In life we go through many different phases and at each of these phases i believe we are a different person. A different person because our accumulated life experiences continuously shapes us and drives the decisions and choices we make in life.
our accumulated life experiences continuously shapes us and drives the decisions and choices we make in life
Up until last year, i took my body for granted and lived a life devoid of proper exercise and was fuelled by a diet of Nescafe Ice and McDonald’s. Significant events marked a turn, and to commemorate my 1-year of change, i decided that before my big four zero birthday i would mark this phase of my life by stepping out of my comfort zone, by doing something personally remarkable that will be etched as an achievement and personal milestone. And I didn’t just step out of my comfort zone, i leaped by a mile out and did something i would have never thought of doing. In fact, it’s probably something not many around me would even think of doing.
I hiked for 12-days (8 of which without showering!), covering over 130KMs, to an elevation of 5364m above sea level to reach Everest Base Camp. The last stop physiologically safe for long term human habitation, nothing really survives beyond this height for a prolonged duration (except maybe the Yeti!). Enduring long hikes each day under the scorching sun, freezing cold, strong winds, rain, snow, and yak dung, to reach our lodgings for the night. Lodgings which are by most standards, quite basic. ‘Sleeping in an ice box’ is how i describe the accommodations higher up the Himalayas. With 4 walls and a roof that was covered in snow, coupled with the fact that theres no power so high up in the mountains, we were literally sleeping in a refrigerator. This however did make for exciting late night toilet runs! Some of the toilets by the way, were outside! Lets not attempt to describe the toilets.
Speaking of toilets, i suffered a tummy upset caused by yak cheese the night before whilst hiking up a steep section dotted with switchbacks and had to make a “deposit” in the mountain. Now, if you have never had to take a number 2 in the wilderness, doing it in a freezing snow covered mountain is a daunting task. What made it difficult wasn’t the tummy ache or having to drop your pants in the middle of nowhere, but the amount of energy expensed to go off-track and back to find a spot where you are shielded from other hikers from almost all directions. One of the most memorable moments for me.
Our daily hikes which lasted between 3 to 10 hours rewarded us with magnificent views all along the way. From thick green forest, we watched as the landscape changed to dry barren empty space as we climbed higher and higher. With every 100 meters higher, the temperature and oxygen levels dropped dramatically too! There were parts of the trek where i tried to grab my phone in the pocket to snap pictures but couldn’t because my fingers were frozen and couldn’t bend! Low oxygen levels are the main cause of alot of the high altitude sickness en route up, (didn’t help that news of a very fit athletic person passed away [RIP] on her way up to Everest Base Camp reached my mom) and at some stops you’d hear the familiar sounds of a constant almost whopping like cough. Signs of severe altitude sickness. We were blessed that our expedition by Nex Adventures had a good safety policy and were well equipped with O2 and heart rate monitors, as well as a fully equipped first aid kit. With expedition leader Mr.Shariman checking and recording our oxygen levels and heart rates every morning and every evening to ensure everyone was in good shape. I personally had a massive drop in oxygen levels above the 5000m mark and Mr.Shariman was keeping close eyes on my vitals to make sure i was ok.
Tiring and long vertical hikes aside, the scenery was amazing. From long deep valleys and gushing glacier rivers to cloud covered peaks and white out flat lands, the Everest Base Camp trek was truly a memorable adventure for me. Standing at the edge of a mountain and looking out to magnificent views, whilst breathing in crisp fresh air will forever be etched in my memory.
I’ve been constantly asked two questions since i embarked on this out of this world adventure of mine.
1. Why did you do it Jwan?
2. What have you discovered or have you gained from this mad trip of yours?
I figured i’d pen my thoughts down here.
I have never made any significant changes in my life before that yielded such immense positive gains. And i’ve never had the discipline to stick to anything that so much as warranted any physical activity or might result in pain. Having stuck to an exercise regime and managed a complete mindset shift over the last one year, i figured i’d not only test how far i’ve come, but also commemorate this mind and body shift with an experience that i’ll remember forever. And timely enough as i wanted to achieve something personally remarkable before i turned 40. Some call it a mid life crisis, i call it a mid life awakening. I only wish i had this awakening 20 years earlier.
