”Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work; a future. To be courageous is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences.
I took this photo with our Driftwood Adventure Treks group during our descent back down the Lukla Valley from 18,500'.
I remember gazing at these mountains for hours on end, softly placing one foot in front of the other, breathing deeply and steadily; face and fingers tingling, feeling invigoratingly alive as cold, thin air was warmed by lungs.
It was a privilege and a gift to take in the Himalayas with all of my senses.
I promised these sacred mountains that I would do everything I could to express the sense of humility, awe, and wonder it filled me with to immerse myself in them. I remember taking this photo as a seal to that promise.
And in that moment, something hit me: after all of the time I had invested in training for the ascent, this was the first time I was really considering the emotional and spiritual implications of the descent, the reintegration.
Coming to this realization in the midst of such a stunning backdrop, with a heart fully open and unguarded, brought me to my knees. I remember hugging my group and letting out a cry as if it were to be echoed back from the mountains, and my fellow trekkers holding me up as my knees gave way from underneath me. It probably only lasted a few seconds, yet it felt like an entire lifetime flooded through me in this moment. .
After spending my first four years of learning to navigate the outdoors as a lone wolf, it was here where I really began to understand how much more enriching it could be to experience the mountains in the companionship of friends across cultures, old and new. This newfound perspective of experiencing mountains seemed to echo the totality of life itself.
Following that spellbinding moment, an eagle soared overhead, blessing us with the gift of perspective and effortless grace.
My heart was set free again.
Memory: From the Mountains to the Ocean, April-May, 2018
Over the last five years, I've accumulated two suitcases full of memories; spiral-bound, 5-subject journals, dating back to September 2013, filled with stream-of consciousness observations and real-time reflections on navigating my way through the world amidst a series of life-altering transitions.
During this time, I've grown increasingly interested in how journaling can offer insights into the ways in which memory is formed, and how interpretations of memory shape perception.
As a starting point, I recently transcribed all of my journal entries from my spring travels to Nepal and Portugal, running the raw text through a word cloud engine to identify predominant themes in my writing. (If you aren't familiar with word clouds, the premise is that the larger a word appears in a cloud, the higher its occurrence in a block of text.)
I was curious to identify common themes that were coming through in my stream of consciousness during my time in Nepal and Portugal as the energy was fresh, and how the themes aligned with my current memories and perceptions of these experiences. What was there to learn?
I was also curious to examine my travel journalling from a bigger picture perspective, combining both sets of journal entries for the word cloud shared at the top of this post.
As illuminating as it was for me to synthesize hundreds of pages of travel content into a handful of ideas, this exercise generated more questions than answers:
Seeking thought partners.
Pictured here is my beautiful friend May, who I met by chance on a spontaneous nationwide women's rock climbing meetup in Alabama with the Ladies Climbing Coalition. When May learned that I was traveling to Base Camp with Driftwood Adventures, she eagerly jumped at the opportunity to join us. Her presence brought such a radiant, bright, and peaceful energy to our group. I'm so grateful for the sisterly bond that we developed as roommates over the course of our 17-day trek.
What's special about this photo is May is seated by the beautiful bay window in the home of our sherpa, Tshering, and if you research trekking groups in Nepal, you'll soon understand how uncommon it is for tourists to be able to stay at the home of their sherpa, let alone spend the day at their local village school, receive cooking lessons in their kitchen, or sit around the dinner table with their local friends and family from the village and dance together - more on all of this soon.
We shared many memorable moments by this window, gazing at the mountains, sketching, writing poetry, drinking tea, and speaking of dreams. It was our home base before our departure to Everest, and it also welcomed us back upon returning from the mountains - all of us, inevitably changed from the people who we were when we first laid our heads to rest on the comfortable beds of our sherpa's guest rooms.
Tshering's home felt like a reflection of his heart: it offered a peaceful reprise for us to gather ourselves and be joyfully present in the moment.
I believe that one of the greatest strengths of Driftwood's programming is the level of trust and connection that founder Bri Gallo works so hard to seek and establish with all of her expedition leaders, as well as program participants. Bri has a gift for connecting with people across cultures and fostering a sense camaraderie within groups that is interwoven into every expedition she leads. Her lighthearted, gregarious, and deeply-caring energy seems to attract the kinds of guides and leaders who have a twinkle in their eye, an expert knowledge base, and are genuinely interested in offering guests authentic experiences that are full of connection and meaning.
I'm excited to share more about this in the weeks ahead.
While it's been over 7 months since my first trip to Nepal with Driftwood Adventures, I've only recently begun to revisit memories of this incredible journey from a place of quiet contemplation.
This might sound strange, but the trip was such a profound experience for me that I grew fearful to look back on my photos for quite a long time. I was afraid of the intensity memory, scared of the whelm of emotions it might stir up, and believed that touching back in with my longing to return might just possibly break my heart. I have to laugh now, as it's so obvious that these fears were all constructs of my imagination. In other words, my fears were all in my head.
This realization was perhaps Nepal's greatest gift for me. Simply being in Nepal and connecting with so many calm, heart-centered people helped me realize how much of my life I tend to live "in my head", rushing around, reacting, taking on too much too quickly, forcing things, living in fear, forgetting to trust my intuition, putting myself down.
Yes, even as a yoga teacher and coach, I go through phrases where I struggle and get caught up with these things, and it tends to happen when I fall out of daily mindfulness practices. I think this is only natural, given the pace, pressures, and demands of today's society.
Immersing myself in the energy of the Himalayas, connecting with with friends who grew to become family, and taking in the calm energy of the Nepali people, all served as powerful reminders for me to slow down, and connect back in with my heart, with greater frequency and intention.
Nepal didn't just feel like a reboot - it felt like a system upgrade.
I feel privileged to offer my best attempt at lending words to describe more experiences from Nepal that moved me in the weeks ahead, as well as giving voice to what makes the Driftwood trekking experience so unique.