It’s been 11 days since I have been home, 11 days in the comfortable world I am used to. Whilst out in the mountains and in India in general I really was exposed to a new world. With such comforts like toilet paper and being able drink tap water gone, followed by the more luxurious comforts; telephone signal and internet also gone, it really was an eye opening experience. I learnt that I really do take these things for granted, most of us do. Just walking around with a smartphone and signal we have a wealth of information at our disposal and all we have to do is reach into our pockets. Through TV we have seen events happen around the world, thanks to documentaries we have learnt about it’s wildlife and incredible people. Yet in India, well certainly Ladakh, they don’t have this. The children’s knowledge and education is purely based on the teacher’s knowledge and their exposure to whatever books are available.
When I look back again to the trekking, cycling and rafting, I can remember a thought I had whilst floating down the Indus river on our raft. Life itself is like a river. Each person is a single drop of water. We all head in the same direction, to the same end, and on the way we can take different paths from one another. But if you look at a river, all the waves, peaks and troughs stay in the same place. The water follows a pattern. A lot of people try to be unique in life, do different things, but they are often just following paths that have been trodden before. In contrast, the water cycle is successful because water is lifted and placed in different locations around the world, it lands in a new place and has to create a new way down, separate from the river it came from. These are the inspired. Those that strive to do something new, different, ground-breaking. But of course no one can do this alone, and the droplets won’t make it down alone either, they join, form a new stream and if it works, maybe a new river. This is what Paras has done with GHE, he was in Antarctica with Rob Swan, he saw what was happening and was inspired. Just a year later and he and few others left their jobs, ‘their river’ created a GHE Team and built something incredible. Not just another E-base and an amazing expedition, but an inspirational message for us all.
As Robert Swan always says ‘if you can dream it you can do it’ Paras dreamt it, and he did it.
Looking through the many notes I made whilst on the expedition I have found this quote I wrote when standing on the foundations of a new building in the village of Sumdha Chenmo. It was just a few hours after giving out the solar lanterns, the village was lit by brilliant moonlight and some women of the village shuffled past me on the narrow path next to one of their irrigation canals, it was then that I thought; ‘They do what they do to survive, we do what we do to achieve’ Yes you can achieve survival but we want more than that. This isn’t the human factor, this is the modern factor. The essence of competition, to be better than others, better than the rest. It drives us mad, to the ends of the earth, to the end of our resources, just to be on top. If we didn’t think like that we wouldn’t worry so much and we could be happier within ourselves. I think back to what the Guru Ji said to us during our meditation session on our second morning at Mahabodhi; education in the west focusses too much on just coming out on top, so you can get a better job and be better set for life. But it doesn’t teach people how to be happy. It doesn’t teach us about understanding our feelings on the inside and striving to achieve happiness and peace, of course don’t stop teaching the sciences and so on, but don’t forget to teach what really matters too, if we can be happy within ourselves, what more can we ask for?
When thinking about what I have taken away from the expedition, it is hard to describe because there are so many factors that come into it. Having seen nature at its purest in Antarctica. In the Himalayas we got to see people living along side nature. It is the people from all the different locations we visited that really made the expedition, even if they didn’t speak English, to be in their presence and gain an insight to their way of life was a priceless humbling experience. Not just the people we visited, but the people in the GHE team as well, just like Antarctica, an incredible group of individuals from across the world that end up the best of friends before the trip ends. When I said it was hard to describe how I felt after the expedition I really did mean it, so many incredible memories of amazing people and places, with so many lessons to learn from as well, I think I can only sum it up is like this: Having been to two very different wildernesses in the same year, the first untouched, the second containing and providing life for millions of people I can say that Antarctica is awakening, but Himalayas are enlightening.