So I’ve got a confession to make. It’s a pretty big one too…
I haven’t left the country in nearly 2 years. To some this may sound snobby, but to me – someone who has made their life’s mission to explore and travel throughout this stunning planet – this was a significant sacrifice. I did it for 2 reasons. Number 1 to get my professional license. I’m an architect by day and the testing process for my license took me a year and half to complete, amounting to an 11 1/2 year process. Reason number 2 was to save, save, save so I could travel how I want, when I want, and wherever I want for the indefinite future. The journey seemed to drag on forever and these last 6 months have left me in fits of angst and anticipation, but the end is in sight.
As my time out from international ventures comes to a close I can successfully say that I have completed my mission. The break from international travel left me with a deep appreciation for the beauty and adventure that lies in my backyard of Colorado. My energy for international adventures was pumped full-force into outdoor activities here at home. Consistently, every weekend I am out there seeing what lies beyond the next ridge, around the next bend, at the top of every mountain.
The culmination of these activities have lead me to my next destination: trekking through the wild Himalaya of Nepal. As the anticipation builds and my departure date draws near I want to share with you some tips on preparing for a trek.
Choose a Destination
The first step to prepare for a trek is quite obvious: pick your dream destination! To be completely honest Squirrel and I could not decide between Nepal and Patagonia. We went to some extremes here; Facebook polls, pro con lists, hell even rock, paper, scissors. However, Nepal prevailed in the end. Simply put, I’ve been dreaming of the Himalaya since I was 10 and now feels like the best time to make that dream a reality.
There are countless routes to trek in the Himalaya. Surprisingly choosing a route came naturally. Gokyo Ri – true to my style it is the path less traveled, but still offers glorious views of the world’s highest peaks, including Everest.
Decide on a Guide
This is, of course, optional. However I decided to go to Nepal on a guided experience for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it’s dangerous. This will be the highest altitude I’ve ever been exposed to. I’m a DIY girl at heart, but trekking without a guide in Nepal struck me as asinine. As many of you know, I nearly died in Mongolia and that experience taught me a few things. A guide offers local insight, knowledge, and priceless help in an emergency. The second reason is Nepal depends on tourism and what better way to show your support for rebuilding a nation than using a service that the country so heavily depends on.
Search high and low for the perfect trekking company. Make sure they are registered with Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN). TAAN has requirements and standards for safety and training. Email companies. Ask all kinds of questions. Be bold and shop around. Don’t just go for the lowest bidder. In my experience, you will get what you pay for. After endless research I chose to trek with Trekking Planner Nepal. Dipak, the man behind the company, has been extremely flexible with all the changes that kept happening. For example, Fly Dubai thought it would be fun to cancel our flight – no problems for Trekking Planner Nepal. Furthermore, the itinerary included an extra day for acclimatizing. I’m headed to an astounding 18,000′ – acclimatization is critical. Why rush through the experience of a lifetime?
Training for the Trek
This is the fun part! Be sure to stay fit by going on hikes with a heavier pack. Get out there, explore! Remind yourself why you are paying to go walking for days on end. Be familiar with your gear (ie break in those boots!), your bag, your style. If you can, go up and down in altitude. Knowing how your body reacts in high altitude is priceless information. However, if that’s not possible, it’s ok, just try to remain active and be able to walk the distances spelled out in your trek. No hiking nearby? No problem! Nothing will get you in shape quicker than getting on a Stairmaster with a loaded backpack for 30 mins a few times a week. This, combined with indoor climbing, and hiking/snowboarding/snowshoeing once a week is how I train for all my mountain exploits.
Getting the Gear
You may need gear for any journey, not just a trek. Gear is expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. As soon as you decide to trek make a list of the things you’ll be missing. Maybe it’s a secondary water filter, some base layers, or heck, even a pack. If it’s something you know you’ll use more than a handful of times, buy it. If not, Kathmandu has a plethora of outdoor gear on the cheap. Shop around and wait. Stuff always goes on sale. We picked up most of the things we needed to trek in the off season. This saved us countless dollars on high quality stuff that would have otherwise made this trip quite tough on the wallet.
Buying that Pesky Plane Ticket
Admittedly, I’m a nerd for plane tickets. I track flights to all of my favorite destinations all the time and I constantly hunt for deals. What can I say? It’s my form of daydreaming. Momondo is my go-to site for the absolute best deals on flights. I’ve tried them all, Skyscanner, Hopper, you name it. Momondo consistently finds me the best deals period. Look 6 months out. That is about the max time that airlines know their schedules and flights are consistently the cheapest at this time when bought in the middle of the week.
Insurance, Doctor’s Visits, and All the Fun Bits
Don’t forget this! Especially when trekking. Get insurance that will cover you at the elevation and location you are going. I use the standard World Nomads Travel Insurance. I spoke with a representative to describe the details of my trip to insure that I’d be covered. About 3 months prior to your departure see a travel doctor. This is almost ritual for me. If there’s a travel vaccine for it I’ve had it. The nice part is if you travel frequently you only need to get serious work done once every 5 years or so. 3 months allows for the vaccine to build up an immunity in your system. Also some shots take a few months so the sooner the better.
Lastly, but certainly not least educate yourself about where you are going. What are cultural no-no’s? What is expected in terms of tipping? As a rule of thumb always know how to say hi, bye, please, and thank you at the very least. Rarely do I travel without knowing how to count, ask for a doctor, toilet, food, and water. A phrase book is a great idea – as apps can malfunction or you may not get service. A little cultural know-how will get you much further than going in blind. Google around for your destination and learn what is polite and what is not.
The Mountains are Calling!
Have you been on a trek? How do you prepare? Let me know in the comments below!
**I want to give a special thanks to Marinel over at Brown Gal Trekker for providing me with some sexy images of those beautiful Himalayas! Brown Gal Trekker is an awesome hub for all things trekking. She’s one kick ass lady who fully supports solo female trekking and women’s voices in the mountains. She’s a hell of a writer and her website is chalk full of all sorts of information so check it out.