It did all start in 1991. Only one of our now four children had been born. She (A) spent much of her time in a plastic contraption that we called her rocket seat — a plastic rocker with a foam insert and a carrying handle that proved very useful for lugging her around to all the restaurants we still planned to go to with our good friends M and S. The fact we were 29 and 30 and found ourselves with an infant offspring was not about to deter us.
As the years went by and the offspring expanded to include three others, we four parents found ourselves in high risk environments – such as a fondue restaurant with four under 8 year olds – with hot oil, fire and long sharp forks – and various other and sundry similar problems and situations. They are the subject of another blog post – or possibly even another website.
But throughout it all was always what we used to call our travel fantasies. It could be Vietnam, New Zealand, wherever. Just something more than New Smyrna Beach or – heaven forbid- the Outer Banks. We called it travel p**n – the fulfillment of our travel fantasies – but I’m concerned WordPress and Facebook will block the phrase of what we actually called it. Just understand – it was supposed to be the ultimate escape and self realization.
Travel po**n kept us going through many a career shift, stressful work situation and the other vagaries of life in the ’90s and ’00s.
After some preliminary trips to see if we really were compatible adventurers – see Iceland Part 2 – The Golden Circle, or All Roads Lead to Fludir, we decided late 20’s angst could translate to mid 50s midlife crises. So we went for it. I’ve already published J’s and my experiences on our trek to Everest Base Camp with friends. Here’s the take from the other bedroom in our amazingly cold tea houses in Nepal and how it happened:
M and S speak:
“You could definitely do it!”
J nodded emphatically as he picked up the conversation thread from MR. As always, J’s contribution focused on the technical specifications. “It’s all trekking. There’s no climbing, so no ropes or crampons. We go alongside the Khumbu Glacier, not across. Highest we get is only 18,000 feet at Kala Pattar—that’s the best views of Everest. Kala Pattar is steep and there’s some scree. But you should be able to make it!
MR chimed in eagerly at each reference, “It’s basically just a really long hike.” “You’ve got boots and rain gear. You’ll just need to buy some poles.” And “Kala Pattar is an optional day. We could just leave you behind.” [They did.]
“Just leave me behind,” S called out, only half in jest. He was sitting on a rock, head bent down, one arm stretched in front of him, palm facing out. It was the universal signal of defeat. We had updated the wills before we left but our Nepalese guide, Z, wasn’t having anything to do with S dying. “You have to keep moving, S. It’s not good to sit too long at this altitude.” I caught up to where S had planted himself. It wasn’t like I was moving any faster. Z exhorted both of us with the now familiar, “Tomorrow will be easier.” Z told us things that weren’t always 100% true. Like “rest days” were anything but. Turns out every day was hard and “rest days” (a/k/a acclimatization days) were the hardest!
Since S and I spent most of the time staring at our boot tops, we are grateful for MR’s detailed posts which we can confirm are based on contemporaneous and copious notes. S and I huddled exhausted around the yak-dung fires in tea houses fighting to stay awake long enough to eat dinner. MR was on-line busily researching and cite-checking. It was enough for us to simply say, “We did it!”
“We did it” began long before we were captured, smiling but completely, utterly spent, in the photo taken at Base Camp.
“We did it” began years ago at that very first meal with MR & J talking about how, one day, after the kids were grown, we would go on a “couples vacation.” Until this year, that continuing conversation had yielded only a few extra pounds, a shared condo in St. Augustine for the Gentlemen of the Road concert, and a long weekend in Iceland functioning as something like cold-weather gear crash dummies for one of MR and J’s upcoming summit attempts.
“We did it” included: going to a gym to attempt to regain something resembling good shape (and updating the wills just in case); buying a ton more gear than MR and J let on would be required; flying twice as far as we had ever flown; trekking ten times farther than we had ever hiked—and that was twenty years before; sharing close quarters and more about our bodily consumption and elimination than we were comfortable; and worrying that we might end up ruining someone else’s trip of a lifetime by succumbing to altitude sickness or injury.
We did it” also included: being graciously welcomed into the homes and monasteries of people from a rich and vibrant culture; sharing the trail and tea house conversations with travelers from around the world; getting, if not to the top of the world, then pretty close; beating back the demons that taunt us as we age with the bold statement that we’re not dead, yet; discovering that friendship can survive the trek to Everest Base Camp; and, having taken every step together as a couple, finishing the last, longest, hardest day together. Our marriage is the stronger for it.
MR and J were right. We could definitely do this!