The View Up Here

The truth is, I wasn’t all that eager to trek the circuit for a second time.
The mountains had called me once and, graciously amidst that 150 kilometre loop, I’d been gifted something greater than I could have ever imagined. If you’d asked me then, I would have declared that multi-week experience to be more than enough revelation for one person in a life-time.
A much-needed homecoming with and in my own body.
A dramatic shift in perspective.
And a seamless series of events that led to the transformation of a somewhat ordinary existence into something completely extraordinary.


So it really wasn’t a surprise that three years later, as I found myself living back in Nepal, I continued to hold that initial experience in the mountains on the highest pedestal imaginable. And, when the opportunity presented itself to walk amidst those incredible Himalayan peaks once again, I foolishly began to overthink it all.
In attempting that paramount 5400m high pass for a second time, I couldn’t shake the relentless feeling that I was only setting myself up for major disappointment.
I mean, how could such a life-altering adventure be replicated?
Did I really feel to surrender myself fully to the mercy of Mother Nature’s elements once more?
And, without the same inspiring heartbeats beside me, was it at all likely that I could even complete the uphill journey this time around?


Yet, despite a million reservations as to why it wasn’t my path, I allowed the excitement and eagerness of the beautiful people around me to dictate my decision. I collected all the necessary gear and set off for what, I believed, was going to be a less-passionate replication of a familiar trek; embarking with a level of predictability not all that dissimilar from that of watching a pre-recorded football match on TV whilst already knowing the final outcome. However, to my surprise, the trail threw curve ball after curve ball directly at my all-knowing face.
Tested me in ways I had not thought possible.
Forcefully pushed me to the edge of my comfort zone.
And, throughout seventeen days of walking, presented me the opportunity for even more growth than it had the first time around. Those days on the Annapurna circuit proved, once again, to hold within them a thousand step-by-step reminders that Mother Nature and her mighty ridges will always be my greatest teacher.


Right from the beginning, everything was uncomfortably different.
The quaint, isolated villages I so fondly remembered from three years earlier, with improved road development, had dramatically expanded.
Snickers wrappers, crisp packages, and empty Tuborg beer bottles polluted glacier-fed streams and lined forest pathways in abundance.
The heartfelt common-room conversation that I recall looking forward to each evening upon arrival to a new guesthouse, was virtually non-existent with the introduction of wifi in just about every home along the circuit.
It seemed the simple, uncluttered mountain experience I had come to appreciate from days past was no longer. And, in being nothing as I had expected it to be, I found myself using a great deal of effort in those initial stages of the trail trying to make peace with the unanticipated reality of what is now and what used to be.

However, as one of my beloved guru’s often says, “the torment of change is caused by the same seeds as suffering”, and it didn’t take long before I began to recognize the necessity in making friends with my relentlessly comparative mind. In accepting that this Annapurna experience was no better or worse – simply different than the one I had trekked years before, I soon began to see the entire journey with new eyes and extra colours. And, as a result, those majestic peaks graciously delivered me the most invaluable lessons I’ve ever come to know.


Lesson #1 – Where I’ve Been Has Made Possible Who I Am
There’s something so indescribably powerful about hiking uphill to the top of a mountain.
The consistent foot-after-foot progression of always moving forward.
The mystery of travelling in the direction towards something grand and unknown.
The overwhelming sense of purpose in climbing higher and higher.
Yet, for every vast, panoramic view of majestic snow-capped mountains in the distance.
For every wave of excitement in catching some awe-inspiring glimpse of all that was coming.
For every astonishing realization of the sheer number of steps my feet were to carry me the following day, was the equally profound opportunity to – pause, turn around, and acknowledge where I’d been. It’s a concept that proved incredibly insightful on the trail, and has so aptly been applied to my life every day thereafter. And even now, as I sit here on the plane about to touchdown into the hustle and bustle of the Western world, I’m choosing to keep this invaluable lesson close to my head and to my heart. Reminding myself in moments of restlessness, to never get so caught up in looking forward or needing to know whats next that I forget to acknowledge the beauty of where I’ve come from.


Lesson #2 – It Won’t Be Easy, But It Will Be Worth It
I will not deny that the two week journey to the top of the Thorong La pass, one of the highest mountain passes in the world, is a challenging one. What begins as a fun-filled walk in the sunshine soon becomes an emotional battle of physical and mental wits.
Tears are shed.
Boundaries are broken.
And before I knew it, I was desperately trying to ignore the throbbing pain of mangled feet, tender muscles, and sun-blistered skin whilst walking uphill in the elements for six to eight hours each day. Yet, somehow, amidst every ounce of discomfort is the stark recognition of the relentless mental chatter of an overactive, self-limiting mind. The consistent story that gets played on repeat in one’s head as an act of desperation to trick us into believing that we cannot when, in fact, we most definitely can. And, for me, Annapurna candidly held up the mirror and reflected how, time-and-time again, my mind is prepared to give up long before my body ever will.
It’s this very knowledge – the self-awareness that accompanies moments of complete exhaustion and unimaginable struggle, that I consider to be the most valuable in my life. For, contained within each 4am wake-up on rock solid mattress, each begrudging step forward at the base of an abrupt incline, and every freezing cold shower at the end of a long day, was the silent reminder of my own resilience. And, on that incredible blue-bird day, as I summited 5400 meters and saw through tear-filled eyes those colourful prayer flags blowing in the wind for a second time, I knew: there is absolutely nothing in this world that I am incapable of conquering.
I, just like you, have no limits.

