Planning for Everest

Later this year I will be in Nepal, climbing to the Mt Everest Base Camp. The base camp sits at an elevation of 17,598 feet above sea level on the southeast face of the tallest mountain in the world. To give you some perspective, the base camp is 10 times the height of One World Trade Center and over 3,000 ft taller than any mountain in the continental US.

The hike to the Everest base camp is tough. The trek takes about 8 days of hiking at very high altitudes. Apart from the unpredictable mountain weather, altitude sickness is the most dangerous and potentially deadly risk. As my trip grows nearer and I tell people about my plans I often get the same response. “Why? Why would you want to do that?”

Well, spoiler alert. I don’t really know how to answer that question. I don’t really know why.

This awe-inspiring and unforgiving mountain has just always been in the back of my mind, calling me. Hiking in the Himalayas, and particularly Everest has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid I had this coffee table book titled, “The 10 most beautiful hikes in the world” and in that book was the Everest Base Camp trail. In college I read the book “Into Thin Air,” about an ill-fated 1997 Everest expedition and my fascination with the mountain intensified. As I grew up and climbed taller and taller mountains the pull to experience Everest continued to grow.

My fascination with Everest is not unique. The native people of the Himalayan region considered Everest and other peaks in the region to be sacred. They are revered as protective deities, and in the native name for Everest means “Mother of the World.”

There is also a rich history of westerners, like us, being captivated by Mount Everest. At over 29k feet high, this mountain is seen as the ultimate challenge for the world’s top explorers and mountaineers. The dangers of the mountain – altitude sickness, severe weather, avalanches, crevasse, ice falls, and extremely high winds – have done little to deter thousands of people from attempting to climb to the summit. Everest is so incredibly tall that its peak extends into the upper troposphere and penetrates the stratosphere, so it is exposed to extremely fast and freezing jetstream winds that reach over 175 miles per hour. People have literally been blown off the mountain. There are well over 200 frozen corpses on the main climbing routes and many now serve as landmarks for other climbers.

The first documented attempt to climb Mount Everest was in 1921. After a number of unsuccessful expeditions two of the greatest mountaineers of the time, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, made a summit attempt on June 8th of 1924. They were seen high on the mountain in the late morning by their support team below, but clouds obscured the summit from view the rest of the day. The two never returned to their camp. They disappeared into the mountain. To this day the mountaineering community hotly debates whether or not they were the first climbers to reach the summit of Everest. The first climbers to officially reach the summit did so 29 years later in 1953.

In 1999, after over 7 decades of searching for the bodies George Mallory and his partner, the climbers who disappeared back in 1924, his body was finally found. Interestingly enough, my uncle was on the expedition team that discovered Mallory’s body. Months later, over Thanksgiving dinner, my uncle recounted the story to my family and I, showing us pictures from the expedition.

Now I am not going to attempt climbing to the top of Everest like the late George Mallory, although the thought has definitely crossed my mind. I want to climb to the base camp.

I want to stand in awe of the tallest mountain on earth.

To stand in the footprints of the incredibly brave and strong humans that have gone before me.

To push my mind and body to extreme conditions that I have never before experienced.

To prove to myself that I can do it.

To share in the rich and sacred history of the Himalayas.

Why do I want to hike on Mount Everest? I think the late George Mallory himself said it best. In 1923, they year before his final and fatal summit attempt, Mallory was asked by a New York Times reporter, “Why do you want to climb Everest?” Mallory responded with three simple words, “Because it’s there…”

Love,

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Inspiration from Everest

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“But there are men for whom the unattainable has a special attraction. Usually they are not experts: their ambitions and fantasies are strong enough to brush aside the doubts which more cautious men might have. Determination and faith are their strongest weapons. At best such men are regarded as eccentric; at worst, mad.” – Walt Unsworth

“We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.” – George Mallory

“It is not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves” – Edmond Hillary

I’m writing a speech about my upcoming treck to Everest Base Camp and came across these super inspiring quotes. I just had to share! The first one in particular resonates with me. Enjoy 🙂

Love,

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All the Doubts

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Today I woke up in a state of fear. What am I doing?

To make a long story short, in less than a year I am planning to embark on a life of travel. First up is India, Nepal, and Southeast Asia. Yesterday I took a pretty major step towards that goal, and I was so excited about it!

Yet, this morning I began to question everything.

I’ve realized over the years that I need to give my fear a voice in order to move past it. My favorite way to do this is by writing all of my fears down so that instead of letting my thoughts run wild I can get them all out of my head!

Here we go.

What am I doing? Is it really smart to give everything up? I have such a comfortable life here. Why Nepal? Maybe I should go somewhere else. What am I going to do when I get back from traveling? I do have to come back at some point, right? I can’t travel forever can I? How am I going to pay my student loans while I’m away volunteering? What if I run out of money? What if I have to move back home, embarrassed? What if I can’t hack it in a third wold country long term? What if I’m not as strong as I think I am? What if this illustration stuff never takes off? What if I can’t find a way to make money while abroad? What if it doesn’t work? What if people think I’m crazy?

