I admit it. I am worrier. I might be addicted to worrying. I am certain there is a seat for me in Worriers Anonymous. I am worried that I am not strong enough, young enough, or interested enough to trek in Nepal. And I have already done it twice.
When I read the description of the Mandala Adventures trip Nepal: Annapurna Sanctuary Trek I realize that is basically one of the two eight-day treks I accomplished carrying all my own gear, no sherpa. But I read it and I think, I could not do that. I did not believe it then which is why on my first long trip to Asia (eleven months), I did not go to Nepal. I was too afraid.
Before I spent three months in Nepal during my second backpacking adventure (18 months), I could not even understand trekking—what is trekking? Every time I thought about a trip to Nepal, I realized I felt too stupid to even ask questions. Everyone else seemed to know what trekking meant and they were confident they could hike for five or six hours. Sometimes I felt like I did not want to walk for five or six blocks. How could I commit to such a treacherous choice? I was scared.
On the road, I met a female traveler who went on this mysterious trekking. I talked to her about the gear I would need and my concerns that I was not capable. She looked at me and said, “You are already a backpacker. You will not need to carry more than you have now. You just need different things.” She told me that depending on the season, I could even hike in sneakers. I felt calmer. She did it. Maybe I could do it.
In India, I met someone who had lived in Nepal and arranged treks. He explained that the footwear choice did not have to make me crazy. I could hike indeed hike in the sneakers that I had with me and I did not need to have nightmares about blisters. During a three-day hike in Israel in high school, I had experienced the trifecta of blisters, dehydration and throwing up. I was worried about a re-match.
He said that I would need to rent a down sleeping bag and hiking pole and buy a down jacket in Katmandu. There are many places to rent gear and the prices for long underwear, gloves and jackets was reasonable. I was warming up to the idea of trekking. He also explained about the accommodation.
I had misunderstood that trekking in Nepal was like the hiking I knew in Yosemite. We would not need to carry all the food, water and gear for both cooking and sleeping. I thought we had to carry everything including tents and pots and pans.
For a trek in Nepal, you can buy food and water along the way and at the guesthouses. To trek to Everest, one might need all those things but a team of sherpas and trained leaders would outfit that level of experience and that was not where I would be going anyway.
My team of Olympic level worries had led me astray on what the experience would be like. I was so concerned about blisters, pots and pans and dramas that I never focused on the incredible beauty of the location.
When I first arrived in Nepal, I fell in love with it. The people are so warm and friendly although they did look at me funny when I ordered my momo (meat wrapped in dough like a chinese bao) in Nepalese. I tried to say I wanted chicken momo but I said the wrong word and accidentally ordered dog momo. They were horrified because they do not eat dog. Me either! (Chicken: Cikana, Dog: Kukura)
Other than my linguistic challenges, my trip was fantastic. It is true that you walk into shape on a trek. No matter how much you train before you go, the altitude does take some getting used to. After a day or two, I felt like my backpack was part of me and I belonged on the trail.
I had left some of my gear in a guesthouse and only had with me the layers I needed for the trek (and plenty of extra socks and bandaids which I did not need!). Many of the people I met along the way had also left things at their guesthouses. The expedition leaders helped people figure out what they needed. I realized I did not need to know how to do everything in advance. It was not a test. There were no grades. Trekking is not a race. It is about being outdoors and listening to the sounds, meeting the people and being amazed by our world around us.
When I reached the ridge and was able to commune with the mountains and see the incredible views, I felt at peace. I did it. I overcame my fears and walked myself to the top. I sat alone and took deep breaths. I knew then that I could do anything. I just had to decide to start one step at a time.