We just got back from a three week trip to Nepal where we did the 12 day Everest Base Camp Trek. As soon as I signed us up for this trip, I immediately got a stomach ache. I was so nervous and it was a year and a half away! Could we do it?! Had I made a huge mistake?! It was a long way to go and a lot of money to spend to fail. It felt so overwhelming! I had never hiked more than 14 miles in one day and this was going to be 12 straight days going a total of 87 miles. I adopted the very effective coping technique of denial. I just wouldn’t think about it.
Being a planner, it wasn’t that I wouldn’t think about the trip…I thought a lot about what things we would need, the training regimen I would need to adopt, all the logistical stuff. What I wouldn’t think about was the actual hiking and that we would be going many miles a day for many days at a time at a very high altitude. When those thoughts crept in the stomach ache came back so I got very good at ignoring what it was that we were going to be doing.
I began reading blogs like crazy, taking notes feverishly: don’t eat any meat!, bring a hot water bottle!, you’re going to need Theraflu!, Tang! Tang is VITAL! My appetite for hearing firsthand accounts was insatiable. But something started to happen. While I did get many good tips, lots of the info I was reading was contradictory and I don’t even like Tang. I stopped reading blogs. They had become more hurtful than helpful and I needed to be as Zen as possible if I was going to get through this. There were weeks at a time that I didn’t even think about the trip.
When we were about four months out, I realized I was going to have to start thinking about it again and begin training. We are fortunate in that we live at 5k’ so we have some altitude training already built in, and I began intense cardio. But as Lennon so insightfully said, “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” I woke up one morning in mid-July (we were now only two and a half months out) in the worst pain of my life. Long story short, after passing out, hitting my head on the counter, and waking up in a small pool of blood, I was admitted to the hospital for acute diverticulitis with micro perforations. Fun stuff. To make matters worse, the infection was particularly stubborn and without boring you with all the details, I’ll just say that after being discharged from the hospital, I laid on the couch for a month and felt like absolute shit. My anxiety about this trip had now exploded. I was nervous when I was healthy and training, and now it was a month and a half away and I was a pathetic blob of lethargy and pain. Self-pity is not something I ever indulge in, but I have to admit it crept in a few times.
I have learned over the years that thoughts are very powerful and I made a conscious effort to only think positive things. As I began feeling better physically, we would take short hikes, and those gave me confidence. I COULD do this! It was as simple as believing that with all my heart. I began training again, slowly at first and working up to pre-illness intensity. We had hiked several 14ers in the past and I felt strong enough to attempt another. It was a piece of cake! We did another, more difficult one the following weekend and it was no problem at all. I was back!
When our sons were growing up, we would always tell them that nothing worthwhile is ever easy. And it’s so true. The sense of accomplishment and pride you get from pushing through adversity is priceless. And the super cool thing is that these accomplishments build on one another and give you the courage and strength to try more things. I really believe that the next time I sign us up for some crazy adventure the stomach aches I get thinking about it might be a little less. Our three weeks in Nepal are like a dream. The things we saw, the people we met, the beauty of those MOUNTAINS! We made it in and out of Lukla (arguably the most dangerous airport in the world) alive! And I crushed that 12 day, 87 mile hike because I believed I could.
Next: Some practical tips for a successful Everest Base Camp Trek