Why Trek?

On our first day of trekking, a couple hours after being dropped off in Besisahar and eating our first noodle soup lunch, we were walking up a dirt road, already exhausted. It was not very pleasant and I was honestly pretty confused. Why in the world were we walking in this intense heat up to this random lake fifteen thousand feet above us? Why not take a helicopter or plane up? Why does anyone trek? Why do we trek as a school? Seeking answers, I decided to ask Louis.

At first, Louis turned the question back around to me, asking why we do fall backpacking trips or why I walked to Camino. I gave the normal, somewhat bullshit answer saying in those scenarios we walk to gain a deeper connection with our peers and with ourselves. I did not really buy into those ideas, thinking there were other ways to get the same result without walking up hill for eight days, so I pushed Louis more.

Louis said we trek for that moment when we are up in the hills right below the mountains when the clouds open up and you have the perfect view of some peak. That moment when you are struck with an intense beauty and don’t know how to handle it. Again, I didn’t buy in. I was unsatisfied with his answer and was still dreaming of a helicopter ride to the top.

Eight days later as we reached the lake, after climbing up to seventeen thousand feet from two thousand feet and after leaving eight group members behind, tears ran down my face, and in that moment, I realized why we trek.

Trek for the tears you cry at the top. The tears you share with your peers and leader.

Trek for the dal baht every night. Trek for the masala tea two, or maybe three if you’re lucky, times a day. Trek for all the rituals you have on the trek, whether you leave them behind or bring them back home.

Trek for the memories you make with your peers. Trek for the nights spent laughing in the tea houses


Trek for the snickers bars along the way.

Trek for the endorphin rushes that hit you every couple hundred feet of elevation gain as you make your final summit to the top. Trek for the feeling of not being able to breathe and the feeling of reaching, and pushing, your physical limit as you climb those final thousand feet.

Trek for being woken up early in the morning to see the perfect view of the mountain.

Trek for the time to think.

Trek for the feeling that you can do and conquer anything. Trek for the mental and physical gains. Trek for finding your top, wherever it may be.

I recognize that there are other scenarios where someone can eat dahl bat, cry, drink tea, and make memories with friends, but there is something indescribably special and worthwhile about trekking in the Himalayas. I have cried a lot, I have malaise days, and I have had days where I have felt like I must be the happiest person in the world, but I the never felt such intense emotions as I did at lake Tilicho. So this is why I trek.

Leah – Class of 2019


Stories, we all have stories to share. The story that I had before I came to Nepal was that people in a 3rd world country full of poverty cannot be happy and do not like their life; yet walking down the street I see smiles, people playing games and not what my story had been telling me this whole time. It was at this moment that I remembered a similar story that I had about Europe. I learned about the history and all the kings, and so I had an image of what it all looked like, and that it was medieval. The first time that I went to Europe it looked the same as the U.S. Thinking back on this reminded me that just because we have stories about a place doesn’t mean that they can’t change at any given moment. Getting to see what it really

like to live in a 3rd world country is one of the best things I have learned on this trip, and my story has completely changed. Seeing people welcoming us into their houses and feeding us just out of the kindness of their hearts, was incredible to be a part of. In Kaji’s village, there is a tiny little school of about 35 kids, and they didn’t have much other than a couple of classrooms. They did not have many supplies. They basically had the bare minimum that a school could have, and yet they welcomed us with flower necklaces and smiles on their faces even though they didn’t have much and they shared it all with us. Coming from a culture where this is uncommon if not nonexistent was an eye-opening experience. Just because you don’t have the easiest life doesn’t mean that you have a bad or unjoyful life.

Matthew – Class of 2019

Reentry soon

Hi,We are all safely in Kathmandu and just doing a few last things before we head to the Airport in 8 hours.

We have a 6 hour layover in Hong Kong, and then arrive in Vancouver around 745 am on Thursday. It should take minimum another 90 minutes to go through immigration.

With Jen Black, Jennifer Rice, and Sharon driving, I think we have 8+6+2 spots for kids which gives us 2 extra so I am sure it will all work out.

Your children collectively were one of the best groups Sharon and I have ever traveled with. They took care of each other even when their nerves and patience were frayed.

I have been posting many of their lengthier reflections today on the blog which you should check out.


