I remember thinking when Louis first gave us a description of the itinerary of the trip that it was going to be one of the most challenging travel experiences that I would ever face. The idea of trekking for two weeks was daunting. I knew I was fit enough for this trip but something about trekking to a height of 17,000 feet while carrying a 20 plus pound backpack for the majority of each day was frightening.
When actually experiencing Nepal and Bangkok, though, it turned out that only one incident of the trip was particularly challenging. Ultimately, it prevented me from trekking up the mountain. Not thirty minutes into the trek, a large truck was struggling up a rocky hill when a sizable rock flew up from under one of the truck’s tires and hit me in the knee. I remember seeing the accelerating, incoming mass of destruction like it was in slow motion: the collision, a loud pop, the trembling of knees, my body falling down. The pain, a silent scream, the gasping of air. The whole experience seemed to be warped by time.
When the blurred experience finally came into focus and I was able to stand, two thoughts crossed my mind. The first was that I would be okay, and the second was that I would be staying at the next village for a few days to recuperate and recover so that I would be able to continue trekking later on. It turned out that I was correct in both regards. For two full days, I stayed and recovered. This was challenging, not only because I had to figure out how to occupy my time, but also because I was alone except for the locals, who spoke little English.
Being alone was something that I have struggled with throughout my whole life. Being in the presence of others gives me a sense of security and allows me to feel safe. Being alone pushed me to the limits of my comfort zone because it caused me to be more self-reliant. To pass the time I drew, got bored, and then started reading. The book I read, The Miracle of Mindfulness, was a book on Buddhism. Partly because it occupied my time and partly because I had a greater interest in spirituality, I practiced its teachings. One of the main components of this practice was to focus on and be grateful for every experience. This included when I was eating, walking, and breathing. Focusing on my every movement and limiting distractions was extremely difficult.
I remember having my attention wander and having to draw my attention back to the now instead of the future or the past. I also remember having to relinquish inner feelings of boredom and sadness. By meditating on the present, I was not only able to change my mindset, but also able to think about my life in a more positive way. This experience was both difficult and important. In hindsight, I should have expected the most difficult experiences to be the most rewarding.
Sterling – Class of 2019