One of the reasons to travel is to test the limits of your wingspan. How far from home can you fly in the world? No matter where you start, the journey tends to start slow. Maybe you venture to the Big City to see a rock concert with your high school friends. Maybe you get on a plane for the first time and fly to Disneyland. Or perhaps you wing your way across the ocean for your first overseas voyage to London or Paris. Eventually, though, things get travel serious. One day, you wake up in an exotic hotel and find yourself literally on the other side of the world, wondering “How did I ever get this far from home?!!” That’s your “wingspan moment.”
My own wingspan moment begins with a gasp of air. Climbing up to Jharkot, Nepal was no joke. At 11,500 feet, the air is thin here. Several of my fellow trekkers suffered altitude sickness on the way up and had to go back down. At day 15 of my Annapurna Circuit hike, I’ve come about as high as I’ve ever been before. There’s more to go, of course. A full circuit trek involves climbing up and over an 18,000 foot pass, something I won’t be doing on this journey. Heck, it’s snowy up there; I’m in tennis shoes; the summit crossing is at night; I don’t want to lose toes to frostbite. Nope, I’ll be day-tripping up to 14,000 feet tomorrow, just to see what that feels like, then turning around and retracing my steps for another week, back to Pokhara in the valley.
For the moment, though, I’m happy to be here in Jharkot, an atmospheric Nepalese town in the high Himalayan desert. Perched on barren hills, Jharkot looks like a place where you’d go to ask a wise lama three questions. (I’m reminded of Homer Simpson climbing with Apu to visit the first Kwik -E-Mart.) Donkeys roam in the street. Prayer wheels revolve slowly in the wind. Meals at our guest house consist of dal bhat, a dish of lentils and rice that is absolutely delicious when you’ve been hiking all day. (I really appreciate that it’s all you can eat!)
I’m truly as far from home as I can possibly be, and the feeling is exhilarating, if a little breathless. To top off my wingspan moment, I hike up to the top of a nearby ridge and take in the snow-tinged mountainside across the valley. Most all of the mountains here are 20,000 feet plus. It’s not Everest, but we’re in the same area code. Wow. Seven more days of hiking? No problem! I’m at the top of the world, and my legs will wing me back home.
(What’s your wingspan moment, that time when you pushed yourself to your outermost limits? Was it external or internal? Was it traveling to some faraway land, running a marathon, or finishing an MBA? How did it feel, and are you still able to access those feelings for inspiration and motivation? If you haven’t yet had a wingspan moment…I’m jealous! You’re on your way. Just remember to breathe!)