One Year of Incredible Discomfort - 10 Things I've Learned From Climbing Mountains

One Year of Incredible Discomfort

10 Things I've Learned From Climbing Mountains

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It was only October 2013 that I began prepping myself for my first solo trekking trip in the Himalayas, Nepal. At the time, I had no clue what trekking was and I had never have an interest in it. Things changed when my curiosity took over.

"What would it be like to walk among the Himalayas?"

Since then, I have climbed Mt Chiang Dao in Thailand, Mt Fuji in Japan, Mt Rinjani in Indonesia, a few little canyon hikes in Australia and I plan to celebrate this achievement with the climb of Mt Ngauruhoe in New Zealand.

Trekking has no doubt changed my life forever. If you have met me before, you would certainly know that it is impossible to shut me up when I started talking about my time in the mountains. That said, I have learned so much and through this post, I would like to channel my enthusiasm and list 10 things that I have learned so far.

1. It Doesn't Get Any Easier

No, the number of mountains you climbed doesn't make it any easier to climb the next one. Mountains are mountains. You will be dirty as a hog, you will be exhausted, your back will hurt as f*ck, your feet will bleed, and you will be cold as balls..

But non of these will matter when you realized you have conquered yourself and accomplished what you thought was impossible. Imagine the places you will go if you knew you are able to reach the Everest Base Camp with your own 2 feet. The endless possibility!

2. You Can Be Friends with Anyone in the World

People are generally good in nature. You see this more clearly when you are in the mountains. Mountains are a great equalizer. People from all walks of life will not hesitate to greet you in the mountains. They will encourage you, empower you and assist you in anyway possible. After all, we are all in this together.

Once you remove all your previous perceptions about people from different walks of life, everyone becomes your friends. Some, you may feel more connected to than your friends back home.

3. Don't Underestimate the Mountains, ever

People passed me as I grasped for air on my fourth day in the Himalayas

People passed me as I grasped for air on my fourth day in the Himalayas.

I had made this mistake many times, and a few almost costed my life. One time in Japan, I miscalculated the trail and thought I could easily hike this in half the time so I went up there with one small bottle of water and nothing more. The trail turned out to be longer than I thought and I ran out of water half way through. I was severely dehydrated that my ears started ringing, and my mind started visualizing crazy things like a vending machine behind a tree, etc.

Treat every mountain as if you are climbing the tallest mountain in the world and prepare for the worst. You are always better off to come over-prepared than come underprepared. That extra energy bar you are thinking of not taking may save your life someday.

4. Optimism is a Must

Optimism is what got me through all these mountains. I tricked myself into thinking that the next trail that "looked like" it was going to end, will actually end. You and I know that that is usually not the case, but will it be any faster if you think you are climbing a mountain with no top? Of course not. When you know that the mountain has no top, these questions arises, "Why the struggle? Why risk ourselves like this? Why continue?" and when you started to doubt yourself, everything will fall apart.

5. Our problems are nothing in the scale of the universe

Every mountain I climbed doesn't make me feel stronger, but instead made me feel weaker. All the problems I have inflicted on myself don't matter when I am among the mountains. An avalanche could end my life and I wouldn't even know it.

The realization begs the question: Why on earth would I spend time worrying about those problems when I can spend it on actually living the life to the fullest?

6. Most stress are self inflicted

When I was trekking in the Himalayas, I was disconnected from the outside world for a week. For the first time in my life, I was without any stress or worries. I didn't have to check my Facebook feed, I didn't have to worry about emails, and I didn't have to stay up-to-date with the news. I felt happier than when I have all those technological advancement at my fingertip.

I came to a conclusion that most stress we got from our day-to-day lives are mostly self-inflicted. Don't believe me? Stop reading news today, and tell me in a week how you feel.

7. Shit happens (Sometime, literally)

The worst place to have a stomach ache is up in the mountain

The worst place to have a stomach ache is up in the mountain.

Shit happens, not just to you, but to everyone. It is how we deal with these stuff that differentiate us. When I was climbing Mt Rinjani, several of us had a really bad stomach and we had to walk 8 hours down a mountain in that condition. Imagine trying to control 2 holes at once while sliding down volcanic ash and grasping for oxygen every 10 seconds. I did this for 8 hours straight.

I could complain and vow not to trek again like a maniac but I know better. I know that shit happens and there are always good things to draw from bad experiences. No matter how shitty it gets, at least, I have a hell of a story to tell.

8. The Harder The Journey, The More Rewarding the Destination

A research done by Hernandez Lallement J and the team where 28 individuals were provided monetary rewards for correctly completing math problems of varying difficulty. The recorded brain activity of individuals who solved difficult math problems showed that they were more excited about monetary rewards than the ones solving easy problems.

We are wired to feel more accomplished when the challenges are hard. Climbing mountains are nothing but hard, that is why people continue to climb dangerous mountains. The indescribable euphoria we got from overcoming ourselves is just too difficult to pass by.

9. Curiosity will take you places

Nothing drive us to achieve more than our own curiosity. It has been the pinnacle of human's development since the beginning of time. My humble adventure began with a curiosity of what the Himalayas would look like if I stood among it. It encouraged me to go for the Himalayas and pushed me through all obstacles in life. As long as you have the curiosity to do something new, your life will be an endless adventure.

10. The sight of the Milky way never gets old

The milky way at MBC, Nepal

The milky way at Machapuchare Base Camp, Nepal.

Last but not least, even though, I have seen the Milky way in its finest in the Himalayas, I was still mesmerized by it months after when I saw it again on Mt Rinjani. Without the light pollution emitted from civilizations, I was exposed to the true scale of the universe. And to think that we are alone in the universe, is just stupid when you are staring at billions and billions of stars dancing around before you. That feeling of how little we are never gets old.

Looking for more inspirational articles? Check out The Solo Traveler’s Inspiration section where we will discuss topics related to the nomadic and traveling lifestyle and shower-thoughts that will invoke wanderlust in all of us.

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