Natural for us humans to always take the path with least resistance and live within our comfort zones. Before turning 40, i’d shock myself by making a decision that i’d never even consider, a decision to do something i’ve never done, something i never even thought about doing. I’ve never hiked any mountain in the last 20 years. Heck! I even dislike trekking and hiking because of the dirt and grime, humidity, shrubs in your face, animals, and bugs! Don’t forget leeches! What better way to jump out of your comfort zone than by attacking the base of the highest mountain in the world! Friends said “you crazy! you’ve never done Mount Kinabalu and you’re heading to EBC?!” I said, “i haven’t even done Bukit Gasing in the last 20-years, but if you’re going to be thinking anyway, think big.” To know that i can step out of my comfort zone and really test how far i can go, i had to do something remarkable. Somehow the stars were aligned, an invitation was extended, and so Everest Base Camp it was.
Some call it a mid life crisis, i call it a mid life awakening. I only wish i had this awakening 20 years earlier.
What did i learn or gain? I could list quite a few, here are five that i’d share in this post.
1. My mind and body can go further than i have ever thought possible.
You will never know how far you can go, until you push your limits. If there is one thing that my EBC adventure taught me, it is that a person’s mind and body can go beyond anything you have ever imagined. More importantly, your capabilities are only limited by your thoughts. There were days where i was walking for hours on end all alone with low oxygen and biting cold, with my legs and feet long pass the shut down stages and every step literally taking the breath right out of my lungs. Staring down the edge of the mountain, i felt like just sitting down and calling it quits. You can’t though as there’s only one way out, and that’s at the end of the trail. Your body tells you that you should take a short break and just lie down and rest, and you have half a mind to do so, but the other half knows that if you did, you won’t have enough daylight and you don’t want to be hiking on a narrow path at the edge of mountain in darkness. You have no choice, you set your mind on getting to the next stop and you trudge on, one foot in front of the other and tell yourself to just keep going.
The only thing that prevents us from achieving more, is our own mind.
2. Who you surround yourself with is critical for success
I doubt i would have made it up to the top if i wasn’t with this group of people. It was a uniquely diversified group who bonded very well together. The chemistry was just right and everyone got along extremely well and everyone played a role in encouraging and supporting each other along the way. Generous in sharing their food, snacks, medication and anything that anyone in the group needed. Constantly checking in on each other to make sure that everyone was in good health. Just like in business and life, you can’t go at it alone and you need to surround yourself with the right people.
Speaking of surrounding yourself with the right people. One of the best things about trips like these are the friends you make. The people who went on this adventure together, spent 15 days together. Nothing builds better friendship than going on an adventure together. I’m grateful to have made the acquaintance of the lovely people who were on this trip and i look forward to our continued friendship. Much love to my new and old friends from the April 2019 EBC group; Jee Ho, Sakti, Adrian Lim, Shariman, Fiero, Christopher, Lynn, William, Shirley & Fieza.
4. The world is huge
Standing at the foot of some of the Himalaya’s peaks leaves you feeling tiny amidst god’s mega creations. Hiking along the route, you get to see, smell, touch, hear and experience things that only those who have walked this path will ever experience. You have to walk a path to experience it and theres no other way. The world is huge and there is so much to see and experience that i will never be able to cover it all in my lifetime. But i am honoured and grateful to have been able to walk this path and see everything that i saw on the Everest Base Camp trek.
Where do i start with this? I could go on forever. I’m grateful that i am blessed with the ability to be able to embark on this amazing adventure. The trip has taught me to be grateful for everything that i have, it has showed me that many live with a lot less than what i already have. Grateful to be physically healthy and to be able to understand my body better. Grateful to be able to enjoy a nice shower, clean hair and comfy bed to sleep in every night. Grateful for everything this world and what life has to offer.
Whats next? Kilimanjaro maybe.