It can be pretty typical to hear moans and groans from your teenagers when you tell them you want to go on a hiking trip together. When I was a teenager, there were a lot of things I didn’t understand yet about life and the human spirit. But now, as a father, I know that these small trips and connections make life much richer. Thankfully, I’ve been able to instill these principles in my children.
This past winter, I had the pleasure of spending just over 2 weeks on a trip to Nepal with my daughter, Mia. It wasn’t just a leisurely sight-seeing trip, although sight-see we did. This trip required intense training. We were going to hike through the Himalayas.
One thing that stood out to me once we reached Nepal and prepared for our trek was the sheer amount of diversity in culture and people. It was amazing to see so many different walks of life melding together in this sacred-feeling place. While my daughter and I were looking at our surroundings in awe, everyone was looking at me and my daughter. Mia was the youngest person around us by far, only nearing her teenage years. The journey we were about to embark on was one that people train for and spend their whole lives dreaming of. It felt amazing to have this moment with her at such a young age.
Even as an avid traveler, I knew this was going to be a big undertaking. My daughter and I hike very often and did take a lot of time preparing for the high altitude – once you get to 10,000 feet, it really becomes increasingly difficult to breathe. I took Mia to the gym to prepare her strength and stamina for such an intense hike. The most special part of the training and hiking was being able to see my daughter grow and complete this adventure. I will also admit that she handled the altitude and physicality of this trip better than I.
When we arrived, we were greeted as if we were part of the community. As I mentioned before, there was a beautiful melding of cultures and languages as well. Nepali wasn’t actually the first language of many of the people we met. The scenery was also very diverse. At the start of the trek we were in a very green and lush setting, but by the end we were in a Tibetan desert scene with snowpeaks. Our guides were sherpas. One thing we learned on this trip was that sherpa wasn’t just a term for guide, it was a family name or title passed down. The sherpas had their own language and they took great pride in the history and identity of their people.
While my daughter and I knew that this would be more than hiking like we do in New York, the journey really was more like a 12 day trek. We climbed higher and higher each day. We stayed in different guest houses every night, set up camp with locals and other travelers, and tried to keep to the same pace everyday. We ended up staying an extra day before the summit to get acclimated to the altitude. But other than this small break, we continued on and challenged ourselves to take in the beauty around us and embrace the rawness of the adventure.
There are moments in your life as a parent that will be forever sealed in your memory. I was lucky to have one such moment during our stay at High Camp, a base right before the summit of the mountains. There were many travelers meeting here preparing for the climb. The atmosphere was very community-filled, with a large table where everyone was relaxing and playing cards. It would be normal for any child to feel intimidated by the prospect of joining in conversation with a group of travelers who were older and very different from them. But my daughter started playing cards with the group and interacting with this diverse group of fellow adventurers without hesitating. She had matured overnight, and it felt like she gained a great sense of confidence as well. These are moments every father wishes for their daughter.
At the end of our trip, we both felt very fulfilled. Perhaps in different ways, but nonetheless happy for the time we shared together. I love giving my children the chance to see the world and experience different cultures. And while this was a personal dream of mine to visit the Himalayas, it was very special for me to share this with my daughter. I wanted her to know that while the body and mind may have limitations, the human spirit does not – and she can accomplish anything that she puts her mind to. I saw the glimmer in her eye when we were at the High Camp, and I know that this lesson was learned in that moment, even if she hadn’t realized it yet.
I encourage my fellow adventure-seekers to take this journey. It was a beautiful two week trip that was very affordable. More than this, it was incredibly humbling. To have experienced this with my daughter was a dream come true, and I hope to continue having these moments with my family as we travel in the future. If we can, we’ll certainly be visiting again one day.