By Mohammad Alsanea
It was a cold night inside the cabin. The wooden walls and slab floor by no means served as any sort of insulation from the harsh cold mountains. I was wearing almost everything I packed inside my backpack. Covered up to my nose under my sleeping bag like a newborn baby, my only solace to this cold night was the one clean woollen underpants wrapped around my head.
It was the Himalayan spring, 2,600 meters high, and surviving the night meant an eight hour morning hike wearing only my blue jeans, preserving what became my most valuable possession, my woollen underpants.
I was not at my best physical shape when I signed up for this trip and was going through a ‘burger trial’ phase at the time. I had two months to prep myself and shed off some of the weight accumulated over the years. After weeks on the treadmill I managed to gain a few extra pounds, and a good knowledge of the best burger joints in town. For some reason I thought I was now ready to trek the Himalayas.
Inside the cabin in Phakding I was having my early morning breakfast and three cups of milk tea which I ordered mainly to keep my hands warm. I had an eight hour trek ahead of me to Namche Bazaar, the highest settlement in the region, following the footsteps of a local Nepalese man, my only companion. While I was having breakfast I enjoyed listening to the stories of other trekkers on the table.
“I am so excited, I have been saving money for years and here I am trekking to Everest base camp” one trekker sounded like an enthusiastic school girl, only forty years older. There was a table of retirees setting new goals in their lives, a table with a professor from the Caribbean, whose research required him to make it to the Everest and then my table; a solo traveler not in the best physical shape trying to find out his own limits. We all had different stories and personal challenges, but for that moment we were all enjoying the same warm Himalayan breakfast.
The next morning I found myself sitting on an isolated bench on the edge of the Himalayas 3,600 meters high, staring at one of God’s masterpieces, Mount Everest. I couldn’t believe how close I was to something so magnificent. All of a sudden, the long hours up these mountains, the high suspended dancing bridges and the many Yaks’ surprises along the way faded. It felt like I was standing a few meters away, but as the trekkers started to gear up for another day trek I knew that the end of my journey here was just the beginning of their own to the highest peak on earth.
A few days ago, as I was sipping my morning tea sitting on my comfortable sofa I picked up my travel journals for the first time and came across an entry from my five month trip. Somewhere between Thailand and Cambodia I was contemplating the time-old question of ‘what did ‘I’ really want out of ‘my’ life?’
I always believed that dreams are big. That success is tangible, and inspiration was a goal. It may be true for many. But for the first time I am realizing that my real dreams, those that make me happy, are not that big. That, the success I really want could not be measured by others. And that the only person I strive to inspire, is myself. The real comfort of life cannot be felt from the sofa I was sitting on, ok…maybe a little. But real comfort comes from a state of mind, just like that moment on that bench in the Himalayas with an aching body, a fractured foot and woollen pants on your head.