Long hikes are really not my cup of tea. But when I found myself in Nepal last year, I noticed all the shops in Kathmandu were selling all kinds of trekking gear and gadgets. Travellers where eagerly stocking up them and they was either excited about their upcoming trek or pumped up about the one they had just returned from. I knew people back home who would KILL to trek in the Himalayas, others who would spend the entire year at their desk jobs, day dreaming of their booked trekking vacation 9 months from then. “They can’t possibly all be nuts?!”, I thought…
So I decided to give it a shot. Might as well, since I was already there…
It was a 7-day teahouse trek, meaning there were small cabins where you could spend the night and buy a cup of noodles. The highest pass we had to conquer was at an altitude of 4,610m. Just to give you an idea of the level of difficulty.
The first 4 days were physically and mentally challenging. We suffered from the cold temperatures, the lack of water and a shortage of food. To add insult to injury, the weather was horrible. It rained, it was foggy and the skies were permanently grey. In other words, the view was non-existent. Even though the trek seemed like pointless suffering at the time, there was no turning back.
As we pushed through the hardship, I tried to lift my spirits by coming up with other reasons why I was there. Here are the 8 reasons aside from magnificent scenery and the astonishing views:
1. To see what you will look like in 10 years if you don’t take care of yourself
The dry air at high altitude turns the lines from the grimaces you make while hiking into wrinkles on your face. A lack of showering and grooming, bad nutrition, sleep deprivation and in my case a lack of drinking water, also add marks to your face. There are pimples involved as well as bloated faces, sausage fingers, frizzy hair, cracked lips, filthy nails, smelly armpits and often a general zombie-like expression. You start to look more and more like the crazy cat lady. Staring back at you in the mirror, is an uglier, neglected and aged version of yourself that will make you swear you will vigorously start layering that day cream with SPF factor once you get home.
2. To test your relationship
Whether it’s your relationship with a friend, a lover or a family member, committing to a long haul trek together will put that relationship to a test. How will you react to each other’s whining and mood swings? How do you cope with each other’s bad odours resulting from the lack of showering? These treks can be tough and may bring out the worst in you or your travel companion(s). Will you still love and care for one another after seeing each other’s dark sides?
3. To loose weight
I thought walking 6 to 8 hours a day, 5 days a week would instantly shave a few centimetres off my waistline. That’s how it seems to work in those weight loss TV reality shows. Oh how I was wrong. A full day of exercise is quickly neutralised when eating 7 snickers a day for energy… Who would have thought…
3. For the breaks in between
I found the moments in between the actual hiking most delightful. Joking around with locals. Sitting around an old fashioned wood stove with a cup of ginger tea trying to keep warm while sharing stories. Exchanging the experiences of the trek so far. Listening to the sounds of nature. Looking up at the millions of stars. Priceless.
4. To do penance
Once the physical challenge started to be almost unbearable and my mind started wondering what the heck I was doing here, regretting I had ever started. It was almost easier to just accept the pain. Accept the pain as a punishment for everything I did wrong in the past. I thought of all the people I had wronged or hurt, all the situations I handled badly because of selfishness, the unkind thoughts I’d had… and I apologised. I apologised to some kids I went to elementary school with, ex-lovers, family, friends, myself. I was suffering to do penance for my past sins. I guess is were you see that all those years of catholic school did eventually manage to slip in a few imprints my mind.
5. To remind yourself that you can handle a paramount problem by breaking it down into smaller problems and tackling those one by one.
Problem: one week of hiking. I couldn’t even start to wrap my mind around it. So I took it one hour at the time, one day at the time.
6. To have a great dinner party story to tell
The more pain you felt and the more horrible moments you had, the better the story will be. At least you’ll have some funny anecdotes to tell.
7. For a full technology detox
Spending a full week off the radar. No wifi, no e-mails, no phone calls, … Exactly the way things were when you were 7 years old. It actually feels quite good. For a while.
8. To revive your appetite for life
Not having running water, electricity, good things to eat, you favourite kind of entertainment, your friends or family around, remind you of all the great things you have. It’s a fantastic feeling to return home and be so thankful for running water, a good meal and a warm soft bed. “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”, right?
For the record, in the end I did get to see the views and it was more than worth it. Just that was reason enough for me to want to go on a long haul trek again. Event hough I don’t really like trekking.
Have you ever gone trekking? Would you consider it?
The post “8 Reasons to go on a trek when you don’t like trekking” first appeared on Travel Cake.