devour you as it gets darker and darker every hour. Even if you move slow, you are way closer to the destination than standing still. The key is to move forward.
2. Optimism is the key to success
As mentioned earlier, the trek consisted of many steep stairs, zigzagging along mountains and as you climb up, you often see what seems to be the end of the climb but as you go higher, you realized there’s another steep stairs waiting for you on the side. I used this to my advantage and tricked my brain into thinking that the next stop is up there. Even though this was often not the case, it did help me push through and eventually arrived at the village (Chhomrong) atop the mountain to finally rest.
If you keep tricking your brain into thinking that something great is waiting for you on the horizon, you will eventually reach your goals. If you are working on your startup, no matter how bad your day gets, just remember that something great will happen on the horizon, that you will either learn from the process of failing and create an even better startups or you will hit the jackpot and sold your company, then you will be able to go through with it.
3. No matter how fast/slow you go, you will reach your destination as long as you move.
While trekking, no matter how fast or slow you are, everyone will reach the same destination. I was often the slowest trekker around but I always arrive at my destination no matter how hard it gets. I took it slow. If my body starts feeling exhausted, I rest and enjoy the view, if not, I move forward one step at a time. There’s no use in going fast when the race is a marathon. As long as you reach your goal, the speed doesn’t matter.
If you are planning to travel the world or starts a business, just start doing it even if it’s just a small step. Start listing out countries you wanna visit or start drafting your business on paper. The key is to start taking steps toward your dreams regardless of how small that step is.
4. The worst day has yet to come.
On my first day, it was raining heavily and in order to keep up to my schedule, I had to power through the rain, walking through sand and mud up a mountain, while a chilling wind blew through my bones for 3 hours straight. I thought this would be my worst day, I have never been so wrong. The third day, I had to climb thousands of steep stairs to the top of a mountain and go down to the bottom to cross the river via a suspension bridge and then go up again. On my fourth day, as the elevation hit 3000 metres, I had trouble breathing and I had to stop grasping for air more often and longer breaks than usual. The walk that should have taken me 2 hours, took me 4 hours.
Life can sometime be like that. The moment you think you had the worst day ever, you are hit with another and another. The key is not to EXPECT that tomorrow will be better or worst. Just deal with the problem today and that’s it. Don’t fill up your mind with tomorrow’s problems. That is for tomorrow.
5. There’s no such a thing as overnight success.
When trekking the Himalayas, most people will be looking forward to seeing snowy mountains and beautiful sky but that was not the case for the first few days in the trek. You will have to walk through the forest, unable to see what you came here to see most of the time. It was not until you walked for ~32 hours, then you will start seeing snowy mountains.
In life, when you set off to do something, the end result will not take shape until you invest countless hours shaping it. Coming up with the idea is not enough, you have to plan, get your hands dirty and then work for it. Just like trekking the Himalayas, you can’t sleep your way up mountains, you have to climb that stairs if you want to be at the top.
6. Nothing meaningful is easy.
Many friends of mine was wondering why I had to put myself through all those tortures just to be in the middle of the Himalayas. Looking at photos from Google Maps is as satisfying and even more beautiful than the real deal. For them destination may mean something else but for me the journey shapes the destination. Without the conversation I had with many trekking friends, without the countless accidents I had during the trek (and fun stories to tell), without the hardship that I had to go through, the destination will have no meaning to me.
Just like in life, the money you got from your parents are less meaningful than the money you earned by working tirelessly everyday. The harder you try, the greater the reward.
7. Trust is important for a meaningful life
I have been traveling alone for a while now, and even though I have met and talk with many travelers, nothing come close to the deep connections I had with the people I met during the trek. Trekking brings out the most rare component in people, trust. Since you are on the same boat for the rest of the trek and you will be meeting them everyday from lodge to lodge. Your trust in these people tend to grow as time goes. Since human contact are rare while trekking in the forest, people are more genuine and talks from their hearts. Everyone always said hi (Namaste in this case) to each other. People encourage each other along the way and exchange pleasantries even though we don’t know each other’s names.
The best thing you can give to people is your trust. Be open to the people you meet and your conversation will become more meaningful. As life flashed before our eyes, we often realized how little friends we had in our lives. Be more open to people, leave a positive mark in their lives and they will do the same to you.
“You have to get lost before you can be found.” ― Jeff Rasley
Trekking the Himalayas was a life-changing experience for me. Once you are among the mountains, you realized how mortal and vulnerable you are. You feel all the artificial problems you encountered in life worth nothing up here. You look at people and how they struggled with their problems differently. You tackle your problems with the might of the mountains.
At the end of the day, the feeling of accomplishing this ambitious goal is the most rewarding of all. You have finally push your limits over and over which in turn opens you up to more opportunities in life (Kilimanjaro, Everest, I’m looking at you). Everything is possible now.
Have you ever experience a life-changing event such as this? What were the lessons you learned from it? Let us know in the comment below.