Keep Calm and Trek the Himalayas | Part One

By October 20, 2017 August 9th, 2019 No Comments

My wife and I set out on an adventure of a lifetime recently.  This is our story.  My hope in sharing our experience is that it may help you get out of your own comfort zone, take ownership over your own happiness and motivate you to seek your own adventure.  Adventure is an amazing tool that can help you find the best version of yourself and give you back that feeling of “being alive.”  Thanks for checking it out.

TPA to JFK to Doha to Kathmandu

The “Why”

We all get into “ruts.”  I recently experienced the trifecta of ineffectiveness:  a slump at work, a loss of perspective at home and a de-evolution my spirit.  Over the last several years, the grind of my life had caused me to lose my center.  My mood was subject to the crisis of the day at work, the “looks” my wife gave me, the “behavior” of my children and even the weather.  Over the last few years I had lost sight of what makes me well, me.

As I approached my 40th year alive I felt anything but alive.  Mired in stress, anxiety and a constant sense of being behind, the “tiredness” was surely present to my wife Maureen.  Here is a woman who is as loving and caring as anyone I’ve ever met.  That is why I married her.  She is always finding ways to surprise me but this time she pulled a doozy.

In August of 2017 she decided to announce to me that we were going to Nepal.  She stated very matter-of-factly to me, “We are going because you are turning 40, this is your dream trip and I know it is just what you need. ”  Of course I replied with excitement first but that was followed very quickly by excuses.  I rebutted, “Maureen, I love you and I love the idea of going but what about the kids?  What about Empower?  What about the cost?”  This was the typical me lately.  Typically buried by my life’s burdens and worries; stresses and anxieties unwilling to see the benefit of anything fun or out of the ordinary.

Maureen in her infinite wisdom knew this was coming.  She replied, “Well, think about it.”  And off she drifted to sleep.  I didn’t sleep a wink that night.  For 24 straight hours I obsessed about Nepal and about the adventure of it all.  Admittedly it was nice to think about something else besides the worries of life.  Later the next day I happened to dig up an old video I had regarding the elements of adventure (5 elements of Adventure by Matt Walker – highly recommend!) and in that video was a quote from Leo Tolstoy who said, “In the name of God, stop a moment.  Cease your work.  Look around you.”  It was my friend Leo telling me to go.

Another full day came and went and there Maureen and I found ourselves getting ready to end the day.  I asked her if she had thought about “it” at all.  In perfect Maureen fashion she replied, “Thought about what?”  And just as she said that, I reached for the covers to tuck myself into bed and found an envelope containing our trip confirmation and itinerary.  She burst into laughter while I burst into tears.  We were going.  She was going for me.  I was going for me.

For the next 6 weeks we planned, we anticipated, we researched, we educated ourselves.  Well at least one of us did. What was it going to be like?  Would our kids be okay staying with Grandma for 12 days?  Would Grandma be okay with the kids?  How would Empower fare with me gone?  At one point I asked Maureen, “You DO know that the potties aren’t exactly like ours right?”  She responded, “I don’t want to know.  I am going and will make the best of it.  I’d rather not know what I’m getting in to.”  We are so different in that way.  Another reason why I love her.

As we approached departure day there was a very interesting “lead-up” going on in the heads’ of Maureen and I, although very different.  It seemed Maureen was getting more and more excited for the adventure and for the challenge of it all.  I was not “trending” in that direction.  In a very clear moment, I remember thinking why am I not as excited?  Why am I sabotaging this experience before I even step foot in Nepal?  I let the concern, worry, guilt, expense of leaving totally outweigh the benefits of this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The hustle and bustle of tying up loose ends in the final 72 hours before departure kept us busy.  Getting Grandma settled with the kids, stocking refrigerator, packing clothes (don’t forget the headlamps and wet bags).  CLIF bars, trail mix, neosporin, check.  At work the team was very supportive.  I was rushing to get the team ready and empower them to carry on without me.  I told them, “Help each other and watch each others’ backs.  Bounce ideas off one another and when it comes time to make a decision feel confident in your experience.  As long as you have sound reasoning for your decision you will be just fine.”  The Empower team was ready.  Team Grandma was ready.  Maureen was more than ready.  But was I?  I didn’t rest much that night despite closing my eyes.  It came to me suddenly at 250am (10 mins before I had to get up to catch our first flight), I was going way outside of my comfort zone.  I had never been away from my current life this way before.  I had never been without communications with work or the kids this way.  I was about to travel to the other side of the planet and not be able to control what I was leaving behind.  I was waaaaaaay outside of my comfort zone.

Globe trotting

The next 24 hours of travel was a continual stretching of my comfort zone.  Getting on a Qatar Airways flight was something I didn’t ever imagine I would do.  I’ve seen those planes before and never placed myself on one of their flights yet here I was headed to Qatar for a connection to Kathmandu.  Turns out the good folks at Qatar Airways run a first-class airline and I would recommend them to anyone traveling to the Middle East or Asia.  It was a 5-star experience from start to finish and was a pleasant way to spend 18 hours in the air.

Landing in Qatar was a thrill.  I felt like I had landed back at the Port of Kuwait in 2003 on the eve of the invasion of Iraq.  It smelled the same, like petroleum.  It looked the same with a smoggy, dusty haze hanging over the horizon.  It felt the same with the warm, dry air that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.  Everything about being there reminded me of my time spent in the Middle East as a soldier and as I got off the airplane in the middle of the tarmac and loaded a bus bound for the terminal at Hamad International Airport I remembered all those braves souls that I served with in Iraq and Afghanistan and said a prayer for them and their families.

Following a brief layover, we boarded yet another Qatar Airways flight headed for Kathmandu.  I knew I was leaving the comfort, reliability and infrastructure that exists in 1st world countries.  Once we touched down at the base of the Himalayas I wasn’t sure if I would be able to communicate with my kids, with my staff, with my family, the US Embassy, or anyone that mattered.  We weren’t quite sure what we were getting into upon arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu.  Excited, nervous, focused and above all ready for whatever came our way.  There was an adrenaline rush with going into a situation where there is an uncertain outcome.  Another essential element of an adventure.

Our plan landed on time in Kathmandu.  We hit the ground running.  Customs was a debacle.  Lots of people.  Lots of confusion.  Lots of misinformation.  We were ready for this and figured it out pretty quickly.  We exchanged some money, collected our bags and found a ride to our hotel in less than 2 hours.  Test #1 – passed!  We made it from Florida to Kathmandu with no delays, no issues and were ready for the next test – trekking in the Himalayas.  In the coming weeks, I will post more about our sightseeing tour in Kathmandu, getting to the foothills of the mountains, trekking Annapurna and how to schedule your own Himalayan adventure!  Stay tuned.

Capturing the moment we landed in Kathmandu.

Thank you Qatar Airways for a wonderful flight.

Buddha was born in southern Nepal.

Catching a bus to the hotel.