Thanks – Louis

Louis Prussack, Head of School
Spring Street International School
505 Spring Street, Friday Harbor, WA 98250
Tel: (360) 378-6393 ext. 4; Fax: (360) 378-4220

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The Hardest Part…

It’s difficult to see the successes past the glaring failures.

I knew the trek would push my comfort zone. I don’t feel confident in my strength when it comes to strenuous activities. However, this time I was more mentally challenged. It was the last day; the day we were supposed to make it to the lake. We had heard reports about a landslide, but we decided to go on. However, as the terrain started to change from dirt roads to tiny paths to just walking on a cliff side– with a big drop– that with one wrong move would surely lead me to my demise, I began to feel pushed beyond my limit of comfort. It scared me so much that I couldn’t stop the panic attack that suddenly arose. Tears and heavy breathing suddenly overtook me, and I stood paralyzed. But that wasn’t the hardest part.

I thought the hardest part was not being able to make it to the lake. When Louis told me to stay I tried to hold back tears, but I didn’t last long (again I wasn’t strong enough). I cried the second time that day, but unlike last time these were not tears of fear. These were tears of sadness and anger. Anger at myself, at my body, but mostly my mind. I was so close, but because of my weakness I couldn’t make it. How could I let my fear of heights get in the way of making it to the top?

Each year I get stronger. This year I felt like I was doing so well while trekking. This year I wasn’t the girl who kept being told to walk in the front. This year I walked with the rest of the group. I was strong. I could go at their pace. No more blisters, no more pain. That is until I was faced with a new weakness. A new blind spot that pushed my comfort zone. Like in the past my self-esteem was brought down and I felt like the weak little girl I’m always afraid of being.

However, like I said earlier, I thought the hardest part was not being able to go and feeling like I failed. I realize now that is not the hardest part. In fact, I am still struggling through the hardest part. The hardest part is seeing my success past that glaring failure. The hardest part is realizing that I am enough, that I am strong, and the top is wherever I define it to be.

Isabella – Class of 2019

What have I learned?

This trip has pushed me in many different ways, but I had not expected to be pushed in many of the ways I was. Trekking in the Himalayan mountains, you expect to be physically pushed, and I was, but the big stretch for me was the mental push, and for me this was even harder to deal with.

For me, I think life is all about opportunity, which ones you take and which ones you don’t. I am blessed with a life full of opportunity, and because of this, I have been trained to take certain opportunities whenever they come up.

We started our trek a group of thirteen; only a handful of us made it to the lake. Every time a member of our group had to stay or turn back I was hit by one of those stretching moments. Instinctively I wanted to be the one hiking down with them, staying, helping, taking that opportunity, but I knew I was on the trek for a reason, and that reason was unclear every time one of these opportunities arose. At least the reason was unclear until I reached the lake. I have never been in such a place. The thing about this “place” is that it wasn’t just about where I was physically, seventeen thousand feet up in the most beautiful, outrageous place I have ever been, but just as much about where I was mentally and emotionally. I would like to say that the few drops of salty water dripping from my eyes was just another symptom from the altitude, but the source is still unknown. The Place that trail brought me was unlike anywhere I have ever been, and it is in places like that where I want to live my life.

The future is daunting. Every time I am asked where I am going to school, or what I’m going to be, I am intimidated by the undeveloped answer I give each time. I had no idea what was waiting for me at the base of those peaks, on the top of those glaciers. I did not know where that path was taking me and yet I followed it and I trusted it, even though it was seemingly not there.

I don’t know where my path is taking me. I don’t know where I am going to school or what I’m going to be. But, I know I’m on a path, and If I want to make it to that lake, or to that place, I will trust that path and I will walk upon it even if it is seemingly not there.

So what have I learned?’

I have learned to accept. To accept the fact that I don’t know where I’m going, but that I trust where I’m going. And when the path is unclear, to take off my boots and sink into the ground to secure that next step.

Thank you Nepal, Thank you Himalayas, Thank you Tilicho Lake, for those stretching moments.