Basically, I am scared that I am going to make the wrong decision and regret it.

I have decided time and again to NOT let this voice of fear and doubt run my life. This is a decision I have made many times in my life, and a decision I must continue to make for the rest of my life. These voices will continue to pop up, and I will continue to move past them. Every time I do my life changes for the better in miraculous ways!

So, I am moving forward with my plans to create the life I dream of.

“I let go of the idea that I am suppose to follow someone’s blueprint for success. I accept that all I have to do is follow my inspiration & my flow. My inspiration will lead me to my greatest success.” – Anita Wing Lee

We all struggle with fear from time to time. How do you move past it?

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Foreign Food Coma – Santorini, Greece

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Flowers in Greece.

I’m in Greece and for the last couple weeks I’ve eaten bread and honey. Only bread and honey. Then more bread and honey.

When you’re 24 and traveling through southern Europe for a month and a half on next to nothing you live as cheaply as possible. You eat bread and honey. But, tonight is different.

I’m on the island of Santorini, which, if you’ve ever google image searched the “Greek islands” you’ve seen. It’s the very first image that pops up. On Santorini white sugar cube houses cling to the red cliffs, narrow winding cobblestone streets are framed by bright blue doors and fuchsia flowers overflowing from hanging cast iron baskets. The white washed buildings are starkly contrasted by the red and black volcanic sand beaches. The island is surrounded by the sureal turquoise of the Mediterranean sea. It’s a scene depicted on every Greek postcard, and tonight I am here.

I sit with a new friend, a Canadian guy named Kevin who I met a week earlier in Athens. We slowly watch the sun set on the vast, watery horizon. Kevin is cold and hungry, but I make him wait until the last drop of the orange sun has plunged beneath the sea. Then we hop on our four wheeler, our vehicle of choice to traverse the small island, and venture out in search of food.

We’re on a seemingly deserted road that hugs the undulating cliffs of the western shore. As we grow hungrier and more impatient a little cafe pops out from around the bend. We pull off and are ushered inside where we’re the only two diners in the entire place. The restaurant is basically a box on stilts, cantilevered off the side of the cliff, with windows on all sides looking out over the calm sea.

After weeks of frugal living we decide to go all out and order whatever we want; literally whatever we want. We start with baked feta. I have never tasted cheese so rich and smooth. It’s so good you don’t put it on anything, you just eat it straight with a fork. Then we move on to a Greek salad, cheese salad and fresh bread dipped in olive oil. And those are just the appetizers.

Next is a round of fried calamari and the most tender and delicious lamb I’ve ever tasted. We top all of that off with moussaka, a traditional Greek dish somewhat similar to lasagna. It is the most amazing meal I have ever eaten in my entire life! Good food, good company, and and an absolutely surreal setting.

Don’t ask me how much it cost; I’ve conveniently blocked that part out.

After diner we hop back on the quad and drive back to our hostel, groggy & delirious in our foreign food comas. The next day I returned to my somewhat stale bread and honey, but for a moment we ate like royalty.

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This is a story from my 2004 trip to southern Europe. Unfortunately I do not have any photos from this epic meal (horrible I know) because my camera was dead the entire time I was on Santorini.

Mystic Pizza – Mystic, CT

How do you decide where to travel? I apparently get my travel tips from the Gilmore Girls.

Waking up Friday morning I had a long drive from NYC to Cape Cod, MA ahead of me. I planned to get on the road early so I’d have some free time to tool around with the rental car before picking up a friend in Boston. That morning I still hadn’t decided where I wanted to go.

Gilmore Girls played in the background as I packed up my bag. One of the main characters, Luke, was returning from a trip to Mystic, CT. Decision made, I was going to Mystic.

And an excellent decision it was! Mystic is a beautiful seaside community with all the charm, history, and quaint beauty one expects of a northeastern seaport.

My first stop was lunch at the iconic Mystic Pizza. I’ve haven’t seen the namesake 1988 film set in this eclectic eatery, but I plan to watch it asap! I opted for pizza by the slice at the bar. The friendly bartender listed my options: cheeses, pepperoni, Greek, or bacon hamburger. Say what? Bacon hamburger pizza? Yes please! It was delicious. Bacon, hamburger pieces, pickles, cheese, and a bit of ketchup replaced the traditional tomato sauce. I savored every last bite.

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Bacon hamburger pizza!

After lunch I walked down Main Street. I window shopped my way through the galleries, antique shops, and clothing boutiques before stopping in at Mystic Sweets & Ice Cream Shop for a chai latte (yes, I am addicted). Warm drink in hand, a walk along the picturesque Mystic River boardwalk melted away any last bit of stress I carried with me from New York.

After a couple hours of exploring I hopped back in my car to continue the drive up to Boston. It was a quick trip, but I will definitely be back to explore more of this little town.

Other noteworthy things to do in Mystic:

  • Mystic Seaport – The Museum of America & the Sea
  • Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration
  • Whale Watching Boat Tours
  • Mystic Lighthouse
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Mystic Pizza – Mystic, CT
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Mystic River – Mystic, CT
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Mystic River drawbridge on the right & the cafe I stopped in for a chai latte on the left.

