Pete R. is a travel filmmaker, designer, and a digital nomad. His adventures began with a solo trek in the Himalayas and have continued ever since. Follow along on his instagram.
Why did you decide to do this hike alone?
When I was planning my trip to Nepal four years ago, I was working in an office and had no experience hiking , though I had traveled alone before. After a bit of research, I came across a blog post about the Annapurna Base Camp trek.
It interested me, but I doubted I was fit enough. After several days, the idea of trekking started to grow on me. I’ve always wanted to be adventurous, to see places that not many others see, and here it was: the chance to prove myself and become the person I wanted.
I took baby steps and started to buy gear. Eventually, I planned my journey. By the time the departure date arrived, excitement trumped fear, and I was convinced I had to do it alone to prove to myself that I am as adventurous as I thought I was.
How did this adventure change the way you travel?
It changed my travel style entirely. I used to travel more comfortably, ruling out physically demanding destinations completely. But after this trip, I began looking for these elements specifically.
One of the greatest benefits of solo travel is you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, and however you want. If you want to hike 12 hours in one day, you don’t have to ask anyone for permission. If you want to rest for a day and people-watch in a cafe, that’s your choice. The world is really your oyster.
I’ve found that people approach me more when they see me alone. From hostels to local markets, people feel less intimidated by an individual and are more likely to strike up a random conversation or lend a hand. I have made many great friends around the world this way.
What was the most unnerving part of the trip?
The technicalities of the trek unnerved me. Navigation, for example: I figured out early on that the best way to track the trail was to follow the footprints and garbage that others had left behind.
I was also nervous about the physical demands. When I was young, I had asthma, so I feared that I might put myself at risk. I have also read horror stories about the altitude sickness that strikes indiscriminately at elevations 4,000 meters above sea level. It affected me, too: At 3,000 meters, I was breathing heavily and had to stop every 10 steps to catch my breath. The trail that was supposed to take three hours took me six, and as the darkness crept into the valley, so did clouds and fog that rendered navigation even more difficult. That was probably the most frightening portion of the trip, but since the base camp was so close, I was motivated to continue.
Did anything about the experience surprise you?
The friendliness and camaraderie of the other hikers was refreshing. People encouraged each other, they shared food and water, and were always attentive when someone was struggling. At night, the hikers would huddle up in a dining room at one of the local tea houses, socializing and sharing stories while eating hot soup. The tiny yellow bulb that lit up in the dining room — a dim pinpoint of light in the Himalayan valley — was the only sign of human activity in the vicinity. In that moment, I realized I’d found what I was looking for in life. Now, it’s genuine moments like these that I can’t get enough of.
Also, the stars you see in the mountains — wow! I always believed that the Milky Way photos I saw on the Internet were photoshopped but, in reality, you can see the galaxy with your own eyes from such an isolated location. I was stunned at the scale of the universe in front of me.
Lastly, the euphoric feeling at the end when you reach the base camp, surrounded by the 8,000-meter Himalayan peaks was so humbling. The natural high from the solo trek and the time in nature lasted for months afterward.
What was your favorite moment of the trip?
The moment I reached the sign that said, “Namaste, Welcome to Annapurna Base Camp” was my favorite. It was such a long journey, but when I reached the base camp, I forgot all about how challenging it had been.
My body was filled with awe and joy as I stood in the middle of the Himalayan mountain range, a tiny figure among the towering peaks.
Did you have any difficulties documenting the trip?
This was the first travel film I made, so it involved a lot of trial and error, and it was difficult to get inspired to film when I was so tired after a trek during which I could barely lift a finger.
But I was able to record and compile it into a video to remind myself of the journey, and it’s been great to be able to look back at my first trekking experience.
How did the experience change you personally?
I have become much more independent after my experience in the Himalayas. I can forge my own path and, if something goes wrong, I understand it is my responsibility to deal with it and fix it.
“No plan is the best plan” is a personal motto that I’ve come to adopt for every trip. I would not be who I am now without the leap I took in the Himalayas.