It was late May in 2011. I was living in a beautiful beachside apartment on the pristine Bondi beach of Sydney, I heard the ocean’s waves through my bedroom window and admired the sunrise daily as I rode my bike to the office. I worked as a strategist in an advertising agency and was working on award winning campaigns. My evenings would be spent snuggled up to my long-term boyfriend or out having dinner with friends.
On the outside, I was a woman who had it all.
At least that was what it looked like. The truth was there was a burning desire within me for something else. My heart longed for what I couldn’t find and in reflection I never would have done outside of myself.
So when a window of opportunity came along to fulfil a dream, I chose to trek the Himalayas of Nepal with my old university friend Stephanie.
We began our trek to Everest Basecamp full of enthusiasm; we made jokes about yak cheese, sang and danced. We ran out of breath as we climbed the high altitude mountain trails and gasped in awe at the splendour of the world’s most magnificent mountains. The Himalayas wrapped in peaceful stillness and the wind reminding us of the constant shifts in life among these fierce mountains. Little did we know that our planned mission to the world’s biggest mountain, Everest, was to take a surprising turn.
Stephanie and I didn’t make it to Everest Basecamp.
We found ourselves at the 50th Jubilee for Sir Edmund Hillary’s first school in the region attending celebrations with locals, charity founders and the high society of Nepal. The locals danced in their colourful traditional dress, we tucked around open stoves and learned of the typical meal of the region; Dhal Bhat and how children walked with arms around one another climbing through the dusty paths of these old mountains, crossing giant bridges in order to get to school. We saw old ladies tending the land with their hands, the livestock wandering freely and landscapes so breathtakingly expansive that the heart could hardly comprehend it.
As Steph and I sat crossed legged in one of the highest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the world, meditating to mantras harmoniously sang by the monks; I experienced a new sensation in my body. An energy vibrated within me from the base of my spine and as I felt it climb up my body, a euphoric feeling expanded through my being. I felt inspired and expansive. As the monks started playing brass instruments, among the chaotic sound, I felt a blissfulness resonating.
I’d been doing yoga for a while and attended various meditation courses. I knew to breathe, I knew to be present and conscious and yet this experience in me was the beginning of a very deep journey within.
From that moment on things have never been the same. My world literally transformed. I returned to Sydney with a different perspective and not before long I had left my job. My boyfriend and I broke up. I said farewell to my friends and sold or gave away most my belongings. I became engaged with yoga, herbal tea and detoxing. With a sense of life's impermanence and an adventurous spirit, I booked flights to every destination I’d ever dreamt of visiting and began a new journey of wonder living life out of transportable luggage, while learning (and often relearning!) the virtues of patience, grace and acceptance.
The following year I returned to Nepal and spent some time volunteering at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery meditating every morning, teaching a little English, collecting wood and washing up. Sometimes my meditation would be an afternoon of pealing potatoes. I also finally, completed the original mission by making my way to Everest Basecamp. This time however, I carried my own bag, used a map and a compass and was accompanied by companions that I had met along the way who remain friends to this day. It was an enriching and inspiring trek.
Visiting the world’s greatest mountains was more than a dream come true. It made me realise just how small we are and yet how big and beautiful our dreams can be; one does not feel big amongst those giants. The space, the quiet, the simplicity of life and the fresh air are lovely reminders to humanity.
Now I am delighted to be the founder for The Shanti Space; an enterprise that seeks to create spaces for peace and well-being around the world; in the knowledge that real peace, begins from within… But my goodness are the Himalayas a wonderful place to start!