I am 15, a sophomore at my suburban San Francisco Bay Area high school. In April this year, I was provided an opportunity to go to a mountain climbing trip in the Himalayas, and I took it. I knew that two and a half weeks of missing school equal to a countless number of extra hours and sleepless nights of making up, but I still went. Ruthless Himalayan mountains allow a few months clear and predictable weather to climb, which happens to be during spring or fall; and school sessions would be in full swing during any of those times, which means if I ever wanted to see and touch the tallest mountain range of the world, I would need to take some time off from school. Thankfully, my teachers were supportive of my crazy idea and gave me a green signal!

I think one universally popular opinion is that no one actually wants to wake up for school at 6 or 7 in the morning. The thought of leaving your familiar room and getting out of your soft, warm bed so early… just to enter a classroom for 7 hours. Just to hear a teacher talk for hours about a topic they may know little to nothing about. Just to learn from books like a robot. Never to learn from experience. The Himalayas provided me with a different, new classroom; it was outdoors, breathable, and rewarding in an unimaginable number of ways.

Similar to a school day, hiking in the serene mountains of Nepal required waking up very early in the morning. However, it seemed much less like a task as the days passed, and it began to feel fun and rewarding. It was not only comforting but also beautiful to see the culture in Nepal for myself every single day. The amount of determination and zeal that my sherpas, Babu and Yuvraj, had for their job was incomparable to any other occupation I’ve seen. Not only did I utilize their skillset of hiking the Himalayas, but I also found friends in them.

Although some days proved to be rather difficult, I knew that I had experienced and genuine sherpas by my side. Their humor and love for the mountains encouraged me to stay right behind them and made me eager to see what was beyond every single boulder. At times where my mom felt altitude sickness or headaches, our sherpas always knew the appropriate remedy. Although she took medicine, their compassion and understanding was a big factor in healing her. I appreciated this greatly, and I could not have completed my trek up the Gokyo Ri with my mom if it was not for my hard-working sherpa Babu.

Another perspective of Nepalese culture is the work life of people in the Himalayan mountains. They use yaks and donkeys to transport food and other materials, yet manage to preserve the beautiful nature of their landscape. While trekking from village to village, my group and I would often run into herders or even porters who must carry hundreds of pounds for a multitude of miles. However, they always find ways to accommodate themselves and push forward. This truly made me more open-minded, because I realized how hard people in Nepal worked. More than that though, I saw that the indigenous people of that mountain range had a passion for their breathtaking home, and they enjoyed a lot of their work.

This determination is an integral part of the culture in Nepal, and this joy is rarely seen in the office jobs that surround me. Society in urban areas such as the Silicon Valley is so attached to all their technological advancements and mechanical developments, when true beauty is found in the falling snow, grazing yaks, and running rivers.

What did this trip mean to me? It meant making new friends and meeting various people. It meant learning new ideas and taking on a different perspective to life. It meant finding peace at the sound of rushing water. It meant defining beauty as much more than an urban lifestyle. It meant leaving behind a trail of footsteps that I am proud to call my own. With that said, I encourage all those who are capable of traveling to Nepal and climbing the pristine, snowy peaks of Nepal to do so, because it is an astounding experience. I would not trade the two weeks I spent in Nepal for anything else, and my time spent there will never be forgotten.

(Jasmine Pannu is a 15 year-old Indian American high school sophomore who took a trekking trip to the Nepalese Himalaya with the guides of Extollo Adventures. During the trip, she hiked to the village of Gokyo, at 4,790 meters (15,720 ft) of elevation over a span of seven days, and from there on, climbed a mountain named Gokyo Ri, to reach at 5,483 m (17,989 ft) of elevation. The most challenging factor here was being in the zone where an atmospheric oxygen is 50% less than at the sea level, making it extremely difficult to breathe. With constant snowstorms making conditions even more challenging – including slippery trails, and subzero temperatures, she was able to achieve her goal to successfully conquer the mountain of Gokyo Ri along with her mom. This article was submitted by the founder of Extollo Adventures, whose mission is to encourage families to overcome challenges together, by finding their own “mountain” and to find happiness by taking a moment to look at the world around them.)

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