Thursday, October 19, 2017

Surrendering to the Vast Unknown

One night while I was browsing in a local supermarket I found a book that changed my life forever. The book was “Paths of Glory” by Jeffrey Archer. It told the story of George Mallory, the man who was tapped by the Royal Geographical Society to be the first man to summit Mount Everest. While Mallory's Everest quest ended in disaster, the book sparked in me a latent fascination with the Himalayas, mountain climbing, Tibet, Nepal, exploration, and adventure. 

After reading the book I resolved to write my own Himalayan novel. I didn’t have the story yet; I had no clue where this journey was going to lead me, but I read EVERYTHING I could get on the subject, from mountain-climbing adventures to survival stories such as “Into Thin Air”, “Touching the Void”, “Miracle in the Andes”, “The Climb”, “Buried in the Sky”, and everything by Ed Viestur. Soon thereafter I began studying the Great Game, the struggle between the two great imperial giants, Great Britain and Russia, over control of Central Asia. I read everything by Peter Hopkirk,  “Gilgit Game”, “A Ride to Khiva” by Fred Burnaby as well as everything written by Sir Francis Younghusband, the famous Great Game intelligence agent during the days of the British Raj. I found myself  drawn to these mysterious characters. I followed their journeys; absorbed their ethos, got “inside their heads”, learned their methods, learned how to read between the lines (they were very discreet about the information they chose to reveal). Suddenly I found myself immersed in a world I had never heard of before. I was hooked.

When I discovered the incredible story of Gabriel Bonvalot and Prince Henri d’Orléans, who endeavored to be the first living Westerners to reach Tibet, I knew I’d found my story. Given the hardships they faced, their journey was awe-inspiring and worthy of retelling. And so began a 3 year journey. To novelize their tale, I gave up having a personal life, lost friends, and paid an enormous personal price, but I also gained some new friends along the way and soon a whole new world opened up to me for which I will be forever grateful.
Gabriel Bonvalot and Prince Henri d'Orleans

Serendipity is another word for fate, chance, or karma. The lesson I learned that night is to go with the flow of life. I had no idea when I stepped into that Pathmark my life was about to change. Wherever life takes you, surrender to the vast unknown; enjoy the journey for whatever it brings you, for whatever lessons you’re about to learn. You never know, it may end up taking you to the Roof of the World.

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