Have you been to Mystic? If so, what else should I check out when I return?

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Surprise Lake Loop – Abraham S. Hewitt State Forest, NJ

Location: Abraham S. Hewitt State Forest, West Milford, NJ

Length: 6.4 Miles

Trip Type: Day trip accessible via public transit.

Difficulty: Moderate

Getting There: Take NJ Transit bus #197 from Port Authority Bus Station to West Milford. Get off at “Union Valley Road at White Road.” Be sure to ask the bus driver to stop here or (s)he might skip it. When you get off the bus walk along White Road for a few minutes until you reach Warwick Turnpike. Take a right and you’ll see the trail head on your left in a few hundred feet. Cars whip quickly through this area and the shoulder is very narrow, so be careful!

Trail Description: After reading many rave reviews about this trail I finally got to check it out for myself last weekend. I was not disappointed! This trail includes rock scrambling, beautiful wildflowers (in the spring), soft moss and fern patches, babbling brooks, stunted Pitch Pine trees, upland swamps, dramatic rock outcroppings, and last but certainly not least, the serene Surprise Lake. Throughout the hike I kept stopping to take it all in. All this just bus ride away from NYC. This girl was in heaven!

On this particular day the trail was very quiet, likely due to predicted showers that never materialized. Lucky me! When I arrived I suspected that I was the first person on the trail, and as I started hiking my suspicion was soon confirmed. I took four spiderwebs to the face in quick succession. After locating a trusty cobweb stick I was on my way!

From the trail head you’ll start off on Bearfort Ridge trail (white blazes), this trail will quickly dead end into another trail. Take a left to stay on Bearfort Ridge trail (if you take a right you’ll be taken back to the road). You’ll soon come to an intersection with Quail Trail (orange blazes) on the right. This is the trail you’ll be looping back to, so stay to the left and continue on Bearfort Ridge trail following the white blazes for about three miles. At a beautiful overlook you’ll come to an intersection with Ernest Walker trail (yellow blazes). Take a right and follow the yellow blazes all the way to Surprise Lake. The trial merges with Quail Trail (orange blazes) just as you approach the lake. If you’re craving another expansive vista follow the orange blazes about a quarter mile past the lake to an elevated rocky area with a incredible view. Once you’ve soaked up some rays head back the way you came and pick up Quail Trail (orange blazes) to complete the loop. This will take you back to the Bearfort Ridge trail (white blaze) intersection where you’ll take a left and head back to the road.

Getting Back: When exiting the trail after the hike continue walking east on Warwick Turnpike until it merges with Union Valley Road. The #197 bus stop will be on your left, just past the intersection. This is not the same bus stop where you were dropped off. On the right is a little gas station where I grabbed a drink and a snack while waiting for the bus. Buses don’t stop in these rural areas unless they see someone waiting, so be sure to make yourself seen when you see the bus approaching! Either buy a round trip ticket when you leave Port Authority, or bring cash to buy your ticket on board.

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Surprise Lake overlook!
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Rock outcropping overlooking an upland swamp.
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Lush ferns catch some rays.
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Intersection of Bearfort Ridge trail & Ernest Walker trail. I love hiking in my five fingers!
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NJ transit bus stop at the intersection of Warwick Turpike & Union Valley Road.

The Mermaid Parade – Coney Island, NY

If I had to sum up this year’s 34th annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade in three words they would be: color, smiles, and authenticity.

This is unique event had no agenda other than to celebrate the beginning of summer in the city and all the colorful characters that live here. Yesterday, as I stood in awe of the elaborate costumes, the thing that stood out to me the most was the amount of joy and love that radiated from everyone at (and in) the parade. We were there to laugh, to smile, to simply have fun!

Every group interpreted the mermaid theme in their own special way from the “Star(fish) Wars” to the “Barnacle Babes” to the “Mermaids of a Certain Age.” There were people of all ages, all backgrounds, all ethnicities, and all orientations gathered to dance together under the crystal clear blue sky.

Personally, I was incredibly inspired by the women and men who don’t fit societies “ideal body type” that were owning it and letting it all hang out. And I mean literally letting it ALL hang out. Everyone was so confident and authentic! No one appeared at all concerned with the shape of their body, the instead were focused solely on enjoying every moment of the parade. Their joy and ease was infectious.

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Elaborate costumes at the 2016 Coney Island Mermaid Parade.

After the parade we grabbed some yummy clam chowder and fried calamari from Nathan’s Famous, the location of the infamous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest! We ate as we strolled along beach, weaving between the hundreds of mermaids as they gave their tails a rest and wilted under the sun’s rays.

One young mermaid summed up the day’s purpose with a quote on her back that read,

Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

In the midst of a week of terrifying headlines I felt the love. I felt hope. It was a good day.

Peace & Love,

Eva

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All women marching band and Nathan’s Famous in the background.
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The very pink soft serve queen at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade.