I’m sitting in bed nursing a cold that wouldn’t normally have me bedridden, trying to forget my to-do list. Nowhere on there did I jot down “get a nasty cold that hits you like a ton of bricks 3 days before your flight to Kathmandu”. At least I don’t think I did.
A few days from now I’ll be headed to Everest Base Camp. I’ve been thinking about making this trip for years, yet even now that the plane ticket’s booked I still find it difficult to explain why I’m going. I am not a mountaineer. I like to hike and I like standing on mountain tops, too, but though I love reading about the summit expeditions I have no interest in summiting Everest. Ice picks and crampons and oxygen tanks are not my thing, but losing myself in the shadow of a beast of a mountain… Now you’re talking.
Yesterday I got coffee with a friend of mine and we bumped into a mutual acquaintance. While I was ordering she mentioned to him where I was going and he sputtered and looked at me, incredulous. “Why?” he asked. Before I could answer he continued, quoting Mallory: “Because it’s there?”
“Pretty much!” I laughed.
In a nutshell, that’s why I’m doing it: it’s there, I can, and I want to. It’s not that those concepts are difficult to explain on their own, but they’re astoundingly difficult to explain to people who’ve never given themselves the chance to do “something crazy” just because they could. Granted, I’m a traveler. This year so far has taken me to Iceland, the Czech Republic, Russia, Mongolia, China, and twelve-thousand miles around the US and Canada. I travel for work and for fun. But this idea of doing something just because you can isn’t limited to travel, and it’s infuriating to me how insufficient a reason it seems to be for certain people. I believe it’s a symptom of a much larger issue: we’ve forgotten how insignificant we are.
Even the term “do something crazy” has negativity attached to it. We would say the same of someone who jumped out of an airplane without a parachute as we would of someone attempting to run their first marathon at 80 years of age. Both could die. One probably will, and is taking an irresponsible risk. The other is taking a risk and doing something challenging but not impossible. Muhammad Ali said impossible is not a fact but an opinion. Is the marathon runner doing something crazy or are they doing something amazing? If you want something badly enough, you’ll figure out a way to make it possible. That’s not crazy, that’s living life to the fullest.
A few months ago I gave up my apartment in Los Angeles because I wanted to travel more. Why pay rent in one of the most expensive cities in the country when you’re never home? That’s crazy.
I’ve been working on the road since. As a tour guide I bounce around from city to city, hotel to hotel, tour bus to tour bus. Before my last tour of the season I was staying with some friends for the 2 days I was in Los Angeles and on the second morning we woke up to the news of the Las Vegas shootings. We watched the television, speechless, for hours. At some point I grabbed my phone and sent a message to Nepal. “Do you have anything available in October?” For a little over a year I had been corresponding with a Nepali guide named Binod that I met at a trade show while putting together a package for a client. His personality was so warm and reassuring that he’d piqued my interest in trekking in his country, but the timing had never been quite right for me to go — until now. The reply came almost instantly. “Yes, two Hungarian clients are going to EBC and Island Peak on the 24th if you want to join.” I said yes, pending plane ticket prices, got dressed and went to work.
A few days later I was having breakfast with some clients, an older French couple, and they asked me what I’d be doing during my winter break. I said “you may think I’m crazy but…” and told them about my plans. The gentleman grinned, squeezed my arm, and said “You’re not crazy, you’re living! Most of us forget to do that and then we’re gone. I wish I could do it with you!” he mused, “but my feet don’t work too well anymore.”
My feet work. I don’t want to wake up one day and think I wish I could have ___ so I’m ticking things off my wishlist as much as I can. There are some things that are on my list but not possible yet. I’d love to have a garden — kids even — but until I’m home long enough to keep at least plant alive that’s not feasible. It will be, though, someday. And when the time comes to do that I’ll find a way to make it happen, too. I’ve made it my job to live the life I’ve always dreamed of, just because I can. It’s not crazy or irresponsible if you do it right, it’s living in its truest sense. What are you waiting for?