My excitement compounded as we wound around the mountainous roads during our seven hour drive from the foothills to the trailhead. We immediately set up camp and I spent one of eleven nights in a tent with Thomas and Chris. Our tent group was aptly titled Wall St. since we all intended to reunite there during the remaining summer months. Eager to begin on the first day, I began ascending the first hill at a rapid pace. It was not long before I lost my breath and gasped helplessly for some time to regain it. This was the first challenge I encountered during the trek, pace setting for hikes. Striking a balance between your own hiking capabilities and the group as a whole was constantly in contention. There is a difference between pushing yourself up a hill and a ten day death march. One strategy our group employed was to have the slowest hikers towards the front of a group since our group will only trek as fast as they can move anyways.
The first few days flew by. A blur of packing, unpacking, and new learnings like how to cook outside. It was only until our fourth day of the trek when we resolved to rest for a day that I took my first breath and reflection. I had trouble remembering what I even did the first few days which bothered me. For the rest of the trek, I set a goal to be more present and less goal oriented in an attempt to slow down time. Life will never not be fast, so I have to figure out how to slow it down to be intentional with my thoughts and actions. I shared these sentiments with the Wall St. tent group and Thomas made an astute observation. He said that placing yourself outside of your comfort zone slows life down and makes it more fertile for memories. For the rest of the trek I tried to fight my natural equilibrium both socially and as a leader.
Everyday during the trek, we designate two peers from our group who we look to in moments when consensus can not be achieved. When it was my turn to be designated leader, our group set a goal to pack up and leave camp in the morning at 9:00 am. We underestimated the time required to cook breakfast and our group was ready at 10:00 am instead of 9:00 am. Our instructors began to lecture us about how we cannot be untimely in the real world and I was not responsive to this feedback at first. In my mind, we are in the wilderness where days of the week lose their meaning, much less a time of day we agree upon for ourselves. However, as I marinated on this feedback I realized that the backcountry is a sandbox for acquiring skills and a mindset which can be brought back into the front country. Ok yeah, the best part of this trip was waking up at 13,000 feet and looking out at the most breathtaking views I have seen in my life. But this trip is not one dimensional and I intend to bring back all my learnings to the front country.
Finally, I am so grateful for this opportunity and all the people who spent countless hours creating this life altering opportunity in such a special place. Waking up and casually enjoying a cup of coffee at the top of a mountain is a good encapsulation of how my trekking experience went. In this uncontrollable environment I learned to find my own peace and just soak everything in.
There were tons of side quests during the trek but my favorite were probably all the villages we visited. It was fascinating to observe part of the daily life and community of these remote mountain villages which have existed much longer than the country I call home. Also, I loved seeing all the sheep, goats, cows, dogs, and horses which roamed freely. I am definitely updating my linkedin profile to include “sheep herder” so please endorse me 🐐. Now I am excited to return to Delhi and also to visit the Taj Mahal in Agra. Peace out man ✌️.
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