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As a child, I wasn’t much interested in taking risks, especially physical risks. I never climbed mountains, shot a gun, raced a car, or jumped off roofs. Those activities were for crazy people. I much preferred playing it safe, protecting my physical well-being as a matter of course. I looked both ways when I crossed the street, probably at a very early age, and have no scars from touching a hot stove. I’ve never broken a bone or even sprained an ankle.
But at the age of 54 and 50, respectively, my husband and I decided to go on a trek in Nepal. I was thrilled and terrified about the thought of sudden winter storms, washed-out bridges, freezing cold, falling into an “eastern toilet,” dysentery, and other maladies that could show up on such an adventurous (and dangerous) trip. With my husband’s encouragement, I decided that if we prepared well, we’d be fine.
We bought good hiking boots and for two months prior to the trek, took long uphill walks. We were already in pretty good physical condition from working out regularly. I read about the Nepalese culture. We signed up with a Sierra Club trip (where we had to become members and then promptly left the organization on returning home) and had a skilled guide. We had to carry 20-lb. backpacks, but the porters carried everything else. (We were instructed to limit our duffel bags to 40 pounds, and we did.) The weather was cold but we had no snow, and we had plenty of warm clothes and sleeping bags. We had to cross over a rushing stream by way of a log, leap over a breach where a bridge was gone, and wade through a freezing cold stream. (Okay, at 110 pounds, I was carried over by one of the Sherpas.) And the only one who got sick was my husband who ended up with pneumonia and had to walk 15 miles the last day of the trek. He toughed it out with flying colors.
The entire trip was an incredible lesson for me. I learned that when well-prepared, I could meet physical demands beyond my own expectations of myself. I learned that I could overcome fear when I prepared well and simply opened to the overall glorious experience of being in the beauty of the Himalayas, enjoying the Nepalese people, and most importantly, trusting myself.
It was one of the most transforming experiences of my life.