Galen – Class of 2019

I Learned…

The suburbs of Katmandu are not beautiful to look at. They are filled will falling down homes and people packed together with nothing in between them but thick brown dust. In the bus headed towards Pokhara I felt overwhelmed. No matter how long I looked I could never seem to process everything around me. I saw a baby lying near a gutter wrapped in a trash bag blanket. I saw an old woman carrying a basket of mangos so large that her small frame was nearly completely hidden from view. Flies hung lazily in the brown air. Men shouted and horns blared. Traffic was stuck in a dusty gridlock and a little boy ran up to our bus. His eyes were old and he held out empty hands towards the window. An old man lay on the street, bare feet, one eye closed. Cows ate crumbs from bags of Doritos. The mayhem was mesmerizing. As I watched from the safety of the air conditioning, a feeling of utter helplessness rose in my chest. I picked up my camera, focused it on a boy about my age sitting in the doorway of a shack beneath a ripped tarp roof. I lowered my camera and took a picture of the water bottle between my knees. I felt painfully useless. I remembered Sharon wondering aloud, “Why do we get to go home?” I kept thinking that to myself as the bus bumped along the dirt road. Why do I get to go home?

It was a Saturday night and we were on the bus again, lurching along toward Pokhara. Soccer games were in full swing. Girls wearing lipstick waited on street corners for boys in knock-off Nikes. A man on a motorcycle opened his arms to embrace his daughter who dropped a pile of laundry and ran to greet him. Children were everywhere. They rolled in the dirt while mothers and grandmothers and uncles watched from porches. A circle of old men sat in quiet concentration as they studied a game of dice. Red dust tinted black hair gold. I saw all of the familiar and universal aspects of humanity that I had missed as I left Katmandu a few weeks earlier. I had been so captivated by the unfamiliar that I had missed the countless similarities between my own culture and the one I was visiting. The sun sank low behind the mountains, resting on the peaks of green foothills. The bus massaged my sore muscles and I thought, why do I have to go home?

I can’t say that in that moment I had an epiphany. I don’t think that understanding is that simple. I think that maybe wisdom is about not having answers, not knowing how to fix things. Perhaps instead it is as simple as seeing the clarity in chaos, the strength that emerges through hardship, and the love that lies everywhere. I think that on this trip I began to realize that home is all around us.

Emma – Class of 2019


Thailand was an assault on all fronts. Whether it was the aggressive, yet cohesive driving of all vehicles, the humidity that Matthew correctly described as a beast, or the vague smell of rotting flesh that permeates the air, Thailand was intense. Sometimes I felt overwhelmed by all of the sights and sounds. Even though we only stayed for three nights, we all went through a transformation. Slowly but surely, we became more confident in our surroundings. We were initially warned not to try the ice, but by the end, people were buying Thai iced tea after Thai iced tea at the nearest 7-Eleven. We also became more confident in our interactions with the locals. Despite obvious cultural and language barriers, we were (usually) able to navigate our way through the markets and find many different delicious meals. Even though the heat was excruciating, I can’t wait to go back.


Reflecting on reflecting

I am trying to reflect on the experiences and make something out of it. It would be easy if I had a hard time trekking or was afraid of trying new foods. If either of those things were true then I could just sit down, write about the altitude and the “samosa mix” that pushed my buttons, learn something, come back a different person, and have succeeded­­

​ – ​
have won at traveling. Maybe I’m just seeing things, but it feels like everyone else is taking away something meaningful. Everyone else is winning the travel game, the reflection game, the meaningfulness game​ – ​
I’m trying to figure out why I am on the bench. That’s hard. I am a competitive person. While there may be no official prize-giving, the awards are everywhere¾and they are massive: having a new perspective, a new way of going through the world, even some form of enlightenment. At this point, it seems unlikely that I will reach any of it. After my second trip to the Himalayas, I feel pretty similar to how I felt after the first: a little more grateful for my life back home, a little more aware of my body and mind, and a little more certain that squat-toilets are humanity’s greatest mistake. At the end of the day, I am basically the same person. Is that OK? I don’t know. Grappling with that is the hardest part of the trip.

-Per, Class of 2018

The Hardest Part…

The Hardest Part…

I’m not used to failure. The hardest part of this journey for me was not the trek, but in fact the opposite. The final day, the final camp, the final push for success, and I fail. I got sick! I was weak and slightly feverish, it wasn’t altitude sickness but debilitating nonetheless. Of all days, why then? I am not a spiritual person, but I couldn’t help blaming a higher power. I hadn’t done anything wrong, I felt like I deserved to go. I’d worked hard, tried not to complain on the hills too much, trekked as well as any of my new friends. It just didn’t seem fair. I was also frustrated and angry at myself because I felt like even though I had done my best, it wasn’t enough. I felt like I had let Louis and Sharon down because they had given me a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I was unable to fulfill their expectations. In hindsight, I think I was especially disappointed because I knew that telling Louis about my sickness was the right thing to do. If I had tried to go to the lake, I would have endangered myself and more than likely forced my friends to come down as well. Making that call, no matter how hard it was, taught me to trust my instincts. I can say with full confidence that I never regretted staying.

