[This is a chapter from my travel book. There are lots more chapters posted on the blog, but if you’d prefer to read them all at once, sign up for my e-mail newsletter and I’ll be sure to let you know when they’re available in a condensed form!]
We woke up the next morning to blue skies and crisp morning air — by now an expectation, not a surprise.
I brushed my teeth in the brisk dawn, standing outside and taking in the vista while doing so. The mountains in front of us, here, were wonderfully staggered, creating an illusion of movement. Probably the movement of the glacier caused that, I though, before realizing that I really had no idea how glaciers worked. The shape of the mountains could have been the result of anything.
It was true, I didn’t really know much.
I tended to think I knew a lot, I thought to myself as I brushed my teeth, but really, I didn’t know much. Almost every person on the trek with me had done something more impressive than I had. Most of the people had studied more, had more refined skills. Anker had been to much higher peaks than I had ever touched, although I considered myself seasoned in the mountains. The diplomat and her daughter had been to far more countries than I, seen much more culture than I, even though I now considered myself a traveler. Linjon, despite his lack of common sense, was in medical school, making him a far more dedicated student than I had ever been.
I have been humbled by mountains many times in my life. Long hikes, hard climbs, and mercurial weather had beaten me time and time again. But here, in the largest mountain of all, I was being humbled by people.
In this scenery, among these people, there was really nothing special about me at all.
Coming to Nepal hadn’t made me special. Moving to Austria, likewise, wouldn’t change much. In the grand scheme of things, I was nothing in the world.
This realization didn’t come crashing over me in some moment of revelation — an orchestral score swelling behind me to emphasize the point. It simply alighted on my toothbrush, a butterfly on a brisk spring morning.
It came upon me like a moment of zen. I recognized it, acknowledged it, and went to join the others at breakfast.
What was there to do?