27 Jun From the Antarctic to the Himalayas
I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the incredible and beautiful places on this planet, and I turn 18 in a little less than a month. I backpacked Costa Rica alone when I was 15. I built trails in California’s parks, surrounded by the tallest trees in the world. I explored Patagonia and adventured to the Antarctic, led by the first man to walk to both the North and South Poles.
But more recently, a few days after I graduated high school, I flew to Leh, India, which has an altitude of 11,500 feet.
In the region of Ladakh, a small, international team gathered to trek to one of the most remote monasteries in the world, the Phukthar Monastery, to bring electricity through solar energy. Throughout the expedition, I journaled extensively every day (as I do when I travel), with the help of my handy polaroid, and looking back on it now, am able to keep the expedition alive as I flip through the pages and can put myself back in time.
It has been 9 days since I’ve officially returned home, and I’ve thought long and hard about how to relay the emotions I felt when the prayer room we sat in, monks and expedition team together, lit up for the first time.
I wrote a journal entry before I went to bed on the night it happened, and I think it captures, much more intensely than I can write now in my room in a suburban neighborhood in California, the raw happiness and inspiration that came with the light in the monastery.
I’m in my sleeping bag and it’s half past midnight. Everyone around me is sleeping – it’s been a long day and we have a very long day of trekking ahead of us tomorrow. From the start, with the chaos of fundraising to actually trying to get to this monastery, I would do it all a million times over for what I’ve been able to experience.
Walking down the narrow pathways and corridors of the monastery and seeing the light shine… my heart sang. I couldn’t even help myself from crying as I walked by, and my tears were wiped away by the councilor. Kids cheered; older monks thanks us and had faces of such pure love, gratitude, and happiness. What I wouldn’t give to dedicate my life’s work to a cause like this.
Home now, I can feel things have changed. I want to dedicate all of my time and energy to only what I am truly passionate about. I want to see through all of my initiatives to make sure they’re improving the lives of people everywhere and protecting the lands I love. I’m entering the work I do in iMatter with a revitalized attitude and enthusiasm – how lucky am I to be able to work on passing policies in the U.S. that protect our climate and our planet? To be able to empower and support youth who want to make a difference in their communities?
As I’ve explored the world, whether it’s New York City or the Antarctic or more recently the Himalaya, I have always received the same piece of advice from at least a few people I meet, always given to me during my last days of travel: “never change.”
I have always been told to retain the happiness, energy, and enthusiasm that I have now. And I imagine that as long as I continue to pursue what I’m passionate about and pursue my dreams, that it will be nearly impossible to lose this excitement I feel – it seems like every new experience, every new sight, each new story I hear is the best of my life.
Along with endless energy and passion, I have always had a very stubborn belief that I have the ability to make a positive change in the world. Going to the Himalayas has only reinforced that belief. Re-energized with a million new dreams, ideas, and initiatives, I look at the empty pages of my journal with so much excitement for the experiences they’ll soon hold.
My love for adventure, travel, and the mountains isn’t a very well-kept secret in iMatter, but I can’t always be off climbing new mountains or setting up solar panels in the Himalaya. One of the best things I can do to continue protecting the natural lands across the planet I have come to love so much is to support climate action right here in the U.S. through my work in iMatter. The most beautiful places in the world are threatened by climate change, and as a mountaineer, environmentalist, and young person living on this planet, I find it impossible to sit back and do nothing.