I get this question a lot. We all read the adventure books and have seen the IMAX movie about Mount Everest but most folks are still not sure what it means to go on trek. When at home this type of activity is called backpacking. But, as soon as we fly halfway around the world to the Himalayas to do the same thing, the term we use is trekking. Why go so far away from home and spend so much time and money to join a trekking group? We all, of course, have our own reasons for participating in such a venture, but the one common agreement shared by almost all trekkers is that they want to break out of their day to day routines by walking through an exotic land and experiencing a different culture.
The following excerpt was taken in parts from the book ‘Trekking in Pakistan and India’, written by High Swift and published by Sierra Club Books. It should give all of us something to think about and discuss on our next trek. The trail as metaphor is a broad and wonderful concept, for each person walks his or her own path through life, and each individual can be largely responsible for the direction that path may take. For many people walking trails in the Himalaya is an experience all the more powerful because its metaphorical teachings are couched neither in words nor within a system of organized thought.
The rhythms of the day and the days taken together acquire a connectedness, unity and dimension that is missing in urban Western society.
Pilgrimage has long been recommended as a means of salvation in both Tibetan and Hindu societies, not only for the merit that accrues in reaching a holy shrine or sacred phenomenon, but because of the character and inner strength induced by such travel.
After some days of adjusting to the walking routine, you will begin to pay little or no attention to your hesitant thoughts and will become better acquainted with the nuances of the endlessly changing land that you pass through. You may feel that each day is more intensely etched during these periods of time when your life is altered from its ordinary course. Few can fail to be touched by becoming, for a time, part of the Himalayan tapestry.
We learn something, I suppose. We learn that the pain and the sweat are what life is about. It is sweet. It confirms life. The pain confirms existence. The top is like the goals we set in life that when achieved seem unimportant, often silly. It is the process, the steps, the getting there, the human effort that is important. Trekking teaches us not to pick easy goals. We should, however, set goals that are realistic and just beyond our expected reach. They should be carefully planned and thoughtfully executed. We will pass many places and encounter many people during our journey, and when the trek is over we will leave them behind forever. How we treat them is not as important for them as for us. Our giving is like receiving. If we are truly caring about ourselves, we will see to it that we are richly rewarded by giving freely of ourselves.
Life, of course, is a matter of ups and downs like any trail. When one is going up, and the way is steep and tiring, the idea that there will ever be an easier time of it is only a vague belief. It is not real. The trail up and hard is real. The aching bones and burning lungs are real. Yet when one reaches the top and takes a shorter breath, the pain is soon forgotten and the misery of the climb has been left behind. Where I have been seems immaterial. Where I am going is what engages me.