Lesson #3 -Deep Breathes Are Like Love Notes To Your Body
Ask any yoga or meditation teacher and they will say the exact same thing; all the answers you seek, all the peace you desire, all the presence you yearn for, resides on the wave of each breath. That never-ending life-force which orchestrates us to inhale and exhale without our even noticing, holds within it all the marvel of this precious existence. And, although it’s obvious that animals and reptiles who breathe slower, deeper breaths live much longer than their counterparts who respire with short, jerky breaths – somehow amidst the relentless hurry of a cram-packed lifestyle this miraculous process gets mindlessly forgotten.
In the mountains, the emphasis on respiration is gracefully woven into each and every moment. The risk of altitude sickness, strenuous uphill climbing, and thinning of oxygen at high elevations means that every nourishing breath in and every cleansing breath out become pivotal. In altitudes above 3000 meters, I vividly recall the intensity of panic that accompanied awaking from deep sleep gasping for air as oxygen levels crept below 12%. The constriction in my throat, faintness in my head, and crushing weight on my chest are physical sensations that have stuck with me ever since. And, even with these size seven feet firmly planted on flat ground, the consistent reminder to regulate my breathing remains; modelling the invaluable instructions silently taught by Mother Nature herself during those days on the circuit.
Following it’s gentle coming and going.
Recognizing the uniqueness of every inhalation and exhalation.
And relishing in the undeniable calming affect on my mind as a result of every deep breath (aka love note) to my beautiful body.


Lesson #4 – Being Alone Doesn’t Have to be Lonely
For close to three years, I’ve thought about them most every day.
Those four beautiful humans who recognized the tiny sparks of possibility within me at a time when I couldn’t see them within myself.
The angels who, unknowingly, encouraged me to fall back in love with my life as we walked side by side through one of the most incredible mountain ridges on the planet.
The radiant heartbeats who, still to this day, hold all the beauty of that initial experience within their every embrace, thoughtful message, and blissful reunion.
They held me up, the led my way, they gave me direction at a time when I was fumbling blindly. And, as a result, their palpable physical absence as I hiked the circuit for a second time produced overwhelming feelings of loneliness in those early days on the trail.
I missed their encouragement.
I missed every moment of comfortable silence and unspoken connection.
Simply put, I missed my people.
But, I suppose the universe has a funny way of giving us exactly what we need practice in. And I soon began to realize that, this time around, I wasn’t meant to be in such easy company. That this chapter of my journey was intended to be written differently. And, for perhaps the first time in my life, I gave myself full permission to receive all of the blessings that accompany spending time alone in nature – not to be lonely, but to reveal and enjoy the best parts of Who I Am.


Lesson #5 – Cold Hands, Warm Heart
For years I’ve been a sun-seeker; avoiding any place in the world at a season when temperatures creep below a comfortable twenty-five degrees Celsius. This is completely on purpose. In using the last three years abroad to become so well-acquainted with my own self, I’ve discovered that I am simply so much happier in heat. And, in having spent the majority of my time on this planet residing in a country that’s known for it’s frigid winter season, believe me when I say that I’ve had my fair share of experience from which to draw contrast. However, as I climbed higher and higher in elevation (and temperatures dropped lower and lower) I felt something shift in the community of strangers around me.
The brisk weather seemed to encourage trekkers to get close – not only on a physical level as we huddled around solitary fire pits each evening, but something deeper as well. Those moments by the fireplace bred authentic conversation, and before long, deep connections began to form. I found myself actually beginning to appreciate snow, something I had too-often complained about in the past, as foreign hikers expressed child-like excitement in being gifted the opportunity to see and touch it for the very first time.
And, it all got me thinking.
Maybe chilly climates aren’t so bad.
Maybe there’s something so profoundly unique of winter weather in bringing people together.
Maybe colder temperatures encourage warmer thoughts and actions; nurturing a kindness that, like freshly fallen alpine snow, covers all it touches and makes everything just a little bit more beautiful.

It’s been more than a month, a few thousand kilometres, and ten Time Zones since those days in the mountains; a realization that produces feelings of both disbelief and amazement. The sheer gratitude that fills my heart in recalling such incredible moments on the circuit is enough to make my eyes flood with joy and my skin erupt head-to-toe in goosebumps.

Once again you gifted it all.
Held up the mirror and gave it to me straight.
Challenged me every single step of the way and then somehow led me to the top of the world.
And although I’m well aware that view from up here may not always be vast, and clear, and filled with sunshine, it’s the only perspective I’ll ever choose.
It’s all I’ll ever need.
It’s exactly where I want to be.


“The Earth has music for all those who choose to listen” – Shakespeare 

One thought on “The View Up Here

  1. This whole account brought tears to my eyes. To see things as they are, to not judge but to accept and see the beauty in what it is. I love you, your words continuously inspire me 😘


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