|The view from Mt Rinjani|
I enjoy the great outdoors but I've done nothing like this when I was younger. Growing up, my parents placed great emphasis on my education and learning things like the piano, which they thought would pay off in the future. Which was why my foray into physical activities often ended up as nothing more than half-hearted attempts that are too embarrassing to mention. One thing led to another and instead of joining something like ODAC in Junior College for example, I went on to be the president of the Harmonica Orchestra.
Since then, I've been spending the last 10 years or so trying to "escape my upbringing". Going through NS was the turning point - I learned that I was capable of pushing myself physically, more than I ever imagined. It's the first time I've ever had formal physical training and it led me to discover that despite my poor coordination, I really enjoyed sweating it out, whether it was running half-marathons or trekking in Bunei.
Last year, I've completed close to 10 races and even went to Malaysia for adidas' King of the Road. Venturing into the great outdoors was also in the grand scheme of things - I've conquered Mt Rinjani in Lombok, one of the toughest things I've ever had to do. Unfortunately we didn't manage to continue the rest of the itinerary so I'm keen to make the trip there again. Last month, I organised a short one-day trip to Gunung Panti with X-Trekkers for my colleagues, which was partially subsidised by the company. That went pretty well too.
I enjoy the natural "puzzles" in front of me - which branch to hold, where's the best place to take the next step. The gorgeous landscape, coupled with the unpredictability of being outdoors and at the mercy of nature and luck, made me feel alive and satiated my thirst for adventure. I'm a slightly risk-averse so it was interesting to be forced into such situations.
I enjoy talking and bonding with fellow trekkers, especially with the guides or "friends I have not yet been made". People open up a lot more when you're stuck out there, looking out for each other. Instinctively you feel that you're relying on these people around you, that you've got to stay strong for them and not give up... it's that sense of teamwork that one doesn't normally find in the jungle city life. It's also refreshing for me to talk to people such as the local guides who see the world so differently than I do, smash my preconceived notions and giving my perspectives a spin.
I feel different after every trip. Physically and mentally I feel accomplished. Spiritually I feel lighter, more optimistic.
I'm no adrenaline junkie - I don't think I'll go anywhere near Everest this lifetime, but I'd love to train harder and continue stepping foot on the more manageable trails in Asia and around the world. It gets harder when you see your peers settling down. We're all getting older and it's a phase of life that most people have grown out of, and I feel like an oddball because I've only started discovering it.
But then again, it's never too late to start. The energy that comes from being at the brink of so much awesome drives me to explore new heights, and I welcome you to join me.