It's all too easy to complain, we do it all day without even realising it. We get annoyed at late buses, traffic, the queue at the supermarket checkout and all too often at each other.
What if all the hassles of modern life were taken away? No traffic , no noise, no stress and no time keeping. Would you love it or hate it?
Over Christmas I was lucky enough to go trekking in the Himalayas for 10 days. I was so excited getting on the plane, a trip of a lifetime ahead and a box on my bucket list about to be ticked off. It couldn't be any better. Traveling with my man, an adventure ahead, phone turned off and a glass of wine to celebrate, off we set.
Arriving in any new country is always an eye opener, arriving in Nepal 7 months after a major earthquake was really quite amazing. The media had told us the place was demolished. Convinced us they had nothing. Send all the money you can and the red cross will sort it out.
Kathmandu post earthquake, was just as normal, hectic and bustling as any other Asian city I have travelled to. I didn't fall into any craters or stay in a red cross tent. The roads were fine and the city was more than happily going about its day to day business. The air is not clean though, in fact it sticks to the back of your throat and gnaws away you. It climbs into your system and violates every cell in your body. Noisy, hectic, busy, downright chaotic and heaving with pollution , it is a fun place to start the trip of a lifetime! A wonderful place to visit.
Arriving in the Himalayas is an experience. Flying in a light aircraft headed straight for the side of mountain we caught our first glimpse of the highest mountain range on earth. Our trekking journey would take us deep into the valley, far away from our hectic, stressful modern, "firstworld" lives.
All the trappings of our daily lives had disappeared in an instant. No roads, no cars, no pollution and no traffic chaos. Cows and donkeys tied up to posts, awaiting their cargo of gas cylinders, food, bricks and who knows what was in those bags. They are the juggernauts of the mountains. Single engines with colourful harnesses and often "sleigh" bells attached. They would avoid running into you but best to stand clear as the convoy came by.
I was amazed at how many houses and villages we passed. Beautiful multi colored prayer flags adorned the mountains and religious monuments. Everyone is busy, building walls and houses, farming, washing clothes either at a well or in the river. Selling produce from the little shop at the front of their house, waiting on tourists to pass by and have a cuppa. It is friendly and safe place, there is no stress. No phones constantly ringing, bus timetables, hustle and bustle. It is a slow and relaxed pace of life. It's infectious. Walking in the valley, as fast or as slow as you like, who cares! You will arrive when you arrive.
Since the earthquake there are very few tourists, we were all told to stay away, it's unsafe. The fact is, it's fine to visit. They are more than ready to welcome you and provide whatever you need. They need the income from us.
Nepalese children are beautiful. Jet black hair and red cheeks, they love to wave and say Namaste (hello/ welcome/blessings). They don't have Ipads, X- boxes, Star Wars figures or Lego. To us "they have nothing." In reality, they have each other to play with, real time to talk and to play. No top of the range football but they find something to kick about. Kids are kids wherever you go, they will muck about if let. No constraints of soccer practice and no pressure to be "cool"/ wear labels or cyber bully each other. They sit down at meal times and have story times.
They are poor financially there is no doubt about it. We passed the Edmund Hillary School in the town of Khumjung, the kids were sitting on the grass, wrapped up, shivering and studying. It is warmer for them to sit outside, their classrooms have no heating, they are stone buildings, cold as ice and dark. Sitting on the grass in the winter sun is the better option for these kids. Getting an education is what is important to them, being able to grow up and provide for their community and their families is the goal. Having two holidays a year and having an investment property is not!
We stayed in small teahouses (guest houses) along our trek. The higher we went the more basic they become. Ply board walls, frozen toilets, fires that threw a fair bit of heat when lit, but, these people are poor so fuel is a scarce commodity. The food was basic too, fried rice with an egg. Not bad but really not substantial enough after a long day's trek. We managed, your not going to starve. In fairness they all had a little "shop" in the guesthouse, we just bought snickers and pringles! No fruit or nutri bullets, no choice of smoothie or flavour of crisps! It is basic and it's fine.
Out of the trip I realised I didn't miss my modern life. I "treated" myself to WiFi one night, it was nice to have an hour, text everyone, post a few pics on Facebook and see what's going on. On the other hand though I wasn't missing emails, work, texts, news reports, or even for that matter all the Christmas festivities/ drinks parties etc. Never did I think to myself, "gee I wish I was stuck in traffic right now or queuing up in a store to buy more rubbish."
I really loved escaping, hiding in the valley and getting away from it all. Having a clear head, looking for my next nice photo opportunity and thinking what will I have for dinner.
I also wasn't missing stuff. Like three different moisturisers a day,( I would be guilty of that,) handbags and shoes. It is all just superfluous to us. We buy into the whole needing/ wanting/ must haves. We don't need them, we can live without them. We don't have to live on the bread line or become a Buddhist monk. We could just streamline a little. I try to think of the Nepalese now that I am home. I got to experience their life but I also got to walk away. I never want to be that cold again but they manage it. They have to. Realising how lucky you are is also remembering how other people live. I didn't have to sit in a field to get my education. I didn't have to walk a donkey miles into the valley to deliver pringles to tourists. I didn't have a shower for a few days but lucky me, I had baby wipes. These people don't have showers regularly, it's too cold and they certainly don't get to baby wipe. I can flick on my central heating any time I feel like it, they have to dry out Cow poo for days in order to burn it. There isn't that much dung around. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire is not the norm in Nepal! Washing and drying clothes, how do you dry clothes at minus 10?
It is another world. The gap between my lifestyle and theirs is too big. I have too many creature comforts and they by comparison have none. It is one of the poorest countries in the world but it also incredibly rich. They look after each other, work together, farm for the good of the community. They need tourists, it is their livelihood. The Himalayas and Mount Everest are amazing and well worth the trip, they are Nepal's biggest commodity. It is a hard trip for us, our creature comforts and fancy lifestyles don't exist there. It's cold and the altitude sickness hit me hard. It's back to basics and even though it's only for a few days or months, you get to leave. You will come home and slot back into "life" instantly, getting stressed about the traffic, phones ringing etc. It worth just trying to remember, that they manage to live there all their lives. It's easy to say "they don't know any different, they are used to it."
Seeing how the other half live can give you a right good shake back to reality. It won't kill you to go a day without your phone or your Ipad. It certainly won't damage your health not having that extra coat. Stress from modern "first world" life will kill you quicker or the heart attack you get from rich food. It is all just stuff and stuff like that doesn't matter to anyone, not even you.
About the Author:
Sinéad Kennedy is a Physical Therapist, Yoga Siromani and Pilates Instructor, based in South County Dublin. She treats and teaches people from all walks of life, including many athletes, especially cyclists, runners & golfers. Recently featured in the Irish Independant, FIT Magazine, her Yoga 4 Cyclists class has gained notoriety.
A keen cyclist and proud member of Orwell Wheelers she has completed numerous cycling events including La Marmotte Sportive. Sinéad has also completed three Dublin City Marathons, numerous Adventure Races and Half Marathons.
Keen to spread the word on all things related to Wellness, Fitness, Coaching and Travel.