And even though I didn’t know it at the time, as I watched my friends leave without me, staying was more of a challenge that going would have been. I have done the physical challenges before and have felt the same joy; climbing to Tilicho Lake wouldn’t have pushed my comfort zone. Although it would have been extremely difficult, I would have felt safe. What I hadn’t done was quit, take a break, give up. It forced reflection and ultimately acceptance for myself and my body’s capabilities. I know now that the sickness was simply unlucky timing, I am physically and mentally capable of going to Tilicho Lake, and it’s okay that I didn’t. The lake will still be there, but the lessons I learned by staying behind are incalculably valuable.

I learned to trust my instincts, to push my comfort zone (even if it’s not in the way you planned), to acknowledge and overcome my jealousy and anger, to find light in the darkest of situations, and that the top is where I define it to be. The new perspective I was given due to my failure (if you could call it that) taught me these lessons in an unexpected way.

Natalie, FHHS Class of 2019

I learned…..Addi Kessler Class of 2019

I learned…

We wrap up the school year in a flurry—APs, finals, and packing for our trips. At home, we have schedules and deadlines, but once we board that airplane and take that first breath of foreign air, time loses all significance. Of course, we need a watch so that we are not late for breakfast, but days of the week become irrelevant. When on the trail we walk, we breathe, we eat, and we sleep. Life becomes something else, something far from what we know. We are plucked into a new line of sight and we try out best to embrace this new perspective. It is easy to think of home, the people we miss, the food we miss, and the lives we have left behind, but we learn to live in the present. We cannot think of home because for the moment it is the past and out of our line of sight.

When asked why do we travel, I said it is to gain a new perspective. I believe that a new way of looking at the world will enrich our lives. Travel offers us a new perspective on our homes—when we are gone we learn to appreciate what we have, and we are able to miss what we need which we often take for granted. Travel also offers us a new perspective through a new culture. Being a visitor and observer lets us understand how people live; I have observed different clothing, different foods, and different languages. For example, there are Lays chips in Nepal but instead of being vinegar or BBQ flavored they are mountain masala. Small things like this—a universal brand, a chip– are shaped to specific cultures.

As I have traveled the world—to Europe, to Central America, and now to Asia—I have gathered perspectives. What I do with these perspectives is still a question to me. As I compare the different cultures and the pieces that make them unique, I realize that everyone lives in their own bubble. In Guatemala the people know kindness, they know colorful clothing, and they know how to make tortillas. In Nepal the people know sharing, they know masala tea and momos, and they know how to relax. Each and every person has their own set of traditions, values, and rituals.

I know people say it is bad to think of yourself as the center of the universe, but how can one think otherwise? We are our own bodies; we walk with our own feet and see through our own eyes. Even if we are gathering new perspectives, we are gathering them through our own lens and through our own interpretation. So, let me rephrase, none of us are at the center of the universe, but we are the center of our own universes. Everyone has their own universe because everyone is living with a slightly different perspective. Everything we do and see branches out of our own interpretations and our own point of view. I have learned that I am the center of my own universe. As the world happens around me I can only see the small bit that is in my line of sight. Traveling widens this line and makes my world bigger. Being at the highest lake in the world made my line of sight seem endless. Looking out at the towering glaciers, and rolling mountains that belong to the Himalayas made me feel on top of the world, or rather on top of my world.

My biggest challenge in to remain present in my line of sight. I learned to do this in Nepal, and especially while trekking. Nepal is calm. The energy, the people, and the air give off a mellow aroma. The O2 reader detected a decline in my heart rate when we arrived in Pokhara—whether this is because of the increase in altitude or because of the relaxed nature of this culture, I do not know. When we first started the trek, I wanted to know when we were leaving, where we were going, and when we would get there. Then my mom said to me, “You need to relax, this is a loose culture. Learn to trust that everything will work out.” After this, I stopped worrying about how much further we had to go or many miles we had covered. I honed my focus down to my line of sight, which let me live in the present. I immediately noticed a distinct change in my attitude and experience, I even noticed more waterfalls in distant valleys.

– Addi Kessler, Class of 2019